With each new episode, Moon Knight becomes more than a story about Steven Grant and Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac), two people sharing one body and, as it turns out, one costumed identity. At the heart of the series is the Ennead, the group of Egyptian gods using Moon Knight and Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) as little more than puppets.
The show’s premise revolves around the Ennead’s latest incarnation of a conflict that has been raging for centuries. With tensions growing among Khonshu, Ammit, and the other gods, Moon Knight breaks new ground for Marvel by introducing these deities into its cinematic universe.
It comes to a head in Episode 3 when the gods and their avatars gather together at Khonshu’s bequest. We break down who the Ennead is — both its real-life and fictional counterparts — and what we could expect next from this powerful council.
Moon Knight: The Ennead’s real-life origins
As Steven explains in Moon Knight’s first episode, the Ennead is a group of nine deities worshiped by Ancient Egyptians. It’s a concept that exists outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the real-life Ennead consisting of the sun god Atum and his descendants Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys. (The Marvel version of the line-up is significantly different, but we’ll get there soon enough.)
The number of gods is significant to note; the name “Ennead” actually derives from the Greek word “ennéas,” which translates as “the nine.”
References to the real world Ennead can be traced back to the Fifth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. The group was mainly worshiped in Heliopolis, an ancient city located in what is now known as Cairo. It’s something that might be worth bearing in mind as Moon Knight relocates to Egypt for its third episode.
Moon Knight: The Ennead comic book origins
Heliopolis is an important element when it comes to the group’s existence in Marvel mythology. The city – or, more correctly, a multidimensional version of it known as Celestial Heliopolis – has been the home to the Egyptian gods for centuries after they fled Earth during the time of the pharaohs in Ancient Egypt.
According to Marvel’s comic book mythology, the Ennead is a specific term used to describe the ruling deities in the Egyptian pantheon, with the membership changing over time. While the group still existed on Earth, gods could choose to retire and be replaced by their offspring or others who proved to be suitably worthy.
Marvel’s comic book universe is a place of practical polytheism — stories have depicted multiple deities belonging to different faiths as existing and interacting with each other (and, at times, humanity) on a fairly regular basis. Such is the case with Marvel’s Ennead, which has run afoul of Thor’s Asgardian gods on a handful of occasions and comes into conflict with the Celestials – the alien race that helped seed the Earth with life.
In fact, Horus and Osiris have both served on the so-called “Council of Godheads,” a loose collection of gods from multiple faiths that attempt to solve interfaith conflict through discussion and democracy rather than the more-satisfying-for-fans option of exciting action. Thankfully, the Ennead's complicated and often revenge-driven dynamics could satisfy anyone’s thirst for a good fight.
Moon Knight: The Ennead in the MCU
In Marvel mythology, Khonshu – the god of the moon – is one of the Ennead, as is Ammit, the devourer of the dead, which is where the MCU version of the characters comes in.
Moon Knight introduces audiences to the MCU version of the Ennead via Khonshu, the patron (and, perhaps, master) of Moon Knight himself, and Ammit, the as-yet-unseen deity worshiped by cult leader Arthur Harrow. This, in itself, is a break from real-world Egyptian mythology. Ammit was not worshiped by Ancient Egyptians but instead feared; she served Anubis, who weighed the value of a person’s life and ate the hearts of those who failed to measure up.
However, this doesn’t mean that audiences don’t get to see the rest of the Ennead. In Episode 3, Khonshu assembles a council of the gods and their avatars to convince them to stop Ammit and Harrow, and fans get quite an eyeful of what could be a major new presence in the MCU. Things don’t go too well for Khonshu, as a result, though – especially considering what happens by the episode’s end.
Unlike the MCU’s version of Asgardians, there’s no attempt to explain the Egyptian gods as anything but gods. (Asgardians are officially aliens in the MCU, remember. Similarly, Eternals follows the lead of the comics by suggesting that Incan deities were actually just the Eternals.) So, it seemingly makes the Ennead the first actual deities to show up in the MCU. It’s kind of a big deal if you think about it.
But wait, you say: What about the afterlife glimpsed in 2018’s Black Panther and the panther god worshiped by T’Challa and the people of Wakanda? Here’s the twist: She’s technically a member of the Ennead herself because she’s Bast – also known as Bastet – the cat-headed Egyptian deity.
That fact is comic book canon, even if it remains to be established in the MCU proper. If it does become canon in the MCU, however, it’s something that binds Moon Knight closer to the heart of the big screen Marvel Cinematic Universe, even as it prepares for the release of Thor: Love and Thunder this summer.
That movie, of course, features Christian Bale as the main villain – a character called Gorr, the God-Butcher. Given that we’ve just established that Moon Knight is an MCU project filled with actual deities, what are the odds that there will be some connection between Disney+’s latest hit and Chris Hemsworth’s return as everyone’s third-favorite Avenger? After all, as the unofficial motto of Marvel Studios put it, “it’s all connected.”
Moon Knight debuts new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.