Khnum was a creator god, associated with Esna and above all Elephantine, where he formed a triad with Satet and Anuket (his wife and daughter in a later tradition). In Elephantine the water of the Nile entered Egypt (according to myth through a hole, which connected the Nile with the primeval waters of Nun below the earth); this life-giving water, and the fertile mud it brought, were considered the source of life and Khnum was seen not only as the protector of this source of the Nile, but also as a potter, who formed man and his ka (incorrectly translated as "soul") from wet mud on his potter’s wheel. Similarly he was believed to create the child in the mother’s womb, and according to some traditions he even created the other gods. His connection to fertility may have been influenced by the fact that Khnum was a ram, an animal to which the Egyptians attributed potency.
The Egyptian word for ram was ba; another word ba indicated, amongst other things, the physical manifestation of god and man (this word also is often translated incorrectly as "soul "). As a result Khnum is sometimes called the ba of Re, and during his nocturnal journey through the underworld Re can be seen with the head of a ram.
He was depicted as a ram or as a man with the head of a ram. The shape of his horns, twisted horizontally, makes it clear that Khnum represents a species of ram that was domesticated in Egypt at an early stage but that became extinct in the New Kingdom (ovis longipes palaeoaegyptiacus).