All  
Ogdoad - The Place of Truth. Relief at Deir el Medina.

The Infinite Ogdoad: The Creation Pantheon of Ancient Egypt and Predecessor Gods of the Old Kingdom

The Ogdoad, also called the Hehu or Infinites, were the celestial rulers of a cosmic age.  Considered to have come long before the Egyptian religious system currently recognized, the Ogdoad were concerned with the preservation and flourishing of the celestial world, and later—as well as indirectly—the formation of the human race. 

Though their power among the Egyptian people was most widely recognized between 2686 – 2134 BCE—in the Old Kingdom settlement of Hermopolis (so named by the Greeks as they equated Thoth with messenger god Hermes)—traces of their pantheon permeated down to the next set of gods, correlating the formation of the human race with the hands of the Ogdoad.

As stated above, the Ogdoad predate the more commonly known Egyptian gods, such as Osiris, his sister wife Isis, and the emissary of the underworld, Anubis.  Considered to have come into creation before the world did, the Ogdoad consist of four couples—eight individual deities—who balance one another and the nature of the cosmos.  Each pair correlated with one of the primary elements of the universe in the Egyptian belief system, i.e., water, air, light, and time. 

In the early Christian era, the idea of Ogdoad also appears in Gnostic belief. The planetary spheres were thought to be planes of existence in between the earth and the heavenly regions.

In the early Christian era, the idea of Ogdoad also appears in Gnostic belief. The planetary spheres were thought to be planes of existence in between the earth and the heavenly regions. ( Public Domain )

In the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, it was believed Nu and Naunet were responsible for the development and continued renewal of the primordial waters of the universe.  Amun and Amaunet were the care takers of air, while Kuk and Kauket were the harbingers of darkness.  And finally, Huh and Hauhet, the last pair, were weighted with the responsibility of maintaining eternity and infinity.  Each first name in these sets is the male avatar, while the second is the female, thereby creating an equal balance of genders as well.

Detail, Relief in the temple of Hathor at Dendera showing the four couples of the Ogdoad of Hermopolis.

Detail, Relief in the temple of Hathor at Dendera showing the four couples of the Ogdoad of Hermopolis. ( CC BY 3.0 )

These celestial couples existed before the creation of man, and were considered by the ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom to have been directly responsible for the creation of the new world as well as its upkeep.  However, because of the distance between the Old Kingdom and the present, the record of their time as creators of the universe is inconsistent and contradictory—as most ancient tales are. 

There are at minimum three different views from the Egyptians that succeeded the time of the Ogdoad as to how the world as they knew it came into creation.  The first was that the Ogdoad created an egg from which the world was born.  It was considered to be invisible at the time, because before creation there was no sun, until the day that it hatched when from it exuded the brilliant golden light that they had been waiting for.  This form of the sun was called Ra, one of the only Egyptian deities to have surpassed the laws of time to be accepted by both the followers of the Ogdoad and the later religion, and thus the world was born.

Artistic interpretation of the World Egg of the Ogdoad.

Artistic interpretation of the World Egg of the Ogdoad. (Pallina60Loon/ CC BY 2.0 )

Another belief is that the universe was created from a lotus flower that "rose from the Sea of the Two Knives".  Within the petals was the same sun god as mentioned above, Ra, who then forged the cosmos. 

And finally, the third opinion begins in the same way—a lotus flower rising from the sea—however, within the flower was not Ra but one of the sacred scarab beetles representing the sun.  This beetle then transformed into a boy whose tears made humanity, and went by the name Nefertum ("young Amun"). 

What these tales all have in common, besides the creation of the world through some sort of hatching, is the persistence of one god from the later Egyptian religion planting his roots in the Ogdoad.  It makes perfect sense from a secular standpoint, as new religions often crop up through some deity linking the two together.  However, all three versions mention the sun god Ra, as the scarab beetles were representative of the rising sun.  The Ogdoad, then, were considered primarily responsible for creating the universe whether they birthed an egg or nursed the lotus flower, the "credit" of the future of the Egyptians handed off to their succeeding "son" Ra after the completion of their "Golden Age."

Ra is the sun-god of Heliopolis in ancient Egypt.

Ra is the sun-god of Heliopolis in ancient Egypt. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Though the Ogdoad eventually died out as the official pantheon in ancient Egypt, their names lived on in oral and written legends.  It is believed that they failed to maintain the balance of the universe through their failure to maintain their own balance, thus Ra came into being to salvage what they forged.  The Ogdoad, of Infinites, continued to be acknowledged as Osiris' and his pantheon's predecessors, and it was believed for a time that the Ogdoad themselves continued to thrive in the Underworld, keeping the rivers of the Nile flowing and the sun forever rising.

Featured image: Ogdoad - The Place of Truth. Relief at Deir el Medina. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

By Ryan Stone

Bibliography

Allen, James P. Genesis in Egypt: the Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts (Yale Egyptological Seminar: Yale University, 1988.)

Faulkner, R. O. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1969.)

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology (Warner Books: New York, 1969.)

Hill, J. "Ogdoad of Hermopolis (Khmunu)": Ancient Egypt Online . 2010. Accessed on July 15, 2015.  http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/ogdoad.html

Morenz, Siegfried. Egyptian Religion. trans. By Ann E. Keep (Cornell University Press: New York, 1973.)

 

Comments

& on the other side of the planet, the Polynesian sky god was also known as Ra

Ra, Amun-Ra, Rama?

There's no such thing as Dwarka
There's no such thing as Dwarka..

Native's picture

Thank you Ryan Stone for this very interesting article. The Egyptian Ogdoad is one of my favorite story of creation, especially for claiming the basic universal elements and their formative qualities for being eternal:

Quote from – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogdoad#In_Egyptian_mythology

“Together the four (Edit Ivar double) concepts represent the primal, fundamental state of the beginning. They are what always was. In the myth, however, their interaction ultimately proved to be unbalanced, resulting in the arising of a new entity. When the entity opened, it revealed Ra, the fiery sun, inside. After a long interval of rest, Ra, together with the other deities, created all other things”.

“They are what they always was” goes against both the modern Big Bang formation theory and the orthodox understanding of the biblical telling of the creation. This mythical statement speaks of an eternal creation and the very principles of the creation of the itself.

The Ogdoad and the concept of Ra becomes even more interesting when looking at the Old Kingdom´s (cow)-goddess, Hathor who “had a very complex connection to Ra”, “At times she is the eye of Ra and considered his daughter, but she is also considered Ra's mother”.

From - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hathor#Relationships.2C_associations.2C_im...

“Hathor, along with the goddess Nut, was associated with the Milky Way during the third millennium B.C. when, during the fall and spring equinoxes, it aligned over and touched the earth where the sun rose and fell. The four legs of the celestial cow represented Nut or Hathor could, in one account, be seen as the pillars on which the sky was supported with the stars on their bellies constituting the Milky Way on which the solar barque of Ra, representing the sun, sailed”.

The Ogdoad states Ra to be the “first fiery entity” to be created – and Hathor is resembling the Milky Way. What can then “the complex (Milky Way) daughter/father-connection” between Ra and Hathor be?

Ra is usually thought and scholarly interpreted to represent the Sun, but the Sun isn´t the “first fiery entity” to be created in the Milky Way if taking the Hathor connection seriously. The first “fiery light” which is created is the central light of the Milky Way galaxy and therefore this light resembles ATUM-Ra who, “together with all elementary deities of creation created everything”

“Everything” in this connection means “everything in the ancient know part of the Universe”, namely the entire Milky Way galaxy, which light band can be observed all around the Earth. From the galactic central “fiery light”, Atum-Ra creates the galactic contours and all stars in the galaxy.

The Milky Way contours on the southern hemisphere looks very much as a great celestial woman (or a celestial cow), hence is goddess Hathor daughter of Amun-Ra – but “she” is also mother to the Sun, Ra, as well as Atum-Ra is “father to the Sun, Ra”.

Besides the very interesting Egyptian ancestral claim of an eternal and cyclical creation in the Ogdoad and the Hathor Milky Way connection, one can conclude that our Solar System once was created in the very center of the Milky Way and has slowly left the center i. e. was “driven out of the central garden creation of Eden”, an ancient biblical cosmological allegory of the factual creation.

Even modern observations confirms this “driven out” with the discovery of the “galactic rotation anomaly curve”, which indicates an outgoing motion from the center of the Milky Way, quite contrary to the gravity ideas of modern cosmology.

This is conclusively: Ancient knowledge supersedes by far the modern cosmological conceptions and explanations of the creation as such. There has been no beginning and there is no end – just creation, dissolution and re-creation in eternity.

Regards
Ivar Nielsen
Natural Philosopher

   

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Next article