Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths: Lords of the Earth and Sky, Scarab God Khepera, and Lady of Slaughter
Egypt, land of the Pharaohs. There is no single creation myth for Ancient Egypt as each region of the country owed allegiance to a different god, so for simplicity’s sake we shall just look at the main versions.
Homage to thee, Ra! Supreme power, the master of the hidden
spheres who causes the principles to arise, who dwells in darkness,
who is born as the all-surrounding universe.
Creating the Sky and the Earth
Beneath the suburbs of north-east Cairo lie the ruins of Iunu, the Biblical On, or Heliopolis as it was known to the Greeks. Heliopolis was the main center of worship and religious instruction relating to the various forms of the Sun god. The Pyramid Texts tell how in the beginning there was no land, only a vast watery chaos called the Nu or Nun. From out of this chaos arose Atum, created from his own will and power. Atum was the great Sun-God of Iunu. Some stories hold that Atum, the god of brightness, first appeared as a shining egg which floated upon the waters. “I am Khepera at dawn, Ra at high noon and Tum, Atum, at eventide,” proclaimed the new god.
The god Atum, First book of respirations of Usirur . ( CC BY-SA 2.0 fr )
It was Atum who called everything else into existence. He brought forth a mound, which became the pyramid stone called the BenBen. Utterance 600 of the Pyramid Texts recalls that moment;
To say, O Atum-Khepri, When thou didst mount as a hill, and didst shine
as bnw of the ben in the temple of the Benu-bird in Heliopolis.
Then he named Shu, and gave him power over the air, and so the first winds blew; he named Tefnut, the Spitter, and gave her power over moisture and the first rain fell. Together, Shu and Tefnut set out to separate the land from the water and the sky from the ground, but during their wanderings the two children of Atum became lost, so the Sun god tore out his eye and set it to look for his children. When Shu and Tefnut returned with the eye, Atum wept, and where his tears fell, so men and women were created. Atum took the eye and set it in his crown so he could see everything, where it became the Wadjet Eye in the crown of Pharaoh.
Shu and Tefnet became husband and wife and begot a son, Geb, and a daughter, Nut. Shu lifted his daughter into the air and she became the sky, arched over the earth with her feet on the eastern horizon and her fingertips on the western one. Each night she swallows the Sun which passes through her body until the next day’s dawn. Her brother and spouse, Geb, is the Earth, the ground beneath the span of Nut. Nut gave birth to the gods Osiris and Set and the goddesses Isis and Nephthys. These Nine deities make up the Ennead of Heliopolis. The children of Tefnut became the first gods and goddesses of the world and of men, while the others became the great gods of the earth and sky. Atum as Ra was the ruler of the gods and became the first king on earth, where he walked in human form, with Hathor as his consort.
As Ra-Atum grew old, there were those among his subjects who spoke against him…
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- The Infinite Ogdoad: The Creation Pantheon of Ancient Egypt and Predecessor Gods of the Old Kingdom
- Mythical Benben Stone: The Landing Site of Egyptian God Atum
- Creation Stories of Africa: The Children of Kings
Top Image: The Goddess Nut is the sky, arching over her brother, the God Geb, who is the earth. ( Public Domain )
By Ted Loukes