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Atem

also Atum, Atoum
 
Atem     Atem was the creator god of Heliopolis. In the primordial waters of Nun only he existed, according to one tradition in the form of a snake:
Atum has bitten and has filled his mouth, and he coils up.
Coffin Texts #717
S. M. elSebaie, The Destiny of the World: A Study on the End of the Universe in the Light of Ancient Egyptian Texts,
Thesis, University of Toronto 2000, p.39
He would reassume this shape after ending the world [1]; and, swimming in the waters of chaos, he would get ready for another act of creation.
    His creation is generally described as a sexual act, taking place on the Primordial Hill on which he alighted in the shape of the Benu bird. Being alone in the waters of Nun, [3] Atem embodied both the male and female principles, impregnating himself by masturbation and ingestion of his own sperm.
For the Ennead of Atum came into being through his semen and his fingers.
    The Pyramidtexts [6] stress the direct connection between this act of creation and gratification:
He (i.e. Atem) put his penis into his fist in order to pleasure himself with it, and the two children were born, Shu and Tefnut.
    In a different tradition Shu and Tefnut were not the result of a sexual act, but were conceived in the mind of Atem and came into being when he exhaled them, hence the three deities were seen as one being, a trinity. As such they were at times depicted as a sphinx. In another version of the story Atem gave birth to his son Shu by spitting him out and to his daughter Tefnut by vomitting. [2]
    The act of creation brought order, personified as Maat, into being, but the primordial Chaos remained part of the cosmos. At least in earlier historic times the Egyptians assigned all lands beyond their own borders to the realm of Chaos.
    The hand performing the masturbation [4] was instrumental in the creation. It has been suggested that during the Amarna Period depictions of the Aten, Akhenaten and Nefertiti reflect the creation: the creator (Aten) touching his children Shu and Refnut (Akhenaten and Nefertiti) with his hands. [2]

    Atem merged with Re to represent the setting evening sun as Atem-Re.
... I shall go down in the west like Atum
Thutmose III, Karnak obelisk
J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, § 318
As such he was in charge of Mesektet, the Solar Bark of the night, and was also identified with the moon, which is the sun's substitute for the night. His entering the night sky was seen as as a sexual union between him and Nut. He was consequently referred to as Kamutef, bull of his mother. In the morning Atem was reborn as the young sun calf or as a boy. He was thus both old man and youth, just as, during the act of creation, he was man and woman.
    He was often identified with Osiris, and, merged with other deitied, was also known as Atem-Re-Harakhte, Atem-Khepre, Atem-Harmakhis.
 
    In the Memphite mythology he was brought forth by Ptah:
Ptah-Nun, the father who [made] Atum.
Ptah-Naunet, the mother who bore Atum
Shabaka Stone
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.1, p.54
    The close connection between sexuality and creation is reflected by Atem being called the Great Bull of the Ennead and on occasion being depicted in the shape of an-often old-man with a bull's tail. When destroying enemies of the sungod, such as the snake Apophis, he took on the form of an ichneumon or a monkey shooting arrows. [5]  

[1] The role of the snake in the Egyptian mythology is ambiguous. On the one hand it personifies evil and destruction, such as Apep or Sebau attempting the destruction of Re on his nightly journey through the underworld, on the other hand the snake also symbolizes creation, rebirth and life after death. As the world encircler it was the chaos surrounding the world of Maat, while the snake biting its own tail symbolized eternity.
[2] Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999, p.120
[3] I am Atem, when I was on my own in Nun. (pBM EA 10477 (pNu), Tb 017, line [4])
[4] The Hand of the God was one of the titles of the Wife of the God (the High Priestess) of Amen (Pascal Vernus, Jean Yoyotte, David Lorton, The Book of the Pharaohs, Cornell University Press, 2003, p.1)
[5] Van der Toorn et al., op.cit., p.123
[6] Pyramid of Pepi I., PT 527
 

 
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