Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egypt: The History of Creation
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Two versions of the creation myth

A Book of Knowing the Evolutions of Ra and the Overthrowing of Apep

[These are] the words which the god Neb-er-tcher spoke after he had come into being: "I am he who came into being in the form of the god Khepera, and I am the creator of that which came into being, that is to say, I am the creator of everything which came into being. Now the things which I created, and which came forth out of my mouth after that I had come into being myself were exceedingly many. The sky (or heaven) had not come into being, the earth did not (exist, and the children of the earth, and the creeping things had not been made at that time. I myself raised them up from out of Nu, from a state of helpless inertness.
- -Neb-er-tcher: Lord to the uttermost confines, i.e. Lord of the universe. A god fighting the evil opposing Osiris, also one of the titles of Osiris. In the papyrus of Ani the following wish is expressed: Grant thou that I may come forth, and that I may be master of my legs, and let me live there like Nebertcher upon his throne.
-Khepera: The dung-beetle was identified with Atem and later with Re. He came into existence without being created. As sun-god he rose in the morning out of the underworld.
-Nu: Nun, the primordial waters existing before creation, when the world was still formless, i.e. chaotic
I found no place whereon I could stand. I worked a charm upon my own heart (or, will). I laid the foundation [of things] by Maat, and I made everything which had form. I was [then] one by myself, for I had not emitted from myself the god Shu, and I had not spit out from myself the goddess Tefnut; and there existed no other who could work with me. I laid the foundations [of things] in my own heart, and there came into being multitudes of created things, which came into being from the created things which were born from the created things which arose from what they brought forth.
-no place whereon I could stand: The earth had been created yet.
-charm: The magic of the spoken word was at the base of creation.
-by Maat: Maat, the world order, opposed to the former chaos, isfet. Maat was the foundation of civilized life.
I had union with my closed hand, and I embraced my shadow as a wife, and I poured seed into my own mouth, and I sent forth from myself issue in the form of the gods Shu and Tefnut.
Said my father Nu: 'My Eye was covered up behind them (i.e., Shu. and Tefnut), but after two
hen periods had passed from the time when they departed from me, from being one god I became three gods, and I came into being in the earth.'
Then Shu and Tefnut rejoiced from out of the inert watery mass wherein they and I were, and they brought to me my Eye (i.e., the Sun). Now after these things I gathered together my members, and I wept over them, and men and women sprang into being from the tears which came forth from my Eye.

-I had union with my closed hand: In the absence of a feminine creator deity masturbation of an androgynous creator and self-fertilization brought forth all life.
-shadow: The shadow was an inseparable part of a being, cf. Body and Soul
-Shu and Tefnut: air and fire (according to Assmann) or moisture (traditional view), the first male-female pair.
-father Nu: Nu was considered to be the father of all gods.
-Eye: The sun and moon as divine eyes appear in many Egyptian myths.
-men and women sprang into being from the tears: Linguistic similarities played a great role in Egyptian magic. In the case of the creation of mankind parallels may have been drawn between rmT, rmT.t [1] (man, mankind) and rmj.t [1] (tear) because they sounded alike [2].
And when my Eye came to me, and found that I had made another [Eye] in place where it was (i.e., the Moon), it was wroth with (or, raged at) me, whereupon I endowed it (i.e., the (second Eye) with [some of] the splendour which I had made for the first [Eye], and I made it to occupy its place in my Face, and henceforth it ruled throughout all this earth.
When there fell on them their moment through plant-like clouds, I restored what had been taken away from them, and I appeared from out of the plant-like clouds. I created creeping things of every kind, and everything which came into being from them. Shu and Tefnut brought forth [Seb and] Nut; and Seb and Nut brought forth Osiris, and Heru-khent-an-maati, and Set, and Isis, and Nephthys at one birth, one after the other, and they produced their multitudinous offspring in this earth."

 
 
-it was wroth: Violence was one of the characteristics of the Eye, whether it appeared as Hathor, Sekhmet or in any other form. Cf. the Legend of the Destruction of Mankind
-When there fell on them their moment through plant-like clouds: When their light was hidden by clouds
-Seb and Nut: Generally Geb and Nut, the earth and the sky.
-Heru-khent-an-maati: the blind Horus? There were many Horus gods in Egypt, the most famous one was the son of Isis, who contended with Seth for the rule over Egypt. The elder Horus on the other hand was a brother of Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and Seth. Cf. also the Legend of Horus of Behutet and the Winged Disk.
[These are] the words of the god Neb-er-tcher, who said: "I am the creator of what hath come into being, and I myself came into being under the form of the god Khepera, and I came into being in primeval time. I came into being in the form of Khepera, and I am the creator of what did come into being, that is to say, I formed myself out of the primeval matter, and I made and formed myself out of the substance which existed in primeval time. My name is Osiris, who is the primeval matter of primeval matter.
I have done my will in everything in this earth. I have spread myself abroad therein, and I have made strong my hand. I was one by myself, for they (i.e., the gods) had not been brought forth, and I had emitted from myself neither Shu nor Tefnut. I brought my own name into my mouth as a word of power, and I forthwith came into being under the form of things which are and under the form of Khepera. I came into being from out of primeval matter, and from the beginning I appeared under the form of the multitudinous things which exist; nothing whatsoever existed at that time in this earth, and it was I who made whatsoever was made.
-word of power: true names were strong magic.
I was one by myself, and there was no other being, who worked with me in that place. I made all the things under the forms of which I appeared then by means of the Soul-God which I raised into firmness at that time from out of Nu, from a state of inactivity. I found no place whatsoever there whereon I could stand, I worked by the power of a spell by means of my heart, I laid a foundation [for things] before me, and whatsoever was made, I made.
-one by myself: alone
I was one by myself, and I laid the foundation of things [by means of] my heart, and I made the other things which came into being, and the things of Khepera which were made, were manifold, and their offspring came into existence from the things to which they gave birth. I it was who emitted Shu, and I it was who emitted Tefnut, and from being the one god (or, the only god) I became three gods; the two other gods who came into being on this earth sprang from me, and Shu and Tefnut rejoiced (or, were raised up) from out of Nu in which they were. Now behold, they brought my Eye to me after two hen periods since the time when they went forth from me.
I gathered together my members (which had appeared in my own body, and afterwards I had union with my hand, and my heart (or, will) came unto me from out of my hand, and the seed fell into my mouth, and I emitted from myself the gods Shu and Tefnut, and so from being the one god (or, the only, god) I became three gods; thus the two other gods who came into being on this earth sprang from me, and Shu and Tefnut rejoiced (or, were raised up) from out of Nu in which they were.
My father Nu saith: 'They covered up (or, concealed) my Eye with the plant-like clouds which were behind them (i.e., Shu and Tefnut) for very many hen periods. Plants and creeping things [sprang up] from the god Rem through the tears which I let fall. I cried out to my Eye, and men and women came into existence.
Then I bestowed upon my Eye the uraeus of fire, and it was wroth with me when another Eye (i.e., the Moon) came and grew up in its place; its vigorous power fell on the plants, on the plants which I had placed there, and it set order among them, and it took up its place in my face, and it does rule the whole earth.

-Rem: rmj [1], the sungod, also rmj [1], to weep.
-uraeus of fire: The Egyptian Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis nigricollis) has three black bands on its neck, and sprays the eyes of its intended victim with poison blinding it. Their bite causes necrosis and at times neurological dysfunction.
Then Shu and Tefnut brought forth Osiris, and Heru-khenti-An-maa, and Set, and Isis, and Nephthys and behold, they have produced offspring, and have created multitudinous children in this earth, by means of the beings which came into existence from the creatures which they produced. They invoke my name, and they overthrow their enemies, and they make words of power for the overthrowing of Apep, over whose hands and arms Aker keeps ward. His hands and arms shall not exist, his feet and legs shall not exist, and he is chained in one place whilst Ra inflicts upon him the blows which are decreed for him. He is thrown upon his accursed back, his face is slit open by reason of the evil which he has done, and he shall remain upon his accursed back."
Source: E. A. Wallis Budge, Legends of the Egyptian Gods

-Apep: Apophis, a serpent demon intent on destroying the sun. Seth is often described as the only god capable of destroying it. He is therefore charged to accompany Re in his boat.
-Aker: embodiment of the earth. Aker is depicted carrying the sun-bark on its journey through the underworld to which Apep belongs.
Apep in chains
Apep in chains
Vignette from The Book of Gates by E.A.Wallis Budge

[2] One should be careful with such conclusions. According to another myth the bees (bj.t or afj) came into being when tears of Re fell on the ground. There certainly was no punning in this case.

 


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July 2005
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