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On Egyptian Origins


Today I have chosen to focus on the Creation Myth from ancient Egypt. This story is one of the earliest creation stories. It conveys many of the themes that have been repeated in other creation myths over the centuries. As you read it my be an interesting exercise to see how many similarities the creation story you believe has with the story from ancient Egypt.

An ancient Egyptian origin myth holds that in the beginning, the universe was filled with the primeval waters of chaos, which was the god Nun. The god, Re-Atum appeared from the Water as the land of Egypt appears every year out of the flood waters of the Nile. Re-Atum spat and out of the spittle came out the deities Shu(air)and Tefnut(moisture). The world was created when Shu and Tefnut gave birth to two children: Nut(Sky) and Geb (the Earth). Humans were created when Shu and Tefnut went wandering in the dark wastes and got lost. Re-Atum sent his eye to find them. On reuniting, his tears of joy turned into people.

Geb and Nut copulated, and upon Shu’s learning of his children’s fornication, he separated the two, effectively becoming the air between the sky and ground. He also decreed that the pregnant Nut should not give birth any day of the year. Nut pleaded with Thoth, who on her behalf gambled with the moon-god Yah and won five more days to be added onto the then 360-day year. Nut had one child on each of these days: Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus-the-Elder.

Osiris, by different accounts, was either the son of Re-Atum or Geb, and king of Egypt. His brother Seth represented chaos in the universe. He murdered Osiris by tricking him to fit inside of a box, which was the nailed shut and thrown into the Nile. After killing Osiris, Seth tore his body into pieces. Isis rescued most of the pieces for burial beneath the temple, but first she resurrected Osiris so she could copulate with him to create their child Horus . Seth made himself king, but was challenged by Osiris’s son – Horus. Seth lost and was sent to the desert. Osiris was mummified by Isis and became god of the dead. Horus became the king and from him descended the pharaohs.

Another version, this one by Plutarch states that Set made a chest that only Osiris could fit into. He then invited Osiris to a feast. Set made a bet that no one could fit into the chest. Osiris was the last one to step into the chest, but before he did, Set asked if he could hold Osiris’s crown. Osiris agreed and stepped into the chest. As he lay down, Set slammed the lid shut and put the crown on his own head. He then set the chest afloat on the Nile. Isis did not know of her husband’s death until the Wind told her. She then placed her son in a safe place and cast a spell so no one could find him. When she searched for her husband, a child told her a chest had washed up on the bank and a tree had grown up. The tree was so straight the king had used it for the central pillar of his new palace. Isis went and asked for her husband’s body and it was given to her. The god of the underworld told her that Osiris would be a king, but only in the underworld.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_religion#Old_Kingdom

There are strong themes here Water as the source of creation, chaos giving way to a new order, symbolism in the natural world, the separation of earth and sky, resurrection, just to name a few.

Osiris is often contrasted with the figure of Christ, because he dies and is resurrected and sits in judgment of the dead.

Rebirth following a flood id an interesting theme as well which is common in many world religions.

The final point of note is the roots of our modern day calendar as described in this myth, the Egyptian calendar was very accurate very early and it resembles the calendar we use today.

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