Egypt had one river of
significance, the Nile, and smaller villages grew up alongside its banks.
Each of these village
communities manifested a mythology, but these mythologies did not create
tensions among the communities.
The Hermopolis theological system
declared that in the beginning there was nothing but an immense Chaos, Nun -
an ocean of shapeless magma
containing the potential for life surrounded by Naunet.
In this Chaos
there had been a consciousness in existence since antiquity.
Heliopolitan System, the Ogdoad, continued morphing gods
until eight gods had sprung forth from the Chaos.
Four males wearing the
heads of toads, and the four females wearing the heads of snakes.
form the pairs of Nun and Naunet (primordial matter and primordial space); Kuk
and Kauket (the illimitable and the boundless); Huh and Hauhet (darkness and
obscurity); Amon and Amaunet (hidden and concealed ones).
bring forth Ra, the Sun.
3000 BC The Memphite theology presents the teachings of Menes,
who establishes a new capital at Memphis.
In Memphite theology all
local and former mythological traditions are brought to their theological goal
in the god Ptah, architect
of material reality.
Creation was first a spiritual and intellectual
activity, facilitated by the divine
heart (emotion) and
tongue (speech/word) of
Creation became a physical activity carried out by Ptah, the
Father of the Sun, who produced the
Ennead from his heart, tongue and seed.
Ptah had two children,
Shu and Tefnut.
Shu and Tefnut had two children, Geb and
days before Ptah had left the Earth, before he had begun to grow old, his great
wisdom told him that if the goddess Nut bore children, one of them would end
his reign among men.
So Ptah laid
a curse upon Nut - that
she should not be able to bear any child upon any day in the year.
Filled with Sorrow, Nut went
for help to Thoth, the thrice-great god of wisdom/magic/learning, architect of
Thoth knew that the curse of Ptah, once spoken, could
never be recalled, but in his wisdom he found a way of escape.
went to Khonsu, the Moon, and challenged him to a contest of
after game they play and Thoth always won.
The stakes grew higher
Khonsu wagered his own light and lost.
At last Khonsu could play no
Then Thoth the thrice-great in
wisdom/magic/learning gathered up the light and made it into five extra days
which were set between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
Since his match with Thoth, Khonsu the Moon has not had enough light to
shine throughout the month, but dwindles into darkness and then grows to his
full glory again; for he had lost the light needed to make five whole
On the first of these five new days Osiris (grandson of the Sun), the eldest son of
Nut, is born.
On the second day the second son of Nut, Horus (Day), came into being.
On the third day the
third son of Nut is born, Seth (Night).
On the fourth
Isis saw the light, and
Nephthys born the night of the
In this way the curse of Ptah was both fulfilled and
defeated: for the days on which the children of Nut were born belonged to no
Isis, by her craft, learned the secret name of Ptah leaving
Osiris to become sole ruler of Egypt and reign on Earth as Ptah had done before
Osiris and Isis found the people both savage and brutish, fighting
among themselves while killing and eating one another.
Isis discovered barley and
Osiris taught the people
how to plant the seeds when the Nile had risen in the yearly inundation leaving
fertile mud over the fields; how to tend and water the crops; how to cut the
millet when it was ripe; how to thresh the grain on the threshing floors, dry
it and grind it to flour and make it into bread.
Osiris then showed them
also how to plant vines and make the grapes into wine; and they knew already
how to brew beer out of the
barley as their
grain had gotten wet before.
The symbolism of Osiris
warns understanding the difference between death and awakening into life can be
played out only if we maintain an active role in the continuing struggle
between preconception and
So rapidly are our fleeting moments of clarity
destroyed by our habitual preoccupations that we need reminders to remember
When the people of Egypt had learned to make bread and
cut only the flesh of the dead animals
Osiris taught were suitable, he went on to teach them Law, and how to live
peacefully together, delighting themselves with
soon as Egypt was filled with peace and plenty, Osiris set out across the land
to bring his blessings upon other nations.
While Osiris was away he left
Isis to rule over the land, which she did both wisely and well.
envied Osiris and hated Isis.
The more the people loved and praised
Osiris, the more Seth hated him; and the more good Osiris did and the happier
mankind became, the stronger grew Seth's desire to kill Osiris and rule in his
When Osiris returned from his travels Seth was among the first
to welcome him back and kneel in reverence before "the good god Pharaoh
Seth obtained the exact measurements of the body of Osiris,
and commissioned a beautiful chest to be crafted that would fit only him.
It was fashioned of the rarest and most costly woods:
cedar brought from
Lebanon, and ebony from Punt
at the south end of the Red Sea for no wood grows in Egypt except the soft and
Seth gave a
great feast in honor of Osiris.
When the heart of Osiris had been
made glad with feasting and song the chest was brought in, and all were amazed
at its exquisite beauty.
Osiris marveled at the
rare cedar inlaid with ebony and ivory,
with less rare gold and silver, painted inside with brilliantly colored figures
of gods in animal forms.
Osiris wished to own it.
"I will give
this chest to whosoever fits it most exactly!" cried Seth.
"Let me see
if I will fit into this marvelous crafted chest," said Osiris, and he laid down
in the chest.
"It is yours indeed, and shall be so forever!" hissed
Seth, the Deceiver, as he banged down the lid and
sealed it with molten
Seth took the chest containing Osiris and cast it into the
As the chest floated toward the great green sea it became hung in
the reeds of an island in the marshes of the delta.
Later Seth came
hunting wild boars with his dogs, hunting by night after his custom, since he
loved the darkness in which evil things abound.
By the light of the
moon he saw the chest of cedar wood
inlaid with ebony and ivory, with gold and silver, and recognized it.
At the sight anger overcame him in a red cloud, Seth flew into a rage
and rendered like a panther of the south.
Seth tore open the chest,
took the body of Osiris, and rent it into many pieces scattering it up and down
the Nile so that the crocodiles might eat them.
Isis missing Osiris
begin to search for him.
Nephthys left her wicked husband Seth and came
to join her sister, Isis.
Anubis, the son of Osiris and Nephthys,
taking the form of a jackal, assisted in the search.
As Isis searched
along the Nile and among the many streams of the delta she made her way in a
boat made of papyrus.
The crocodiles, in their reverence for the
goddess, touched neither the rent pieces of Osiris nor Isis herself.
Indeed ever afterwards anyone who sailed the Nile in
a boat made of papyrus was safe from them, for they thought
that it was Isis still questing after the pieces of her husband's body.
Isis gathered the pieces together, rejoined them by magic, caused the
body to be embalmed and hidden away in a tomb of which she alone knew.
After this the spirit of Osiris passed into Amenti to rule over the
dead until the last great battle, when Horus would slay Seth and Osiris return
Horus grew in this world the
spirit of Osiris visited him often and taught him all that
a great warrior
should know - how to fight Seth in both body and spirit - a final battle
between good and evil.
When Osiris knew that the time had come for Horus
to declare war on Seth he bade him gather together a great army and sail up the
Nile to attack him in the deserts of the south.
This theological system
began in the Delta, at Heliopolis not far from the head of the Delta.
was accepted because Amun, Ra,
Amun-Ra, or Ptah could easily be made the chief god in any local area, or a
local goddess could become his consort, which eventually increased the Egyptian
the Babylonian, added gods of local surrounding tribes just as the Egyptians
Later, following the same model of empire building
the Roman Catholics
added a pantheon of Saints.
The acceptance of the sun god,
Amum/Ra, fit the mindset of the ancient tribes living along the Nile as Amum/Ra
was seen everday in a papyrus barque crossing the ocean of the
the Greek sun god, drove his chariot across the sky.)
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