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 Egyptian myths

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skywatchr
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PostSubject: Egyptian myths   Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:24 pm

Egyptian myths were metaphorical stories intended to illustrate and explain the gods' actions and roles in nature. The details of the events they recounted could change as long as they conveyed the same symbolic meaning, so many myths exist in different and conflicting versions.

Mythical narratives were rarely written in full, and more often texts only contain episodes from or allusions to a larger myth. Partly this was because the Egyptians avoided explicitly describing or depicting negative events within myths, believing that this risked giving power to the forces of chaos. Much of what mythological information is known comes from papyri originally kept in temple libraries, from devotional writings, and from funerary texts. Surprisingly little comes from inscriptions in the temples themselves, as temples were meant to celebrate the eternal power and benevolence of the gods, and the turbulent events often found in myths conflicted with this purpose.

Among the most important Egyptian myths were the creation myths. While there were several different creation myths, they all shared common elements: an infinite, lifeless ocean which preceded the creation, and a pyramidal mound of land which was the first thing to emerge from this ocean. However, the creation accounts differ in focusing on different gods.

One creation myth describes the Ogdoad, the group of eight gods who embodied the primeval waters, and how their meeting resulted in the creation and emergence of the mound. Another myth relates the actions of Atum, who was said to be the first god to appear on the mound, in creating the Ennead, nine gods representing the natural forces of the world. A third myth says that the god Ptah, who was associated with the mound, created the world simply by envisioning and naming all things in it, while a fourth claims that Amun was the hidden power that caused all the other creator gods to form.


To some degree these myths represent competing theologies, but they can also be seen as representing different aspects of the process of creation. The convergence of the Ogdoad represented the transformation of the lifeless primordial chaos into the orderly, life-bearing world; the Ennead myth demonstrated how the world's original, embryonic form (Atum) evolved into the multiplicity of elements it later contained. Amun was the ultimate cause of creation, who first developed a concept of what the world would be like, and Ptah was the power of creative speech, by which that initial vision was made reality, and which caused the evolution of Atum.

Another story central to Egyptian belief was the myth of Osiris and Isis. It tells of the god Osiris, who had inherited his rule over the world from his ancestor Ra. Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his jealous brother Set, a god often associated with chaos. Osiris' sister and wife Isis reassembled Osiris' body and resurrected him so that he could conceive an heir to take back the throne from Set. Osiris then entered the underworld and became the ruler of the dead, while Isis eventually gave birth to his son Horus. Once grown, Horus fought and defeated Set to become king himself. Set's association with chaos, and the identification of Osiris and Horus as the rightful rulers, provided a rationale for pharaonic succession and portrayed the pharaohs as the upholders of order. At the same time, Osiris' death and rebirth were related to the Egyptian agricultural cycle, in which crops grew in the wake of the Nile inundation, and provided a template for the resurrection of human souls after death.

The sun god Ra was essential to life on earth, and was thus among the most important gods. In myth, the movement of the sun across the sky was explained as Ra traveling in a barque, and the setting of the sun was regarded as Ra's entry into the underworld, through which he journeyed during the night. While in the underworld, Ra met with Osiris, who again acted as a god of resurrection, so that his life was renewed. He also fought each night with Apep, a serpentine god representing chaos. The defeat of Apep and the meeting with Osiris ensured the rising of the sun the next morning, an event that represented rebirth and the victory of order over chaos.
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PostSubject: Ancient Egyptian creation myths   Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:28 pm

Ancient Egyptian accounts of the creation of the world. These stories were central to Egyptian mythology. In all of them, the world was said to have emerged from an infinite, lifeless sea when the sun rose for the first time. However, there were different versions of this event, associated with certain cities in Egypt. These attributed the creation to different gods: the set of eight primordial deities called the Ogdoad, the self-engendered god Atum and his offspring, the contemplative deity Ptah, and the mysterious, transcendent god Amun. While these differing cosmogonies competed to some extent, in other ways they were complementary, as different aspects of the Egyptian understanding of creation.

The different creation myths had some elements in common. They all held that the world had arisen out of the lifeless waters of chaos, called Nu. They also included a pyramid-shaped mound, called the benben, which was the first thing to emerge from the waters. These elements were likely inspired by the flooding of the Nile River each year; the receding floodwaters left fertile soil in their wake, and the Egyptians may have equated this with the emergence of life from the primeval chaos. The imagery of the pyramidal mound derived from the highest mounds of earth emerging as the river receded.

The sun was also closely associated with creation, and it was said to have first risen from the mound, as the general sun-god Ra or as the god Khepri, who represented the newly-risen sun. There were many versions of the sun's emergence, and it was said to have emerged directly from the mound or from a lotus flower that grew from the mound, in the form of a heron, falcon, scarab beetle, or human child.

The different creation accounts were each associated with the cult of a particular god in one of the major cities of Egypt: Hermopolis, Heliopolis, Memphis, and Thebes. To some degree these myths represent competing theologies, but they also represent different aspects of the process of creation.
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PostSubject: The basic creation myths   Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:33 pm

Hermopolis

The creation myth promulgated in the city of Hermopolis focused on the nature of the universe before the creation of the world. The inherent qualities of the primeval waters were represented by a set of eight gods, called the Ogdoad. The god Nu and his female counterpart Naunet represented the inert primeval water itself; Huh and his counterpart Hauhet represented the water's infinite extent; Kuk and Kauket personified the darkness present within it; and Amun and Amaunet represented its hidden and unknowable nature, in contrast to the tangible world of the living. Because the primeval waters were themselves part of the creation process, the deities representing them could be seen as creator gods. According to the myth, the eight gods were originally divided into male and female groups. Because they dwelt within the water, they were symbolically depicted as aquatic creatures: the males were represented as frogs, and the females were represented as snakes. These two groups eventually converged, resulting in a great upheaval, which produced the pyramidal mound. From it emerged the sun, which rose into the sky to light the world.


Heliopolis

In Heliopolis, the creation was attributed to Atum, a deity closely associated with Ra, who was said to have existed in the waters of Nu as an inert potential being. Atum was a self-engendered god, the source of all the elements and forces in the world, and the Heliopolitan myth described the process by which he "evolved" from a single being into this multiplicity of elements. The process began when Atum appeared on the mound and gave rise the air god Shu and his sister Tefnut, whose existence represented the emergence of an empty space amid the waters. To explain how Atum did this, the myth uses the metaphor of masturbation, with the hand he used in this act representing the female principle inherent within him.[14] He is also said to have to have "sneezed" and"spat" to produce Shu and Tefnut, a metaphor that arose from puns on their names. Next, Shu and Tefnut coupled to produce the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, who defined the limits of the world. Geb and Nut in turn gave rise to four children, who represented the forces of life: Osiris, god of fertility and regeneration; Isis, goddess of motherhood; Set, the god of male sexuality; and Nephthys, the female complement of Set. The myth thus represented the process by which life was made possible. These nine gods were grouped together theologically as the Ennead, but the eight lesser gods, and all other things in the world, were ultimately seen as extensions of Atum.

Memphis

The Memphite version of creation centered on Ptah, who was the patron god of craftsmen. As such, he represented the craftsman's ability to envision a finished product, and shape raw materials to create that product. The Memphite theology said that Ptah created the world in a similar way. The ideas developed within Ptah's heart (regarded by the Egyptians as the seat of human thought) were given form when he named them with his tongue. By speaking these names, Ptah produced the gods and all other things.

The Memphite creation myth coexisted with that of Heliopolis, as Ptah's creative thought and speech were believed to have caused the formation of Atum and the Ennead.Ptah was also associated with Tatjenen, the god who personified the pyramidal mound.


Thebes
Theban theology claimed that Amun was not merely a member of the Ogdoad, but the hidden force behind all things. In this view, Amun existed separately from the created world, and was the first creator; one Theban myth likened Amun's act of creation to the call of a goose, which broke the stillness of the primeval waters and caused the Ogdoad and Ennead to form. Because Amun was separate from the world, his true nature was concealed even from the other gods. At the same time, however, because he was the ultimate source of creation, all the gods, including the other creators, were in fact merely aspects of Amun. Because of this belief, Amun eventually became the supreme god of the Egyptian pantheon.
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PostSubject: Just for fun, Which Egyptian God Am I?   Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:38 pm

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