The Ancient Egyptian Creation Myth is complicated, and there are different ways to look at the world’s early history and people. People in ancient Egypt thought that the gods created nature and civilization before people were born. They also believed that the gods made the rules humans had to follow. At the start of everything, the High God had an idea while swimming in the ocean of chaos.
Texts written in sacred hieroglyphics were found on pyramids, temples, tombs, and papyrus rolls. These hieroglyphics tell the story of how the world was made. These writings explain how Atum, the god of creation, made the Earth by bringing order out of the chaos already there. The terrain of Earth had echoes of the sky world, which was the home of the gods, and this place was respected.
Egypt, in its antiquity, already had a long list of gods; it has been said that there were up to 700. Each population venerated its specific god, whose importance depended on the value of the city where he had installed his cult. Would you like to know the myth of the creation of the universe according to the ancient Egyptians? Do you know who their main gods are?
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Find the history behind the Pharaohs’ origin story and other hidden meanings in their Egyptian symbols and religion.
What is a creation myth?
A creation myth is a story about the beginning of the world or humanity’s place that uses metaphors and symbolic language. A story like this could explain how the universe began or where humans fit into it. Almost every ancient and modern culture has a story that tries to explain how it came to be and why it has stayed the same over time. Most traditional stories about how the world came to be can be traced back to cultures that lived centuries ago. Many were written down and passed down from generation to generation, either on tablets or scrolls or as part of a larger body of literature shared between communities. Today, it’s easy to find evidence for other reasons why our planet exists, and we can quickly move such ideas out of the realm of myth and legend. Instead of giving a logical explanation, mythology from ancient times provides a vivid picture of what happened.
What were the Egyptian gods like?
Their gods were the forces of nature, and their people supported and appeased them with rituals and gifts so that they would continue to be kind to them.
But the Egyptians in ancient times could not go to their temples. After the Egyptian state was founded around 3,000 BC, the Egyptian Pharaoh stood as the representative of the gods on earth.
The Egyptian Pharaoh was the one who managed this relationship with the gods in their temples.
Egyptian worship and animals
Contrary to popular belief, the Egyptians did not worship animals. In predynastic times, each population chose an animal that represented itself. It used to be a hawk, a lion, or a crocodile—animals endowed not only with great strength and voracity but also with great power.
Sometimes they decide to choose the enemy, like the neighboring town. If a group chose a cobra, the ichneumon, which killed snakes in the wild, stood in for the annexing group. It is how, in later times, the local god and the animal he represented ended up relating and somehow merging.
What is the Egyptian creation myth?
Ancient Egypt is one of the world’s oldest cultures. Egypt has been around for a long time and has been through many different stages. Each stage changed how society developed and how the Egyptians saw the world. Ancient Egyptian mythology is hard to understand because the stories about the gods and what they did in different parts of the country and at different times were very different.
Myths about how the world was made are the best way to see how diverse ancient Egyptian images were. Hundreds of versions of legends say that plants, animals, or gods made things.
What is ancient Egyptian mythology?
In ancient Egyptian mythology, there are four variants of cosmogony:
- Hermopolis creation myth
- Heliopolis creation myth
- Memphis creation myth
- Theban creation myth
In the city of Hermopolis, the primary Hermopolis creation story was about how the universe was before the world was made. The Ogdoad was a group of eight gods who stood for the qualities of the waters before time. The goddess Naunet and her counterpart Nu represented the standing water of the beginning; Ha and his counterpart Howhet represented the water’s infinite size; Kek and Kauket represented the darkness in him; and Amun and Amaunet represented its hidden and unknown nature, which was different from the world of the living. The primordial waters were a part of the process of making the world, so the gods who represented them could be thought of as creator gods. The Egyptian creation myth says that, at first, the eight gods were split into male and female groups. Because they lived in water, males were shown as frogs and females as snakes to show what they were like. When the two groups finally met, it caused a lot of chaos that led to the formation of the pyramidal mound. It gave birth to the sun, which went up into the sky to light up the world.
In the Heliopolis creation story, people thought that Atum, a god very close to Ra, made the world. Atum was supposed to be a possible being who lived in the waters of Nu. Atum was a god who made himself and was the source of everything in the world. The Heliopolitan creation myth tells how he “evolved” from a single being into many different things. Atum showed up on a hill with the air god Shu and Shu’s sister, Tefnut. It made space in the middle of the water when they were born. In the Egyptian myth of creation, Atum’s actions are explained by his masturbation. The hand he uses in this act shows the part of him that is feminine. Based on the two children’s names, people also say that he “sneezed” and “spit” to make Shu and Tefnut. Shu and Tefnut then joined together to make Geb, the god of the earth, and Nut, the goddess of the sky. Geb and Nut decided where the world ended and where it began. Geb and Nut had four children who represented the forces of life: Osiris, the god of fertility and rebirth; Isis, the goddess of motherhood; Set, the god of chaos; and Nephthys, the female version of Set. So, myth is what allows life to happen. From a religious point of view, these nine gods were put into the Ennead group. But the other eight gods and everything else in the world were seen as extensions of Atum.
The Memphite creation story of how the world was made centers on Ptah, the god of craftsmen. So, it was a sign of a craftsman’s ability to show a finished product and shape the raw materials to make it. Memphite theology says that this is how Ptah made the world. The word and mind of god made this, but it wasn’t made of anything physical like other Egyptian things. The ideas that grew in Ptah’s heart, which the Egyptians thought was the center of human thought, took shape when he called them his language. By saying these names, Ptah created the gods and everything else in the world.
People believed that Ptah’s creative thoughts and words made Atum and the Ennead. This was part of both the Heliopolis myth and the Memphis myth. Tatjenen, the god who was the hill in the shape of a pyramid, was also linked to Ptah.
According to Theban theology, Amun was not just a member of the Ogdoad but also a hidden power controlling everything. Amun is the personification of all ideas about how the world was made. This summary shows how Amun is different from all other gods because he is “above the sky and below the underworld.” In one Theban myth, Amon’s birth was compared to the cry of a goose, which broke the silence of the primordial waters and led to the formation of the Ogdoad and the Ennead. Amon was cut off from the world, and even other gods didn’t know who he was. At the same time, though, since he was the most potent creator, all gods, even those who made other gods, were parts of Amun. Because of this belief, Amon eventually became the most important god in Egypt.
The rise of Thebes as an essential religious capital became linked to Amun. But the Theban temples’ pillared halls, obelisks, colossal statues, wall reliefs, and hieroglyphic writing give us a good idea of how much better Amun was. At the beginning of time, people thought that the first burial mound came from Thebes.
Creation myths of Egyptian Gods:
The pantheon of Egyptian gods is one of the most numerous and exciting of all civilizations. In addition to the divinities that participated in the creation myth, these are the most important Egyptian gods:
The God Ra
Ra is the Egyptian god of the Sun. He was often depicted as a crowned falcon with a sun disk on which a serpent perched. Other times you can find it in the shape of a beetle or a ram.
Ra is the main god of the Egyptian pantheon. As a solar symbol, he is the one who gives life and, therefore also important in the widespread concept of resurrection after death in this culture.
The pharaohs considered themselves sons of this god since the first dynasties. Until the development of the cult of Osiris, the god of the dead, it was Ra who also held this position.
Amun and Aten. Akhenaten’s heresy
In the Theban dynasties, the god Amun was assimilated, giving rise to Amun-Ra. There was an attempt at heresy by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who substituted him during his reign for the cult of the god Aten.
But this paradigm shift was short-lived as Ra returned to his predominant position in the next generation after Akhenaten’s death.
Isis y Osiris God and Goddess
Isis is the great Mother Goddess, a figure that we find analogous to any religious system of antiquity, as is the case with the formation of Hera in Greek Mythology.
Isis’s protective goddess accompanied the Sun with her husband, Osiris. When she appeared with a veil covering her face, she represented the mystery goddess.
It is shown in various forms, but mainly we see it as a woman who carries a throne on her head.
Osiris is the creative force of nature, the germinal principle, and also the judge of the dead. He was depicted as a shrouded man with a greenish face crowned with a tall miter and two ostrich feathers.
In his hands, the whip and the wand in the shape of a hook demonstrate his supreme power.
Horus y Seth Gods
Osiris composed, since ancient times, a divine triad with Isis and Horus, the latter represented by a falcon.
Horus reigned with these two previously mentioned gods since ancient times before the pharaohs and had four sons: Amset, Hapi, Duamutef, and Quebehsenuf, the guards of the four cardinal points and protectors of the viscera of the mummies.
The enemy of Horus is the mighty king of the desert. Seth is the personification of nature in the wild, compared to the vegetation and crops that his brother Osiris took care of. The depiction of him is of an unrecognizable animal, in essence, a mixture of a long snout and erect ears.
Egyptian creation myth summary
Throughout Ancient Egyptian Creation Myth, various stories about how the world appeared multiple times Different ideas came from the Hermopolitan Ogdoad, the Heliopolitan Ennead, and the Memphis ideology. The ancient Egyptians thought that the sun, Ra, hatched from an egg laid by the Chaos Goose and the Chaos Gander (Re). The goose was supposed to be a symbol of the Earth god Geb.
Before anything else existed, there was a completely dark ocean of unpredictability. Egyptian towns like Heliopolis, Memphis, Hermopolis, and Thebes all had their ideas about how the universe came to be, as well as their pantheons of gods who were thought to have brought order out of the chaos it started. Egyptologists spent a long time trying to figure out what the Egyptian creation myths meant because there were so many of them, and some of them were contradictory. After sorting the Egyptian creation story by where they came from and which religious center they came from, the ancient Egyptians could get a clearer picture of what they thought was the story of their creation. This was done by sorting the myths into groups.
They did this over a long period while still in power on Earth, establishing only kingdoms run by the people they chose to follow. This is how they created the planet. When the gods left Earth for the sky, the pharaohs took their place as rulers.