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Unit II: Egypt
World Mythology: The Illustrated
Guide pg. 36
Disclaimer
• These are the common held myths of Egyptian
Mythology.
• Some may vary from what is in your textbook
and some may not be in your textbook at all.
• You are still responsible for knowing this!!!
Mythical Milestones
• BCE = Before Common Era
5000-4001 BCE: The Egyptian Calendar is
devised, regulated by the moon; 360 days;
divided into twelve 30-day months.
3200 BCE: Earliest Hieroglyphic script appears.
2650 BCE: Beginning of pyramid building.
2575 BCE: Great Pyramid of Giza completed.
2500 – 2001 BCE: Division of day into 24 units;
First use of mummification.
1279 – 1213 BCE: Rule of Ramses II (widely
believed to be the pharaoh during the biblical
Exodus).
670 BCE: Introduction of iron working.
30 BCE: Deaths of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra ;
annexation of Egypt by Rome.
Introduction
• Ancient Egypt was a theocracy - a place where
religion and government were inseparably linked
in the minds of the rules, priests, and people.
• Egypt’s royalty, pharaohs, were actually thought
to be gods themselves.
• Myths were less significant than the cult of the
gods, an essential state activity conducted in
temples accessible only to the kings and priests.
• Myths developed by elaborating on the
relationships between regional gods.
• Many deities were
important only in
particular regions or were
local variants of national
gods.
• Egypt was divided into
two separate sections,
Upper Egypt and Lower
Egypt.
• This created a strong
sense of duality which
found its way into several
myths.
• Two great forces shaped
Egypt: the desert and the
river, a perfect duality of
life and death.
How Do We Know What We Know…
• Remarkably well preserved scrolls, thousands of
years old, show Egypt as a highly literate society.
• Columns of hieroglyphics called the Pyramid
Texts, considered the world’s oldest known
religious writings found on the tomb of King Unas
more that 4,000 years ago.
• The Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead were
intricate and elaborate spells/scrolls that
documented the procedure for preparing a body
for the afterlife.
Creation Story
• Found on pg. 38.
• There are at least four distinct Egyptian
creation stories, each one coinciding with a
specific region or city. We will focus on the
most prominent.
• All Egyptian creation myths share a central
belief that the sun, or rather a sun god, was at
the center of creation.
• In the beginning there was a primeval watery
chaos known as Nun, an endless, formless
deep that was the source for the Nile River.
• Nun contained all the potential for life,
awaiting only for the emergence of a creator.
• Atum existed within Nun and created the
world simply through thought and word
alone.
• Simply by speaking a stream of names, Atum
produced all of Egypt.
What’s His Name?
• Atum would go by several names such as Ra,
Amon-Ra, Ra-Atum, and others just to name a
few.
• They are all basically the same name so don’t
get confused.
Creation How?
• A god of totality and complete power, Atum
immediately began to create other gods.
• There are several variations but the most
common held belief is that the god Atum
um…pleasures himself, and by doing so, gives
spontaneous birth to his children Shu and Tefnut.
• Shu is the goddess of the air and Tefnut the god
of moisture. With their creation, their now exists
the sun, water, and the atmosphere.
Egypt’s First Family
• Egypt’s Great Ennead - The first family of the
gods.
• Shu and Tefnut become the first divine couple.
They next produced another pair of twins,
Geb and Nut.
• Geb was the male earth god and Nut was the
female goddess of the sky and heavens.
Love in the Womb
• Geb and Nut were locked
together in an embrace at
birth.
• These two embraced so
close that there was no
room for anything to exist
between them.
• So Atum ordered his son
Shu to separate his
children, thus separating
the earth and the
heavens.
Love after Separation
• Even though they were now separated Nut and
Shu conceive two pairs of twins.
• Osiris and Isis were born first, followed closely by
Seth and Nephthys.
• Since the Egyptians had no heroes only the gods
played a part in their myths and the rivalry
between Seth and Osiris would form the basis for
several myths that would follow.
• Since Osiris was born first, he was destined to
rule over Egypt.
Osiris
• First born of Nut and
Shu. Destined to rule
Egypt.
• God of Agriculture;
taught humanity the
secrets of farming and
civilization.
• His rule is threatened
by the forces of chaos
which include his
brother Seth.
Isis
• Twin sister andWife of
Osiris.
• Goddess of Marriage and
healer goddess who could
cure all illness.
• Also credited with
teaching humanity how
to grind flour as well as
how to spin and weave
cloth.
• Mother of Horus.
Seth/Set
• Brother of Osiris.
• Regarded as the
incarnation of evil and
chaos.
• God of Storms and the
Desert.
• An ill-tempered god,
Seth is often personified
as rage, anger, and
violence.
Nephthys
• Sister and Wife of Seth.
• Also believed to have an
affair with her brother
Osiris.
• Goddess of funeral
rites.
• Protective goddess.
• Mother of Anubis
Brotherly Love/Hate
• Seth is extremely jealous of his brother Osiris
for several reason but the main two are:
1.) Seth believed that Osiris had really fathered his
son, Anubis.
2.) Seth wanted to rule Egypt in Osiris’ place.
• Seth then sets in motion a very complex
scheme for the death of Osiris.
Death of Osiris
• The death of Osiris is a central myth in Egyptian
mythology, the duality or life and death as well as
the concept of an afterlife had a lasting appeal to
the Egyptians.
• There are differing myths about the death of
Osiris, and they vary from him being killed by a
mosquito bite to being torn to pieces by a
crocodile.
• The most prevalent however is not in your
textbook.
Party/Coffin for Osiris
• Seth plans a scheme and throws a party with 73
conspirators and invites Osiris for the party in his
favor.
• At the party there was much spirited eating, Seth
suggests that they play a game.
• Seth brings out a beautifully crafted cedar chest
laced with gold and silver.
• Seth explained that the one who could fit inside
the chest easiest was the winner of the chest.
• Once Osiris entered the chest/coffin, Seth slams
the lid shut and sealed it with molten lead.
Isis’ Mourning
• Isis was inconsolable and her tears were said to
cause the Nile River.
• Isis eventually found Osiris’ coffin, and used her
wings to blow the breath of life into Osiris and
immediately made love with him, but Osiris died
shortly after.
• The result of this union was the hawk-headed
god, Horus.
• Isis continued to watch over the coffin of Osiris.
Death of Osiris…again.
• Seth becomes the pharaoh of Egypt following
Osiris death.
• Seth was not content with his brother merely
laying in the coffin, and decided to dismember
his brother.
• Seth divided Osiris into 14 pieces and
scattered them throughout Egypt.
• Isis then set out to find her husband/brother
and bring him back once again.
Important Missing Piece.
• Isis was able to find 13 of the 14 pieces, but was
unable to find Osiris’ phallus (it was eaten by a
fish, which is why most Egyptians did not eat the
fish from the Nile river).
• Osiris was brought back to life, but because he
was infertile, he was not allowed to be pharaoh.
• Osiris becomes the lord of the dead and another
significant god in the Egyptian Pantheon.
Osiris Significance
• With Osiris as god of the dead and afterlife,
preservation of the body was thought to be
essential for survival after death
(mummification).
• Although Osiris did not supplant Ra-Atum in
terms of power, he became Egypt’s most
popular deity, with a cult following that lasted
over 2,000 years.
New Key Player.
• Isis fled from Seth knowing that he would kill
any usurper to his throne.
• Isis gave birth to Horus, who would be
destined to become pharaoh of Egypt.
• Isis and Horus would appeal to the great god,
Ra-Atum (Ra simply means associated with
the sun) to lobby for Horus’ rightful place on
the throne of Egypt.
Horus
• God of the Sky, which
would later include the
moon and sun.
• Said that his right eye
was the sun and his left
eye was the moon.
• Would challenge Seth
as the rightful pharaoh
of Egypt.
Family Feud
• The quarrels between Horus and Seth would
become another central myth in Egypt’s
mythology.
• Horus appealed to Ra-Atum that he, and not
Seth, was the rightful heir to the throne of
Egypt.
• Eventually Seth challenges Horus to feats of
strength to determine the rightful ruler.
The Contest
• Seth and Horus both agreed to turn into
hippopotamuses and stay underwater for
three months.
• However, Isis intervenes and the contest is
called off.
• Horus again appeals to the other gods and
with the final vote being cast by Osiris, Horus
achieved the throne of Egypt.
Horus Significant
• With his victory, Horus became the king and
guide of the dead souls, and ultimately, the
protector of the pharaohs.
• Horus would turn the souls over to Osiris. The
Egyptians believed that if Osiris could triumph
over death then so could mortal humans.
Other Gods: Ammut
• Goddess known as the
“eater (devourer) of the
dead.
• Incorporates three of
the most feared animals
to the Egyptians: head
of a crocodile, body of a
lion, hind legs of a
hippopotamus.
Other Gods: Anubis
• God of embalming and
cemeteries.
• Jackal-headed son of
Nepthys and Osiris.
• Connection between
Jackal and death.
• Presides over the
weighing of the heart in
the afterlife.
Other Gods: Bast/Bastet
• The daughter of RaAtum.
• Catlike goddess of love,
sexuality and childbirth.
• In her worship, cats
were prized and even
mummified with their
masters.
Other Gods: Hathor
• A powerful complex
goddess.
• Depicted as a cowheaded goddess.
• Very significant to
Egyptians
• Protector off lovers and
women (especially during
childbirth).
• See the cow symbolism?
Other Gods: Thoth
• Ibis-headed god, because
he curved beak was
thought to represent the
crescent moon.
• Originally god of the
moon, but his job later
changes.
• Invents writing and is the
divine scribe that presides
at the weighing of the
heart.
Forces of Chaos: Apep
• Apep was a giant
serpent and was
thought to threaten
Atum as he made his
daily travels through the
land of the dead.
• Worthy souls were even
charged with defending
Atum’s boat against
Apep.
Afterlife: Weighing of the Heart
• Possibly the most important myth, at least in
regards to the average person, was the
weighing of the heart.
• When you died your heart was placed on a
scale against a feather, if you lived a good life
your heart was lighter than a feather.
• If you failed your heart was devoured by
Ammut.
Weighing of the Heart.
•
•
•
•
Osiris presided over the weighing.
Anubis weighted the heart.
Thoth recorded the results.
Ammut devoured the heart if you were
unworthy to enter the afterlife…although
there is no record of this ever happening.
Weighing of the Heart
Questions?