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Eqyptian Creation Myths

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  • Eqyptian Creation Myths

    . . . . . As is the case with most ancient mythologies, the Egyptians created myths to try to explain their place in the cosmos. Their understanding of the cosmic order was from direct observation of nature. Therefore their creation myths concern themselves with gods of nature; the earth, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, and of course, the Nile river.

    . . . . .Since the Nile river, with its annual floods played a critical role in this cosmic order. It should come as no surprise to find water the fundamental element in the Egyptians ideas of creation. For the Egyptians to watch the inundation of their land would have been like watching a earthly model of their ideas of a watery creation. Allow me to explain.

    . . . . .In the beginning there was only water, a chaos of churning, bubbling water, this the Egyptians called Nu or Nun. It was out of Nu that everything began. As with the Nile, each year the inundation no doubt caused chaos to all creatures living on the land, so this represents Nu. eventually the floods would recede and out of the chaos of water would emerge a hill of dry land, one at first, then more. On this first dry hilltop, on the first day came the first sunrise. So that is how the Egyptians explain the beginning of all things.

    . . . . .Not surprisingly, the sun was also among the most important elements in the Egyptians lives and therefore had an important role as a creator god. His names and attributes varied greatly. As the rising sun his name was Khepri, the great scarab beetle, or Ra-Harakhte who was seen as a winged solar-disk or as the youthful sun of the eastern horizon. As the sun climbed toward mid-day it was called Ra, great and strong. When the sun set in the west it was known as Atum the old man, or Horus on the horizon. As a solar-disk he was known as Aten. The sun was also said to be an egg laid daily by Geb, the 'Great Cackler' when he took the form of a goose.

    . . . . .To the Egyptians the moon was any one of a number of gods. As an attribute of the god Horus the moon represented his left eye while his right was the sun. Seth was a lunar god, in his struggles with the solar god Horus, Seth is seen as a god of darkness doing constant battle with the god of light. We often find the ibis-headed god Thoth wearing a lunar creseant on his head.

    . . . . .To the Egyptians the sky was a goddess called Nut. She was often shown as a cow standing over the earth her eyes being the sun and the moon. She is kept from falling to earth by Shu, who was the god of air and wind, or by a circle of high mountains. As this heavenly cow, she gave birth to the sun daily. The sun would ride in the 'Solar Barque' across Nut's star covered belly, which was a great cosmic ocean. Then as evening fell, Nut would swallow the sun creating darkness. She is also pictured as a giant sow, suckling many piglets. These piglets represented the stars, which she swallowed each morning before dawn.Nut was also represented as an elongated woman bending over the earth and touching the horizons with her toes and finger tips. Beneath her stretched the ocean, in the center of which lay her husband Geb, the earth-god.He is often seen leaning on one elbow, with a knee bent toward the sky, this is representive of the mountains and valleys of the earth. Green vegetation would sprout from Geb's brown or red body.

    The Creator.

    . . . . .In the beginning there was only the swirling watery chaos, called Nu. Out of these chaotic waters rose Atum, the sun god of the city of Heliopolis. It is believed that he created himself, using his thoughts and will. In the watery chaos, Atum found no place on which to stand. In the place where he first appeared, he created a hill. This hill was said to be the spot on which the temple of Heliopolis was built. Other interpretations find that Atum was the hill. In this interpretation Atum may represent the fertile, life giving hills left behind by the receding waters of the Nile's annual flood. As early as the Fifth-Dynasty, we find Atum identified with the sun god Ra. By this time his emergence on the primeval hill can be interpreted as the coming of light into the darkness of Nu. As the god of the rising sun, his name is Khepri.

    . . . . .His next act was to create more gods. Because he was all alone in the world, without a mate, he made a union with his shadow. This unusual way of procreating offspring was not considered strange to the Egyptians. We find Atum regarded as a bisexual god and was sometimes called the 'Great He-She'. The Egyptians were thus able to present Atum as the one and only creative force in the universe.

    . . . . .According to some texts the birth of Atum's children took place on the primeval hill. In other texts, Atum stayed in the waters of Nu to create his son and daughter. He gave birth to his son by spitting him out. His daughter he vomited. Shu represented the air and Tefnut was a goddess of moisture. Shu and Tefnut continued the act of creation by establishing a social order. To this order Shu contributed the 'principles of Life' while Tefnut contributed the 'principles of order'.

    . . . . .After some time Shu and Tefnut became separated from their father and lost in the watery chaos of Nu. Atum, who had only one eye, which was removable. This was called the Udjat eye. Atum removed the eye and sent it in search of his children. In time they returned with the eye. At this reunion Atum wept tears joy, where these tears hit the ground, men grew. Now Atum was ready to create the world. So Shu and Tefnut became the parents of Geb, the earth and Nut, the sky. Geb and Nut gave birth to Osiris and Isis, Seth, Nephthys.

    The Creator.

    .In one Egyptian creation myth, the sun god Ra takes the form of Khepri, the scarab god who was usually credited as the great creative force of the universe. Khepri tells us,"Heaven and earth did not exist. And the things of the earth did not yet exist. I raised them out of Nu, from their stagnant state. I have made things out of that which I have already made, and they came from my mouth." It seems that Khepri is telling us that in the beginning there is nothing. He made the watery abyss known as Nu, from which he later draws the materials needed for the creation of everything.

    . . . . .He goes on to say, "I found no place to stand. I cast a spell with my own heart to lay a foundation in Maat. I made everything . I was alone. I had not yet breathed the god Shu, and I had not yet spit up the goddess Tefnut. I worked alone." We learn that by the use of magic Khepri creates land with its foundation in Maat (law, order, and stability). We also learn that from this foundation many things came into being. At this point in time Khepri is alone. The sun, which was called the eye of Nu, was hidden by the children of Nu. It was a long time before these two deities, Shu and Tefnut were raised out of the watery chaos of their father, Nu. They brought with them their fathers eye, the sun. Khepri then wept profusely, and from his tears sprang men and women. The gods then made another eye, which probably represents the moon. After this Khepri created plants and herbs, animals, reptiles and crawling things. In the mean time Shu and Tefnut gave birth to Geb and Nut, who in turn gave birth to Osiris and Isis, Seth, Nephthys.

    While these are still speaks about how this "God" that was worshiped came out of "chaos" and the "abyss". Take this in comparison with the Gnostic scriptures and you see the Creation of the World....yet it says nothing about the Creation of the Spirit Realms.

    I've been doing a lot of "thinking" so to speak and ya know peace could occur....and the Revolution could be one of LOVE and not violence if people started remembering their dreams. To me I get a feeling that a so called "Galactic Council" has already been formed...on it are those whom you have known to be the Angels and Gods of the past. The ones that want Peace...that want to share TRUTH, the ones that want to free you from your slavery that want to share in equality with you...that want to see change occur for the betterment of this Planet...if they could appear in your dreams then you would see and know the faces and peace could occur....not violence...this could be a completely different kind of revolution and one that brings change in a different way. I am curious if this could occur. I know, I have had dreams of being in there....if there is A "Highest" Truth then allow it to shine forth. Blessings! <3
    Loving yourself has to occur before you can allow anyone else to Love you in return.
    Sometimes I just want to spread my wings and soar....anyone else want to come with me?

  • #2

    The Creator God of the Ennead of Heliopolis, who rose out of the Primeval Waters (the Nun) to form the Primeval Mound, the first piece of land which emerged when the water withdrew.

    Some of his epiteths were: 'Lord to the limit of the sky', 'He Who came into being of Himself', the 'Lord of All' and 'Lord of Iunu (Gr: Heliopolis)'. He self-developed into a being, standing on a raised mound; i.e. the primeval mound, which became the Benben, a pyramid shaped stone, regarded as the dwelling place of the sun god.

    Atum is therefore the creator god who created the universe, he is the supreme being and master of the forces and elements of the universe. Utterance 600 in the Pyramid Texts:

    "O Atum-Kheper! You became high on the height, you rose up as
    the Benben Stone in the Mansion of the Phoenix in On (Heliopolis)."

    By this is meant the Primeval Mound itself.


    Atum is usually depicted in anthropomorphic form, seated or standing. He wears either the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, or the royal headcloth (the Nemes), and often leans on his staff of office. Whe he is shown as aged, he denotes the setting sun.

    Creator - Self-engenderer

    Atum embraces the idea of 'Totality' and of 'The Perfect State'. He is therefore both male and female in one and thus the producer of Shu and Tefnut, which in turn created Geb and Nut, who parented the children Wesir, (Gr: Osiris) Aset,(Gr: Isis) Nebt-Het (Gr: Nephtys) and Set. These deities make up the Heliopolitan Ennead (the Pesedjet).

    The aspect of Atum as coming out of the primeval chaos as both male and female and creating Shu and Tefnut is rendered in two versions. The earliest is hinted at in the Pyramid Period, describing how Atum takes his phallus in his hand and brings it to orgasm, thereby creating Shu and Tefnut with his semen.

    An extract from Papyrus Brehmer-Rhind states:

    "All manifestations came into being after I sky existed no earth existed...I created on my own every fist became my spouse...I copulated with my hand...I sneezed out Shu...I spat out Tefnut...Next Shu and Tefnut produced Geb and Nut...Geb and Nut then gave birth to Wesir...(Gr: Osiris) Seth, Aset, (Gr: Isis) and Nebt-Het...(Gr: Nephty) sultimately they produced the population of this land."

    Other sources state that Atum created them by spitting out the one and sneezing out the other. This is based on the sounds of the names Shu and Tefnut.

    Atum and the King of Egypt

    Atum was considered a protective deity in regards to the king, and even called the father of the king. During the Pyramid Age, it was Atum who lifted the dead king from his pyramid to the heavens so that he could become a star-god, and in later times, Atum was protecting him during his journey in the Underworld.

    Atum is also taking part at the crowning of a king. Reliefs in the Temple of Amun, show Atum and Montu leading the king. The reason for this is that Atum, as the ultimate creator, is the one who gives power to the king in his identification as the Living Heru (Gr: Horus).

    Sacred Animals and the End of the World

    Atum was also thought to manifest in the form of a scarab, a bull or a lion. Among animals belonging to a more primeval realm are the ichneumon, the lizard and the primeval serpent. This last is especially interesting as it touches on a rather unusual concept in Egyptian myth; the concept of the End of the World.

    There is a dialogue between Atum and Wesir in the Book of Going Forth By Day, whre Atum states that he will submerge the world with all its deities, humans and everything else in the Nun (primeval waters) and that only he himself and Wesir will survive in the form of serpents. Another story telling about an earlier catastrophe ending with only one survivor, the 'kerhet' - snake as conveying the image of the snake shedding its skin (destruction)and emerging in a new form.

    Atum in the Underworld

    Atum, as te Creator of all things and beings, protects the deceased from all dangers and evil forces in the Underworld. He defeats the snake Neheb-Khau by pressing his fingernail on its spine, and annihilates the Apep serpent. In tombs from the New Kingdom Period, Atum is seen punishing the enemies of the sun by drenching or beheading them.

    In later times Atum was merged with the setting sun and became Re-Atum. He was a cosmic deity and as such did not have a large priesthood and only few temples.


    The Sun disc itself, first as a heavenly body, later personified as Re.

    The word 'aten' is in itself denoting a disk and could be not only the sun but also other round objects. The 'aten' together with the concept of divinity appeared the first time ca 2000 B.C., in the tale of Sinhue, where the king Amenemhat I is said to soar into the sky uniting with Aten, his creator. The word 'aten' later appears together with a symbol of a deity who is carrying a sun disc on his head, on an inscription of Thutmose at Tombos in Nubia, ca 1500 B.C. Later, in the 16th century B.C. the ruler Amenhotep I is likewize after his death 'united with the one from whom he had come'. From there the step to elevating the 'aten' to a deity in its own right isnīt all that far.

    The earliest depiction of the 'aten' as Aten can be found on a monument dedicated to Amenhotep II at Giza. Here we can see the winged sun disc embracing the royal cartouche with its outstretched arms. During the rule of Thutmose IV the Aten is said to be in the vanguard of the army, which place was usually occupied by Amun.

    Next we find that Amenhotep III most likely had a temple to Aten constructed and a priesthood installed at Heliopolis. Further, he held courtiers with titles like Hatiay, 'scribe of the two granaries of the Temple of Aten in Men-Nefer (Memphis)'. Also the palace of Amenhotep at Malkata bore the name 'Splendour of Aten' and 'Per Hay' (home of rejoicing).

    During the Amarna period, under the reign of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) the sundisc, as a heavenly body, was exalted to be the only god in existence, something which had been unheard of hitherto in Egyptian religion, and which undoubtedly caused much consternation among the priesthood. Aten was then depicted as a sundisc with rays ending in life-giving hands.

    During the first years of his reign, Akhenaten kept the capital at Waset (Thebes). He even had a temple to Aten constructed outside of the eastern wall to the great temple to Amun. This was torn down after his reign by Horemheb and some 35.000 blocks went into the pylon IX at Karnak. This temple was called Per Aten (house of Aten)and included at least three sanctuaries, where one of them was called the 'mansion of Bn-ben', thereby linking to the Primeval Mound on which the sun god appeared to create the world in the sun cult at Heliopolis.

    In the 6th year of his reign, Akhenaten founded the city of 'Akhet-Aten' ('Horizon of Aten'), despite the grumblings of a priesthood rendered powerless. This is the modern site of el-Amarna. This is also the time when the king changes his name from Amenhotep (Amen is content) to Akhenaten (Beneficial to Aten) and assumes a new royal titulary, from which can be understood that Re is absorbed into and the same as Aten, and therefore it can be said to be a renewal of kingship as it was over a thousand eyars earlier in Dyn V.

    But this period was brief, only ca 15 years, and may in fact not have had any large effect outside of the royal court. For people in general, life probably went on as it had always done, they kept on praying to their same local deities and was largely unaffected by the changes on the national level. After Akhenatenīs death the priesthood of Amun reinstalled the old religious practice, tore down the temples to Aten and the Amarna period became an exception in the history of Ancient Egypt.

    The idea of a single overall creator-god did exist before the time of Akhenaten. IT is found on the stela of the brothers Suti and Hor (British Museum), where the sun god is said to be a supreme deity expressed as different gods like Re, Amun and Heru (Horus). But it is during the time of Akhenaten that this idea reaches its foremost expression.


    Amen, Amon, Amun, Imen - Primeval Creator God mentioned already in the Pyramid Texts (5th Dynasty) as a primeval deity whose shadow protects the other gods. His female counterpart is Amaunet. He is often called "The Hidden One" which shows an association with invisibility. The ancients regarded him as being behind and in all things, a deity too complex to describe in one name or even possible to depict in his true form. Therefore another name was "He who abides in all things". 'Hidden of aspect, mysterious of form' or the ba of all things are other epiteths. They also called him 'asha renu' which means 'rich in names'.

    Amun and the Ogdoad.

    Amun and his female counterpart Amaunet, are one of four pairs of the Ogdoad, the Creation Myth which originated in Hermopolis (el-Ashmunein). Amun in his form of a snake (Amun Kem-Atef) is also the forerunner, or ancestor of these eight deities

    Forms and Sacred Animals

    As the creator behind all of cosmos, also other deities were unaware of his true form. He was sometimes depicted in the form of the Nile Goose, and sometimes as a ram with curved horns or as a ram-headed man. These two animals; the goose and the ram, were sacred to him, and therefore never offered. The connection with the goose might come from the creation myth about the "Gengen Wer" (means: Great Honker or Great Cackler) - the goose which carried the egg from which life came forth, and indicated Amun as a creator god, while the ramīs creative energy indicated him as a fertility god. As Amun-Min he was also shown in ityphallic form.

    Another frequent image of Amun shows him in human form, with two tall plumes on top of his head, seated on a throne. His skin is blue like lapis lazuli which was a highly treasured, semi-precious stone, and he is wearing a short kilt. On top of his crown are two tall plumes, signifying him as a sky deity, and it is said that he was as invisible as the wind.


    Already in the 11th Dynasty, Amun was merged with the royal sun-cult of Re in Heliopolis. His importance grew and he was imported at Thebes where he became Amun-Re, the Sun-god, or the 'King of the Gods', which title appears for the first time in Dyn 12. This was an effort at making Amun the most important of all deities and to link him to the kingship as being the divine father of the ruler. Many kings called themselves Mery-Amun (Beloved of Amun)

    Though he was the High God, he also was a deity to whom the commoner could turn to in times of need. Papyrii tells of him protecting the rights of the poor in law courts and he is called the 'vizier of the humble' who comes at the voice of the poor'. There are also traces of Amun being 'Amun of the road', a protector of travellers.

    Amun at Thebes - Karnak and Luxor

    Karnak; "Ipet-Isut", in ancient Egyptian: 'The Most Select of Places', consists of three main precincts: for Amun, Mut and Khonsu which form the 'Triad of Karnak'. These are all situated within the main precinct of Amun. Here is also the Opet temple and a small temple dedicated to Ptah to be found. To the north is the precinct of the temple of Montu, the earlier main god of Thebes from the end of Dyn XI.

    Luxor; "Amun em Ipet Resyt", in ancient Egyptian: 'Amun Who Is In His Southern Sanctuary'. This temple lies 3 km south of Karnak, and was in ancient times situated in the center of Thebes (Waset), and dedicated to Amun-Re. He was here mainly represented in either the blue painted form or the black ityphallic form, and he was even 'visited' by Amun of Karnak once a year during the Opet Festival. The temple was called the 'Place of Seclusion' or the 'Southern Opet'.

    The ityphallic form of Amun; ‘Amun Kamutef’- ‘Bull of his mother’, is not to be confused with his name of ‘Amun Kem-Atef’, by which is meant an ancient form of Amun as a snake deity; ‘He Who has Completed His Moment’, probably referring to the snake sending his skin and beginning a new cycle of life.

    Amun in Kush (Nubia)

    There were temples built to Amun even south of the 1st cataract to celebrate him as a god of the Egyptian rulers and in this way extend the territory to enable safe transport ways to the gold of Kush. The cult of Amun developed such a strong foothold that when Egypt lost control to the Kushite rulers, these continued the worship.

    His importance endured into the Greek and Roman days when several temples were dedicated to him.


    The name Osiris is the Greek word for the hieroglyph 'Wesir' or Wsr', which is thought to mean 'He who is strong', but no definite conclusion has been reached. It is also thought to mean 'the place of the eye'. Other varieties of the spelling and pronouncing of his name are Ausar or Usir. Also sometimes Wennefer (Gr: Onnophris) which means "the eternally good being" or "the perfect one". Wesir/Osiris has been called "Lord of the Duat (Afterworld)", "Judge of the Blessed Dead", "Father of the Kings" and many other epithets. There exists much discussion about the origin of his name, and itsī meaning, though the most likely explanation seems to be that his name is related to the word 'woser' which would mean 'Mighty One'.


    There have been various theories as to the origin of Wesir/Osiris, one places him as being a foreign human king during the Predynastic times, entering Egypt from the North and settling finally in Djedu (Busiris) in Lower Egypt, where his cult center grew. It was probably here that his association with an earlier deity Andjety stemmed from. Another theory is that he developed from the primitive fertility god, Nepri, in Lower Egypt to become one of the greatest and most important of all the Egyptian deities, whose myth still lived on long after the fall of Egypt. As such he was associated with the inundation of the Nile and symbolizing the fertile land of Kemet. From this his association with resurrection, regrowth and new life in the Underworld developed. In the Late Period Plutarch described him as a human king who brought knowledge and agriculture to Egypt, though this legend must be taken with a grain of salt.

    His authority as a king and a divine judge of the underworld probably came from his role as a source of fertility and his ability to regenerate life. Just as he had triumphed over death in the vegetation world, so was he thought to triumph in a wider sense over the deceased in the kingdom of the dead. His experience of suffering and his ability to conquer death made him a ruler not over the living but over the dead, thus promising them eternal life. As a vegetation god he was also regarded a corn-deity, with association to an early corn-god Neper (Nepri) and connects to other Near Eastern deities like Adonis, Dionysos, Tammus, but a common origin has not been proven.

    Sometimes he is called the 'Lord of Djedu' (Gr: Busiris). It was also in Djedu that Wesir acquired his symbol, the 'djed-pillar' which came to symbolize strength and resurrection, and the royal insignia the crook and the flail.


    The earliest depiction sofar of Wesir/Osiris shows his head and upper torso on a block from the 5th Dynasty (King Izesi). Above it is the symbolic name of Wesir/Osiris in hieroglyphs; an eye and a throne. He is often depicted in human form, in white mummy wrappings and with his skin white or black, alluding to the realm of the dead, or green as a symbol of resurrection. Out of the mummy wrappings his arms protrude and he is seen carrying the crook and the flail as a sing of kingship. He wears the 'Atef' crown; the tall, conical crown of Upper Egypt, flanked by a plume at each side, and ramīs horns as its base.

    Titles and epithets

    Wesir/Osiris is called by many epithets and titles, through them it is possible to glean information of the nature of him and how come he was capable of embracing several deities.

    The most usual one is probably Foremost of the Westerners as already mentioned, the ancient Egyptian meaning of the deity Khenti-Amentiu. This shows Osiris as a funerary god at Abedjou.

    Another title pointing at Osirisīs link to funerary beliefs and mummification is He Who Is In the Godīs Tent. By 'tent' is meant the booth or pavilion where the mummification took place. It is also believed that Osiris assumed the role of Yinepu as protector of this process.

    Then there are epithets which describes Osiris as being resident at different locations. Of these the one called:

    He Who Dwells in Sah (Orion) with a Season in the Sky and a Season on Earth stands out as it places Osiris as belonging in the sky as an astral deity and contrasts with his usual realm in the Underworld.

    He Who Dwells in Iunu (Gr: Heliopolis) places him at the location where the Ennead originated, and He Who Dwells in Andjet refers to the Lower Egypt cult center at Djedu (Gr: Busiris), where Andjety was the original local deity

    Sometimes the name Osiris-Wennofer (Wenen-Nofer)is encountered. It is thought that this might be referred to another deity altogether. It translates 'beneficient being' or 'he who is everlasting in a fine condition' and might have been used as a euphemism to cover up the decay of death. The Greek version of it is 'Onnophris', not to be confused with Onuris/Anhur

    Osiris in Myth

    In myth he is the son of Geb, the earth god, brother and the husband of Aset, (Gr: Isis) and brother to Nebt-Het (Gr: Nephtys) andSeth. He was slain by his brother at the shore of 'Nedyet', resurrected by his sister-spouse who also gave him his son Heru (Gr: Horus) whom he in the end took revenge upon his brother Seth. go here for the myth.

    There exits no written account of his myth, so it is surmised it was handed down by oral tradition. The earliest and most complete written version is by Plutharch and thus it reflects Greek style and perception of the world, and is of a much later period in history.

    However, this myth can be traced in the Pyramid Texts (Old Kingdom) and New Kingdom or Graeco-Roman inscriptions and reliefs on some temple walls refers to rites held at annual festivals held to Osiris.

    Through this myth Osiris became the ruler of the Underworld, king of the deceased. He was seen as the night form of the sun, even the moon sometimes.

    Osiris in the Pyramid Age

    During this time Wesir/Osiris exists as that deity into which the deceased King transforms. Great importance is attached to this concept, and during the whole of the Old Kingdom. The King was the only person whose existence was seen as continuous, unbroken by death and only transformed into Osiris. Inscriptions in the pyramids from the 5th Dynasty onwards describes Osiris as the legendary first ruler of Predynastic Egypt. These inscriptions are the earliest hints of the myth of Osiris as a Predynastic ruler of Egypt, and this myth was to last through the almost 4000 year old history of ancient Egypt.

    Osiris and the Sun-God

    Opposed to Osiris as ruler of the Duat, there is his connection with the concept of the sun-king. It is believed that this reflects the ancient Egyptian fear of death. They dreaded the gloom of the Underworld and therefore it lay close to hand to in Osiris see the counterpart of the sun-god - the opposite pole so to speak. This would ensure that the Underworld would always have at least some shade of the light of day. It was said that Re an Osiris embraced one another as 'twin souls' and Re is even told to superwise the funeral of Osiris. This might also be the reason Osiris was often seen as the moon while Re symbolized the sun.

    Osiris at Abedjou

    During the Old Kingdom Wesir/Osiris seems to have absorbed the ancient canine deity at Abedjou (Abydos), Khenti-Amentiu and replaced him as the main deity there. The name Khenti-Amentiu means 'Foremost of the Westerners' was also included in the long line of epithets for Osiris.

    Abedjou was situated on the west bank of the Nile, the area where the sun sets and prepares to descend into the Duat. It is also here where many cemeteries and necropolii were placed in the ancient days.

    Festival of Osiris

    It was here at Abedjou that the yearly Passion Plays of Osiris were acted out. These drew pilgrims and visitors from all over the country and rituals were held within the closed-off sacredness of the temples, while outside of them people acted out the drama of the Myth of Osiris. It went on for days and were probably one of the most frequented and longest celebrated of ancient Egyptian festivals. We donīt know very much about what exactly went on, it seems that both priests and lay people assumed roles as deities and other characters from the myths and acted out these mythical events. A stela in the Berlin Museum tells about a high official called Ikhernofret, living in the Middle Kingdom, who was ordered by the king to use 'Nubian gold' for decorating the cult statue of Osiris, and to construct a new shrine out of cedar wood for the god. The shrine was inlaid with gold, lapis lazuli, silver, and bronze.

    Then the stela tells that a bark, called 'neshmet' was made, to carry the shrine enclosing the cult statue on, and it also tells of what processions were made:

    The Procession of Wepwawet:

    Wepwawet was an ancient canine deity, said to open up the way. Here he acted as a herald of Osiris.

    The Great Procession

    The shrine of Osiris is carried in a funeral procession from his temple to a symbolic tomb. On the way there is a struggle enacted against his enemies.

    Return to the Temple

    The shrine and the ceremonial barks are brought back on the Nile to the temple for concluding purification rites.

    Osiris in the Middle and New Kingdom

    Towards the end of the Old Kingdom and during the First Intermediate, the concept of the King being the sole one to be transformed into Osiris and eternal life began to spread to other high nobles and courtiers. This is often called the 'democratization of the funerary beliefs'. Already in tombs of nobles during the 5th Dynasty there are signs of Osiris being the protective deity, and in the 11th - 15th Dynasties, accompanying funerary texts had become a 'must' for officials and those who could afford to have these made. Osiris became more and more the 'King of Those Who Are Not', meaning that his kingdom was the Duat where the dead lived their eternal lifes.

    In the New Kingdom there is also once again signs of the polarity between life and death, as Osiris is called Lord of the Living', Lord of the Universe or 'Ruler of Eternity'. The many epithets of Osiris can be seen in the Book of Going forth By Day, spell 142. Here is just a small selection:

    Osiris of the Region of Life
    Osiris, the Lord of Life
    Presiding over the Harpoon
    Presiding over the Houses
    Osiris in the Southern and Northern Chapels (in Sais)
    Osiris, the Creator of Millions
    Osiris Dwelling in the Waste Land
    Osiris in Bahbit
    Osiris the Begetter
    Osiris in the House of Re
    Osiris the Many-faced

    Osiris in the Late Period

    Already in the Ptolemaic Period, Osiris was merged with the Hellenistic Serapis, for whom there was a cult center at Alexandria; the Serapion, but was still worshipped in his own right as Spouse of Aset and King of the Underworld. In the 22nd Dynasty onwards, six sanctuaries built for Osiris at Karnak, by the divine adoratrices to Amun. Here are inscriptions mentioning Osiris as upholder of Ma'at. Psamtik I restored a temple to Osiris-Apis at Saqqara, and at Djedu (Gr: Busiris) there was another important cult center. So there were several important cult centers for Osiris built, renovated or added to during this period. Some of these places were linked to the Ptolemaic version of the myth which tells about Osirisīs dismemberment by Set by claiming that parts of the godīs body were buried there. Among these were:

    Tjebnutjer (Sebennytos)
    Henen-Nesut (Herakleopolis)
    Hut-Heryib (Athribis)
    Abedjou (Abydos)
    Bigeh Island

    Osiris at Bigeh

    On the Island of Bigeh, close to the island of Philae, there is said to be found 16 mythical tombs to Osiris. The island is also called 'Abaton', which means 'inaccessible'. Speaking loudly was forbidden here, and the statue of Aset, his sister-spouse, was brought over from Philae at regular intervals to make offerings at his tombs.

    It was also believed that Hapi, the personification of the inundation, to whom Osiris had a close connection, lived in a cave on Bigeh, the entrance being protected by a sacred snake.
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