Egyptian mythology

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Re on the journey through the underworld

The Egyptian mythology was inseparable from the ancient Egyptian astronomy and the ancient Egyptian religion connected as a unit. Particular mention should be made of the Groove Book , which combines the most important mythological ideas. The almost three thousand years, possibly even longer tradition, proves the adherence to the mythological specifications of the Nutbuch during ancient Egyptian history .

Creation myths

There is no uniform creation myth in Egyptian mythology . The important Egyptian cult centers Heliopolis , Hermopolis and Memphis developed different cosmogonies and theogonies .

Ninth of Heliopolis

The priests of the city of Heliopolis, the main center of the sun cult , aligned the creation story entirely with Atum (the ancient Egyptian great primordial deity) as the father of the gods. He and eight of his descendants made up the Ninth of Heliopolis . At the moment of creation, Atum, "the self-arisen", is said to have been born from the primordial flood. Through his creative power, a hill "(original hill , cf. also Benben )" rose from the primeval waters , so that Atum could enter the first land. Thereupon he became the source of all further creations. From his bodily fluids he produced his two children, Shu , the god of air, and Tefnut , the goddess of fire. This couple in turn gave birth to children of their own, Geb , the god of earth, and Nut , the goddess of heaven. These first three generations represent the basic elements of creation in the Enneade. Geb and Nut fathered the great-grandchildren of Atum, the deities Osiris and Isis and the couple Seth and Nephthys , who in the creation myth represent the fertile Nile floodplain and the surrounding desert.

Eighth of Hermopolis

In contrast to this is the older creation myth of the city of Hermopolis. He sees eight primordial gods as the origin of creation, the " eighth of Hermopolis ". This consists of four pairs of one male and one female deity, each symbolizing an element of creation. Nun and Naunet represented the primordial waters, Heh and Hauhet the endlessness of space, Kuk and Kauket the primeval eclipse. The fourth couple was exchanged several times, but was from the New Kingdom in Amun and Amaunet that symbolized the invisibility and the air. According to the Hermopolitan creation myth, these deities were the mothers and fathers of the sun god. This brought the light into the world and with it the beginning of all further creations.

Memphis Theology

Another creation story originated in the city of Memphis . The Memphite theology placed the city god Ptah , the god of artisans and builders, in the center of the creation myth. It refers to the Heliopolitan myth, but changes it to the effect that the god Ptah preceded the sun god and created him through his tongue and heart. Memphite theology is the earliest best-known theology based on the principle of the Logos : creation through word and speech.

The worldview

Literary sources tell of the worldview of the ancient Egyptians , of the structure of Egypt, of the life and beliefs of this people. The Egyptians of that time saw the world as a large disk, which was traversed by the River Nile and divided the country into two large parts. This disk represented the upper world, in the middle of which the people on the Nile lived. The upper world was supported by four gigantic pillars at each corner of the earth's disk. Below the earth was the underworld, which was a mirror image of the upper world. The vault of heaven was represented by the oversized body of the goddess Nut. Her stature was huge and with her limbs, which to the Egyptians seemed endlessly long, she leaned on the earth in the west and east. The earth was crossed from west to east with a thin line. This line represented the heavenly Nile river, on which the sun migrated during the day and the stars at night. According to a myth, the goddess Nut swallowed the sun every evening and gave birth the next day. In the eyes of the people, Nut ensured that the daily cycle ran smoothly. Since, according to the Egyptian belief, Egypt was in the center of the upper world, they divided the remaining areas of the earth into four large areas. In the north were the Hittites , the Hyksos and a few smaller sea ​​peoples . To the south was Nubia , which the Egyptians divided into Upper Nubia (further south) and Lower Nubia (in the north). Behind Nubia were the deserts of Africa, which were largely unknown at the time of the pharaohs, and the east bordered the Red Sea. To the west of the country was the Libyan desert ; only a few Bedouins lived here in harsh living conditions.

More myths

Osiris' assassination

Amulet with Horus (left), Osiris and Isis

The fourth generation of the Heliopolitan Ninth was also the origin of another formative legend in Egyptian mythology.

Seth, who hated his brother Osiris, devised a ruse to kill him. He got his brother's measurements and invited him to a party where he presented a box that he would give as a present to anyone who could lay himself inside. All the guests tried it, but only Osiris fit in. When it was in the box, Seth immediately locked it and covered it with a layer of lead so that his brother could not escape. Then he sank the box in the Nile.

Osiri's wife Isis, who was pregnant, could not fight against Seth at the time, so that Seth seized power over the whole world. Isis gave birth to her son Horus in secret and let him drift down the Nile in a basket (see also Moses: Birth and Suspension ), fearing that Seth might also murder him. So Horus grew up with people who found him on the banks of the Nile.

Meanwhile, Isis was looking for her husband Osiris. Children told her about the act of Seth. As far as Byblos , Isis was able to follow the trail of the box, where it had been locked into a tree trunk that King Melkart had integrated into his palace as a pillar . Isis hired herself as a servant at the king's court and thus won the queen's trust. After revealing herself to her, the queen persuaded her husband to release the box. So Isis was able to bring the body of Osiris back to Egypt and bring it back to life there through powerful spells.

The resurrection of Osiris was not hidden from Seth. With all the power that was now within him, he killed Osiris again and scattered the body all over the country. Isis, trying again to save her husband, collected all the parts in order to be able to awaken him again. However, she found that a crocodile the phallus had eaten her husband and she was not in possession of all parts. The attempt to replace the missing phallus with a wooden copy failed.

So Osiris was not resurrected and became ruler of the realm of the dead . But Seth was able to further expand his rule over Egypt and the world.

The war of the gods

Horus, who grew up with humans, now learned of his divine origins and who his parents were. So he sought revenge against Seth and began a cruel campaign against him. At the beginning of this fight he still had numerous allies, such as Nephthys, the former wife of Seth, Thoth and Anubis , and of course his mother Isis. When Isis freed her son's prisoners of war, however, he reacted so viciously that he cut off her head. Fortunately, Thoth was able to prevent their death through his healing powers, but now all other gods turned away from Horus.

The victims in the great war of the gods were the people, because they formed the troops that Horus and Seth sent against each other. Horus attacked Nubia , the land in which Seth ruled, and with his specially equipped warriors, the Mesinu , was able to defeat almost the entire army of Seth. When Seth saw this, he joined the fight himself. But the duel with Horus ended in a draw. However, Nubia fell under the rule of Horus.

The eye of Horus

The eye of Horus

In the course of the battle between Seth and Horus, Horus had an eye gouged out, which his mother Isis healed. Often, however, Thoth is also given as the rescuer, since the injured eye was the left eye and thus the moon eye. Thus it became a symbol of healing and protection from danger. The Udjat eye has been used as an amulet since the Old Kingdom . The eye of Horus is still used today on ships that sail the Nile. It is applied to the front of the bow on both sides.

The division of the empire

Re , who saw the devastation of the world coming, since neither of the two was ready to cease acts of war, called on all the other gods to advise which of the two should now be the pharaoh of the world.

The gods could not agree and called on Neith , the goddess of wisdom, to make a decision. Neith chose Horus, but Seth did not want to be satisfied with that and started the war again.

Ultimately, Osiris, the ruler of the underworld, should decide. This then demanded from all gods to accept the decision of the Neith.

So the world was divided. From now on Horus ruled over the "black land" Egypt and Seth was assigned the "red land", consisting of the hostile desert , as a new kingdom .

See also: Unification of the Empire

The annihilation of humanity

There was a time when the gods lived with humans on earth and Re was both king of gods and king of mortals. However, after Re grew old and weak, it wasn't just the gods who tried to take advantage of it. The humans also noticed Re's weakness and allied against him. But Re knew of the planned conspiracy against him and called all the gods together to discuss how the uprising could be put down. The meeting was held in secret, as the people were not allowed to know that their conspiracy had been discovered. The answer of the gods was unanimous and Nun said for all gods: “His son Horus should remain on the throne and he should send his eye, the so-called eye of Re, in the form of the goddess Sachmet, to the people in order to destroy them. “Re agreed with the council of the gods to send his daughter Hathor in her embodiment of indomitable evil so that she could teach a lesson to mortals.

After the transformation into the wild lion goddess Sakhmet , she went among the people and began the slaughter. She systematically slaughtered all living beings that came in her way. But when Re saw this, he felt sorry for the people and saw that the slaughter was going too far. But once the destructive power of the Sekhmet was unleashed, it was difficult to curb it. And so Re devised a ruse: Thousands of mugs of beer were brought in and their contents were colored red with hematite dust . The beer mugs were poured out on a field that the gods knew would soon be haunted by the madman. The sight roused Sachmet again, believing it to be human blood, and gobbled greedily down the whole lake. This made her so drunk that she was unable to recognize people and was therefore no longer a danger to them.

Re was so devastated after all that he wanted to withdraw from the world. He got on the back of the groove in the shape of a cow and let her carry him into the sky. The other gods clung to her belly and became stars on the way to heaven. Since that time heaven and earth as well as the gods have been separated from humans and the present world was created. Because of the ride on the celestial cow, this myth is also known as the “Book of the celestial cow”, but it did not appear fully written down until the New Kingdom . So z. B. in the grave of Seti I ( KV17 ) in one of the side chambers of the burial chamber and in the outer gilded shrine from the burial chamber of Tutankhamun ( KV62 ).

See also


  • Mubabinge Bilolo : Les cosmo-théologies philosophiques d'Héliopolis et d'Hermopolis. Essai de thématisation et de systématisation (= Académie de la Pensée Africaine. Section 1: Pensée de l'Egypte et de la Nubie Anciennes. Vol. 2). Publications Universitaires Africaines, Kinshasa et al. 1986.
  • Mubabinge Bilolo: Les cosmo-théologies philosophiques de l'Égypte Antique. Problématique prémisses, herméneutiques et probèmes majeurs (= Académie de la Pensée Africaine. Section 1: Pensée de l'Egypte et de la Nubie Anciennes. Vol. 1). Publications Universitaires Africaines, Kinshasa et al. 1986.
  • Mubabinge Bilolo: Métaphysique Pharaonique. IIIe millénaire av. J.-C. prolégomènes et postulats majeurs Author (= Académie de la Pensée Africaine. Section 1: Pensée de l'Egypte et de la Nubie Anciennes. Vol. 4). Publications Universitaires Africaines, Munich et al. 1994, ISBN 3-931169-14-6 .
  • Leonard H. Lesko: mythology. In: Kathryn A. Bard (Ed.): Encyclopedia of the Archeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge, London 1999, ISBN 0-415-18589-0 , pp. 548-550.

Web links

Commons : Egyptian Mythology  - Collection of Images


  1. ^ A b Christian Delacampagne , Erich Lessing: Mysterious Egypt. Bechtermünz, Eltville 1991, ISBN 3-927117-85-4 .
  2. a b c Veronica Ions: The gods and myths of Egypt (= The great religions of the world - gods, myths and legends ). Neuer Kaiser Verlag - Book and World, Klagenfurt 1988, pp. 37–38.
  3. a b Lucia Gahlin: Egypt. Gods, myths, religions. A fascinating guide through the mythology and religion of ancient Egypt to the magnificent temples, tombs and treasures of the first advanced civilization of mankind. Edition XXL, Reichelsheim 2001, ISBN 3-89736-312-7 , pp. 68-69.