Sunday, February 12, 2012

Creation Theories and Myths

Creation Theories
Looking at the 4 different creation myths and the back ground of these myths
Source: Ancient Egypt
Authors: Lorna Oakes and Lucia Gahlin
Book review:
If you want a book filled with graphical, photo and information of the Ancient world of Egypt this book is the one for you. I is comprehensive, informative and touch on every aspect of the old world. A must have for any person interested in Ancient Egypt.

Creation Myths
Several explanations as to how the universe came into being survive from ancient Egypt. Each major centre of religious belief had its own version of the myth of creation, with a different main creator deity who was self· engendered and who went on to generate the other gods and goddesses before creating humankind. The particular deities mentioned in each of the stories relate to the geographical areas where the myths originated. II is impossible 10 say which of the myths was the most widely accepted al anyone time.

The Creation Myth of Memphis
Ptah was the self-engendered creator god who was referred to as the -father of the gods from whom all life emerged", He brought the universe into being by conceiving all aspects of it in his heart, then speaking his thoughts out loud. First he created the other deities, and then lawns with shrines in which 10 house them. He provided wood, clay and stone statues to act as bodies for the spirits or divine power (ka) of the deities, and offerings to be made to them forever. All things, including all people and animals, were brought into being by Ptah declaring their names.
The Creation Myth of Elephantine
The creator god of this cult centre was the ram-headed deity of the southern cataract region, Khnum. He created the universe by modelling the other gods, as well as humankind (both Egyptians and all those who spoke other languages), animals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants out of clay on his potter's wheel. He paid particular attention to the moulding of the human body, getting the blood to flow over the bones and stretching the skin carefully over the body. He took special care with the installation of the respiratory and digestive systems, the vertebrae, and the reproductive organs. Afterwards, he ensured the continuation of the human race by watching over conception and labour.
The Creation Myth of Hermopolis Magna
This myth begins by concentrating on the elements that were necessary for creation to take place. The fundamental factors were arranged in four male-­female pairs: primordial water (Nun and Naunet); air or hidden power (Amun and Amaunet): darkness (Kuk and Kauket); and formlessness or infinity, otherwise interpreted as flood force (Huh and Hauhet), These divine personifications of the basic elements of the cosmos are referred to as the Ogdoad (Greek for 'group of eight'; in Egyptian, khmun). The four male gods were all frog· headed, and the four goddesses were snake-headed. AI some point the eight elements interacted to create a burst of energy, allowing creation to take place.
There are two versions of the events that followed in this creation myth. In one version a primeval mound of earth described as the Isle of Flame rose up out of the primordial water. The god Thoth, in the form of an ibis, placed a cosmic egg on the mound of earth. The egg cracked hatching the sun, which immediately rose up into the sky. According to the alternative version, a lotus flower (divinely personified as the deity Nefertem) was bobbing on the surface of the primordial waters when the petals opened and the sun rose out of it. On this occasion the sun was identified as Horus.
The Creation Myth of Heliopolis
Before anything existed or creation had taken place, there was darkness and endless, lifeless water, divinely personified as Nun. A mound of fertile silt emerged from this watery chaos. The self-engendered solar creator god Atum ('the All' or 'the Complete One") appeared upon the mound. By masturbating (or sneezing, according to other versions of the myth) he was able to spit out the deities Shu (the divine personification of air) and Tefnut (moisture). Now that a mate-female pair existed, they were able to procreate more conventionally. The results of their sexual union were Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky). These two were forcibly separated by their father Shu, who lifted Nut up to her place above the earth.
The so-called Ennead (Greek for 'group of nine'; in Egyptian pesedjet) of Heliopolis includes these deities: Atum ('the Bull of the Ennead'), Shu, Tefnut, Geb and Nut, and is completed by the offspring of the latter two gods - Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.

The Creation Myths in Context
The principle underlying all the different creation myths is that of order being established out of chaos. A State of primordial wateriness is used 10 represent chaos, out of which emerges a mound and on it a solar deity. This mythological chain of events clearly reflects the annual flooding of the Nile and the subsiding of the water 10 reveal deposits of thick black silt, which were incredibly fertile but which required the sun for growth to take place.
All the explanations tend to hinge on the fertility of the land (thanks to the Nile inundation) and the heat of the sun. However, at Memphis the priests devised a myth centred around their supreme deity Ptah, which was decidedly less earthy and rather more metaphysical Instead of relying on solar energy for creation to take place, the Memphite explanation depended upon the harnessing of three abstract catalysts: heka (magic or divine energy), Sia (divine knowledge) and Hu (divine utterance). This is similar to the 'logos' doctrine of the biblical New Testament, according to which the word of God became incam3le in the body of Jesus, the second person of the trinity.

The Background to the Creation Myth of Memphis
Memphis (ancient Men-nefer) is about 24km (15 miles) south of modem Cairo in the area of the modern village of Mit Rahina. It was founded as the administrative capital of Egypt 31 the beginning of the First Dynasty (c.3100 BC), but' cry little of this ancient capital survives today, mainly because its ruins were quarried during the medieval period for stone to use in the building of Cairo's churches and mosques.
The Memphis creation myth has survived inscribed on a rectangular slab of black granite measuring 92 x 137cm (36 x 54in) now in the British Museum London. The inscription was commissioned by the Twenty-fifth Dynasty king Shabaqo (c.7l6-c.702 BC), ordered it to be set up in the temple Ptah at Memphis. The Introduction explains that the king ordered the story to be copied on to because the original was written on a material which was becoming very worm-eaten (presumably papyrus or leather), and thus difficult to read.
It was once thought that the language used in the inscription was typical of the Kingdom (c.2686-c.2181 RC"), and the original must date to this period. It was agreed that the original was probably of the late Ramesside Period (c. 1100 BC), or possibly even later, although Ptah was clearly regarded as a creator god as early as the Old Kingdom. In the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom (c.2055-e.1650 BC), as well as in later Ramesside texts (c.1200 BC), he is deemed responsible for fashioning the gods and the sun, and for ripening the crops.
The thinking heart
In this myth it is clear that the heart is regarded as the organ for thinking. The ancient Egyptians were not aware of the function of the brain. and instead believed the heart to be the seat of both wisdom and emotion (the idea of thinking with the heart appears frequently). The fact that the brain was considered to be mere stuffing in the head is particularly well exemplified by ancient Egyptian funerary practices.
During the embalming process the brain was removed through the nose and discarded as if a waste product, while the heart was always left safely inside the body. The belief was that the dead person required his or her body and - even more importantly - heart in order to be reborn into the Afterlife. The dead person was judged by weighing his or her heart in a balance against the feather of Maat, the goddess of truth.
The potency of names
The idea of naming something in order to give it a life force is apparent here, as elsewhere in ancient Egyptian thought. The belief that the name was the essence of a deity's potency is clearly illustrated in the myth of Isis and the Sun God's Secret Name. In the world of mortals, 'Execration Texts' show that if the ancient Egyptians knew an enemy's name they believed that they could magically destroy him by writing it in a curse on a clay bowl or figurine in the form of a bound captive, which could be smashed as part of an execration ritual. In the Memphite creation myth the mill a! concept of a god coupled with the uttering of his or her name caused his or her vital force (ka) to come into being; this then required a vessel in which to reside. Most usefully the vessel would be a statue, because this could then act as the icon or focus of the cult.
Human beings were each believed to have their own ka which was represented in art as a person's double. On death it was thought necessary to preserve the body so that the ka (often translated as 'spirit') could survive. A similar ritual was performed on statues of gods and kings destined for the shrines and temples as was performed on mummified bodies before burial. In the 'Opening of the Mouth' ceremony, the last rite before entombment, various ritual instruments were held up to the mouth and nose of the statue or dead body in order to ignite the senses and breathe life into the vessels for the MS. Ptah, the creator god of Memphis, was credited with having invented this particular ritual. The modern name ‘Egypt' derives from the Greek word for the country, Aiguptos, and it has been suggested that this in turn derived from the name of one of Ptah's temples at Memphis, Hwt-ka-Ptah (which means 'The Mansion for the ka of Ptah’).
The Background to the Creation Myth of Elephantine
Elephantine is an island in the centre of the River Nile opposite the modern town of Aswan, in the area of the first cataract at the southern border of Egypt. Archaeological excavations since the 1970s have established that it was the site of a large urban settlement, by at least the Roman period.
The city of Elephantine was the chief cult centre of Khnum, the ram-headed god. Here he was worshipped as part of a triad with his consort Satet (usually depicted as a woman wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt with antelope horns on each side) and their daughter Annulet (normally represented as a woman wearing a tall plumed crown and holding a papyrus sceptre), who was the goddess of the first cataract. Khnum’s female counterpart was the frog goddess Heket, who was regarded chiefly as a goddess of childbirth, acting as a divine midwife at royal births. Just as Khnum fashioned the first humans on his potter's wheel, so Heket gave life to the unborn child by fashioning it inside the mother,
The Elephantine version of the creation myth appears on the walls of the Graeco-Roman temple at Esna in Upper Egypt. This temple survives only in the form of one hypostyle hall. Hymns dedicated to Khnum by his priests relay the premiss of the myth. The same theme can be found in the myth of the divine birth of the ruler, in which Khnum fashions the ruler and his or her ka from clay on his potter's wheel (see The Divine Birth of the Egyptian King).
The Background to the Creation Myth of Hermopolis Magna
Hermopolis Magna (modern el­-Ashmunein; ancient Khmun) is situated on the west bank of the Nile in Middle Egypt close to the modem town of Mallawi. It was the chief cult centre of the god Thoth, identified by the Greeks with their god Hermes. The earliest known version of this myth dates to the Middle Kingdom (c.2055-c.1650 BC). It offers a perfect example of the way a local deity associated with a specific theology could rise to national prominence when the centre of his cult grew in importance. In this case the god was Amun, who occurs in this myth as Amun Kematef ('he who has completed his moment'). At Thebes, Amun came to be considered as the supreme creator god and his priesthood was able to surpass the king in power in that region.
Elsewhere, in representations of the sun god corning into being, the eight primordial deities mentioned in this myth are sometimes depicted as baboons in the posture of greeting the rising sun. This is a fine example of the way in which the ancient Egyptians made observations of the natural world and then incorporated them into the iconography of their religious beliefs. At dawn, baboons have a habit of silting up on their hind legs with their front paws raised in order to warm their undersides in the morning rays of the sun. This upright posture, with arms and hands raised in front of the face, was adopted as the posture of adoration by humans before the gods.
The numbers four and eight were considered magically significant by the ancient Egyptians. Both numbers were associated with totality, and so the creation of eight deities, in four pairs, makes sense within the context of the Hermopolitan idea of the cosmos.
The Background to the Creation Myth of Heliopolis
Heliopolis is a Greek name meaning 'City of the Sun'. The ancient Egyptians called the city Yuma or On; it is now known as Tell Hisn. It lies a short distance north of the ancient capital at Memphis. and today the site is built over .b the area forms part of the north-eastern suburbs of Cairo.
The Ennead (nine gods) of the Heliopolitan myth occur for the first time in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (c.2350 Be). Elsewhere the word ennead sometimes serves as a collective noun for gods. In the Pyramid Texts for example, all the gods of the Egyptian pantheon are described as the ‘Two Enneads’.
The idea of the primeval mound emerging from the watery chaos is quite ·dearly an image borrowed from the D31ural environment - that of the floodwaters subsiding to reveal the deposits of fertile Nile silt. The ancient Egyptians built their settlements on the highest possible ground in order to avoid the damaging inundation, When the Greek historian Strabo (c.63 BC- C.AD 21) visited Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus (30 Be-AD 14). he commented that as a result of the annual flooding of the Nile, 'the whole country is under water and becomes a lake, except the settlements, and those are situated on natural hills or on artificial mounds and contain cities of considerable size and villages which, even when viewed from afar, resemble islands' (Geography 17.1.4).
Once Atum has sparked off the process of creation, the myth hinges on the existence of male-female partnerships, and sexual intercourse is the catalyst for continued creation. It is interesting that the divine personification of earth (Geb) is male whereas in most other cultures earth is considered to be female. It is also noteworthy that all the procreative couples have brother-sister relationships, thereby providing divine stereotypes for childbearing marriages within the royal family, especially in the case of Osiris and Isis who were regarded as the archetypal royal couple. However, this incestuous arrangement seems to have been confined to royal couples, stressing their divinity and separating them from ordinary people: when non-royal husbands and wives (both lovers and married couples) referred to each other as 'brother' and ·sister, they appear to have been using these terms 3S expressions of affection rather than describing actual familial relationships,

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