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Ancient Egyptian Cosmogony

 
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ymapazagain
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 9:43 pm    Post subject: Ancient Egyptian Cosmogony Reply with quote

I am currently doing an assignment on ancient Egyptian cosmogony for university. Unfortunately the materials I have to work with are far from clear and I am struggling to understand some of the finer points of the main cosmogonies of Heliopolis, Hermopolis, Memphis and Thebes.

I will write below where I am at with my current understanding and any questions that I have. All coments, inclusions (if I have missed any vital points) or links to internet based reading would be extremely helpfull and greatly appreciated!

Many thanks,

Amy Smile


Heliopolis
In the beginning there existed only Nu, the primeval waters. From Nu rose the sun god Atum who stood on a raised mound known as the benben. Atum then took his phallus into his own hand and with his semen he made Shu (the god of air) and Tefnut (the godess of water). With a natural conception, Shu and Tefnut then produced Geb (the god of the earth) and Nut (the godess of the sky). Nut then gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. These 9 gods and godesses were known as the Pesdjet (or the Ennead in Greek).

Hermopolis
In the beginning there was only the primeval matter that was 4 elements made up of 8 primordial deities (the Ogdoad). These were; Nu and Naunet, the primeval waters; Heh and Hauhet, the flood force; Kek and Kauket, the darkeness; Amun and Amaunet, concealed dynamism. At some point these entities interacted explosively and the energy created thrust the primeval mound clear of the waters. The Ogdoad then gave birth to the Sun and Atum.

Does the myth continue on from this point in a similar vein as the Heliopolis cosmogony, or am I missing some information?

Memphis
In the beginning there was Ptah and Nu. Ptah thought from his heart and spoke from his tongue to raise the Ta-tenen (the primeval mound) from Nu. In this same way Ptah commanded the birth of all of the gods.

Is there more to this one? It feels as though I may be lacking some information as this cosmogony seems so much more straight forward than the others.

Thebes
In the beginning there existed Amun, who generated himself into existance before all other matter existed. His 'fluid' then became welded together with his body to form a cosmic egg. Once emerged from this egg Amun formed the primeval matter - the elements of the Ogdoad of which he himself is a part. Amun was the creative burst of energy that stirred the Ogdoad into action.

Along with this myth there is also in the Theban tradition the mythology of Khnum which refers to the creation of people.

Khnum, symbolised by the Ram, was the controller of the inundation. On his potters wheel he moulded the human form. He orientated the blood flow over the bones and attached the skin to the body's frame. He installed a respiratory system in the body, vertebrae to support is and an apparatus for digestion. He designed the sexual organs and supervised conception in the womb and initiated the stages of labour. He created not only Egyptians, but people of all races. He was known as a universal creator who formed people, animals, birds, fish and reptiles.

Is there a way in which these two myths from the theban tradition tie in together?


Thanks again! Amy Very Happy
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Mandi
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:21 am    Post subject: Wow.... Reply with quote

Hmmm I wonder what a christian cosmologist would say about the first one... I am sure it would be full of death and damnation, and jealousy Twisted Evil

As for the second version.... Hahahaha.... That is rich! My fiance will love it. He is a PHD in theoretical physics with an emphasis on quantum mechanics and studies and theorizes etc about what happens to matter in extreme conditions.... He is gonna enjoy hearing the ancient egyptians had their own version of the big bang theory. Shocked

Sounds like a great thing to study, makes me jealous and sad i can't find such courses for myself. Enjoy it and make the most of it which ofcourse you will!
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anneke
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have had some discussions and questions about this before.
Here's what I could find:
http://forum.egyptiandreams.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=3288
This thread talks about who the myths were aimed at, but at the end are some links to online sources you might be interested in.

http://forum.egyptiandreams.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=481
This is a thread about the different creation myths.

Sorry I'm short on time Embarassed I will look at what you wrote some more later.
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ymapazagain
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks so much for the links, it's good to read other people takes on the matter (even if it does seem a bit disjointed in the discussion format). I come to this subject with no prior knowlege so I think it's going to take a while for all the names and connections to start to make sense!

It would still be fantastic if someone could (if they had the time!) give me some direct feedback on my personal understandings.

Also, I am thinking of basing my end of semester essay on the differences and similarities between the Heliopolis and the Hermopolis cosmogonies. Does anyone know of any books or journals that focus on this subject that would be usefull? I need to write 2000 words so i'll need a lot more than what I have right now!

Thanks all Wink
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Karaum
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 2:42 am    Post subject: Re: Wow.... Reply with quote

Mandi wrote:

As for the second version.... Hahahaha.... That is rich! My fiance will love it. He is a PHD in theoretical physics with an emphasis on quantum mechanics and studies and theorizes etc about what happens to matter in extreme conditions.... He is gonna enjoy hearing the ancient egyptians had their own version of the big bang theory. Shocked



Might just be right. Read Sacred Symbols of the Dogon by Laird Scranton. The Dogon language is similar to Ancient Egyptian and Scranton has found that there seems to be some link between their language and customs with Egyptian hieroglyphs which point to a knowledge of qantum physics. I wonder if the Dogon worshipped Dagon.
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BobManske
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:48 am    Post subject: Re: Wow.... Reply with quote

Karaum wrote:
Read Sacred Symbols of the Dogon by Laird Scranton. The Dogon language is similar to Ancient Egyptian and Scranton has found that there seems to be some link between their language and customs with Egyptian hieroglyphs which point to a knowledge of qantum physics. I wonder if the Dogon worshipped Dagon.


Oh, please. Not the poor Dogon again. Those unfortunate people have had their name brought up so often by jerks like Scranton and Temple that to hear or see that name is to induce vomiting. The Dogon deserve better than that. The kind of garbage that Scranton and Temple dribble forth has been debunked so many times that it needs to be left for the trash pickup. This forum, Egyptian Dreams, is dedicated to actual, serious, study of ancient Egypt, not Scranton, Temple, and the poor, misused Dogon.

Now, I'm going to back off a bit. If Karaum wasn't aware of this history, I apologize for coming down so hard. But if he is aware, then the rest of us take note.

Bob
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neseret
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:51 am    Post subject: Re: Ancient Egyptian Cosmogony Reply with quote

[quote="ymapazagain"]I am currently doing an assignment on ancient Egyptian cosmogony for university.

<snip>
Heliopolis
In the beginning there existed only Nu, the primeval waters. From Nu rose the sun god Atum who stood on a raised mound known as the benben. Atum then took his phallus into his own hand and with his semen he made Shu (the god of air) and Tefnut (the godess of moisture [Not "water"]). With a natural conception, Shu and Tefnut then produced Geb (the god of the earth) and Nut (the godess of the sky). Nut then gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. These 9 gods and godesses were known as the Pesdjet (or the Ennead in Greek).

Hermopolis
In the beginning there was only the primeval matter that was 4 elements made up of 8 primordial deities (the Ogdoad). These were; Nu and Naunet, the primeval waters; Heh and Hauhet, the flood force; Kek and Kauket, the darkness; Amun and Amaunet, concealed dynamism. At some point these entities interacted explosively and the energy created thrust the primeval mound clear of the waters. The Ogdoad then gave birth to the Sun and Atum.

Does the myth continue on from this point in a similar vein as the Heliopolis cosmogony, or am I missing some information?

No. From this, the rest of the universe occurs along the times of ever unfolding creation. his is one myth which has an ending however, in the end of times, all things will return to their original forms (as snakes) and the universe will devolved into a void.

Memphis
In the beginning there was Ptah and Nu. Ptah thought from his heart and spoke from his tongue to raise the Ta-tenen (the primeval mound) from Nu. In this same way Ptah commanded the birth of all of the gods.

Is there more to this one? It feels as though I may be lacking some information as this cosmogony seems so much more straight forward than the others.

With his tongue and heart, Ptah creates all things. On the Shabako stone, it was stated that the gods were as numerous as Ptah's teeth, and from his words came men, animals and the rest of the universe.

Thebes
In the beginning there existed Amun, who generated himself into existance before all other matter existed. His 'fluid' then became welded together with his body to form a cosmic egg. Once emerged from this egg Amun formed the primeval matter - the elements of the Ogdoad of which he himself is a part. Amun was the creative burst of energy that stirred the Ogdoad into action.

Along with this myth there is also in the Theban tradition the mythology of Khnum which refers to the creation of people.

This is actually not from Thebes, but from the theology of Esna, where Khnum was the primary deity.

Khnum, symbolised by the Ram, was the controller of the inundation. On his potters wheel he moulded the human form. He orientated the blood flow over the bones and attached the skin to the body's frame. He installed a respiratory system in the body, vertebrae to support is and an apparatus for digestion. He designed the sexual organs and supervised conception in the womb and initiated the stages of labour. He created not only Egyptians, but people of all races. He was known as a universal creator who formed people, animals, birds, fish and reptiles.

Is there a way in which these two myths from the theban tradition tie in together?

As they are not related (both are localised creation myths), they do not "tie togther."

I also suggest looking into the following works for explanation of the creation myths:

Allen, J. 1995. Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts. Second Ed. Yale Egyptological Studies (YES) 2. W. K. Simpson. San Antonio: Van Siclen Books.

Assmann, J. 2001. The Search for God in Ancient Egypt. D. Lorton, transl. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

_________. 1995. Egyptian Solar Religion in the New Kingdom: Re, Amun and the Crisis of Polytheism. A. Alcock, transl. Studies in Egyptology. G. T. Martin. London: KPI.

Bickel, S. 1994. La cosmogonie égyptienne avant le Nouvel Empire. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, 134. Fribourg: Éditions Universitaires / Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

van Dijk J. 1995. Myth and Mythmaking in Ancient Egypt. In J. M. Sasson, Editor, Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, III: 1697-1709. London: Simon & Schuster and Prentice Hall International.

Hornung, E. 1982. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many. J. Baines, transl. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Lesko, L. H. 1991. Ancient Egyptian Cosmogonies and Cosmology. In B. E. Shafer, ed., Religion in Ancient Egypt. Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice: 88-122. London: Routledge.

Redford, D. B., Ed. 2002. The Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

___________., Ed. 2000. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. (3 Vols.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tobin, V. A. 1989. Theological principles of Egyptian religion. American University Studies. Series 7, Theology and Religion 59. New York: Peter Lang.

Wilkinson, R. H. 2003. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson.

HTH.
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Katherine Griffis-Greenberg

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Oriental Institute
Oriental Studies
Doctoral Programme [Egyptology]
Oxford University
Oxford, United Kingdom

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