Hermopolis Theological System
Egypt had one river of significance, the Nile, and smaller
villages grew up alongside its banks.
these village communities manifested a mythology, but these mythologies did not
create tensions among the communities.
The Hermopolis theological system
declared that in the beginning there was nothing but an immense Chaos,
Nun - an ocean of shapeless magma
containing the potential for life surrounded by Naunet.
In this Chaos
there had been a conscious principle in existence since antiquity.
Heliopolitan System, the Ogdoad, continued morphing gods until eight gods had
sprung forth from the Chaos.
Four males wearing the heads of toads, and
the four females wearing the heads of snakes.
They form the pairs of
Nun and Naunet (primordial matter and primordial space); Kuk and Kauket (the
illimitable and the boundless); Huh and Hauhet (darkness and obscurity); Amon
and Amaunet (hidden and concealed ones).
These eight bring forth Ra, the
3000 BC The Memphite theology presents the teachings of Menes,
who establishes a new capital at Memphis.
In this theology all local
and former mythological traditions are brought to their theological goal in the
god Ptah, the equivalent of Ra.
In the days before Ra had left the
Earth, before he had begun to grow old, his great wisdom told him that if the
goddess Nut bore children, one of them would end his reign among men.
Ra laid a curse upon Nut - that she should not be able to bear any child upon
any day in the year.
Full of sorrow, Nut went for help to Thoth, the
thrice-great god of wisdom/magic/learning, Ra's son.
that the curse of Ra, once spoken, could never be recalled, but in his wisdom
he found a way of escape.
Thoth went to Khonsu, the moon god, and
challenged him to a contest of draughts.
Game after game they played and
Thoth always won.
The stakes grew higher and higher.
wagered his own light and lost.
At last Khonsu could play no more.
Then Thoth the thrice-great in wisdom/magic/learning
gathered up the light and made it into five extra days which were set between
the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
Since his match
with Thoth, Khonsu the moon has not had enough light to shine throughout the
month, but dwindles into darkness and then grows to his full glory again; for
he had lost the light needed to make five whole days.
On the first of
these five new days Osiris, the eldest son of Nut, was born, and the second day
was set aside to be the birthday of Horus the
On the third day the second son of Nut was born, dark Seth,
the lord of evil.
On the fourth Isis first saw the light, and her second
daughter Nephthys on the fifth.
In this way the curse of Ra was both
fulfilled and defeated: for the days on which the children of Nut were born
belonged to no year.
Isis, by her craft, learned
the secret name of Ra leaving Osiris to become sole ruler of Egypt and reign on
earth as Ra had done before her.
Osiris and Isis found the people both
savage and brutish, fighting among themselves while killing and eating one
Isis discovered barley and millet.
Osiris taught the
people how to plant the seeds when the Nile had risen in the yearly inundation
leaving fresh fertile mud over the fields; how to tend and water the crops; how
to cut the millet when it was ripe; how to thresh the grain on the threshing
floors, dry it and grind it to flour and make it into
Osiris then showed them also
how to plant vines and make the grapes into wine; and they knew already how to
brew beer out of the barley as their grain had gotten wet before.
the people of Egypt had learned to make bread and
cut only the flesh of the dead
animals Osiris taught were suitable, he went on to teach them Law, and how
to live peacefully together, delighting themselves with
art, music and
As soon as Egypt was filled
with peace and plenty, Osiris set out across the land to bring his blessings
upon other nations.
While Osiris was away he left Isis to rule over the
land, which she did both wisely and well.
Seth envied Osiris and hated
The more the people loved and praised Osiris, the more Seth hated
him; and the more good Osiris did and the happier mankind became, the stronger
grew Seth's desire to kill Osiris and rule in his place.
returned from his travels Seth was among the first to welcome him back and
kneel in reverence before "the good god Pharaoh Osiris".
the exact measurements of the body of Osiris, and commissioned a beautiful
chest to be crafted that would fit only him.
It was fashioned of the
rarest and most costly woods: cedar brought from Lebanon, and
ebony from Punt at the south end of the Red Sea for no wood grows in Egypt
except the soft and useless palm.
Seth gave a great feast in honor of
When the heart of Osiris had been made glad with feasting and
song the chest was brought in, and all were amazed at its exquisite beauty.
Osiris marveled at the rare
cedar inlaid with ebony and ivory, with less rare gold and silver, painted
inside with brilliantly colored figures of gods in animal forms.
wished to own it.
"I will give this chest to whosoever fits it most
exactly!" cried Seth.
"Let me see if I will fit into this marvelous
crafted chest," said Osiris, and he laid down in the chest.
"It is yours
indeed, and shall be so forever!" hissed Seth, the Deceiver, as he banged down
the lid and sealed it with molten lead.
Seth took the chest containing
Osiris and cast it into the Nile.
As the chest floated toward the great
green sea it became hung in the reeds of an island in the marshes of the delta.
Later Seth came hunting wild boars with his dogs, hunting by night
after his custom, since he loved the darkness in which evil things abound.
By the light of the moon he saw the chest of
cedar wood inlaid with ebony and
ivory, with gold and silver, and recognized it.
At the sight anger
overcame him in a red cloud, Seth flew into a rage and rendered like a panther
of the south.
Seth tore open the chest, took the body of Osiris, and
rent it into many pieces which he scattered up and down the Nile so that the
crocodiles might eat them.
Isis missing Osiris begin to search for him.
Nephthys left her wicked husband Seth and came to join her sister,
Anubis, the son of Osiris and Nephthys, taking the form of a
jackal, assisted in the search.
As Isis searched along the Nile and
among the many streams of the delta she made her way in a boat made of papyrus.
The crocodiles, in their reverence for the goddess, touched neither the
rent pieces of Osiris nor Isis herself.
Indeed ever afterwards anyone
who sailed the Nile in a boat made of papyrus was safe from them, for they
thought that it was Isis still questing after the pieces of her husband's body.
Isis gathered the pieces together, rejoined them by magic, caused the
body to be embalmed and hidden away in a tomb of which she alone knew.
After this the spirit of Osiris passed into Amenti to rule over the
dead until the last great battle, when Horus
should slay Seth and Osiris would return to earth once more.
As Horus grew in this
world the spirit of Osiris visited him often and taught him all that a great
warrior should know - how to fight Seth in both body and spirit -
a final battle
between good and evil.
When Osiris knew that the time had come for
Horus to declare war on Seth he bade him gather together a great army and sail
up the Nile to attack him in the deserts of the south.
system began in the Delta, at Heliopolis not far from the head of the
It was accepted because Amun could easily be made the chief god
in any local area, or a local goddess could become his consort, which
eventually increased the Egyptian pantheon.
Hammurabi, the Babylonian, added gods of
local surrounding tribes just as the Egyptians had done.
Later, following the same model of empire
building the Roman Catholics added Saints.
The acceptance of the sun god,
Amum/Ra, fit the mindset of the ancient tribes living along the Nile as Amum/Ra
was seen everday in a papyrus barque crossing the ocean of the sky.
(Apollo, the Greek sun god, drove his chariot across the
In front of the towering
golden sandstone entrance to the temple of Edfu stands an imposing granite
statue of a falcon, about 12-feet tall, representing Horus.
into Horus' chest is a small figure of a Ptolemy.
To buttress his
political legitimacy, the alien neo-pharaoh carved himself into the stone of a
of Egypt had been playing this game for 5,000 years.
before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth
descended gods, the Pharaohs, had already built a unified kingdom down the
valley of the Nile.
The Pharaohs presented themselves as children and
intimates of the sun god Ra, of
Osiris and of their divine offspring -
Ra, the sun god, went through a daily cycle of death and rebirth,
dying at the end of each day and being reborn in the morning as Ra-Horakhty,
and it was through this cycle that the blessed dead traveled so as to enjoy
rebirth along with the sun.
Local deities in the Mediterranean region
were interchangeable in whole or in part for the deities of like nature or kind
of trade partners due to the large movement of trade goods.
centuries, as the politics changed, there were diety
mergers, hostile diety
takeovers and synthetic blending
of religious traditions.
Ra eventually merged to become
Amun-Ra, a strong new
305 BC Ptolemy I Soter declares himself Pharaoh
of Egypt and creates a powerful Hellenistic dynasty that rules an area
stretching from southern Syria to Cyrene and south to Nubia.
Ptolemy dynasty ruled Egypt for nearly three centuries until the Roman conquest
of 30 BC.
The Ptolemaic successors of
III of Macedonia promoted Serapis, a deliberate blending of
gods worshiped by the tribes surrounding the Mediterranean with the most well
known Greek and Roman gods.
At the Greco-Roman temple of Philae, you
see a mother-and-child image sculpted on the walls of the sanctuary, but the
face of the mother has been chiseled away.
In a Christian time,
Isis was rebranded Mary, turning
Horus into Christ.
"Politics, seen from this perspective of
5,000 years of Egyptian history, is something very different from what you find
in American civics textbooks.
It's not about the installation of this
or that logically and legally constructed political system, based on this or
rulers borrowing, bending and
merging gods, ideologies and legal
systems, adapting to internal and external forces, mixing
coercion and patronage, sharing some of the
spoils where necessary, but always with the goal of maximizing their own power
and wealth and hanging on to it for as long possible - for yourself, and your
children, and your children's children.
Those who take the legitimating
religion or ideology too seriously
- be it Osirisism or
socialism - are missing
the point. The gods are continually morphing;
what endures over the
millenniums is men's lust for power and wealth and their vain quest for
immortality." - Timothy Garton Ash
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