Hermopolis Theological System
Egypt had one river of significance, the Nile, and smaller
villages grew up alongside its banks.
Each of these village communities
manifested a mythology, but these mythologies did not create tensions among the
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 consciousness 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.
Memphite theology all local and former mythological traditions are brought to
their theological goal in the god Ptah, architect of material
Creation was first a spiritual and intellectual activity,
facilitated by the divine heart (emotion) and tongue (speech/word) of
Creation became a physical activity carried out by
Ptah, the Father of the Sun, who produced
the Ennead from his heart,
tongue and seed.
Ptah had two children, Shu and Tefnut.
Tefnut had two children, Geb and Nut.
In the days before Ptah 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
So Ptah laid a curse upon Nut - that she should not be able to bear
any child upon any day in the year.
Filled with Sorrow, Nut went
for help to Thoth, the thrice-great god of wisdom/magic/learning, architect of
that the curse of Ptah, once spoken, could never be recalled, but in his wisdom
he found a way of escape.
Thoth went to Khonsu, the Moon, 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 (grandson of the Sun), the eldest son
of Nut, is born.
On the second day the second son of Nut,
came into being.
On the third day the third son of
Nut is born, Seth (Night).
On the fourth
Isis saw the light, and Nephthys
born the night of the fifth.
In this way the curse of Ptah 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
Ptah leaving Osiris to become sole ruler of
Egypt and reign on Earth as Ptah had done before him.
Osiris and Isis
found the people both savage and brutish, fighting among themselves while
killing and eating one another.
discovered barley and millet.
taught the people how to plant the seeds when the Nile had risen in the yearly
inundation leaving 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.
When 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
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 Isis.
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.
When Osiris returned from his
travels Seth was among the first to welcome him back and kneel in reverence
before "the good god Pharaoh Osiris".
Seth obtained 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
gave a great feast in honor of Osiris.
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.
Osiris 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
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
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
would slay Seth and Osiris return to earth.
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.
This theological system began in the
Delta, at Heliopolis not far from the head of the Delta.
It was accepted
because Amun, Ra, Amun-Ra, or Ptah
could easily be made the chief god in any local area, or a local goddess
could become his consort, which eventually increased the Egyptian
Hammurabi, the Babylonian, added
gods of local surrounding tribes just as the Egyptians had
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
(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
Sculpted 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 powerful god.
The rulers of Egypt had been playing this game for 5,000 years.
Three millenniums 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 or Horus, and it was through this cycle
that the blessed dead traveled so as to enjoy rebirth along with the
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
hostile diety takeovers and
synthetic blending of religious
Luxor luminaries Amun and Ra eventually merged to become
Amun-Ra, a strong new
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.
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
August 29, 30 BC Caesarion, Ptolemy XV, executed on the orders
With the fall of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, Egypt is made into
a Roman colony, marking the end of the Hellenistic age.
January 27 BC Octavian, having amassed constitutional power
for the new Egyptian colony, renames himself Augustus ('the Revered') and
establishes himself as the first Roman emperor, inaugurating the Principate era
of the Roman Empire.
"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 that ideology.
about 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
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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