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
tongue (speech/word) of Ptah.
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
Shu and Tefnut had two children, Geb and
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
So Ptah laid a
curse upon Nut - that she should not be able to bear any child upon any day
in the year.
Sorrow, Nut went for help to Thoth, the thrice-great god of
wisdom/magic/learning, architect of Reality.
Thoth knew 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 play
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, Horus (Day),
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
Isis discovered barley and
Osiris 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
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 symbolism of Osiris warns that
understanding the differences between death and awakening to life can be played
only if we maintain an active role in the continuing struggle between
preconception and perception.
So rapidly are our fleeting moments of
clarity destroyed by our habitual preoccupations that we need reminders to
remember their existence.
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 south.
Seth tore open the chest, took the body of
Osiris, and rent it into many pieces scattering it up and down the Nile so that
the crocodiles might eat them.
Isis missing Osiris begin to search for
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
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.
theological system began in the Delta, at Heliopolis not far from the head of
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 a pantheon of 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 sky.)
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