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23:10 Aug 16 2007
Times Read: 1,208
Set: In Egyptian mythology, Set (also spelled Sutekh, Setesh, Seteh, Seth) is an ancient god, who was originally the god of the desert, one of the two main biomes that constitutes Egypt, the other being the small fertile area on either side of the Nile. Due to developments in the Egyptian language over the 3,000 years that Set was worshiped, by the Greek period, the t in Set was pronounced so indistinguishably from th that the Greeks spelled it as Seth.
The exact translation of Set is unknown for certain, but is usually considered to be either (one who) dazzles or pillar of stability, one connected to the desert, and the other more to the institution of monarchy. It is reconstructed to have been originally pronounced *Sūtaḫ based on the occurrence of his name in Egyptian hieroglyphics (swtḫ), and his later mention in the Coptic documents with the name Sēt.
As he was the god of the desert, Set was associated with sandstorms, and desert caravans. Due to the extreme hostility of the desert environment, Set was viewed as immensely powerful, and was regarded consequently as the chief god. One of the more common epithets was that he was great of strength, and in one of the Pyramid Texts it states that the king's strength is that of Set. As chief god, he was patron of Lower Egypt, where he was worshiped, most notably at Ombos. The alternate form of his name, spelled Setesh (stš), and later Sutekh (swtḫ), designates this supremacy, the extra sh and kh signifying majesty.
Set formed part of the Ennead of Heliopolis, as a son of the earth (Geb) and sky (Nut), husband to the fertile land around the Nile (Nebt-het/Nephthys), and brother to death (Ausare/Osiris), and life (Aset/Isis).
The word for desert, in Egyptian, was Tesherit, which is very similar to the word for red, Tesher (in fact, it has the appearance of a feminine form of the word for red). Consequently, Set became associated with things that were red, including people with red hair, which is not an attribute that Egyptians generally had, and so he became considered to also be a god of foreigners.
Set's attributes as desert god led to him also being associated with gazelles, and donkeys, both creatures living on the desert edge. Since sandstorms were said to be under his control as lord of the desert, and were the main form of storm in the dry climate of Egypt, during the Ramesside Period, Set was identified as various Canaanite storm deities, including Baal.
In art, Set was mostly depicted as a mysterious and unknown creature, referred to by Egyptologists as the Set animal or Typhonic beast, with a curved snout, square ears, forked tail, and canine body, or sometimes as a human with only the head of the Set animal. It has no complete resemblance to any known creature, although it does resemble a composite of an aardvark and a jackal, both of which are desert creatures, and the main species of aardvark present in ancient Egypt additionally had a reddish appearance (due to thin fur, which shows the skin beneath it). In some descriptions he has the head of a greyhound. The earliest known representation of Set comes from a tomb dating to the Naqada I phase of the Predynastic Period (circa 4000 BC–3500 BC), and the Set-animal is even found on a mace-head of the Scorpion King, a Protodynastic ruler.
A new theory has it that the head of the Set animal is a representation of Mormyrus kannamae (Nile Mormyrid), which resides in the waters near Kom Ombo, one of the sites of a temple of Set, with the two square fins being what are normally interpreted as ears. However, it may be that part or all of the Set animal was based on the Salawa, a similarly mysterious canine creature, with forked tail and square ears, one member of which was claimed to have been found and killed in 1996 by the local population of a region of Upper Egypt.
The myth of Set's conflict with Horus, Osiris and Isis appears in many Egyptian sources, including the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, the Shabaka Stone, inscriptions on the walls of the Horus temple at Edfu, and various papyrus sources. The Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 1 contains the legend known as The Contention of Horus and Set. Classical authors also recorded the story, notably Plutarch's De Iside et Osiride.
These myths generally portray Osiris as a wise king and bringer of civilization, happily married to his sister Isis. Set was his envious younger brother, and he killed and dismembered Osiris. Isis reassembled Osiris' corpse and another god (in some myths Thoth and in others Anubis) embalmed him. As the archetypal mummy, Osiris reigned over the Afterworld as judge of the dead.
Osiris' son Horus was conceived by Isis with Osiris' corpse, or in some versions, only with pieces of his corpse. Horus naturally became the enemy of Set, and many myths describe their conflicts. In some of these myths Set is portrayed as Horus' older brother rather than uncle. In one of their fights Set gouged out Horus's left eye, which represented the moon; perhaps this myth served to explain why the moon is less bright than the sun.
The myth incorporated moral lessons for relationships between fathers and sons, older and younger brothers, and husbands and wives.
Perhaps the myth also records historical events. According to the Shabaka Stone, Geb divided Egypt into two halves, giving Upper Egypt (the desert south) to Set and Lower Egypt (the region of the delta in the north) to Horus, in order to end their feud. However, according to the stone, in a later judgment Geb gave all Egypt to Horus. Interpreting this myth as a historical record would lead one to believe that Lower Egypt (Horus' land) conquered Upper Egypt (Set's land); but in fact Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt. So the myth cannot be simply interpreted. Several theories exist to explain the discrepancy. For instance, since both Horus and Set were worshiped in Upper Egypt prior to unification, perhaps the myth reflects a struggle within Upper Egypt prior to unification, in which a Horus-worshipping group subjected a Set-worshiping group.
Regardless, once the two lands were united, Seth and Horus were often shown together crowning the new pharaohs, as a symbol of their power over both Lower and Upper Egypt. Queens of the 1st Dynasty bore the title "She Who Sees Horus and Set." The Pyramid Texts present the pharoah as a fusion of the two deities. Evidently, pharoahs believed that they balanced and reconciled competing cosmic principles. Eventually the dual-god Horus-Set appeared, combining features of both deities (as was common in Egyptian theology, the most familiar example being Amun-Re).
Later Egyptians interpreted the myth of the conflict between Set and Osiris/Horus as an analogy for the struggle between the desert (represented by Set) and the fertilizing floods of the Nile (Osiris/Horus).
As the Ogdoad system became more assimilated with the Ennead one, as a result of creeping increase of the identification of Atum as Ra, itself a result of the joining of Upper and Lower Egypt, Set's position in this became considered. With Horus as Ra's heir on Earth, Set, previously the chief god, for Lower Egypt, required an appropriate role as well, and so was identified as Ra's main hero, who fought Apep each night, during Ra's journey (as sun god) across the underworld.
He was thus often depicted standing on the prow of Ra's night barque spearing Apep in the form of a serpent, turtle, or other dangerous water animals. Surprisingly, in some Late Period representations, such as in the Persian Period temple at Hibis in the Khargah Oasis, Set was represented in this role with a falcon's head, taking on the guise of Horus, despite the fact that Set was usually considered in quite a different position with regard to heroism.
This assimilation also led to Anubis being displaced, in areas where he was worshipped, as ruler of the underworld, with his situation being explained by his being the son of Osiris. As Isis represented life, Anubis' mother was identified instead as Nephthys. This led to an explanation in which Nephthys, frustrated by Set's lack of sexual interest in her, disguised herself as the more attractive Isis, but failed to gain Set's attention because he was infertile. Osiris mistook Nephthys for Isis and they had conceived Anubis resulting in Anubis' birth. In some later texts, after Set lost the connection to the desert, and thus infertility, Anubis was identified as Set's son, as Set is Nephthys' husband.
In the mythology, Set has a great many wives, including some foreign Goddesses, and several children. Some of the most notable wives (beyond Nephthys/Nebet Het) are Neith (with whom he is said to have fathered Sobek), Amtcheret (by whom he is said to have fathered Upuat - though Upuat is also said to be a son of Aser/Osiris in some places), Tuaweret, Hetepsabet (one of the Hours, a feminine was-beast headed goddess who is variously described as wife or daughter of Set), and the two Canaanite deities Anat and Astarte, both of whom are equally skilled in love and war - two things which Set himself was famous for.
Naturally, when, during the Second Intermediate Period the mysterious foreign Hyksos gained the rulership of Egypt, and ruled the Nile Delta, from Avaris, they chose Set, originally Lower Egypt's chief god, as their patron, and so Set became worshipped as the chief god once again. However, following this invasion, Egyptian attitudes towards foreigners could be best described as xenophobic, and eventually the Hyksos were deposed. During this period, Set (previously a hero), as the Hyksos' patron, came to embody all that the Egyptians disliked about the foreign rulers, and so he gradually absorbed the identities of all the previous evil gods, particularly Apep.
When the Legend of Osiris and Isis grew up, Set was consequently identified as the killer of Osiris in it, having hacked Osiris' body into pieces, dispersing them, so that he could not be resurrected. Interpreting the ears as fins, the head of the Set-animal resembles the Oxyrhynchus fish, and so it was said that as a final precaution, an Oxyrhynchus fish ate Osiris' penis.
Now that he had become the embodiment of evil, Set was consequently sometimes depicted as one of the creatures that the Egyptians most feared, crocodiles, and hippopotamus, and by the time of the New Kingdom, he was often associated with the villainous gods of other rising empires. One such case was Baal, an identification in which Set was described as being the consort of ‘Ashtart or ‘Anat, wife of Baal. Set was also identified by the Egyptians with the Hittite deity Teshub, who was a vicious storm god, as was Set.
The Greeks later linked Set with Typhon because both were evil forces, storm deities and sons of the Earth that attacked the main gods.
Some scholars hold that after Egypt's conquest by the Persian ruler Cambyses II, Set also became associated with foreign oppressors, including the Achaemenid Persians, Ptolemaic dynasty, and Romans. Indeed, it was during the time that Set was particularly vilified, and his defeat by Horus widely celebrated. Nevertheless, throughout this period, in some distant locations he was still regarded as the heroic chief deity; for example, there was a temple dedicated to Set in the village of Mut al-Kharab, in the Dakhlah Oasis.
Temples: Seth was worshipped at the temple of Kom Ombo at Ombos (formerly called Nubt) and Oxyrhynchus in Upper Egypt, and also in part of the Faiyum area. The Seth oracle was consulted in the oases of Kharga and Dakhla in the south west of the country.
Elements: All four elements were associated with Seth.
Colours: Red, the colour of the desert and destruction.
Feast Days: Local festivals were organised in places of worship devoted to the god. His protection was also invoked during the coronation and jubilee of a pharoah.
22:52 Aug 16 2007
Times Read: 1,209
Thoth: (his Greek name derived from the Egyptian *ḏiḥautī, written by Egyptians as ḏḥwty) was considered one of the most important deities of the Egyptian pantheon, often depicted with the head of an ibis. His feminine counterpart was Ma'at. His chief shrine was at Khemennu, where he was the head of the local company of gods, later renamed Hermopolis by the Greeks (in reference to him through the Greeks' interpretation that he was the same as Hermes) and Eshmûnên by the Arabs. He also had shrines in Abydos, Hesert, Urit, Per-Ab, Rekhui, Ta-ur, Sep, Hat, Pselket, Talmsis, Antcha-Mutet, Bah, Amen-heri-ab, and Ta-kens.
He was considered the heart and tongue of Ra as well as the means by which Ra's will was translated into speech. He has also been likened to the Logos of Plato and the mind of God. In the Egyptian mythology, he has played many vital and prominent roles, including being one of the two gods (the other being Ma'at) who stood on either side of Ra's boat. He has further been involved in arbitration, magic, writing, science, and the judging of the dead.
According to Theodor Hopfner, Thoth's Egyptian name written as ḏḥwty originated from ḏḥw, claimed to be the oldest known name for the ibis although normally written as hbj. The addition of -ty denotes that he possessed the attributes of the ibis. Hence his name means "He who is like the ibis".
The Egyptian pronunciation of ḏḥwty is not fully known, but may be reconstructed as *ḏiḥautī, based on the Ancient Greek borrowing Θωθ Thōth or Theut and the fact that it evolved into Sahidic Coptic variously as Thoout, Thōth, Thoot, Thaut as well as Bohairic Coptic Thōout. The final -y may even have been pronounced as a consonant, not a vowel. However, many write "Djehuty", inserting the letter 'e' automatically between consonants in Egyptian words, and writing 'w' as 'u', as a convention of convenience for English speakers, not the transliteration employed by Egyptologists.
Djehuty is sometimes alternatively rendered as Tahuti, Tehuti, Zehuti, Techu, or Tetu. Thoth (also Thot or Thout) is the Greek version derived from the letters ḏḥwty.
Not counting differences in spelling, Thoth had many names and titles, like other gods and goddesses. Similarly, each Pharaoh, considered a god himself, had five different names used in public. Among his alternate names are A, Sheps, Lord of Khemennu, Asten, Khenti, Mehi, Hab, and A'an. In addition, Thoth was also known by specific aspects of himself, for instance the moon god A'ah-Djehuty, representing the moon for the entire month, or as jt-nṯr "god father".
Further, the Greeks related Thoth to their god Hermes due to his similar attributes and functions. One of Thoth 's titles, "Three times great, great" was translated to the Greek τρισμεγιστος (Trismegistos) making Hermes Trismegistus.
Thoth has been depicted in many ways depending on the era and on the aspect the artist wished to convey. Usually, he is depicted in human form with the head of an ibis. In this form, he can be represented as the reckoner of times and seasons by a lunar disk sitting in a crescent moon being placed atop his head. When depicted as a form of Shu or Ankher, he will wear the respective god's headdress. He also is sometimes seen wearing the atef crown and the United Crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt.
When not depicted in this common form, he sometimes takes the form of the ibis directly. He also appears as a baboon when he is A'an, the god of equilibrium. In the form of A'ah-Djehuty he took a more human-looking form.
These forms are all symbolic and are metaphors for Thoth's attributes. The Egyptians did not believe these gods actually looked like humans with animal heads. For example, Thoth's counterpart Ma'at is often depicted with an ostrich feather for a head.
Egyptologists disagree on Thoth's nature depending upon their view of the Egyptian pantheon. Most egyptologists today side with Sir Flinders Petrie that Egyptian religion was strictly polytheistic, in which Thoth would be a separate god. His contemporary adversary, E. A. Wallis Budge, however, thought Egyptian religion to be primarily monotheistic where all the gods and goddesses were aspects of the God Ra, similar to the Trinity in Christianity and devas in Hinduism. In this view, Thoth would be the aspect of Ra which the Egyptian mind would relate to the heart and tongue.
His roles in Egyptian mythology were many. Thoth served as a mediating power, especially between good and evil, making sure neither had a decisive victory over the other. He also served as scribe of the gods, credited with the invention of writing and alphabets (ie. hieroglyphs) themselves. In the underworld, Duat, he appeared as an ape, A'an, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased's heart against the feather, representing the principle of Ma'at, was exactly even.
The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (ie. Divine) law, making proper use of Ma'at. He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, and everything in them. Compare this to how his feminine counterpart, Ma'at was the force which maintained the Universe. He is said to direct the motions of the heavenly bodies. Without his words, the Egyptians believed, the gods would not exist. His power was almost unlimited in the Underworld and rivalled that of Ra and Osiris.
The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. The Greeks further declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, land surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory. They further claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge, human and divine.
Thoth has played a prominent role in many of the Egyptian myths. Displaying his role as arbitrator, he had overseen the three epic battles between good and evil. All three battles are fundamentally the same and belong to different periods. The first battle took place between Ra and Apep, the second between Heru-Bekhutet and Set, and the third between Horus, the son of Osiris, and Set. In each instance, the former god represented good while the latter represented evil. If one god was seriously injured, Thoth would heal them to prevent either from overtaking the other.
Thoth was also prominent in the Osiris myth, being of great aid to Isis. After Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris' dismembered body, he gave her the words to resurrect him so she could be impregnated and bring forth Horus, named for his uncle. When Horus was slain, Thoth gave the formulae to resurrect him as well. Similar to God speaking the words to create the heavens and Earth in Judeo-Christian mythology, Thoth, being the god who always speaks the words that fulfill the wishes of Ra, spoke the words that created the heavens and Earth in Egyptian mythology.
Mythology also accredits him with the creation of the 365 day calendar. Originally, according to the myth, the year was only 360 days long and Nut with sterility during these days, unable to bear children. Thoth gambled with Khonsu, the moon, for 1/72nd of its light (360/72 = 5), or 5 days, and won. During these 5 days, she gave birth to Kheru-ur (Horus the Elder, Face of Heaven), Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nepthys.
In the Ogdoad cosmogony myth, Thoth gave birth to Ra, Atum, Nefertum, and Khepri by laying an egg while in the form of an ibis, or later as a goose laying a golden egg.
He was originally the deification of the moon in the Ogdoad belief system. Initially, in that system, the moon had been seen to be the eye of Horus, the sky god, which had been semi-blinded (thus darker) in a fight against Set, the other eye being the sun. However, over time it began to be considered separately, becoming a lunar deity in its own right, and was said to have been another son of Ra. As the crescent moon strongly resembles the curved beak of the ibis, this separate deity was named Djehuty (i.e. Thoth), meaning ibis.
Thoth became associated with the Moon, due to the Ancient Egyptians observation that Baboons (sacred to Thoth) 'sang' to the moon at night.
The Moon not only provides light at night, allowing the time to still be measured without the sun, but its phases and prominence gave it a significant importance in early astrology/astronomy. The cycles of the moon also organized much of Egyptian society's civil, and religious, rituals, and events. Consequently, Thoth gradually became seen as a god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement, and regulation, of events, and of time. He was thus said to be the secretary and counsellor of Ra, and with Ma'at (truth/order) stood next to Ra on the nightly voyage across the sky, Ra being a sun god.
Thoth became credited by the ancient Egyptians as the inventor of writing, and was also considered to have been the scribe of the underworld, and the moon became occasionally considered a separate entity, now that Thoth had less association with it, and more with wisdom. For this reason Thoth was universally worshipped by ancient Egyptian Scribes. Many scribes had a painting or a picture of Thoth in their "office". Likewise, one of the symbols for scribes was that of the ibis.
In art, Thoth was usually depicted with the head of an ibis, deriving from his name, and the curve of the ibis' beak, which resembles the crescent moon. Sometimes, he was depicted as a baboon holding up a crescent moon, as the baboon was seen as a nocturnal, and intelligent, creature. The association with baboons led to him occasionally being said to have as a consort Astennu, one of the (male) baboons at the place of judgement in the underworld, and on other occasions, Astennu was said to be Thoth himself.
During the late period of Egyptian history a cult of Thoth gained prominence, due to its main centre, Khnum (Hermopolis Magna), also becoming the capital, and millions of dead ibis were mummified and buried in his honour. The rise of his cult also led to his cult seeking to adjust mythology to give Thoth a greater role.
Thoth was inserted in many tales as the wise counsel and persuader, and his association with learning, and measurement, led him to be connected with Seshat, the earlier deification of wisdom, who was said to be his daughter, or variably his wife. Thoth's qualities also led to him being identified by the Greeks with their closest matching god - Hermes, with whom Thoth was eventually combined, as Hermes Trismegistus, also leading to the Greeks naming Thoth's cult centre as Hermopolis, meaning city of Hermes.
It is also viewed that Thoth was the God of Scribe and not a messenger. Anubis was viewed as the messenger of the gods, as he travelled in and out of the Underworld, to the presence of the gods, and to humans, as well. Some call this fusion Hermanubis. It is in more favor that Thoth was a record keeper, and not the messenger.
There is also an Egyptian pharaoh of the Sixteenth dynasty of Egypt named Djehuty (Thoth) after him, and who reigned for three years.
Thoth, like many Egyptian gods and nobility, held many titles. Among these were "Scribe of Ma'at in the Company of the Gods," "Lord of Ma'at," "Lord of Divine Words," "Judge of the Two Combatant Gods," "Judge of the Rekhekhui, the pacifier of the Gods, who Dwelleth in Unnu, the Great God in the Temple of Abtiti," "Twice Great," "Thrice Great," " and "Three Times Great, Great."
22:36 Aug 16 2007
Times Read: 1,210
Osiris: (Greek language, also Usiris; the Egyptian language name is variously transliterated Asar, Aser, Ausar, Wesir, or Ausare) is the Egyptian god of life, death, and fertility. He is one of the oldest Gods for whom records have survived and first appears in the Pyramid Texts around 2400 BC, when his cult is already well established. He was widely worshipped until the forceable suppression of paganism in the Christian era. Osiris was not only the redeemer and merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife, but also the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River. The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death such that as Osiris rose from the dead so would they, in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic. By the New Kingdom all people, not just pharaohs, were believed to be associated with Osiris at death if they incurred the costs of the assimilation rituals.
Osiris is the oldest son of the Earth god, Geb, and the sky goddess, Nut as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son. He is usually depicted as a green-skinned pharaoh wearing the Atef crown, a form of the white crown of upper Egypt with a plume of feathers to either side. Typically he is also depicted holding the crook and flail which signify divine authority in Egyptian kings, but which were originally unique to Osiris and his own origin-gods, and his feet and lower body are wrapped, as though already partly mummified. The information we have on the myths of Osiris is derived from allusions contained in the pyramid texts, and, much later, in narrative style from the writings of Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus.
The origin of Osiris's name is a mystery which forms an obstacle to knowing the pronunciation of its hieroglyphic form. The majority of current thinking is that the Egyptian name is pronounced aser where the a is the letter ayin (i.e. a short 'a' pronounced from the back of the throat as if swallowing).
The name was first recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs only as ws-ir or os-ir because the Egyptian writing system omitted vowels. It is reconstructed to have been pronounced Us-iri (oos-ee-ree) meaning 'Throne of the Eye' and survives into the Coptic language as Ousire.
When the Ennead and Ogdoad cosmogenies became merged, with the identification of Ra as Atum (Atum-Ra), gradually Anubis (Ogdoad system) was replaced by Osiris, whose cult had become more significant. In order to explain this, Anubis was said to have given way to Osiris out of respect, and, as an underworld deity, was subsequently identified as being Osiris' son. Abydos, which had been a strong centre of the cult of Anubis, became a centre of the cult of Osiris.
However, as Isis, Osiris' wife, represented life in the Ennead, it was considered somewhat inappropriate for her to be the mother of a god associated with death such as Anubis, and so instead, it was usually said that Nephthys, the other of the two female children of Geb and Nut, was his mother. To explain the apparent infidelity of Osiris, it was said that a sexually frustrated Nephthys had disguised herself as Isis to get more attention from her husband, Set, but did not succeed, although Osiris then mistook her for Isis, and they procreated, resulting in Anubis' birth.
Later, when Hathor's identity (from the Ogdoad) was assimilated into that of Isis, Horus, who had been Isis' husband (in the Ogdoad), became considered her son, and thus, since Osiris was Isis' husband (in the Ennead), Osiris also became considered Horus' father. Attempts to explain how Osiris, a god of the dead, could give rise to someone so definitely alive as Horus, lead to the development of the Legend of Osiris and Isis, which became the greatest myth in Egyptian mythology.
The myth described Osiris as having been killed by his brother Seth who wanted Osiris' throne. Isis briefly brought Osiris back to life by use of a spell that she learned from her father. This spell gave her time to become pregnant by Osiris before he again died. Isis later gave birth to Horus. As such, since Horus was born after Osiris' resurrection, Horus became thought of as representing new beginnings. This combination, Osiris-Horus, was therefore a life-death-rebirth deity, and thus associated with the new harvest each year.
Ptah-Seker (who resulted from the identification of Ptah as Seker), who was god of re-incarnation, thus gradually became identified with Osiris, the two becoming Ptah-Seker-Osiris (rarely known as Ptah-Seker-Atum, although this was just the name, and involved Osiris rather than Atum). As the sun was thought to spend the night in the underworld, and subsequently be re-incarnated, as both king of the underworld, and god of reincarnation, Ptah-Seker-Osiris was identified.
Since Osiris was considered dead, as God of the dead, Osiris' soul, or rather his Ba, was occasionally worshipped in its own right, almost as if it were a distinct god, especially so in the Delta city of Mendes. This aspect of Osiris was referred to as Banebdjed (also spelt Banebded or Banebdjedet, which is technically feminine) which literally means The ba of the lord of the djed, which roughly means The soul of the lord of the pillar of stability. The djed, a type of pillar, was usually understood as the backbone of Osiris, and, at the same time, as the Nile, the backbone of Egypt. The Nile, supplying water, and Osiris (strongly connected to the vegetation) who died only to be resurrected represented continuity and therefore stability. As Banebdjed, Osiris was given epithets such as Lord of the Sky and Life of the (sun god) Ra, since Ra, when he had become identified with Atum, was considered Osiris' ancestor, from whom his regal authority was inherited.
Ba does not, however, quite mean soul in the western sense, and also has to do with power, reputation, force of character, especially in the case of a god. Since the ba was associated with power, and also happened to be a word for ram in Egyptian, Banebdjed was depicted as a ram, or as Ram-headed. A living, sacred ram, was even kept at Mendes and worshipped as the incarnation of the god, and upon death, the rams were mummified and buried in a ram-specific necropolis.
As regards the association of Osiris with the ram, the god's traditional crook and flail are of course the instruments of the shepherd, which has suggested to some scholars also an Osiris' origin in herding tribes of the upper Nile. The crook and flail were originally symbols of the minor agricultural deity Anedijti, and passed to Osiris later. From Osiris they eventually passed to Egyptian kings in general as symbols of divine authority.
In Mendes, they had considered Hatmehit, a local fish-goddess, as the most important god/goddess, and so when the cult of Osiris became more significant, Banebdjed was identified in Mendes as deriving his authority from being married to Hatmehit. Later, when Horus became identified as the child of Osiris (in this form Horus is known as Harpocrates in Greek and Har-pa-khered in Egyptian), Banebdjed was consequently said to be Horus' father, as Banebdjed is an aspect of Osiris.
In occult writings, Banebdjed is often called the goat of Mendes, and identified with Baphomet; the fact that Banebdjed was a ram (sheep), not a goat, is apparently overlooked.
Ancient Egyptians associated Osiris with the constellation Orion.
The cult of Osiris had a particularly strong interest towards the concept of immortality. Plutarch recounts one version of the myth surrounding the cult in which Set (Osiris's evil brother) fooled Osiris into getting into a coffin, which he then shut, had sealed with lead and threw into the Nile. Osiris's wife, Isis, searched for his remains until she finally found him embedded in a tree trunk, which was holding up the roof of a palace in Byblos on the Phoenician coast. She managed to remove the coffin and open it, but Osiris was already dead. She used a spell she had learned from her father and brought him back to life so he could impregnate her. After they finished, he died again, so she hid his body in the desert. Months later, she gave birth to Horus. While she was off raising him, Set had been out hunting one night and he came across the body of Osiris. Enraged, he tore the body into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout the land. Isis gathered up all the parts of the body, less the phallus which was eaten by a fish thereafter considered taboo by the Egyptians, and bandaged them together for a proper burial. The gods were impressed by the devotion of Isis and thus restored Osiris to life in the form of a different kind of existence as the god of the underworld. Because of his death and resurrection, Osiris is associated with the flooding and retreating of the Nile and thus with the crops along the Nile valley.
Diodorus Siculus gives another version of the myth in which Osiris is described as an ancient king who taught the Egyptians the arts of civilization, including agriculture. Osiris is murdered by his evil brother Set, whom Diodorus associates with the evil Typhon ("Typhonian Beast") of Greek mythology. Typhon divides the body into twenty six pieces which he distributes amongst his fellow conspirators in order to implicate them in the murder. Isis and Horus avenge the death of Osiris and slay Typhon. Isis recovers all the parts of Osiris body, less the phallus, and secretly buries them. She made replicas of them and distributed them to several locations which then became centres of Osiris worship.
The tale of Osiris losing his manhood to fish (becoming fish like) is cognate with the story the Greek shepherd god Pan becoming fish like from the waist down in the same river Nile after being attacked by Typhon (see Capricornus). This attack was part of a generational feud in which both Zeus and Dionysus were dismembered by Typhon, in a similar manner as Osiris was by Set in Egypt.
Plutarch and others have noted that the sacrifices to Osiris were “gloomy, solemn, and mournful…” (Isis and Osiris, 69) and that the great mystery festival, celebrated in two phases, began at Abydos on the 17th of Athyr (Nov. 13th) commemorating the death of the god, which is also the same day that grain was planted in the ground. “The death of the grain and the death of the god were one and the same: the cereal was identified with the god who came from heaven; he was the bread by which man lives. The resurrection of the God symbolized the rebirth of the grain.” (Larson 17) The annual festival involved the construction of “Osiris Beds” formed in shape of Osiris, filled with soil and sown with seed. The germinating seed symbolized Osiris rising from the dead. An almost pristine example was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter.
The first phase of the festival was a public drama depicting the murder and dismemberment of Osiris, the search for his body by Isis, his triumphal return as the resurrected god, and the battle in which Horus defeated Set. This was all presented by skilled actors as a literary history, and was the main method of recruiting cult membership. According to Julius Firmicus Maternus of the fourth century, this play was re-enacted each year by worshippers who “beat their breasts and gashed their shoulders…. When they pretend that the mutilated remains of the god have been found and rejoined…they turn from mourning to rejoicing.” (De Errore Profanorum).
Much of the extant information about the Passion of Osiris can be found on a stele at Abydos erected in the 12th Dynasty by I-Kher-Nefert (also Ikhernefert), possibly a priest of Osiris or other official during the reign of Senwosret III (Pharaoh Sesostris, about 1875 BC).
The Passion Plays were held in the last month of the inundation (the annual Nile flood), coinciding with Spring, and held at Abydos/Abedjou which was the traditional place where the body of Osiris/Wesir drifted ashore after having been drowned in the Nile. The part of the myth recounting the chopping up of the body into 14 pieces by Set is not recorded until later by Plutarch. Some elements of the ceremony were held in the temple, while others involved public participation in a form of theatre. The Stela of I-Kher-Nefert recounts the programme of events of the public elements over the five days of the Festival:
The First Day, The Procession of Wepwawet: A mock battle is enacted during which the enemies of Osiris are defeated. A procession is led by the god Wepwawet ("opener of the way").
The Second Day, The Great Procession of Osiris: The body of Osiris is taken from his temple to his tomb.
The Third Day, Osiris is Mourned and the Enemies of the Land are Destroyed.
The Fourth Day, Night Vigil: Prayers and recitations are made and funeral rites performed.
The Fifth Day, Osiris is Reborn: Osiris is reborn at dawn and crowned with the crown of Ma'at. A statue of Osiris is brought to the temple.
Contrasting with the public "theatrical" ceremonies sourced from the I-Kher-Nefert stele, more esoteric ceremonies were performed inside the temples by priests witnessed only by initiates. Plutarch mentions that two days after the beginning of the festival “the priests bring forth sacred chest containing a small golden coffer, into which they pour some potable water…and a great shout arises from the company for joy that Osiris is found (or resurrected). Then they knead some fertile soil with the water…and fashion therefrom a crescent-shaped figure, which they cloth and adorn, this indicating that they regard these gods as the substance of Earth and Water.” (Isis and Osiris, 39). Yet even he was obscure, for he also wrote, “I pass over the cutting of the wood” opting to not describe it since he considered it most sacred (Ibid. 21).
In the Osirian temple at Denderah, an inscription (translated by Budge, Chapter XV, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection) describes in detail the making of wheat paste models of each dismembered piece of Osiris to be sent out to the town where each piece was discovered by Isis. At the temple of Mendes, figures of Osiris are made from wheat and paste placed in a trough on the day of the murder, then water added for several days, when finally the mixture was kneaded into a mold of Osiris and taken to the temple and buried (the sacred grain for these cakes only grown in the temple fields). Molds are made from wood of a red tree in the forms of the sixteen dismembered parts of Osiris, cakes of divine bread made from each mold, placed in a silver chest and set near the head of the god, the inward parts of Osiris as described in the Book of the Dead (XVII). On the first day of the Festival of Ploughing, where the goddess Isis appears in her shrine where she is stripped naked, Paste made from the grain is placed in her bed and moistened with water, representing the fecund earth. All of these sacred rituals were climaxed by the eating of sacramental god, the eucharist by which the celebrants were transformed, in their persuasion, into replicas of their god-man (Larson 20).
Although there were ethical and ceremonial considerations none of these could compare to the power of the divine eucharist, since it was literally believed to be the body (bread) and blood (ale) of the god. Since the ancient Nilotics believed that humans were whatever they eat, this sacrament was, by extension, able to make them celestial and immortal. The doctrine of the eucharist ultimately has its roots in prehistoric (symbolic) cannibalism, whose practitioners believed that the virtues and powers of the eaten would thus be absorbed by the eater. This phenomenon has been described throughout the world.
One of the oldest of the Pyramid Texts is the Unas from the 6th Dynasty (circa 2500 BC). It shows that the original ideology of Egypt commingled with Osirian concepts. Although ultimately given a high place in heaven by order of Osiris, Unas is at first an enemy of the gods and his ancestors, who he hunts, lassoes, kills, cooks, and eats so that their powers may become his own. This was written at a time when the eating of parents and gods was a laudable ceremony, and this emphasizes how hard it must have been to stamp out the older order of cannibalism. “He eats men, he feeds on the gods…he cooks them in his fiery cauldrons. He eats their words of power, he swallows their spirits…. He eats the wisdom of every god, his period of life is eternity…. Their soul is in his body, their spirits are within him.” A parallel passage is found in the Pyramid Text of Pepi II, who is said to have “seizeth those who are a follower of Set…he breaketh their heads, he cutteth off their haunches, he teareth out their intestines, he diggeth out their hearts, he drinketh copiously of their blood!” (line 531, ff). Although crude, this was a core concept, the conviction that one could receive immortality by eating the flesh and blood of a god who had died became a dominating obsession in the ancient world. Although the cult of Osiris forbade cannibalism, it did not outlaw dismemberment and eating of enemies, and practiced the ritual rending and eating of the sacred bull, symbolizing Osiris.
Although this sacramental concept only originated once in history, it spread throughout the Mediterranean area and became the dynamic force in every mystery cult. It was only by this sacerdotal means that the corruptible deceased could be clothed in incorruption and this idea appears again and again in infinite variety. The scribe Nebseni implores: “And there in the celestial mansions of heaven which my divine father Tem hath established, let my hands lay hold upon the wheat and the barley which shall be given unto me therein in abundant measure” (Ibid. LXXII). Nu corroborates that this is the eucharist by saying: “I am established, and the divine Sekhet-hetep is before me, I have eaten therein, I have become a spirit therein, I have abundance therein.” (Ibid. LXXVII) Again Nu states: “I am the divine soul of Ra…which is god…I am the divine food which is not corrupted” (Ibid. LXXXV). The ancientness of the concept is again reaffirmed in the Pyramid Text of Teta (2600 BC) where the Osiris Teta “receivest thy bread which decayeth not, and thy beer which perisheth not” In the Text of Pepi I we read: “All the gods give thee their flesh and their blood…. Thou shalt not die.” In the Text of Pepi II the aspirant prays for “thy bread of eternity, and thy beer of everlastingness” (Line 390).
By the Hellenic era, Greek awareness of Osiris had grown, and attempts had been made to merge Greek philosophy, such as Platonism, and the cult of Osiris (especially the myth of his resurrection), resulting in a new mystery religion. Gradually, this became more popular, and was exported to other parts of the Greek sphere of influence. However, these mystery religions valued the change in wisdom, personality, and knowledge of fundamental truth, rather than the exact details of the acknowledged myths on which their teachings were superimposed. Thus in each region that it was exported to, the myth was changed to be about a similar local god, resulting in a series of gods, who had originally been quite distinct, but who were now syncretisms with Osiris. These gods became known as Osiris-Dionysus.
Eventually, in Egypt, the Hellenic pharaohs decided to produce a deity that would be acceptable to both the local Egyptian population, and the influx of Hellenic visitors, to bring the two groups together, rather than allow a source of rebellion to grow. Thus Osiris was identified explicitly with Apis, really an aspect of Ptah, who had already been identified as Osiris by this point, and a syncretism of the two was created, known as Serapis, and depicted as a standard Greek god.
Osiris-worship continued up until the 6th century AD on the island of Philae in Upper Nile. The Theodosian decree (in about 380 AD) to destroy all pagan temples and force worshippers to accept Christianity was ignored there. However, Justinian dispatched a General Narses to Philae, who destroyed the Osirian temples and sanctuaries, threw the priests into prison, and carted the sacred images off to Constantinople. However, by that time, the soteriology of Osiris had assumed various forms which had long spread far and wide in the ancient world.
21:28 Aug 16 2007
Times Read: 1,212
Anubis: is the Greek name for the ancient jackal-headed god of the dead in Egyptian mythology whose hieroglyphic version is more accurately spelled Anpu (also Anupu, Anbu, Wip, Ienpw, Inepu, Yinepu, Inpu, or Inpw). He is also known as Sekhem Em Pet. Prayers to Anubis have been found carved on the most ancient tombs in Egypt; indeed, the Unas text (line 70) associates him with the Eye of Horus. He serves as both a guide of the recently departed and a guardian of the dead.
No public procession in Egypt would be conducted without an Anubis to march at the head, the "go-between" of gods and men. The ancient Egyptians swore "by the Dog" when making oaths they would not break. Anubis was said to have servantes called Anubite.
Anubis was the guardian of the dead, who greeted the souls in the Underworld and protected them on their journey. It was he who deemed the deceased worthy of becoming a star. Ancient Egyptian texts say that Anubis silently walked through the shadows of life and death and lurked in dark places. He was watchful by day as well as by night. He also weighed the heart of the dead against the feather symbol of Ma'at, the goddess of truth. One of the reasons that the ancient Egyptians took such care to preserve their dead with sweet-smelling herbs was that it was believed Anubis would check each person with his keen canine nose. Only if they smelled pure would he allow them to enter the Kingdom of the Dead.
Anubis was portrayed as a jackal-headed man, or as a jackal wearing ribbons and holding a flagellum, a symbol of protection, in the crook of its arm. Some think that he was not pictured as a jackal but as a dog, fox, wolf, or hybrid instead. Very rarely is he ever shown fully human. Anubis was always shown as a black jackal or dog, even though real jackals are typically tan or a light brown. To the Egyptians black was the color of regeneration, death, and the night. It was also the color that the body turned during mummification.
The reason for Anubis' animal being canine is based on what the ancient Egyptians themselves observed of the creature - dogs and jackals often haunted the edges of the desert, especially near the cemeteries where the dead were buried. In fact, it is thought that the Egyptians began the practice of making elaborate graves and tombs to protect the dead from desecration by jackals. A statue of Anubis, jackal-form, was found in Tutankhamen's tomb. When pet dogs died, they were mummified and buried in temples dedicated to Anubis.
Originally, in the Ogdoad system, he was god of the underworld. He was said to have a wife, Anput (who was really just his female aspect, her name being his with an additional feminine suffix: the t), who was depicted exactly the same, though feminine. He is also listed to have taken to wife the feminine form of Neheb Kau, Nehebka, and Kebauet. Kebauet, the Goddess of cold water, is also listed as his daughter in some places. His father was originally Ra in many papyrus records which were found in pyramids, (Anubis was the fourth son of Ra.) But in after ages, his father was said to be Osiris, as he was the god of the dead, and his mother was said to be Nephthys. Anubis was identified as the father of Kebechet, the goddess of the purification of body organs due to be placed in canopic jars during mummification.
As one of the most important funerary rites in Egypt involved the process of embalming, so it was that Anubis became the god of embalming, in the process gaining titles such as "He who belongs to the mummy wrappings", and "He who is before the divine [embalming] booth". High priests often wore the Anubis mask to perform the ceremonial deeds of embalming. It also became said, frequently in the Book of the Dead, that it had been Anubis who embalmed the dead body of Osiris (which would make him the older sibling of Horus), with the assistance of the other main funerary deities involved - Nephthys and Isis. Having become god of embalming, Anubis became strongly associated with the (currently) mysterious and ancient imiut fetish, present during funerary rites, and Bast, who by this time was goddess of ointment, initially became thought of as his mother.
Following the merging of the Ennead and Ogdoad belief systems, as a result of the identification of Atum with Ra, and their compatibility, Anubis became considered a lesser god in the underworld, giving way to the more popular Osiris. Indeed, when the Legend of Osiris and Isis emerged, it was said that when Osiris had died, Osiris' organs were given to Anubis as a gift.
Since he had been more associated with beliefs about the weighing of the heart than had Osiris, Anubis retained this aspect, and became considered more the gatekeeper and ruler of the underworld, the "Guardian of the veil" (of "death"). As such, he was said to protect souls as they journeyed there, and thus be the patron of lost souls (and consequently orphans). Rather than god of death, he had become god of dying, and consequently funeral arrangements. It was as the god of dying that his identity merged with that of Wepwawet, a similar jackal-headed god, associated with funerary practice, who had been worshiped in Upper Egypt, whereas Anubis' cult had centered in Lower Egypt.
However, as lesser of the two gods of the underworld, he gradually became considered the son of Osiris, but Osiris' wife, Isis, was not considered his mother, since she too inappropriately was associated with life. Instead, his mother became considered to be Nephthys, who had become strongly associated with funerary practice, indeed had in some ways become the personification of mourning, and was said to supply bandages to the deceased. Subsequently, this apparent infidelity of Osiris was explained in myth, in which it was said that a sexually frustrated Nephthys had disguised herself as Isis in order to appeal to her husband, Set, but he did not notice her as he was infertile (some modern versions depict Set as a homosexual, but these have little bearing on the original myth). However, Isis' husband Osiris mistook Nephthys for his wife, which resulted in Anubis' birth. Other versions of the myth depict Set as the father, and it remains unclear as to whether Set was truly infertile or not.
In later times, during the Ptolemaic period, as their functions were similar, Anubis came to be identified as the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis. The centre of this cult was in uten-ha/Sa-ka/ Cynopolis, a place whose Greek name simply means "city of dogs". In Book XI of "The Golden Ass" by Apuleius, we find evidence that the worship of this god was maintained in Rome at least up to the 2nd century. Indeed, Hermanubis also appears in the alchemical and hermetical literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Although the Greeks and Romans typically scorned Egypt's animal-headed gods as bizarre and primitive (they mockingly called Anubis the "Barker"), Anubis was sometimes associated with Sirius in heaven, and Cerberus in hell.
Early Christians were also repulsed by Anubis; the writer Tertillian claimed that the Egyptians practiced a "despicable religion" in which the worshiper is "led like a slave by the greedy throat and filthy habits of a dog." Although it is true that his two emblematic creatures, the jackal and the dog, were in the ancient world notorious scavengers, one of the main functions of Anubis was to release the human body at death from the uncleanness that possessed it. He washed the body, embalmed it, perfumed it with myrrh, wrapped it with clean linen and received it at the door of the tomb – to the Egyptians he was "Lord of the Cleansing Room."
21:01 Aug 16 2007
Times Read: 1,215
Horus: is one of the most ancient gods of the Ancient Egyptian religion who appears in his earliest form in late Predynastic Egypt. Represented as a falcon his name is believed to mean 'the high' or 'the far off' and his earliest connections are to the sky and kingship. Because the cult of Horus survived for the whole of the Ancient Egyptian civilization he gained many forms and associations.
Horus was usually represented as a man with a falcon's head. One important association is the Eye of Horus which was an Egyptian symbol of power and of the offerings made to the god Osiris and by extension all the dead. In one myth cycle Horus' left eye is injured during his struggle with his uncle Set, who had murdered Osiris in an attempt to seize the Egyptian throne. The Eye of Horus, its injury and subsequent restoration became an important symbol for the unified land of Egypt and in the funerary rites of the renewal after death.
Horus is recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs as ḥr.w and is reconstructed to have been pronounced *Ḥāru, meaning "Falcon". By Coptic times, the name became Hōr. It was adopted into Greek as Ὡρος Hōros. The original name also survives in later Egyptian names such as Har-Si-Ese literally "Horus, son of Isis".
Since Horus was said to be the sky, it was natural that he was rapidly considered to also contain the sun and moon. It became said that the sun was one of his eyes and the moon the other, and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. Thus he became known as Harmerty - Horus of two eyes. Later, the reason that the moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as the contestings of Horus and Set, originating as a metaphor for the conquest of Upper Egypt by Lower Egypt in about 3000BC. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually the gods sided with Horus.
As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as Harsiesis, Heru-ur or Har-Wer (ḥr.w wr 'Horus the Great'), but more usually translated as Horus the Elder. In the struggle Set had lost a testicle, explaining why the desert, which Set represented, is infertile. Horus' left eye had also been gouged out, which explained why the moon, which it represented, was so weak compared to the sun. It was also said that during a new-moon, Horus had become blinded and was titled Mekhenty-er-irty (mḫnty r ỉr.ty 'He who has no eyes'), while when the moon became visible again, he was re-titled Khenty-irty (ḫnty r ỉr.ty 'He who has eyes'). While blind, it was considered that Horus was quite dangerous, sometimes attacking his friends after mistaking them for enemies.
Ultimately, as another sun god, Horus became identified with Ra as Ra-Herakhty rˁ-ˁḫr-3iḫṯ, literally Ra, who is Horus of the two horizons. However, this identification proved to be awkward, for it made Ra the son of Hathor, and therefore a created being rather than the creator. And, even worse, it made Ra into Horus, who was the son of Ra, i.e. it made Ra his own son and father, in a standard sexually-reproductive manner, an idea that would not be considered comprehensible until the Hellenic era. Consequently Ra and Horus never completely merged into a single falcon-headed sun god.
Nevertheless the idea of making the identification persisted, and Ra continued to be depicted as falcon-headed. Likewise, as Ra-Herakhty, in an allusion to the Ogdoad creation myth, Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as Neferhor. This is also spelled Nefer Hor, Nephoros or Nopheros (nfr ḥr.w) meaning 'The Good Horus'.
In an attempt to resolve the conflict, Ra-Herakhty was occasionally said to be married to Iusaaset, which was technically his own shadow, having previously been Atum's shadow, before Atum was identified as Ra, in the form Atum-Ra, and thus of Ra-Herakhty when Ra was also identified as a form of Horus. In the version of the Ogdoad creation myth used by the Thoth cult, Thoth created Ra-Herakhty, via an egg, and so was said to be the father of Neferhor.
By the Nineteenth dynasty, the previous brief enmity between Set and Horus, in which Horus had ripped off one of Set's testicles, was revitalised as a separate tale. According to Papyrus Chester-Beatty I, Set was considered to have been homosexual and is depicted as trying to prove his dominance by seducing Horus and then having intercourse with him. However, Horus places his hand between his thighs and catches Set's semen, then subsequently throws it in the river, so that he may not be said to have been inseminated by Set. Horus then deliberately spreads his own semen on some lettuce, which was Set's favorite food (the Egyptians thought that lettuce was phallic). After Set has eaten the lettuce, they go to the gods to try to settle the argument over the rule of Egypt. The gods first listen to Set's claim of dominance over Horus, and call his semen forth, but it answers from the river, invalidating his claim. Then, the gods listen to Horus' claim of having dominated Set, and call his semen forth, and it answers from inside Set. In consequence, Horus is declared the ruler of Egypt.
This myth, along with others, could be seen as an explanation of how the two kingdoms of Egypt (Upper and Lower) came to be united. Horus was seen as the God of Lower Egypt, and Set as the God of Upper Egypt. In this myth, the respective Upper and Lower deities have a fight, through which Horus is the victor. However, some of Horus (representing Lower Egypt) enters into Set (Upper Egypt) thus explaining why Lower Egypt is dominant over the Upper Egyptians.
When Ra assimilated Atum into Atum-Ra, Horus became considered part of what had been the Ennead. Since Atum had had no wife, having produced his children by masturbating de facto (the concept of masturbation being offensive in Egypt--Atum's hand being considered a female part), Hathor was easily inserted as the mother of the previously motherless subsequent generation of children. However, Horus did not fit in so easily, since if he was identified as the son of Hathor and Atum-Ra in the Ennead, he would then be the brother of the primordial air and moisture, and the uncle of the sky and earth, between which there was initially nothing, which was not very consistent with him being the sun. Instead, he was made the brother of Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys, as this was the only plausible level at which he could meaningfully rule over the sun and the Pharaoh's kingdom. It was in this form that he was worshipped at Behdet as Har-Behedti (also abbreviated Bebti).
Since Horus had become more and more identified with the sun since his identification as Ra, his identification as also the moon suffered, so it was possible for the rise of other moon gods, without complicating the system of belief too much. Consequently, Chons became the moon god. Thoth, who had also been the moon god, became much more associated with secondary mythological aspects of the moon, such as wisdom, healing, and peace making. When the cult of Thoth arose in power, Thoth was retroactively inserted into the earlier myths, making Thoth the one whose magic caused Set and Horus' semen to respond--in the tale of the contestings of Set and Horus, for example.
Thoth's priests went on to explain how it was that there were 5 children of Geb and Nut. They said that Thoth had prophesied the birth of a great king of the gods and so Ra, afraid of being usurped, had cursed Nut with not being able to give birth at any point in the year. In order to remove this curse, Thoth proceeded to gamble with Chons, winning 1/72nd of moonlight from him. Prior to this time in Egyptian history, the calendar had 360 days, and so 1/72 of moonlight each day corresponded to 5 extra days, and so the tale states that Nut was able to give birth on each of these extra days, having 5 children. The Egyptian calendar was reformed around this time, and gained the 5 extra days, which, by coincidence, meant that this could be used to explain the 5 children of Nut.
Since Horus, as the son of Osiris, was only in existence after Osiris's death, and because Horus, in his earlier guise, was the husband of Isis, the difference between Horus and Osiris blurred, and so, after a few centuries, it came to be said that Horus was the resurrected form of Osiris. Likewise, as the form of Horus before his death and resurrection, Osiris, who had already become considered a form of creator when belief about Osiris assimilated that about Ptah-Seker, also became considered to be the only creator, since Horus had gained these aspects of Ra.
Eventually, in the Hellenic period, Horus was, in some locations, identified completely as Osiris, and became his own Father, since this concept was not so disturbing to Greek philosophy as it had been to that of ancient Egypt. In this form, Horus was sometimes known as Heru-sema-tawy (ḥr.w smȝ tȝ.wy 'Horus, Uniter of Two Lands'), since Osiris ruled over the land of the dead, and Horus, that of the living.
By assimilating Hathor, who had herself assimilated Bat, who was associated with music, and in particular the sistrum, Isis was likewise thought of in some areas in the same manner. This particularly happened amongst the groups who thought of Horus as his own father, and so Horus, in the form of the son, amongst these groups often became known as Ihy (alternately: Ihi, Ehi, Ahi, Ihu), meaning "sistrum player", which allowed the confusion between the father and son to be side-stepped.
The combination of this, now rather esoteric mythology, with the philosophy of Plato, which was becoming popular on the Mediterranean shores, lead to the tale becoming the basis of a mystery religion. Many Greeks, and those of other nations, who encountered the faith, thought it so profound that they sought to create their own, modelled upon it, but using their own gods. This led to the creation of what was effectively one religion, which was, in many places, adjusted to superficially reflect the local mythology although it substantially adjusted them. The religion is known to modern scholars as that of Osiris-Dionysus.
21:45 Aug 15 2007
Times Read: 1,220
Amun: Gradually, as god of air, he came to be associated with the breath of life, which created the ba, particularly in Thebes. By the First Intermediate Period this had led to him being thought of, in these areas, as the creator god, titled father of the gods, preceding the Ogdoad, although also part of it. As he became more significant, he was assigned a wife (Amunet being his own female aspect, more than a distinct wife), and since he was the creator, his wife was considered the divine mother from which the cosmos emerged, who in the areas where Amun was worshipped was, by this time, Mut.
Amun became depicted in human form, seated on a throne, wearing on his head a plain deep circlet from which rise two straight parallel plumes, possibly symbolic of the tail feathers of a bird, a reference to his earlier status as a wind god.
Having become more important than Menthu, the local war god of Thebes, Menthu's authority became said to exist because he was the son of Amun. However, as Mut was infertile, it was believed that she, and thus Amun, had adopted Menthu instead. In later years, due to the shape of a pool outside the sacred temple of Mut at Thebes, Menthu was replaced, as their adopted son, by Chons, the moon god.
When the armies of the Eighteenth dynasty evicted the Hyksos rulers from Egypt, the victors' city of origin, Thebes, now held the mantle of the most important city in Egypt. Therefore, Amun became nationally important. The Pharaohs attributed all their successful enterprises to Amun, and they lavished much of their wealth and captured spoil on the construction of his temples.
Because of the adoration now given to Amun, visiting Greek travelers to Egypt would report back that Amun, king of the Egyptian gods, was one in the same, and therefore became identified with, the Greek king of the gods Zeus. As did Amun's consort Mut become associated with Zeus's consort Hera.
As the Egyptians considered themselves oppressed during the period of Hyksos' rule, the victory under the supreme god Amun, was seen as his championing of the less fortunante. Consequently, Amun was viewed as upholding the rights of justice to the poor, and became titled Vizier of the poor, and by aiding those who travelled in his name, he became the Protector of the road. Since he upheld Ma'at, those who prayed to Amun were required first to demonstrate that they were worthy, by confessing their sins.
When, subsequently, Egypt conquered Kush, they identified the chief deity of the Kushites as Amun. This deity was depicted as Ram headed, more specifically a woolly Ram with curved horns, and so Amun started becoming associated with the Ram. Indeed, due to the aged appearance of it, they came to believe that this had been the original form of Amun, and that Kush was where he had been born.
However, since rams, due to their rutting, were considered a symbol of virility, Amun also became thought of as a fertility deity, and so started to absorb the identity of Min, becoming Amun-Min. This association with virility led to Amun-Min gaining the epithet Kamutef, meaning Bull of his mother, in which form he was often found depicted on the walls of Karnak, ithyphallic, and with a scourge.
As Amun's cult grew bigger, Amun rapidly became identified with the chief God that was worshipped in other areas, Ra-Herakhty, the merged identities of Ra, and Horus. This identification led to a merger of identities, with Amun becoming Amun-Ra. As Ra had been the father of Shu, and Tefnut, and the remainder of the Ennead, so Amun-Ra was likewise identified as their father.
Ra-Herakhty had been a sun god, and so this became true of Amun-Ra as well, Amun becoming considered the hidden aspect of the sun (e.g. during the night), in contrast to Ra-Herakhty as the visible aspect, since Amun clearly meant the one who is hidden. This complexity over the sun led to a gradual movement towards the support of a more pure form of deity.
During the eighteenth dynasty, the pharaoh Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV) introduced the worship of the Aten, a god whose power was manifested both literally and symbolically in the sun's disc. He defaced the symbols of the old gods and based his new religion upon one new god: the Aten. However, this abrupt change was very unpopular, particularly with the previous temple priests, who now found themselves without any of their former power. Consequently, when Akhenaten died, his name was striken from the Egyptian records, and all of his changes were swiftly undone. It was almost as if this monotheistic sect had never occurred. Worship of the Aten was replaced and worship of Amun-Ra was restored. The priests persuaded the new underage pharaoh Tutankhaten, whose name meant "the living image of Aten", to change his name to Tutankhamun, "the living image of Amun".
Several words derive from Amun via the Greek form Ammon: ammonia and ammonite. Ammonia, as well as being the chemical, is a genus name in the foraminifera. Both these foraminiferans (shelled Protozoa) and ammonites (extinct shelled cephalopods) have/had spiral shells resembling a ram's, and Ammon's, horns. The regions of the hippocampus in the brain are called the cornu ammonis – literally "Amun's Horns", due to the horned appearance of the dark and light bands of cellular layers. The religious term Amen is also said to originate from the time before the Exodus when the ancient Israelites were slaves in Egypt