Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths












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Last Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2001


Lower Kingdom Creation Myth
Only the ocean existed at first. Then Ra (the sun) came out of an egg that appeared on the surface of the water. Ra brought forth four children, the gods Shu and Geb and the goddesses Tefnut and Nut. Shu and Tefnut became the atmosphere. They stood on Geb, who became the earth, and raised up Nut, who became the sky. Ra ruled over all. Geb and Nut later had two sons, Set and Osiris, and two daughters, Isis and Nephthys. Osiris succeeded Ra as king of the earth, helped by Isis, his sister-wife. Set, however, hated his brother and killed him. Isis then embalmed her husband's body with the help of the god Anubis, who thus became the god of embalming. The powerful charms of Isis resurrected Osiris, who became king of the netherworld, the land of the dead. Horus, who was the son of Osiris and Isis, later defeated Set in a great battle and became king of the earth.

(Upper Kingdom creation story)
At first there was only Nun, the primal ocean of chaos that contained the beginnings of everything to come. From these waters came Ra who, by himself, gave birth to Shu and Tefnut. Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture gave birth to Geb and Nut, the earth god and the sky goddess. And so the physical universe was created. Men were created from Ra's tears. They proved to be ungrateful so Ra, and a council of gods, decided they should be destroyed. Re created Sekhmet to do the job. She was very efficient and slaughtered all but a few humans, when Ra relented and tricked her into stopping. Thus was the present world created.

Against Ra's orders, Geb and Nut married. Ra was incensed and ordered Shu to separate them, which he did. But Nut was already pregnant, although unable to give birth as Ra had decreed she could not give birth in any month of any year. Thoth, the god of learning, decided to help her and gambling with the moon for extra light, was able to add five extra days to the 360-day calendar. On those five days Nut gave birth to Osiris, Horus the Elder, Set, Isis, and Nephthys successively. Osiris became the symbol of good, while Set became the symbol of evil. And thus the two poles of morality were fixed once and for all.

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