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Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt

Page: 8

Khepera then wept copiously, and from the tears which he shed sprang men and women. The god then made another eye, which in all probability was the moon. After this he created plants and herbs, reptiles and creeping things, while from Shu and Tefnut came Geb and Nut, Osiris and Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus at a birth. These make up the company of the great gods at Heliopolis, and this is sufficient to show that the latter part of the story at least was a priestly concoction.

But there was another version, obviously an account of the creation according to the worshippers of Osiris. In the beginning of this Khepera tells us at once that he is Osiris, the cause of primeval matter. This account was merely a frank usurpation of the creation legend for the behoof of the Osirian cult. Osiris in this version states that in the beginning he was entirely alone. From the inert abyss of Nu he raised a god-soul—that is, he gave the primeval abyss a soul of its own. The myth then proceeds word for word in exactly the same manner as that which deals with the creative work of Khepera. But only so far, for we find Nu in a measure identified with Khepera, and Osiris declaring that his eye, the sun, was covered over with large bushes for a long period of years. Men are then[Pg 15] made by a process similar to that described in the first legend. From these accounts we find that the ancient Egyptians believed that an eternal deity dwelling in a primeval abyss where he could find no foothold endowed the watery mass beneath him with a soul; that he created the earth by placing a charm upon his heart, otherwise from his own consciousness, and that it served him as a place to stand upon; that he produced the gods Shu and Tefnut, who in turn became the parents of the great company of gods; and that he dispersed the darkness by making the sun and moon out of his eyes. After these acts followed the almost insensible creation of men and women by the process of weeping, and the more sophisticated making of vegetation, reptiles, and stars. In all this we see the survival of a creation myth of a most primitive and barbarous type, which much more resembles the crude imaginings of the Red Man than any concept which might be presumed to have arisen from the consciousness of 'classic' Egypt. But it is from such unpromising material that all religious systems spring, and however strenuous the defence made in order to prove that the Egyptians differed in this respect from other races, that defence is bound in no prolonged time to be battered down by the ruthless artillery of fact.

We have references to other deities in the Pyramid Texts, some of whom appear to be nameless. For example, in the text of Pepi I we find homage rendered to one who has four faces and who brings the storm. This would seem to be a god of wind and rain, whose countenances are set toward the four points of the compass, whence come the four winds. Indeed, the context proves this when it says: "Thou hast taken thy spear which is dear to thee, thy pointed weapon which thrusteth down riverbanks with double[Pg 16] point like the darts of Ra and a double haft like the claws of the goddess Maftet."


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