Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths

I will share with you two versions of the Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths. Please note that multiple variants exist. These stories should not be taken literally,  because Ancient Egyptians’ myths are generally filled with metaphors and symbols. Each variant represents a different symbolic perspective, which enriches the general understanding of the gods and the universe.

Then in the other section below, I will analyze how this creation myth was depicted in the Book of Gates.

Version 1

According to Ancient Egyptian mythology, in the beginning, there was nothing except for Nu, the primordial watery abyss (chaos) surrounding the sphere of life. Nu was viewed as the source of all aspects of divine and earthly existence including all apparent dualities in this universe. Nu possessed multiple aspects, including both a male (Nun) and a female (Nunet) aspect. In one variant of the myth, the cosmic egg is used as a substitute for the primeval waters.

On the 1st day of creation, Atum (also named Ra, the Sun-god) emerged from Nu. Atum was considered as the great he-she, an androgynous being. Out of loneliness, Atum mated with his shadow and created, by spitting out from his mouth, the first divine couple (twinflames). These twins were the goddess Tefnut (moisture) and the god Shu (air).

Then, Tefnut and Shu had two children: Nut (the goddess of the sky) and the gob Geb (the earth). Ra, who did not want new gods to come into the world and compete with him, declared: “Nut shall not give birth any day of the year.” A year was 360 days long at this point of creation.

Nut, frustrated by Ra’s order, asked the god of wisdom Thoth to devise a plan that would allow her to give birth to her children, of whom she was already pregnant. Thoth then gambled with the moon to create 5 extra days of light on which Nut could give birth to her children: Osiris (initial ruler of the gods who became the ruler of the underworld), Isis (goddess of nature and magic), Set (god of chaos) and Nephthys (goddess of water and funeral rites). When Ra found out the trick Nut had pulled, he ordered his son Shu, god of the air, to separate Nut from Geb for eternity by standing forever between the two.

Animals were eventually created on Earth, molded from clay by the god Khnum.

My comments:

This story explains the creation of the first being from Source. Interestingly, this being created other beings by spitting them out from his mouth, in other words, that he created the Word (which is the same concept used in the Bibles).

Nut’s children, Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys can be viewed as the first humans to inhabit the Earth. Their story is very similar to the one of Cain, Abel, Lilith, and Eve.

Others gods, Thoth and Khnum, are also included in this creation myth,  and we are not explained where they originate from.

Version 2

In another version of the creation myth, Atum emerged from Nu just as in the previous version. However, after he created his children Tefnut and Shu, they left him to establish the universe. Over time, Atum became concerned because his children were gone for so long. So, he removed his eye and sent it in search of them. Shu and Tefnut eventually returned with the Eye of Ra (the All-Seeing Eye) and their father, shed tears of joy. These tears gave birth to humans.

These creatures had nowhere to live, so Shu and Tefnut mated and gave birth to Geb (the earth) and Nut (the Sky). Geb and Nut fell deeply in love and became inseparable. Atum found their behavior unacceptable, so he separated them for eternity by pushing Nut high up into the heavens. Nut was already pregnant by Geb and eventually gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys.

My comments:

This version is more straightforward than the first one, but the main concepts are the same.


Here are a few more details about Nut and Ra.

Myth of Nut and Ra

Nut, the goddess of the sky, was generally depicted as a star-covered nude woman arching over the earth (or as a cow). Her fingers and toes were believed to touch the four cardinal points. She represented the barrier separating the ordered cosmos from chaos (in other words, the sphere of life). She was also seen as the protector of the dead due to her role in saving Osiris.

Egyptians also believed that during the day, the sun (Ra) traveled its way across Nut’s body and at dusk, was swallowed, passed through her belly during the night, and be reborn at dawn.

Ra was thought to travel in a boat on his journey through the sky and the Duat (the underworld or the realm of the dead). He was often accompanied by other deities such as Hu (divine word, command), Sia (creative thought, perception), Heka (magic power) and Set.


Here is the illustration of the cosmological thought of Ancient Egyptians as depicted in the Book of Gates.

Nun budge
THE CREATION. The god Nu rising out of the primeval water and bearing in his hands the boat of Rā, the Sun-god, who is accompanied by a number of deities. In the upper portion of the scene is the region of the underworld which is enclosed by the body of Osiris, on whose head stands the goddess Nut with arms stretched out to receive the disk of the sun.
Nu, here, is depicted emerging of the watery abyss with upraised arms holding a solar barque occupied many deities. This illustration contains many concepts and symbols that I will explain below.

Nu and the blue ocean:

Although Nu is a formless world where neither space nor time exists, it is depicted as a god. Nu here represents the first gesture of creation. We only see half of Nu’s body as a metaphor to show that there will always be a limit between the visible and the invisible, between the comprehensible and the incomprehensible. Nu’s ocean is blue to depict darkness and chaos.

White solar barque:

The white solar barque contrasts with the blue waves of Nu’s ocean. It represents the ordered world created where life evolves, the color white is also associated with the concept of light. The boat also symbolizes the cosmic order. From another perspective, the barque can also be associated with the Nil, the source of life in Egypt.

The boat’s journey:

The boat’s journey maintained the state of the cosmos. By traveling alternatively in the visible (diurnal) and the invisible (nocturnal) world, it also symbolizes the cycle of the soul in the afterlife, after death.

Solar disk:

Ra is represented as the solar disk held by the scarab beetle deity Khepri (morning/rising sun). It is the Sun in the marking, which will soon come into existence from the night and the underworld.

Other deities in the boat:

Several gods of creation accompany the solar disk on the boat Shu (air), Geb (earth) and Heka (creative magic). Hu (divine word, command) and Sia (creative thought, perception) maneuver the two oars. On either side of the scarab beetle, the goddesses Isis and Nephthys seem to propel or receive the reborn Sun.

Nut:

Nut (sky) welcomes in her arms the solar disk. She is depicted in reverse standing on the head of Osiris. Nut is located between the underworld and the ordered universe, representing the link between the two.

Osiris:

Osiris’ body forms a loop (like the Ouroboros snake, the snake eating its tail) which contains a part of the Duat. That space is the world of the hereafter. This way of depicting Osiris’ body also symbolizes that time is cyclical. The circle also symbolizes perfection and movement. The permanent return of things and events is a succession of regenerations.

Nut and Osiris (reverse position):

They are represented backward to show that the Duat is not subject to the same rules as the ordered universe.


Here is the description of the Source contained in the Emeralds Tablets of Thoth:

Down, to the HALLS of AMENTI
I journeyed, the greater knowledge to seek.
Ask of thee, LORDS of the CYCLES,
they way to the wisdom I sought.
Asked the LORDS this question:
Where is the source of ALL?

Saw I the moldings of Order
from the chaos and angles of night.
Saw I the LIGHT, spring from Order
and heard the voice of the Light.
Saw I the flame of the Abyss, 
casting forth Order and Light.
Saw Order spring out of chaos.
Saw Light giving forth Life.

Then heard I the voice.
Hear thou and understand.
The flame is the source of all things,
containing all things in potentiality.
The Order that sent forth light
is the WORD and from the WORD,
COME LIFE and the existence of all.

And again spoke the voice saying:
THE LIFE in thee is the WORD.
Find thou the LIFE within thee
and have powers to use of the WORD.

Long I watched the Light-flame,
pouring forth from the Essence of Fire, 
realizing that LIFE is but Order
and that man is one with the fire.

The Emerald Tablets of Thoth – translated by Doreal

Final Thoughts

Based on both, the Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths and Thoth’s description of the Source of all, we understand that Source is a flame in the chaos of the abyss. A self-existing light that created the Cosmic order of this universe and life. Everything that exists in this universe is an extension of Source. In order words, all beings come from a hierarchy of beings that ultimately originate from Source.


Resources and references

¹ Book:

The Emerald Tablets of Thoth The Atlantean by Dr. M. Doreal (the translation of these tablets can be found online here : The Emerald Tablets of Thoth)

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