Egyptian Camel

Ancient Egyptian Myths

The story of Thoth, god of wisdom

The ancient Egyptian civilization has survived for thousands of years. It has gone through many Dynasties and absorbed many other cultures into its empire. As such, many of the ancient Egyptian myths have multiple versions, evolving from generation to generation. Sometimes, the same Egyptian myths can be based on different locations, and sometimes even feature different heroes!

For example, the story of the Creation is arguably the most varied of the ancient Egyptian myths. Different versions, originating from different locations and time periods, feature different gods. However, as with all myths, it is the essence and meaning of the story which is important.

 

The Story of Ra : The Creation

In the beginning, nothing existed in this world, except for a watery chaos. This liquid essence, from which all things would emerge, was known as Nun. Out of this primordial soup emerged the god of creation, the sun god Ra. In the morning, he was known as Khepera the Creator. At noon, he was Ra of the Sun. In the evening, he was Atum the Complete.

The sun, symbol of Ra

Ra had the power of creation within him. Whatever he named, it came into existence. As he emerged from eternal Nun, he named many things, from the ground on which he stood to the air and the sands. Thus he named and created his children. He named Shu, and the god of the wind was born. He then named Tefnut, and his daughter the goddess of the rain emerged. Ra continued to name the plants and the animals, creating life around him that was pleasing to the eye. And from his tears, the first of mankind emerged.

In time, Shu and Tefnut also created their own children. And so emerged Geb, the god of the earth, and Nut, goddess of the sky. Satisfied with all he had created, Ra set down and ruled the land of Egypt as the first Pharaoh.

Centuries passed, and Ra continued to rule Egypt. He then learnt a prophecy that a child of the goddess Nut would rise to take his place as Pharaoh. Fearful, he forbade Nut to have any children. However, she sought the aid of the wise god Thoth, and she gave birth to four children: Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and Set.

As long as his Secret Name was not known to anyone, Ra would continue to rule the land. Once it was revealed, he would have to leave the earth and only rule from the skies. The other gods knew this, and Isis, sister and wife of Osiris, was determined to learn Ra's secret name. With guile and deceit she succeeded, and Ra was forced to leave. Thus the prophecy was fulfilled and Osiris, son of Nut, became the next Pharaoh.

 

The Rise of Horus

After Ra left the land to rule from the skies, Osiris took his place as pharaoh of Egypt, with Isis by his side. Together, they had a son, the baby Horus. Osiris taught mankind many things, from the secrets of planting grain to make bread, to those of brewing barley for beer. And the people rejoiced at having such a great pharaoh.

Hieroglyphs recounting a myth

However, not all were happy. Osiris' brother, the crafty god Set, was jealous of the attention and power that Osiris had. He gathered some conspirators to remove Osiris permanently.

Through trickery, Set succeeded in trapping Osiris in a chest, and sealing it shut, suffocated the mighty pharaoh. The chest was dropped into the Nile river, where it floated out into the sea. When the goddess Isis learnt of this, she fled into the wilderness with the baby Horus.

Isis knew that as long as Osiris was not buried with the proper funerary rites, he could not carry on his journey into the afterlife. So, leaving Horus with a guardian, Isis set forth searching for the chest. In time, she managed to find it.

But Set found out about it and broke the chest, butchering Osiris' body into many pieces and threw them all over the countryside. Again Isis searched, and where she found each piece of Osiris, she performed the funerary rites, and at last Osiris was able to complete his journey and join Ra in the underworld.

As Horus grew up in hiding with Isis, Set controlled the deserts. But Horus was guided by the spirits of Ra and Osiris, and soon was powerful enough to challenge Set. Set was a master of disguises, and as the armies of Horus and Set met, Set transformed into a giant hippopotamus in order to crush Horus' armies. But with a mighty throw of his harpoon, Horus pierced the head of the hippopotamus and slew the evil Set. And Horus became the next pharaoh of Egypt.

When Horus in turn passed into the underworld, he waged an unending battle with Set. When the battle is won, Osiris will return to the land of the living to claim his throne.

 

The Artful Thief

Before the Great Pyramids were built, there lived a great pharaoh with untold riches. He desired to protect his wealth, and thus ordered a stone vault to be built.

One of the builders wanted the treasure for himself, and while building the vault, he arranged for a stone slab to be movable from the outside, allowing access into the vault. However, his plans were in vain for he fell ill. Before he died, he told his two sons about the slab and how to enter the vault.

Life in ancient Egypt

In the middle of the night, the brothers succeeded in entering the vault, and stole some of the pharaoh's treasure. The pharaoh was puzzled, for his treasure slowly disappeared, even though the vault entrance was guarded throughout the day and night. He then decided to set a trap to capture the thieves within the vault.

The trap worked: one night, as the brothers again entered the vault, one brother was caught in the trap. Knowing that he was already doomed to execution, and not wanting to implicate his brother, he ordered his brother to cut off his head and flee.

Thus the next morning, the pharaoh found a headless body caught in the trap, and still did not know who the conspirators were. He hung the body in the middle of town, hoping that the other thief would come to grieve, and reveal himself.

However, the surviving brother was smart. He pretended to be a wine merchant, and through guile, he managed to get the guards drunk. He then succeeded in removing his brother's body with nobody the wiser.

The pharaoh was impressed with the ingenuity of the thief in stealing the treasure and rescuing his brother's body. He sent out a pardon for the thief, and asked him to appear before the pharaoh. The thief did so, and impressed the pharaoh so much that he was given the pharaoh's daughter to be his wife.

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