The Mythology Of Ancient Egypt

.. o’s task it was to guard the Canopic jars. She was the companion of Isis. Shu – the god of sunlight and air, and one of Ra’s first two children. He supports the sky with his arms. Tefnut – the goddess of moisture.

She helps her brother/husband Shu hold up the sky and welcomed the sun, Ra, everyday, leading to the sun disc above her head. She is represented as a woman with a lion’s head. Tuamutef – a funerary god. He was one of four responsible for the Canopic jars. His contained the stomach of the deceased.

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He has the head of a jackal and is consequentially associated with Anubis. Upuanut – a wolf god who helped to guide the dead to the court of Osiris. Wepwawet – a funerary god with a dog’s body. His name means “the opener of ways”. PTAH’S MIRACLES Ptah is said to have performed great miracles.

One story relating to this claim deals with Ptah saving the city of Pelusium from the Assyrians. According to the myth, he instructed an army of rats to gnaw through the attacker’s bowstrings and shield handles. Defenseless, the Assyrians were forced to retreat. He was also said to reincarnate the Apis bull. This bull was worshipped in its own temple in Memphis.

Everyday at a fixed time, the bull was allowed to run loose in the temple courtyard so the future could be foreseen by its behavior. The Apis bulls would normally die of old age and, like any other sacred Egyptian animal, was mummified. The Egyptians believed that Ptah would reincarnate the Apis bull after its death. Excavations have uncovered 64 Apis bulls, all mummified. OSIRIS’ KINGDOM OF THE DEAD One of the most important aspects of ancient Egyptian life is preparation for the afterlife. It was believed that the basic life force consisted of physical elements as well as mental, one of which is the ka.

The ka is a duplicate of the body that accompanies the original body throughout life. Therefore, the ka could not exist without the body, so every effort was made to preserve it. From this belief came the ritual of embalming. In addition, wood or stone replicas of the body were placed in the tomb in case of the accidental destruction of the corpse. The more statue duplicates of the body were put in the tomb, the greater chance the person had of being resurrected. As a final protection, exceedingly intricate tombs were built to protect the body and its replicas.

According to myth, the embalming was first performed by Isis, who prepared her brother-husband Osiris, now the god of the underworld, for his journey to Duat, the land of the dead, also known as Yaru. Upon death, the ka was finally freed from the body, however, innumerable perils awaited the ka until guided to Duat by the wolf-headed god Upuanut. Because of these dangers, every tomb was furnished with a copy of the Book of the Dead, a guide to life after death, which was inscribed on papyrus scrolls. Part of the Book of the Dead told how to overcome these dangers. Every necessity for life in Duat was put into the tombs, from furniture to reading materials.

The dead were believed to first visit Osiris for permission to enter Duat. It was located in a valley in the sky just past the western horizon, separated from the earth and the heavens by mountains, through which the sun god Ra passed everyday at sundown. During the judgment process, the ka’s heart, which was meant in the symbolic sense but illustrated in the physical sense, was weighed on the Scales of Judgment against the Feather of Truth before Osiris and his forty-two assessors. Anubis held the scale and weighed the heart and Thoth recorded the result. If deemed worthy, the ka would be allowed to spend eternity in Duat. If not worthy, the ka would be subject to hunger and thirst for several days, then the crocodile god Ammut would eat him.

In order to gain the best judgment in Osiris’ court, the ka had to be able to use magic spells and protest his innocence. But there were also practical ways of gaining Osiris’ mercy. A worshipper could visit Osiris’ temple at Abydos at some time during his life and leave some inscribed offering. The Book of the Dead also contains instructions for proper conduct before Osiris’ court. The Book of the Dead also tells about life in Duat.

In Duat, grain grew twelve feet tall and existence was a glorified version of life on earth. Osiris expected the dead to do small amounts of work in these grain fields in exchange for his protection and allowance to stay in Duat. THE STORY OF OSIRIS As the son of Geb, Osiris succeeded his father to the position of ruler over Upper Egypt. He then took his sister Isis as his wife. First on his agenda as king was to civilize his subjects. This included abolishing cannibalism, showing them how to make agricultural tools, and cultivate grapes and wheat.

He instructed them on how to make bread and wine and the arts of music and weaving. He also created a legal system and established religious worship. His wife, Isis, taught her subjects to ground flour, weave, and cure illnesses. She is often credited with establishing the custom of marriage. Having civilized Egypt, Osiris decided to do the same for the rest of the world, leaving Isis to rule during his travels. After several years, he returned, pleased to find that Isis’ rule had kept everything in order. But shortly afterward his brother Seth, who had immense jealousy in Osiris’ power and success, planned to kill him.

Seth invited Osiris to a banquet, and a beautiful coffer was presented to him. Seth said that whoever could fit into the coffer could own it. Osiris was first in accepting the challenge. He climbed in, and Seth and his fellow conspirators nailed the lid shut and sealed it with lead. During the protection of the night, they dropped it into the Nile. The coffer floated out to sea, and after some time settled at the base of a tamarisk tree at Byblos. The tree sensed the valuable nature of the contents of the coffer and grew protectively around it.

When the king of Byblos ordered the tree cut for a supporting pillar of the roof of his palace, his servants did so, and a delightful scent rose from it. Word of the scent of the tree quickly spread far and wide. Back in Egypt, Isis was mourning the loss of Osiris. She did so by cutting off her hair and tearing her clothes. She was informed of the tree and immediately recognized its significance. She quickly set off to Byblos.

Malcandre gave the tree trunk to Isis, and she retrieved the coffer. She then took the coffer back to Egypt and hid it in the swamps of the Nile delta. There she opened it, and tried to breathe life into Osiris. She succeeded in keeping him alive long enough for him to impregnate her. Soon afterwards, Seth was hunting in the swamps and found the coffer. Infuriated that Osiris still existed, Seth cut the body into fourteen pieces and scattered them across Egypt.

With the aid of Nut, Isis sought the pieces of the body, and recovered all but the genitals, which were gone forever. She was successful in resurrecting Osiris. Osiris went before the gods and discredited Seth. Having regained life, his reputation, and the throne as ruler of Egypt, Osiris could have stayed on the earth, but instead chose to become lord of the land of the dead, which was believed to exist just past the western horizon. Isis, assisted by Anubis, prepared Osiris for his journey to the land of the dead with the first embalming rituals, which established the ritual of burial in Egypt. The magic of Isis was considered important to gain acceptance into the land of the dead.

Later, Isis gave birth to the child Horus, who she kept hidden in the swamp to protect him from the rage of Seth. THE SENILITY OF RA When Isis, the wife and sister of Osiris, was the servant of the sun god Ra, she persuaded him to confide his secret name to her, for whoever knew the name would be granted much magic and power. She did this by collecting some of the spittle that dripped from his lips and mixing it with earth. >From this concoction she formed an asp, a deadly snake, which she placed in Ra’s path. The snake bit and poisoned Ra who, being senile, was not able to cure himself. Only Isis could remove the poison and the pain.

She told Ra that she would, but only if he told her his secret name. He refused. The effects of the venom grew worse. Eventually Ra gave in and uttered the name to Isis, on the condition that she never tell anyone else. Isis then gained some of his power and she became unmatched in the magic arts.

HORUS’ REVENGE Horus was raised in the swamps of the Nile Delta in utmost secrecy by his mother, Isis. When he reached manhood he vowed to avenge the death of his father, Osiris. He fought many lengthy battles with Seth. In one of these battles he lost an eye. Eventually, Horus killed him.

The gods had judged that Horus had won an honorable victory. In another version of the story, Horus had emasculated Seth rather than kill him. He appeared before the council of the gods and claimed he had the right to the throne of his father, Osiris. But Seth insisted that he himself be crowned, arguing that Horus was illegitimate because he was mysteriously conceived after Osiris’ death. Finally, the cow goddess Neith convinced through threats that the gods should “give the office of Osiris to his son Horus,” she declared, “and do not act wickedly, else I become angry, and send heaven crashing to the ground.” He was granted rule over both Upper and Lower Egypt, even though his father only ruled Upper Egypt.

To mark the event, Horus gave Osiris the eye he had lost and wore a serpent on his head as his second eye. Thereafter, the pharaohs of Egypt wore the serpent on their crown as a symbol of royal authority. BIBLIOGRAPHY Cotterell, Arthur THE MACMILLAN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MYTHS AND LEGENDS. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1989. Katan, Norma Jean, and Mintz, Barbara HIEROGLYPHS: THE WRITING OF ANCIENT EGYPT.

New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1981. Microsoft MICROSOFT ENCARTA ’95. Electronic media. Redmond: Microsoft Corporation, 1994. Roberts, David. “Age of Pyramids.” National Geographic Jan. 1995: 6-41 BULFINCH’S MYTHOLOGY. New York: Crown Publishers Incorporated, 1979.

Breasted, J.H. DEVELOPMENT OF RELIGION AND THOUGHT IN ANCIENT EGYPT. New York: Harper & Row Publishers Incorporated, 1959. THE WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA. Chicago: World Book Incorporated, 1993.