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The Egyptian Book of the Dead

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Author Topic: The Egyptian Book of the Dead  (Read 7992 times)
Josie Linde
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Posts: 4493

« Reply #30 on: December 21, 2008, 11:12:45 pm »


The following are the principal gods and goddesses mentioned in the pyramid texts and in the later versions of the Book of the Dead:--

Nu represents the primeval watery mass from which all the gods were evolved, and upon which floats the bark of "millions of years" containing the sun. This god's chief titles are " Father of the gods," and begetter of the great company of the gods,". He is depicted in the form of a seated deity having upon his head disk and plumes.[1]

Nut the female principle of Nu; she is depicted with the head of a snake surmounted by a disk, or with the head of a cat.[2]

Ptah was associated with the god Khnemu in carrying out at the Creation the mandates of Thoth the divine intelligence; his name means the "opener," and he was identified by the Greeks with {Greek H!'faistos}, and by the Latins with Vulcan.

He was worshipped at a very early date in Memphis, which is called in Egyptian texts "The House of the Ka of Ptah,", and according to Herodotus his temple there was founded by Mena or Menes.[3] He is called the "exceedingly great god, the beginning of being," "the father of fathers and power of powers," and "he created his form,

[1. Lanzone, Dizionario, tav. 166, No. 2. For fuller descriptions of the gods and their titles and attributes see Brugsch, Religion und Mythologie, Leipzig, 1884-88; Pierret, Le Panthéon Égyptien, Paris, 1881; Wiedemann, Die Religion der alten Aegypter, Münster, 1890; Strauss and Corney, Der altaegyptische Götterglaube, Heidelberg, 1889. For illustrations of the various forms in which the gods are depicted, see the Dizionario di Mitologia Egizia, Turin, 1881 (not yet complete).

2. Lanzone, op. cit., tavv. 168-71.

3. {Greek Tou^to de` tou^ H!fai'stou to` i!drusasðai e`n au?th^} (ii., 99).]

{p. cviii}

and gave birth to his body, and established unending and unvarying right and truth upon the earth." As a solar god he is called "Ptah, the Disk of heaven, who illumineth the world by the fire of his eyes,"; and in the Book of the Dead he is said to have "opened" the mouth of the deceased with the tool with which he opened the mouths of the gods.[1] He is depicted in the form of a mummy standing upon maat and in his hands he holds a sceptre on the top of which are the emblems of power, life, and stability; from the back of his neck hangs the menat (see p. 1, note 2).[2] Ptah formed at Memphis the chief member of the triad Ptah-Sekhet and Nefer-Tmu.

In many texts the god Ptah is often joined to the god Seker whose individual attributes it is not easy to describe; Seker is the Egyptian name of the incarnation of the Apis bull at Memphis. That Seker was a solar god is quite clear, but whether he "closed" the day or the night is not certain. Originally his festival was celebrated in the evening, wherefrom it appears that he represented some form of the night sun; but in later times the ceremony of drawing the image of the god Seker in the hennu boat round the sanctuary was performed in the morning at dawn, and thus, united with Ptah, he became the closer of the night and the opener of the day. He is depicted as a mummied body with the head of a hawk, and he sometimes holds in his hands emblems of power, sovereignty, and rule.[3]

Another form of Ptah was Ptah-Seker-Ausar wherein the creator of the world, the sun, and Osiris as the god of the dead, were represented. A large number of faïence figures of this triune god are found in graves, and specimens exist in all museums. He is represented as a dwarf standing upon a crocodile, and having a scarabæus upon his head; the scarab is the emblem of the new life into which the deceased is about to break, the crocodile is the emblem of the darkness of death which has been overcome. According to some the element of Ptah in the triad is the personification of the period of incubation which follows

[1. ###. Naville, Todtenbuch, Bd. I., Bl. 34, ll. 4, 5.

2. Lanzone: op. cit., tavv. 87-91.

3. Lanzone, op. cit., tav. 368.]

{p. cix}

death and precedes the entry into eternal life, and the symbols with which he is accompanied explain the character attributed to this god.[1]

The god Ptah is also united with the gods Hapi, Nu and Tanen when he represents various phases of primeval matter.

Khnemu worked with Ptah in carrying out the work of creation ordered by Thoth, and is therefore one of the oldest divinities of Egypt; his name means, "to mould," "to model." His connexion with the primeval water caused him to be regarded as the chief god of the inundation and lord of the cataract at Elephantine. He dwelt in Annu, but he was lord of Elephantine, and "the builder of men, the maker of the gods, and the father from the beginning."

Elsewhere he is said to be

ari enti-s qemam unenet sa xeperu tef

Maker of things which are, creator of what shall be, the beginning of beings, father

tefu ma ma

of fathers, and mother of mothers.

He supported the heaven upon its four pillars in the beginning, and earth, air, sea, and sky are his handiwork. He is depicted in the form of a man having a ram's head and horns surmounted by plumes, uræi with disks, etc.; in one hand be holds the sceptre and in the other the emblem of life. Occasionally he is hawk-headed, and in one representation he holds the emblem of water, in each hand. On a late bas-relief at Philæ we find him seated at a potter's table upon which stands a human being whom he has just fashioned.[2]

Khepera was a form of the rising sun, and was both a type of matter which is on the point of passing from inertness into life, and also of the dead body which is about to burst forth into a new life in a glorified form. He is depicted in the form of a man having a beetle for a head, and this insect was his type and emblem among ancient nations, because it was believed to be self-begotten and self-produced; to this notion we owe the myriads of beetles or

[1. Lanzone, op. cit., p. 244.

2. Lanzone, op. cit., tav. 336, No. 3.]

{p. cx}

scarabs which are found in tombs of all ages in Egypt, and also in the Greek islands and settlements in the Mediterranean, and in Phœnicia, Syria, and elsewhere. The seat of the god Khepera was in the boat of the sun, and the pictures which present us with this fact[1] only illustrate an idea which is as old, at least, as the pyramid of Unas, for in this monument it is said of the king:-

ap-f em apt xenen-f em xeper em nest sut

He flieth like a bird, he alighteth like a beetle upon the empty throne

amt uaa-k Ra[2]

in thy boat, O Ra.

In the XVIIIth dynasty Queen Hatshepset declared herself to be "the creator of things which came into being like Khepera",[3] and in later times the scribes were exceedingly fond of playing upon the word used as a noun, adjective, verb and proper name.[4]

Tum or Atemu i.e., "the closer," was the great god of Annu, and the head of the great company of the gods of that place. It would seem that he usurped the position of Ra in Egyptian mythology, or at any rate that the priests of Annu succeeded in causing their local god, either separately or joined with Ra, to be accepted as the leader of the divine group. He represented the evening or night sun, and as such he is called in the XVth chapter of the Book of the Dead "divine god," "self-created," "maker of the gods," "creator of men," who stretched out the heavens," "the lightener of the tuat with his two eyes," etc.'

[1. Lanzone, op. cit., tav. 330.

2. Recueil de Travaux, t. iv., p. 57 (1. 477).

3 Lepsius, Denkmäler, Abth. iii., BL 22.

4 Compare ###. Maspero, Mémoires de la Mission, t. i., p. 595; and in the account of the Creation found in B.M. papyrus No. 10,188, Col. xxvi., ###.

5. Naville, Todtenbuch, Bd. I., Bl. 19, 20.]

{p. cxi}

The "cool breezes of the north wind," for which every dead man prayed, were supposed to proceed from him. He is, as M. Lefébure has pointed out, always depicted in the form of a man; he wears the crowns and holds both the sceptre and emblem of life On a mummy case at Turin he is depicted in the boat of the Sun, in company with the god Khepera; between them are the beetle and sun's disk In later times the Egyptians called the feminine form of Tmu Temt.[2]

Ra was the name given to the sun by the Egyptians in a remote antiquity, but the meaning of the word, or the attribute which they ascribed to the sun by it, is unknown. Ra was the invisible emblem of God, and was regarded as the god of this earth, to whom offerings and sacrifices were made daily; and when he appeared above the horizon at the creation, time began. In the pyramid texts the soul of the deceased makes its way to where Ra is in heaven, and Ra is entreated to give it a place in the "bark of millions of years" wherein he sails over the sky. The Egyptians attributed to the sun a morning and an evening boat, and in these the god sat accompanied by Khepera and Tmu, his own forms in the morning and evening respectively. In his daily course he vanquished night and darkness, and mist and cloud disappeared from before his rays; subsequently the Egyptians invented the moral conception of the sun, representing the victory of right over wrong and of truth over falsehood. From a natural point of view the sun was synonymous with movement, and hence typified the life of man; and the setting of the one typified the death of the other. Usually Ra is depicted in human form, sometimes with the head of a hawk, and sometimes without[3], As early as the time of the pyramid texts we find Ra united with Tmu to form the chief god of Annu, and at the same period a female counterpart Rat was assigned to him.[4]

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