Sunday, May 30, 2010

In the Beginning - Part Five

Part five of five

The Final Act

In part four of this stylised version of one of the creation myths of ancient Egypt, we were introduced to the five children of the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb. Their names were Osiris, Seth, Haroeris, Isis and Nephthys. While Haroeris returned to The Complete One, Osiris became the first King of Egypt. When it was time for him to stand aside for his brother Seth, their father Geb decided that Osiris should remain on the throne. While Seth brooded on the injustice of the decision in Nubia, Ptah, god of the word invented the concept of an ‘heir’. He instructed Osiris and his sister Isis to marry and to produce an heir to the throne. The word ‘heir’, carrying with it the possible establishment of a dynasty that excluded Seth, was heard in the desert far to the south, in the place Seth had made his home. This is the final part of the series on the creation myth of ancient Egypt taken from the book “Pharaoh Ay Remembers” by Anthony Holmes.

Seth heard the word “heir” in the vast reaches of the desert of Nubia. He was determined not to permit this travesty of justice to take place. He was determined to take his place on the throne. He waited until the time for the celebration of the wedding of Osiris and Isis was announced. Seth set a messenger to the palace from where Osiris ruled at Men-nefer. The message read,

“Your brother Seth, Son of Geb and Nut and Prince of Nubia (Sudan), greets his brother Osiris and his sister Isis, the King and Queen of Upper and Lower Kemet (the southern part and the delta region of Egypt). I congratulate you on your accession to the dual thrones of your country. At the time of the announcement of your extended rule I had succumbed to the dark side of my humour and, not being worthy company in your celebration, I withdrew myself to a remote place. A full cycle of time has now past and I have emerged from the gloom into the new light of your reign. I wish to participate in the happiness of your forthcoming marriage and, together with our sister Nephthys, I wish to attend the marriage ceremony so that we, the four Earthly children of Geb and Nut, may stand together in your time of joy. My messenger awaits your response.”

Osiris and Isis were pleased to receive this conciliatory message from their estranged brother. Their response to Seth, although couched in the formal terms of their office, was warm and welcoming.

Seth arrived in Men-nefer several days before the wedding. He presented himself to his brother and sister and the reunion was seen to be friendly. All seemed to be peaceable and correct.

At a family gathering of the four siblings, Seth came up with the apparently spontaneous suggestion that Osiris should attend a dinner in his honour, given by Seth and his friends, as a final celebration of his status as an unmarried male.

‘Enjoy the last night of your freedom from marital ties.’ was the humorous invitation extended by Seth. And so it was that Osiris attended the fateful meal that was to change the future of Kemet (Egypt).

The meal was held in the large tent that Seth had erected outside the walls of the palace. Seth had been invited to stay in the palace but he had declined, saying that he had come to appreciate the nomadic lifestyle and was more comfortable in the large tent. In addition to Osiris and Seth there were forty-two men present at the banquet. The cushions were set out in two parallel lines with Seth and Osiris seated at the head of each line. A large wooden chest, bound with bronze strapping was placed between the lines.

The meal proceeded with much joviality. The servants from the palace were finally dismissed and the group settled down to a session of stories of their exploits, some possibly true but mostly pure exaggerations of minor events. Finally, his curiosity exceeded his caution and Osiris asked about the wooden chest.

Seth laughed and said it was merely something that travelled with them but it was not of any interest to the King of Kemet. Osiris persisted, his interest aroused.

‘It is a means of making wealth.’ Seth finally admitted. ‘Anyone we meet on our travels may, on payment of a single gold piece, try to fit himself inside the chest. The inside of the chest is not empty. It is fitted with various wooden blocks, carved in strange shapes. The individual has to fit himself precisely between the blocks so that the lid can be closed. If this can be achieved, the successful man wins the chest filled to the brim with gold pieces. It represents a huge fortune.’

Seth looked at his brother and laughed,

‘So far we have not had to pay anyone, although thousands have tried their luck. Of course the challenge is of no interest to you, for you have more wealth than ten thousand chests of gold.’

But Osiris had consumed sufficient beer to be foolish.

‘Show me how it works.’ he demanded.

One of Seth’s friends opened the chest. It held a complicated compendium of blocks of all shapes and sizes. Seth called to one of his friends.

‘Climb inside the chest and show the King how this device works.’

Osiris watched as the young man climbed into the box, arranging his limbs in what appeared to be the most excruciating formation as he tried to fill every small space available. Finally he signified he was ready but as the lid was gently lowered it was apparent that there was no possibility of closing it. A knee here and an elbow there made it clear that this was not a good fit. The lid of the chest was raised again and the young man climbed out amid much laughter, stretching his cramped muscles and shaking his numb limbs.

‘I wish to try.’ exclaimed Osiris.

‘I would not advise it’’ said the young man who had recently demonstrated the problems involved.

‘I would not do it for gold,’ said Osiris, ‘but merely for the sport.’

The more Seth and his company tried to dissuade Osiris the more stubbornly he insisted on trying. Eventually they acceded to his demand and opened the lid of the chest once more.

Osiris was a supple man. He climbed into the chest and organised his body to suit the profiles of the wooden blocks. He appeared to melt into the shape as if it had been specifically made for his body. He said he was ready. The lid was lowered. It closed all the way. Seth leapt forward and slid a rod through the bronze hasp, locking the lid.

Seth immediately struck camp and the band of followers split up and travelled in different directions, each one heading for a different Nome (Province) while Seth rode back southwards towards Upper Kemet (The upper reaches of the Nile River).

Osiris did not last very long in the airtight chest. When Seth considered sufficient time had elapsed he opened the chest and beheld the dead body of his brother. But Seth was the son of a god and he well knew the divine ability of the gods to raise the dead and return life to them. What he then proceeded to perform compounded the evil of this most horrible act of fratricide.

Seth cut Osiris’s body into several pieces, some say fourteen. He instructed his followers and they scattered the pieces all over the Land.

That should have been the end of Osiris, but it was not. His sister Isis who was also his prospective wife, with the help of her sister Nephthys searched the entire land and managed to gather together the pieces of her dead brother. The pieces were bound together with linen strips in the way embalmers have done ever since. Then, transforming herself into a fluttering kite by the use of powerful magic she invigorated Osiris for one final act in this life. In her bird form she hovered over Osiris and mated with him. Osiris then returned to the state of death and entered the afterlife. He became the Lord of the Dead and rule over the Underworld to which all dead persons travel. As a result of his final mortal act Isis conceived and produced a son she called Horus.

In the meantime Seth had not been idle. He called on his father Geb to fulfil the decision originally made by ‘The Complete One’, and raise him to the throne. Geb now had no choice but to proclaim Seth monarch of Upper and Lower Kemet. He reigned for years and was recognised by the populace as a stern but fair king.

Naturally, when Horus reached maturity he wanted to avenge his father’s death. In terms of the laws governing the succession to the throne, any person with a legitimate claim to the throne was permitted to challenge the incumbent to battle to determine the rightful claim to sovereignty. Horus issued a challenge to his uncle Seth. An inconclusive battle resulted in which each was seriously injured. Horus lost an eye and Seth’s testicles were so crushed that they had to be removed to save his life. Finally the god of the Earth Geb decided that the land should be divided and that Horus would rule Lower Kemet from the first branch of the Delta northwards to the Sea, while Seth would rule Upper Kemet from the Delta southwards to the first cataract.

Although it seemed to be an ideal solution, Ma’at intervened. She claimed that Seth had forfeited his chance to rule any part of Kemet because the murder of Osiris weighed heavily against him on the Balance of Justice. ‘The Complete One’ agreed with Ma’at. He instructed Ptah to say the words and Horus was given full authority over both of the Two Lands.

Seth was banished by ‘The Complete One’ to the land below the horizon to the south. Seth became the first King of Nubia, where he ruled with wisdom and justice for many years. Finally, after serving his time of banishment, he departed from this life to join the other gods, from which time he was revered as the main god of Nubia.

Horus ruled the lands of Upper and Lower Kemet with strength and wisdom. His wise leadership was established as the example for all subsequent Kings to follow. Each King who ascended the throne of the Land of Kemet thereafter was referred to as the “Living Horus”


Monday, May 24, 2010

In the Beginning – Part Four

This story of creation and the early pre-history of ancient Egypt, reflects the basic tenets of the belief system of the ancient Egyptians. The legend has been embroidered by the author Anthony Holmes in his book “Pharaoh Ay Remembers” from which it is taken. In the previous three parts of this imaginative version of the ancient Egyptian creation myth we read of the creation of the universe by’ The Complete One’ and the manner in which his daughter Ma’at formed a beautiful world in which to place a worshipful human being. Ma’at created man and woman with freedom of choice and a spiritual aspect to their existence that might live on after their death. However all was not well among the gods…

In the Beginning part four of five

In the first period of creation, the god of the air, Shu had become jealous of the attraction between his son Geb and his daughter Nut. He had separated them by placing himself between the earth and the sky. He recognised that his daughter, with her vibrant blue colour in the day and the twinkling stars across her body at night was extremely attractive and he was very jealous of her beauty. Shu realised that a liaison with Nut would become the aim of every male in the totality of creation. He feared that Nut’s beauty would lead her to conceive a child and that her pregnancy would cause her belly to swell downwards as she arched over the world, bringing the stars within the reach of the earth. Shu therefore placed a spell on his daughter. The enchantment declared that she would not bear a child on any day of the year.

Nut was not to be denied motherhood by her jealous father. She challenged the god of time to a game of chance. Nut won five days from Thoth; five extra days that were additional to the year of three-hundred and sixty days defined by Ptah. The spell of Shu could not apply to the extra five days because they were not “in the year”. Nut conceived and gave birth to five children, one on each of the extra days she had won.

The first child was male and was called Osiris. He was beautiful of countenance and powerful of physique, a golden god-child with light brown hair and gold flecked eyes.

The second child was a boy called Haroeris. He was gifted with remarkable intelligence. He was pale, almost translucent in his lack of pigment. He had pink eyes and white hair.

The third child was male and his name was Seth. He was dark with eyes like chips of obsidian and hair like the darkest night. He was handsome and strong, but he was belligerent of character.

The fourth child was a girl. She was gloriously fair with hair like spun gold and eyes of the finest sapphire. Her beauty was beyond compare and her nature was as sunny as her appearance.

The fifth and last child was a daughter. She was voluptuous with auburn hair that cascaded beyond her shoulders. She was kind and caring, destined to be the lady of the mansion. Her eyes were full of the promise of the evening and her skin was kissed by the sun.

The five children were presented to ‘The Complete One’, but the creator of the universe was disturbed and he said to Nut their mother,

‘Although you did not break your father’s spell, you thwarted your father’s wish, a thing no child should do. Because of this I will penalise you. You may only keep four of your children in your world. Those four children will not inherit every divine attribute, but will be part mortal and part divine. The fifth child will become a deity and join me in my realm and you will not see that child again. It is for you to choose.’

Nut considered her five children and after deliberation she chose to surrender the pale skinned Haroeris to ‘The Complete One’ where he might live more comfortably than on the sun-drenched world below.

The four children of Nut grew to maturity on the earth. Osiris was blessed with an open countenance and a bronze complexion. Seth on the other hand was dark and brooding. Isis was the complete antithesis of Seth. Where he was dark, she was wonderfully light. Everything about Isis spoke of purity. The last of the siblings, Nephthys was a little shorter than Isis but sensuous and warm. Like her brother Osiris she was clearly a child of the earth.

They were magnificent demi-gods exhibiting all the wonderful aspects of their parentage. It was natural that mankind should look to them to provide a leader.

Ma’at heard the plea of the people that a leader should be appointed, but in the eyes of the goddess of justice all four of the children were equally deserving of the role of leader. In the balance of her mind could not determine whether one had better qualifications than the other. She therefore called on her father for help.

‘The Complete One’ made the decision. The first leader of mankind would be Osiris because he was the first-born of Nut’s children. He would reign for a period to be chosen by Thoth. After the period had elapsed, Seth would become leader for an equal time, followed by Isis and finally Nephthys. Thereafter the cycle could be repeated.

‘Osiris became the first ruler of the combined land that included both Upper and Lower Kemet (Egypt). (Upper Egypt was the southern part – the upper waters of the Nile. Lower Egypt was the delta region where the Nile flowed into the Mediterranean Sea). Osiris was both a demi-god and a good king. Mankind was taught by Osiris to use the benefit of the flood to plant and reap food. He taught men about the justice and order of Ma’at and his rule lasted for a thousand years. When it came time for Osiris to step down from the throne his father Geb vacillated. Osiris had been such an outstanding king that Geb was reluctant to change the status quo. He decided to extend the rule of Osiris.

Seth was furious at being denied the right to rule the land and he and many of his followers left the land of Kemet and journeyed to the south, where they lived in Nubia, (Sudan) awaiting the day that Geb would recall Seth to take the throne.

It was at this precise time that Ptah loosened one of his bandages without being instructed by the creator so to do. For a short moment he was free to say a word that was not the will of ‘The Complete One’. Ptah spoke the word ‘heir’ and for the first time the concept of a child who would take over a function from his father came into existence. Ptah instructed Osiris to take his sister Isis to be his wife and produce a child to be the heir to throne. This was against the order of Ma’at because the goddess of justice required that Osiris’s twin brother Seth should rule for the same length of time as Osiris. Balance would be disturbed if Osiris should produce an offspring before Seth had his allotted time on the throne, but the word ‘heir’ had been spoken by Ptah and the concept had come into the world…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In the Beginning – Part Three

In parts one and two of this whimsical version of the ancient Egyptian creation myth, taken from the book “Pharaoh Ay Remembers” by Anthony Holmes, we read that Ma’at, the daughter of 'The Complete One' accepted her father’s challenge to select a single world; to fashion it from its original chaos and to populate it with beings that would have the free choice to either adore the creator of the universe or to reject him. With the assistance of the three gods of creation, Ptah the word, Atum the power and Harakhte the disseminator, Ma’at created a beautiful world, but now she had to create a worshipful entity with freedom of choice. With the help of Thoth, the god of wisdom, after eons had elapsed, Ma’at was finally ready to define a human being…

In the Beginning - part three of five

Ma’at instructed Ptah to speak the word of creation by calling on the name of ‘Man’. The goddess described all the features and characteristics she had discussed with Thoth, and many more, for man had to be a balanced entity with the ability to choose which characteristics he would follow and those which he would ignore or reject. A man may be honest or he may choose to be dishonest. A man may choose to be kind or he may turn his back on kindness. A man may love or he may hate. Most of all he may choose to adore his god or not.

One choice was withheld from man and that was the choice of the length of his life, for what man would not choose to live forever? Instead, man was given another choice. He could choose to live forever in the afterlife, in the fields of abundance where no pain, no storms and no anxiety exist. He could make that choice in his present life by ensuring that his heart was filled with the lightness of good behaviour and not weighed down by evil deeds. At his death he would be judged. His heart would be weighed in Ma’at’s own balance and if he had lived a good life and his existence in the world was justified, then he would partake of eternal life.

Ptah spoke the word and the concept of man existed. It was now the task of Atum-Ra to use the power of creation to turn Ptah’s word into reality, but Atum-Ra hesitated.

‘It is possible for me to call upon the skill of the great potter, ‘Khnum’ to form this man from the clay of the earth so that man will be a child of Geb, the god of the earth. I can instruct Khnum to create man as you have described him and according to the word spoken by Ptah, but if I do so, man will be just another animal on the earth. You have said he will inhabit the afterlife once he is dead, but what is there left of an animal after it is dead? Their bodies decay, their bones turn to powder and ultimately there is nothing. Perhaps you wish me to create an aspect of man that will survive after his death so that he may enjoy the pleasures you have promised him?’

Once more Ma’at and Thoth the god of wisdom sat down under the Persea Tree to consider his suggestion. They invited Ra-Harakhte to participate in their discussion. They talked the matter over for a long time because it was to be a decision that would affect man for all time. They proposed and disposed many concepts until they finally agreed. They called Ptah and Atum-Ra together and Ma’at addressed them thus:

‘I will describe to you the concepts we have agreed upon. Ptah will name them and Atum-Ra will ensure they are created as inherent components of man.’

‘Man will be formed from clay on the wheel of Khnum the divine potter. At the same time Khnum will also fashion an exact replica of the man. The replica will be indistinguishable from the man except that it will be contained within him and it will be immortal. Upon the man’s death this replica will be released to enjoy the pleasures of the afterlife from the grave. The replica will draw its energy from the memories of mortals and it will be invigorated each time the deceased’s name is spoken with love or reverence.’

And Ptah spoke the word,

‘The replica will be called the Ka of the man.’

Atum-Ra instructed Khnum accordingly and the divine potter with his twisted horns and ram’s head took clay and constructed a ‘Man’ and his Ka on the potter’s wheel.

It was the turn of Thoth to put forward the next concept.

‘I am the god of wisdom and it is therefore incumbent upon me to place wisdom in the heart of man. But wisdom does not start with a man’s birth, nor does it end with his death. You will therefore name and create wisdom in the form of a bird with the head and face of a man. The bird of wisdom will enter a man’s heart when he is delivered of his mother and it will leave the man on his death to fly to another new born baby. The bird will inhabit many successive lives, thus imparting its accumulated wisdom to the heart of the child.’

And Ptah spoke the word,

‘The bird of wisdom shall be called the Ba. A child born with a Ba of great experience will be wise beyond his years whereas a child born with a young Ba will be na├»ve and innocent.’

Once more Ma’at spoke of the concepts that had evolved in the discussion under the Persea Tree:

‘When man dies his Ka will journey to the great hall of The Complete One. The Ka will bring with him the man’s heart, for in his heart will be the total of all his deeds, be they heavy or light. His heart will be weighed in the balance while the Ka makes its declaration of innocence to the forty-two assessor gods.’

It was Thoth who provided the final question.‘What will happen after the heart has been weighed?’

Ma’at whispered her reply to the divinities around her.‘If the heart is heavy with the foulness of greed, treachery or debauchery, the assessor gods will not accept the declaration of innocence; the heart will be thrown to the beast that will devour it. The Ka will return to the grave, but few will hold the man’s memory dear and the Ka will whither and fade.

'But if his heart is light with happiness, with love and good deeds and the assessor gods judge his mortal life to be justified his heart will become a bright light in the presence of my father, to exist in the realm of the divine for ever. The Ka will return to the tomb where it will partake of all manner of offerings and bask in the pleasures of the afterlife, reinforced by the kind memories of those who yet live and his name will be spoken through all the ages.’

Amun-Ra imbued the man with all that which had been decided by Ma’at and Thoth.

Ma’at instructed that man be given a companion to keep him company and assist him in all that he did, and Khnum took clay and formed a woman and her Ka on his wheel. Khnum then placed a potter’s wheel in the womb of the woman so that henceforth she might do his divine work of creating men and women.

But all was not well with the gods…

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the Beginning - Part Two

This fanciful version of the ancient Egyptian creation myth is taken from the book “Pharaoh Ay Remembers” by Anthony Holmes. In part one we read that 'The Complete One' created the universe as a pleasurable diversion, but his daughter Ma’at told her father that it was insufficient for the universe to exist merely for him to gaze upon. To be fulfilled, what it needed was a being that would recognise and adore its creator. 'The Complete One' was not convinced, but he gave his daughter the choice of selecting a single world out of the universe and causing it to be inhabited by a rational being with the choice of whether to worship his creator or not. To assist her he gave her three divinities: Ptah with the power to use words to describe a creation, Atum with the power to bring the word to reality and Harakhte who could fly over the world and place the creations where they were required. Ma’at accepted the challenge…

Part two of five

‘When Ma’at came to the world, she found it to be completely shrouded in thick grey fog and clouds. There was hardly any light and the moisture was dank and dark all about her. She asked Ptah what this thick blanket was called and he advised her that it was called ‘Nun’ and that it was the stuff of life that had not yet been ordered into being. It was merely a formless substance of air and moisture.

‘The first thing I intend to do,’ Ma’at decided, ‘is to bring order into this world. Order is fundamental to my own being and it is a requirement for any form of creation.’

She turned to Ptah.

‘I want you to name this moisture and this air and tell me their names.’

‘I name the air ‘Shu’ and I name the moisture ‘Tefnut’ and they shall be a god and a goddess,’ proclaimed Ptah.

Ma’at turned to Atum.

‘You will separate these two substances that have received their names.’

Atum used the power of creation that he had received from ‘The Complete One’ and separated the god Shu and the goddess Tefnut so that the moisture became the seas and the rivers, and the air became the breeze and the wind.

Harakhte flew over the whole world and he reported that the moisture and the air had been separated.

With the separation of the moisture and the air there came about a great wonder because Ma’at could now see the glory of her father’s creation. The great orange ball that shone with her father’s power now cast its light onto the world and the wonder of it was revealed.

Ma’at could see above her and below and she said,

‘What do I call this on which I stand and what do I call that which I see above me?’

Ptah replied to her question thus,

‘That which is below you and upon which you stand I will name ‘Geb’ and he will be the god of the Earth beneath your feet and that which you see above you I will name ‘Nut’ and she will be the goddess of the Sky above you. Geb and Nut will be known as the children of Shu and Tefnut.

Ma’at looked up into the beautiful sky and she saw the glory of the great orange ball that hung in the sky and she enquired of Ptah for the name of the brilliant light.

His name is ‘Ra’ and he shall be called the god of the Sun. It is Ra who will bring light and warmth to this world and allow life to exist and all that is living to grow and flourish.’

‘Surely he will become weary of being high in the sky
all the time?

Atum turned to Ma’at,

‘Ptah does not have the power to alter that which he has already named. That power is with me. I shall provide Ra with a golden barque upon which he can sail across the sky and Harakhte shall carry his symbol on his head so that he will rise in the eastern sky in the morning. Henceforth he shall be known as Ra-Harakhte. I will carry Ra to the western horizon when he is tired and weary in the evening and I shall be known as Atum-Ra.’

‘Ma’at saw that Geb, the god of the earth was very comely and his sister Nut, the goddess of the sky was very beautiful and they were enamoured with each other. They lay together in an embrace. But their father Shu, the god of the air was jealous of his daughter and he reached between them and separated them. He lifted Nut high above Geb so that they might not touch each other, except at their toes and finger-tips, which is where the sky meets the earth at the horizon. The sky was thus separated from the earth by the air.

'The Complete One' looked upon the works of his daughter Ma’at and was pleased with what he saw, for the world was now a beautiful place. The earth was complete with its mountains and its deserts, watered by the seas and the Rivers, warmed by the sun and cooled by the breeze under the beauty of the sky.

Once more Ma’at turned to Ptah.

‘The earth and the sky are beautiful,’ she said, ‘but when the barque of Ra disappears below the western horizon at night and darkness sets in, nothing can be seen of its beauty. I wish you to name a light for the night to alleviate the darkness.’

Ptah did as he was asked and he named the light of the night the Moon. Atum-Ra forged the moon from silver and Ra-Harakhte carried it high into the night sky where it rested among the stars.

Ma’at called again upon the divinity of Ptah that he might name the time that Ra crossed the heavens and returned again to the eastern horizon. Ptah considered the time and he named it a ‘day’.

Now the earth and the sky were fully formed. Ma’at instructed Ptah to start naming the plants and the animals and the fish and the insects. Ma’at allowed her imagination to range free as she described each creature to Ptah. Some were huge and some were so small that only the magical eye of Ra-Harakhte could see them.

The ages went by as Ptah named all the creatures and Atum-Ra created whatsoever Ptah instructed and Ra-Harakhte placed them in different lands. Sometimes Ma’at decided that which she had imagined was inadequate and she instructed Ptah to change the creature into a more pleasing shape. On occasions the outcome of Ma’at’s imagination was so unsatisfactory that she had to instruct Atum-Ra to reverse the process of creation and to destroy the creature. Finally, after eons of time had passed, the earth was full of all kinds of plants and animals and Ma’at was satisfied.’

Ma’at spoke to Ptah. ‘According to the power given to you by 'The Complete One', I now wish you to give a name to the entity that will inhabit this world and give honour to my father for his creation.’

But Ptah could not do what Ma’at asked him.

‘It is true that I have the power to name anything and having named it, it will exist but what you ask is impossible even for a god. I cannot name something that I cannot imagine, and you have given me no description of the entity you want me to create.’

Ma’at understood the problem for she realised that in truth she did not know how such an entity should look or how it should behave. She spoke to her father,

‘I wish to create an entity to give you adoration for your works, but I cannot do so because I lack the wisdom to imagine its form and shape.’

The Complete One replied to his daughter’s plea.

‘I will send you my wisdom in the form of the god Thoth that he may help you in this matter.’

The god Thoth immediately appeared on the earth before Ma’at. He was in the form of the sacred ibis bird, with a long, curved beak and large eyes, with beautiful black and white plumage. He carried the staff of millions of years and round his neck hung a scribe’s block and brushes. Thoth was the god of wisdom and he also controlled time, keeping a continuous record of all events that took place in the totality of creation.

Before they considered the creation of an entity to populate the world, Thoth spoke to Ma’at.

‘It is in my divine duty and my nature to count and record time. There is no measure of time on this world other than day which is the time that Ra crosses the sky and returns through the underworld to the eastern horizon once more. Beyond that you have not caused Ptah to call upon the name of time.’

Ma’at agreed and called on Ptah to give names to the concept of time. Ptah determined that thirty days would be called one month and that four months would be one season and three seasons would be called one year. Each year would therefore comprise three hundred and sixty days.

Thoth and Ma’at sat under a Persea Tree for ten thousand years and to compose the entity that would inhabit the world.’…

Sunday, May 9, 2010

In the Beginning

The ancient Egyptians had more than one religious precept when it came to the origin of the world. Each cult centre proposed its own creation myth. The particular version people believed depended on the period and the region in which they lived. The various stories of creation had one common element. They were all based on the belief that originally there was a dark nothingness which developed, through divine intervention into the world they knew and into a netherworld that they would come to know in their afterlife. The myths are known by the cult centres and regions in which they predominated. The cult of Ra, the sun god came from Iunu (or Heliopolis), the cult of Ptah from Men-nefer (or Memphis), the Theban myth from Waset (or Thebes now Luxor) and so forth. While using the basic legend, the following is an imaginative variation of one of the ancient Egyptian creation stories. It is taken from the book “Pharaoh Ay Remembers” by Anthony Holmes published in 2008.

Part One of Five

In the beginning, 'The Complete One' reached out from the vastness of his realm, across an immeasurable distance, through the barrier of time to a place that had not yet come to be.

There, as his pleasure dictated he placed an infinitesimal drop of his glorious essence in the

empty nothingness. That drop of divinity, pregnant with his power, exploded with incandescent radiance and in an instant it converted the nothingness into a star-studied sky.

Time, which is the measure of the parade of all the events that were to follow, began at the

precise instant of that creation.

'The Complete One' looked at the result of his pleasure and beheld its beauty.

'The Complete One' summoned his daughter Ma’at, the one he called his ‘Eye’ to behold the vision of his creation. It was she who was imbued with the spirit of truth, justice and order. Ma’at gazed in rapture at the inestimable constellations that sparkled and spun in the blackness. Within each constellation she saw the countless suns that shone with the raw energy of her father.

‘Father, you have created a truly wonderful thing,’ she exclaimed, ‘but what do you intend to do with it other than to appreciate its glory?’

'The Complete One' asked her,

‘Is it not sufficient that it exists, to be gazed upon when I wish to be diverted?’

Ma’at considered her father’s proposition.

‘You know that I may speak only the truth, so I have the temerity to say to you that what you propose is not enough. You have made a great wonder, but apart from you, who is there to admire your handiwork and to venerate you for the divine magic of your creation?’

Her father smiled and in his deep, echoing voice replied.

‘But I am complete unto myself. I do not need the admiration or adoration of another. Were I to create some entity to pay me homage, it would be an act of self-worship and thus would be a mockery’

Once again Ma’at weighed her father’s argument in the balance of her mind, for it was in her nature to examine both sides of every proposition.

‘What if you were to create an entity and grant it the power of choice?’ she asked her father. ‘Such a being could decide whether to adore you or not.’

'The Complete One' smiled at his daughter’s suggestion.

‘If I were to create such a being, would its decision be founded upon sound reasoning and understanding, or perhaps on its inability to distinguish between what is a true wonder and what is not?’

‘That would depend on whether it was instilled with an appreciation of beauty, an understanding of right and a passion for truth,’ responded Ma’at immediately.

'The Complete One' pondered his daughter’s words, for he knew they were the words of truth. Eons passed while he considered the quandary she had posed.’

Finally 'The Complete One' spoke to Ma’at.

‘I have come to a decision. I will allow you to choose just one of the incalculable numbers of worlds I have created. On that world I will cause to be placed certain beings having the ability to choose whether or not to admire my creation and adore my divinity. Your challenge will be to ensure that these beings are filled with your own attributes of truth, justice and order, so that their response to my work may be fair, honest and just.’

Ma’at looked into the infinity that her father had created. She examined the great groups of suns that spun and jostled and followed their paths through the blackness. She studied the myriad of worlds that floated in the sea of darkness. She sought a gathering of suns and worlds that would reflect the innate balance of her own nature.

Finally, after ages had passed she found a mass of twinkling lights in the shape of a double spiral. One arm of the spiral seemed to balance the other in the black void, as the pans of a beam scale balance each other. In one of the spiral’s arms she found a small orange sun that spurted and spluttered with her father’s energy. When she studied the worlds that paid obeisance to this sun she gasped at the beauty of what she had found. A beautiful blue-white sphere nestled in the blackness like a precious gem as it revolved around its orange sun.’

‘Ma’at looked closely at the beautiful sphere. It was shrouded in mist and clouds. It was a secret place where she could grapple with the challenge her father had given her.

‘Father, I have chosen.’ she whispered.

‘It is a strange choice, my daughter, for the world you have chosen is not large, nor does it occupy an important position among the stars. But the choice is yours and I will not dispute it.

I will now assign certain of my powers to you to enable you to fulfil the challenge that awaits you.’

The Complete One brought forward a divinity, a god tightly swaddled in a linen shroud with only his head and hands free. On his head he wore a blue skull-cap and in his hands he carried three staffs of divine power.

‘This is Ptah, the power of my word. Ptah will speak the words that will name everything. Once an object is named by him, it will exist. But Ptah is tightly bound so that he does not have the freedom to undertake anything other than that which is my wish.’

'The Complete One' then brought forward a second divinity.

‘This is Atum, the active power of my creation who will hear the words of Ptah and transform the words into reality. He is a mighty god, but he is constrained to keep his feet on the ground, for he may not roam anywhere he wishes without my permission.’

Atum stepped forward. He was a powerful deity with a well developed physique and strong arms. He wore a strange crown and carried the staff of transformation in his hand.

‘Finally I will place under your control the god called Harakhte. He has been given the one ability that both Ptah and Atum lack. He can fly anywhere and carry the word of Ptah and the active power of Atum wherever you require it to be applied.’

Harakhte was a god with the head of a bird and like the other two gods he carried a staff of power.

‘Go my daughter. Take my powers with you in the form of these three gods. Take them to the world you have chosen and do that which my challenge requires of you. Should you require my help or guidance merely call me and I will respond.’

And with those words, Ma’at and her three divine accomplices left the realm of 'The Complete One' and entered our world…’