Monday, April 09, 2007

The Heliopolis Ennead Through The Fifth Dynasty

Photograph of the Obelisk at Heliopolis by Zbigniew Kosc.

In the beginning Atum begat himself. He was a hermaphrodite, but almost always depicted and referred to as a he. He rose from Nu atop a benben, a mound of earth, of which only the topmost hill showed above the primordial water. Atum resided near the acacia tree of life. The oldest acacia tree, just north of Heliopolis, was therefore considered the birthplace of the gods. Being bored, he masturbated and swallowed his own semen, thus creating Shu, god of the air, and Tefnut, goddess of moistness – water and fertility. (This is why Ayurvedic medicine sees the babul, bark, of the acacia as a treatment for premature ejaculation.) Shu and Tefnut then created Geb, god of the earth, and Nut, goddess of sky. Geb and Nut originally engaged in continuous copulation before their father Shu separated them. They begat Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nepthys.

Osiris: the god of the underworld and death. Married to Isis. Sterile because he is the god of death.

Isis: the goddess of the underworld, magic, and life/birth. She is the deification of the wife of Pharaoh.

Set: god of the desert and hence storms, strength and lower Egypt. Married to Nepthys. Sterile because he is the god of the desert.

Nepthys – a complex goddess to say the least: goddess of mortuary rites, known for providing divine assistance and being a ferocious protector and a nursing mother. She is linked with the Sacred Bennu Bird, the Phoenix. She is youthful and beautiful herself, though her sister Isis is the goddess of youth. She is an obstacle the Pharaoh must overcome to attain life in the afterlife.

Later, at the end of the Old Kingdom (2134 BC), Shu and Tefnet argued and Tefnet left Egypt for Nubia. Shu missed her but she changed herself into a lioness and killed anyone who got close. Thus she became the goddess of war and the flood lands of the Nile shrunk.

She did not return until the Ogdoad beliefs were integrated into the Ennead, allowing Thoth to disguise himself and convince her to return. Also created by the melding of Ogdoad and Ennead is the Myth-Cycle of Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Set.

Thoth: judge or mediating power. Created science and writing. Established the 365 day calendar by gambling Khonsu, the moon, and winning 1/72nd of her power to add five days, 1/72nd of 360, to the calendar year. Later became associated with magic.

Also later: Set became associated with evil after the Second Intermediate Period because the Hyksos, foreign rulers, picked him as their patron deity.

A pyramidion, the top stone of a pyramid and also a funerary marker like a tombstone, was called a benbenet, symbolizing the arising of life through death and the passage into the afterlife. Obelisks are also representations of the benben.

If you cannot tell, Egyptian Ennead mythology and folklore is about reconciling opposites.

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