Egyptian Myths and Legends
Egyptian creation stories tell of several variations of how the
world was composed. According to one variation, the ocean was the only thing
in existence. Then the sun, Ra, came out of an egg (or a flower in some
versions) that appeared on the surface of the water. Ra created four
children. They were the gods Shu and Geb and the goddesses Tefnut and Nut.
Shu and Tefnut became the air, who stood on Geb, the earth, and held up Nut,
who became the sky. Ra ruled over all.
It was not uncommon for siblings to have children in ancient Egypt,
and Geb and Nut had two sons, Set and Osiris, and two daughters, Isis and
Nephthys. Osiris succeeded Ra as the king of the earth, helped by Isis.
However, Set hated his brother out of jealousy and killed him. Isis embalmed
Osiris' body with the aid of the god Anubis, who then became the god of
embalming. Isis then resurrected Osiris, and he became the god of the
afterlife and the land of the dead. Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, later
defeated Set in an immense battle and became king of the earth.
Another version tells that Ra emerged from primeval waters. From him came
Shu, the god of air and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. From their union
came Geb and Nut, who held the same positions as the above version.
Yet another version tells that Ra became the god of the afterlife, but was
The ancient Egyptian theology dealt with hundreds of deities. These gods
changed during the different dynasties and their importance depended on the
views of the rulers of the kingdom.
The Egyptians worshipped their gods at temples, and each was dedicated to a
particular god. A statue of the god stood in the center of these temples.
Every day, priests would clean and dress the statue and offer it meals
before the worshipping ceremonies took place.
Ra means "creator." He is or was for a time, in nearly all accounts of
Egyptian mythology, the supreme god. He was "the father of the gods, the
fashioner of men, the creator of cattle, the lord of all being". He is the
god of the sun in most of these accounts and is shown as a man with a
falcon's head. He carries a staff and the symbol for life, the ankh. The
symbol of the sun, also known as the solar disc, is above his head. Despite
the fact that he was a very important figure to Egyptians, he had few
temples dedicated to him. This was because of the fact that his importance
was reflected in all other worshipping rituals. The pharaohs named
themselves as sons of Ra.
The passage of the sun across the sky obviously fascinated the Egyptians
and from it rose many metaphors. At dawn the sun was regarded as a newborn
child emerging from the womb of Nut. The sun was also associated with a
falcon flying across the midday sun, thus Ra's appearance. He could also be
a boat sailing across the great blue sea of the heavens. At dusk he was an
old man stepping down to the land of the dead.