Ancient Egyptian Worldview Expressions
Aesthetic empathy for the culture of ancient Egypt suggests
questions that fascinate us because of their contemporaneous
application. What balance did the citizens of Memphis strike
between representing life as it was and as they hoped it to be in
the after life? Did images and symbols express the worldview of all
classes, peasant as well as elite? The multitude of Egyptian
artifacts indicate that religion not only supported the culture but
also formed it.
Clifford Geertz has argued that humans are "symbolizing,
conceptualizing, meaning-seeking" creatures, and we have what the
Egyptians and all humanity possessed -- a drive "to make sense out
of experience, to give it form and order," a drive that is
"evidently as real and as pressing as the more familiar biological
needs." Individuals are unable to live in a world they do not
understand, so they are driven to establish meaning.1
Principles of Tomb Art
Unlike many other early civilizations, the Egyptians enjoyed
a stable climate which manifested few freak violent storms. The
environment also held few surprises, with a landscape most
remarkable for its regularity and monotony. Egyptian art reflects
the permanence and repetition which the artist saw all around. The
art of the Old Kingdom in particular displays the qualities of
assurance and serenity; coupled with high standards of technical
excellence, these attributes ensured that Old Kingdom art
approached the Egyptians' "concept of perfection." Traditions
became entrenched and successive generations sought to emulate the
style and, although there were superficial changes, there was no
attempt to discover new forms.
Apprentices continued to be trained on Old Kingdom models
and there was no desire to improve upon the work of earlier
artists. The artist worked to a set of principles imposed by
religious belief, and although high standards were required, there
was no expectation that someing imaginative or original be
produced. The achievement of the finest artists, produced within
the framework of religious principles, matches the achievements of
the masterpieces of other ages.
The artists were anonymous, working as members of a team who
constructed for the tomb-owner a magical substitute for the next
world. The tomb reliefs or statues were not placed there either to
beautify the building or to provide spiritual relief but to
preserve and sustain the existence of the tomb-owner by imitating
as effectively as possible certain aspects of his life. The artist
was a state official, employed to perform a task just like any
other technician, carpenter or stone mason.
In the Old Kingdom artists were employed by the king to equip
and decorate his tomb. They could be made available for this
purpose to other members of the royal family or favored nobles and
courtiers. Each individual specialized in an aspect of the work
under the supervision of a Master Artist.
The tomb-owner would select the series of scenes from
preliminary sketches on papyrus. The scenes were them transferred
to the tomb walls in ink. In the Old Kingdom, the most important
necropolises were near local quarries which produced excellent
stone. It was possible to use this to face the internal walls and
the artist could carve the scenes on it in low relief before he
applied paint. Later, in the New Kingdom, the main burial site at
Thebes did not have access to fine-quality limestone. So the scenes
were simply painted on top of the prepared wall surface.
The tomb of Ti at Saqqara is a good example of the typical
form and decoration of an elaborate Old Kingdom tomb. Ti was a
wealthy nobleman, favored by the king, and his tomb reflects this
privileged status. It consists of a columned courtyard with a
subterranean passageway leading to the inner chambers, an entrance
passage, and an offering chapel with an adjoining serdab where Ti's
statue was placed to look out through three slits in the wall on to
the food offerings. On the eastern panel in the passage of Ti's
tomb is a scene showing one of his statues being drawn along on a
sledge by seven men; another man runs ahead of the sledge and pours
a liquid under the runners to facilitate its passage. In the
Offering Chamber, a variety of activities are represented: on the
South Wall, at the east end, a large figure of Ti is shown seated
on a chair under which is his pet dog; he is accompanied by the
much smaller figure of his wife who sits on the ground and clasps
her husband's leg in a gesture of affection. The size of each
figure indicated the status of the individual.
Since it was believed that the representations could be
activitated and turned into reality, the figures always exhibited
certain peculiarities. Important persons were always represented as
youthful, without physical abnormality or imperfection, and with an
indistinguishable "idealized" face. Only the inscriptions
distinguish the individual and provide identity after death.
Expressions from Primary Myth
It is frequently discouraging to find that translations of
the Pyramid and Coffin Texts and of papyri called Book of the Dead
contain grammatically and lexicographically lucid passages, only to
be interspersed with sheer gibberish. The glosses provided by the
ancients show that they too were puzzled by this.
Tradition relates that a king of Upper Egypt named Menes
conquered Lower Egypt, and established a new capital city at
Memphis and founded a temple to Ptah, the creator god of Memphis.
Nearly all Egyptian primary myth can be related in one way or
another to these events. Existing primary myth was revised to
explain them and new myths were developed for the same purpose. So
major Egyptian myths are cosmogonical.
Most scholars assumed until very recently that the divine
kingship of the pharaoh was a cornerstone of Egyptian society and
critical to Egyptian achievements. The concept of divine kingship
is now being questioned by scholars who call attention to
differences in the degree of respect and devotion accorded to kings
Most of myth, however, bolsters the view of divine kingship.
The best-known and perhaps most important of early Egyptian primary
myths is the Heliopolitan Cosmogony.
Atun Kheprer, you have come to be high on the hill, you have arisen
on the Benben stone in the mansion of the Benben in On
(Heliopolis), you spat out Shu, you expectorated Tefnut,and you put
your two arms around them as the arms of a ka symbol, so that your
ka might be in them. O Atum, place your arms around the king,
around this construction, around this pyramid as the arms of a ka,
so that the King's ka may be in it, from forever and ever. O Atum,
place your protection over this king, over this pyramid of his,
over this edifice of the king, so that you may guard against
anything happening evilly against him forever and ever, just as
your protection was given Shu and Tefnut.
O great Ennead which is in On -- Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut,
Osiris, Isis, Seth, Nephthys -- offspring of Atum, extend his
goodwill to his child (the king) in your name of Nine Bows. Let his
back be turned from you toward Atum, so that he may protect this
king, so that he may protect this pyramid of the king, so that he
may protect this edifice of his from all the gods and from all the
dead, and so that he may guard against anything happening evilly
against him forever and ever.3
The many versions, some of which are recounted below in the brief
collection of Pyramid Texts, allow a reconstruction of the creation
story. Atum (the All or complete one) ejaculates out of himself Shu
(air, male) and Tefnut (moisture, female). Shu and Tefnut in turn
give birth to Geb (earth, male) and Nut (sky, female). In the next
generation Geb and Nut give birth to two sons and two daughters,
which leads to conflict. The conflict involves the two brothers
Seth and Osiris. Seth slays Osiris and dismembers his body
throughout Egypt. Isis, his sister-wife collects and reassembles
the parts of Osiris' body, and he is revived long enough to
engender a son and avenger, Horus, who fights with his uncle Seth
and loses an eye but eventually triumphs. Some examples of parts
of this myth illustrate the various relationships.
Spell 99 of the Book of the Dead provides an account for obtaining
a ferry-boat in the necropolis. The person who wishes transit must
know the name of the thing to have power over it. The narrative
illustrates the importance attached to the eye of Horus. Spell 17
of the Book of the Dead is the most important reference to the
I have filled the eye when it was injured on this day of the
conflict of the Two Rival Gods. What is that, the conflict of the
Two Rival Gods? That is the day on which Horus fought with Seth
when he wounded the face of Horus, when Horus seized the testacles
of Seth. It was Thoth who did this with his fingers.
Horus represents the reigning king, and the king of Egypt is
often called Horus. Typical of the complexity of myth, the avenger
Horus achieves a higher standing by being identified with an
originally separate falcon god who represents the sky. The sound
eye of Horus symbolizes the bright sun, and his injured eye, the
sky's weaker luminary, the moon.
Pyramid Text 1248-49
Atum is he who masturbated in On. He took his phallus in his grasp
that he might create orgasm by means of it, and so were born the
twins Shu and Tefnut. May they put the King between them.4
Pyramid Texts 1652-55
O Atum-Khoprer, you became high on the height, you rose up as the
bnbn-stone in the Mansion of the "Phoenix" in On, you spat out Shu,
you expectorated Tefnut, and you set your arms about them as the
arms of a ka symbol, that your essence might be in them. O Atum,
set your arms about the King, about this construction, and about
this pyramid as the arms of a ka symbol, that the King's essence
may be in it, enduring forever.
O Atum, set your protection over this King, over this pyramid of
his, and over this construction of the King, prevent anything from
happening evilly against it for ever, just as your protection was
set over Shu and Tefnut. O you Great Ennead which is in On -- Atum,
Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Seth, Nephthys; O you children
of Atum, extend his goodwill to his child in your name of Nine
Pyramid Texts 167-78
O Atum, this one here is your son Osiris whom you
have caused to be restored that he may live...
O Shu, this one here is your son Osiris...
O Tefnut, this one here is your son Osiris...
O Geb, this one here is your son Osiris...
O Nut, this one here is your son Osiris...
O Isis, this one here is your brother Osiris...
O Seth, this one here is your brother Osiris...
O Nephthys, this one here is your brother Osiris...
O Thoth, this one here is your brother Osiris...
O Horus, this one here is your father Osiris...
O Lesser Ennead, this one here is Osiris...
Pyramid Texts 1660-62
O you Great Ennead which is in On (Heliopolis), make the King's
(name) endure, make this pyramid for this King and this
construction of his endure forever, just as the name of Atum who
presides over the Great Ennead endures. As the name of Shu, Lord of
Upper Mnst in On, endures, so may the king's name endure, and so
may this pyramid of his and this construction of his endure
likewise for ever. As the name of Tefnut, Mistress of Lower Mnst in
Pyramid Texts 447-49
You have your offering-bread, O Atum and Ruti,
Who yourself created your godheads and your persons.
O Shu and Tefnut who made the gods,
Who begot the gods and established the gods:
Tell your father
That the King has propitiated you with your dues.
You shall not hinder the King
When he crosses to him at the horizon,
For the King knows him and knows his name;
"Eternal" is his name;
"The Eternal Lord of the Year" is his name.
Pyramid Text 552-53
I will not be thirsty by reason of Shu, I will not be hungry by
reason of Tefnut...
My hunger is from the hand of Shu, my thirst is from the hand of
Tefnut, but I live on the morning-bread which comes in due season.
I live on that whereon Shu lives, I eat of that whereof Tefnut
Pyramid Texts 1817-18
O Shu, you enclose for yourself all things within your embrace..
this Osiris the King; may you prevent him from escaping (from
you..._) of Atum, whose phallus is on you, that you may be
his ka; may you protect him....
Pyramid Texts 2065-67
Behold this King, his feet are kissed by the pure waters which
exist through Atum, which the phallus of Shu makes and which the
vagina of Tefnut creates. They have come and have brought to you
the pure waters with their father; they cleanse you and make you
divine, O King. You shall support the sky with your hand, you shall
lay down the earth with your foot....
Pyramid Text 1405
The earth is raised on high under the sky by your arms, O Tefnut,
and you have taken the hands of Ra...
Pyramid Text 1443
The face of the sky is washed, the celestial expanse is bright, the
god is given birth by the sky upon the arms of Shu and Tefnut, upon
Pyramid Text 1066
I am a man of Dendera. I have come from Dendera with Shu behind me,
Tefnut before me, and Wepwawet clad at my right hand.
Pyramid Texts 1466-69
The King's mother was pregnant with him, [even he] who was in the
Lower Sky, the King was fashioned by his father Atum before the sky
existed, before earth existed, before men existed, before the gods
were born, before death existed.... the King will not die because
of any dead, for the King is an Imperishable Star, son of the sky-goddess who dwells in the Mansion of Selket. Ra has taken this King
to himself to the sky so that this King may live, just as he who
enters in the west of the sky lives when he goes up in the east of
Pyramid Texts 841-45
O King, stand up, that you may be pure and that your ka may be
pure, for Horus has cleansed you with cold water. Your purity is
the purity of Shu; your purity is the purity of Tefnut; your purity
is the purity of the four house spirits whom they rejoice in Pe.
Be pure! Your mother Nut the great Protectress purifies you, she
protects you. "Take your head, gather your bones together," says
Geb. "The evil which is on this king is destroyed, the evil which
was on him is brought to an end," says Atum.
Pyramid Texts 2051-53
If the King be caused to be embalmed, the [female] Great One will
fall before the King, for the King's mother is Nut, the King's
(grand)father is Shu, the King's (grand)mother is Tefnut, they take
the King to the sky, to the sky, on the smoke of incense.
Pyramid Texts 1687-95
Go aboard this bark of Ra...in which Ra rows to the horizon, that
you may go aboard it as Ra; sit on this throne of Ra that you may
give orders to the gods, because you are Ra who came forth from Nut
who bears Ra daily, and you are born daily like Ra... "Who is like
him?" say the two great and mighty Enneads who preside over the
Souls of On. These two great and mighty gods who preside over the
Field of Rushes install you upon the throne of Horus as their
firstborn; they set Shu for you on your east side and Tefnut on
your west side, and Nu on your south side and Nenet on your north
side; they guide you to these fair and pure seats of theirs which
they made for Ra when they set him on their thrones.... Do not be
far removed from the gods, so that they may make for you this
utterance which they made for Ra-Atum who shines every day. They
will install you upon their thrones at the head of all the
Ennead(s) as Ra and as his representative. They will bring you into
being like Ra in this his name of Khoprer; you will draw near to
them like Ra in this his name of Ra; you will turn aside from their
faces like Ra in this his name of Atum.
Pyramid Texts 1773-74
The King passes the night, having daily mounted up to Ra, and the
shrine is opened for him when Ra shines. The King has ascended on
a cloud, he has descended [...] Mahet in the presence of Ra on that
day of the Festival of the First of the year.
Pyramid Text 524
He is stronger than they, when he appears upon his riverbank. Their
hearts fall to his fingers. They of the sky have their entrails,
they of the earth their red blood. Poverty has their inheritances,
the past their dwellings, a high Nile their gates. But he is glad
of heart, glad of heart, he, the Sole One, the Bull of the Sky. He
has put them to flight that did this to him, he has destroyed their
Pyramid Text 508
He that ascends, ascends! The mistress of Buto rejoices, and the
heart of her that dwells in El-Kab is dilated, on that day when he
ascends at the Place of Re. He has trampled for himself these your
rays into a ramp beneath his feet, that he may go up threon to his
mother, the living snake that is upon Re. She has compassion on
him, she gives him her breast, that he may suck it: "My son, O
king, take to thee this my breast and suck it, O king."
Pyramid Texts 1582-83
May you shine as Ra; repress wrongdoing, cause Mahet to stand
behind Ra, shine every day for him who is in the horizon of the
sky. Open the gates which are in the Abyss.
Pyramid Text 5
Recitation by Nut the great:... The King is my son of my
desire....All the gods say: Your father Shu knows that you love the
King more than your mother Tefnut.
Pyramid Texts 1353-54
Your water jar is firm... you are raised aloft on the hands of Shu
and Tefnut in the Mansion of Her who provides, O King, because you
are a spirit whom Nephthys suckeled with her left breast.
Pyramid Texts 2097-99
This King comes provided as a god, his bones knit together as
Osiris.... Your face is that of a jackal, your flesh is that of
Atum, your soul is within you, your power is about you, Isis is
before you and Nephthys is behind you, you encompass the Horite
Mounds and you go round about the Sethite Mounds, it is Shu and
Tefnut who guide you when you go forth from On.
The coffin texts were written on inside surfaces of wooden coffins
on behalf of patrician owners who had status and wealth. Like the
Pyramid Texts on which they are modeled, Coffin Texts are spells or
"strong prayers" that in the presence of death affirm life.
O you eight Chaos-gods, being truly Chaos-god of the two Chaos-gods, who encircle the sky with your arms, who gather together sky
and earth for Geb, Shu fashioned you in chaos, in the Abyss, in
darkness and in gloom, and he allots you to Geb and Nut, while Shu
is everlasting and Tefnut is eternity. I am the soul of Shu at the
head of the celestial kine, who ascends to heaven at his desire,
who descends to earth at his wish. Come joyfully at meeting the god
in me, for I am Shu whom Atum fashioned, and this garment of mine
is the air of life. A cry for me went forth from the mouth of Atum,
the air opened up upon my ways. It is I who make the sky lighten
after darkness, my pleasant color is due to the air which goes
forth after me from the mouth of Atum, and the storm-cloud of the
sky is my efflux; hail-storms and dusk are my sweat. (Spell 80)5
I [the deceased] indeed am Shu whom Atum created, whereby Ra came
into being; I was not built up in the womb, I was not knit together
in the egg, I was not conceived, but Atum spat me out in the
spittle of his mouth together with my sister Tefnut. She went up
after me, and I was covered with the breath of the throat. The
phoenix of Ra was that whereby Atum came into being in chaos, in
the Abyss, in darkness and in gloom. I am Shu, father of the gods,
and Atum once sent his Sole Eye seeking me and my sister Tefnut.
I am this soul of Shu which is in the flame of the fiery blast
which Atum kindled with his own hand. He created orgasm and fluid
fell from his mouth. He spat me out as Shu together with Tefnut,
who came forth after me as the great Ennead, the daughter of Atum,
who shines on the gods. (Spell 78)
In a number of Coffin Texts Isis is described announcing the
coming birth of Horus.
Making appearances as a Hawk.
The crocodile star trembles, the gods are afraid. Isis awakes,
pregnant with the seed of her brother Osiris. The woman arose,
being glad at heart because of the seed of her brother Osiris. She
said, Alas, O gods! I am Isis, the sister of Osiris, who weeps for
the father of the gods, Osiris, who ended the slaughter of the two
lands. His seed is within my body; I have shaped the form of a god
in the egg, like Geb who is front of Nut, who shall rule this land,
the inheritance of his grandfather Geb, who will speak on behalf of
his father, who will slaughter Seth, the enemy of his father
Osiris. Come, O gods, protect him within the womb. Know in your
hearts, this is your lord, this god who is in his egg; mighty is
the form of the lord of gods, they being great and beautiful while
their lapis lazuli shades fan them.
Rejoice! says Re-Atum. May your heart be satisfied, O woman. How do
you know he is a god, the lord of the inheritance of the gods? Are
you making him in the egg?
I am Isis, more glorious and august than all the gods. There is
a god within this my body. He is the seed of Osiris.
Re-Atum said, You are pregnant with, and I am hiding this boy
from the gods, this boy with whom you are pregnant and will bear.
This is indeed the seed of Osiris.6
I am Isis; I have gone forth from my house and my boat is at the
mooring rope; Horus ferries me over, Horus brings me to land."
Isis wakes pregnant with the seed of her brother Osiris. She is
uplifed (even she) the widow, and her heart is glad with the seed
of her brother Osiris. (Spell 148)
See Horus, you gods! I am Horus, the Falcon who is on the
battlements of the Mansion of Him whose name is hidden.... my place
is far from Seth, the enemy of my father Osiris. I have used the
roads of eternity to the dawn, I go up in my flight. (Spell 148)
In Coffin Text Spells 131 and 335 and elsewhere Seth is
mentioned as the god who brings on death. This attribution is based
on the myth in which Seth killed Osiris and by extension slew every
dying pharaoh from that time on. By further extension Seth became
the cause of death for other humans. So the twin sisters of Osiris,
Isis and Nephthys, provide encouragement:
Raise yourself, O my brother, so that your heart may live and that
Seth may not exalt over you. (Spell 74)
The soul of the ancient Egyptian could identify with the great soul
of Osiris. Ordinary folk focused their mysticism on the copulative
process and interpreted the union of Osiris and Isis as the God's
loving embrace of their own souls. They could think of themselves
as reborn from Isis: "I have issued from between the thighs of Isis
as Horus." (Spell 84) The proud Horus-soul could think of itself as
a "leader in eternity."
See Horus, you gods! I am Horus, the Falcon who is on the
battlements of the Mansion of Him whose name is hidden.... my place
is far from Seth, the enemy of my father Osiris. I have used the
rods of eternity to the dawn, I go up in my flight. (Spell 148)
The source for the system identified with the city of
Memphis is the famous Shabaka Stone from the eighth century B.C.E..
The name of the chief god was Ptah. Some scholars project the
Shabaka Stone testimony to the earliest stages of Egyptian history,
because Memphis was the first capital and was the home of Menes,
founder of the First Dynasty. But this would fail to account for
the symbol system developed at Heliopolis and the period of its
greatest influence during the time of the building of the great
pyramids (2494-2181 B.C.E.). During the reign of the Hyksos (1720-1540 B.C.E.) Heliopolis was considered dominant in Lower Egypt. So
a good estimate would be to take the reign of Tuthmosis I (1494-1482 B.C.E.) as the time of Shabaka Stone symbolism, which usurps
Heliopolitan theological claims.
Memphite priests introduced Ptah as prior to Atum and greater
in scope. Ptah absorbed himself into the chaotic mystery of Nun
that had been defined within the Helipolitan process of divine
procreation. Ptah-Nun generated Atum. The Stone (passage 53)
There came into being as the heart and there came into being as the
tongue [something] in the form of Atum.7
Notice the resonance of the creative source being heart and tongue,
and so the Word and Thought of the god.
The mighty Great One is Ptah, who transmitted [life to all gods],
as well as [to] their ka's, through his heart, by which Horus
became Ptah, and through his tongue, by which Thoth became Ptah.
(Thus) it happened that the heart and tongue gained control over
[every] (other) member of the body, by teaching that he is in every
body and in every mouth of all gods, all men, cattle, all creeping
things, and (everything) that lives, by thinking and commanding
everything that he wishes.... Indeed, all the divine order (every
word of the god) really came into being through what the heart
thought and the tongue commanded. Thus the ka spirits were made and
the hemsut spirits were appointed, they who make all provisions and
all nourishment, by this speech.
The Pharaoh could thus blend his thoughts and commands with those
of the supreme god and the royal claim to authority over the lives
of his subjects was absolute.
Shabaka Stone doctrine is important for two reasons. First,
it illustrates how Atum-oriented theogony became Ptah-oriented
theogony. Second, it shows a gradual transition from an orthodox
generative theogony to a cosmogony based on the creative divine
word, logos, or command of God. Mythologically the shift was from
an emphasis on an ejaculation metaphor to a spitting metaphor and
then to an emphasis on breath and vocalization as creative command.
Amun was the supreme deity and ushered in the "New Kingdom"
period. Amun's hegemony was interrupted briefly during the
fourteenth century B.C.E. by a reform instituted by pharaoh
Akhentaon (Amenhotep IV). This king hoped to institutionalize a
monotheism of the solar god Aton. The name of Aton as a sun god had
been known from the Twelfth Dynasty (1991-1786 B.C.E.). At the
king's new capital, Amarna, this kind of worship was established
and featured "ra" teaching restrictively. The closing stanza of the
pharaoh's Great Hymn to Aton exposes its rather narrow vision:
You are in my heart,
There is no other who knows you,
Only your son, Neferkheprure, Sole-one-of-Ra,
Whom you have taught your ways and your might.
[Those on] earth come from your hand as you made them,
When you have dawned they live,
When you set they die;
You yourself are lifetime, one lives by you.
All eyes are on [your] beauty until you set,
All labor ceases when you rest in the west;
When you rise you stir [everyone] for the King,
Every leg is on the move since you founded the earth.
You rouse them for your son who came from your body,
The King who lives by Maat, the Lord of crowns,
Akhenaten, great in his lifetime;
(And) the great Queen whom he loves, the Lady of the Two Lands.
Nefer-nefru-Aten Nefertiti, living forever.8
The religion and priesthood of Amun outlived Akhenaton's
attempt at a reformation. Amun doctrine is meaningfully expressed
in a papyrus preserved in the museum in Leiden that gives a good
picture of the thinking about the All-God in the New Kingdom
period. Amun, like other imperial gods of Egypt's past, accounted
for and embraced all reality. He was the growth of vegetation, the
one who drives away illness and evil, he hears the prayers of those
who call on him.
He who has given shape to himself, his form is unknown, that
beautifully shimmering (hue of) color which has become a radiant
but secret form, the one who gave shape to himself and who created
himself.....The eight gods were your initial manifestations. Before
then you alone were. Your body was made secret to the ancients,
you, who have hidden yourself as Amun, as the first among the gods.
You assumed the form of Tenen (primal Hill) to give shape to the
first gods of the primeval era.....The Ennead together, (the nine)
were in your members, and in your form were all gods united. Your
first form by which you have begun was Amun -- namely, he who hides
his name from the gods....When Ra arose in the sky, to rejuvenate
himself again, he (Amun) spat forth...to create Shu and Tefnut to
be joined.... Amun is one! (He) who hides himself from the
gods...whose nature is unknown....His nature is not recorded (or
displayed) in sacred writings; he cannot be described and taught.
He is too mysterious for his power to be revealed; he is too great
to be even asked about, too immense to be perceived. One would fall
dead suddenly, in fear, if one were to pronounce the god's
mysterious name, unknown to everyone. Not even a god can call him
by his name, the vital one, because his name is secret....Three are
all the gods, Amun, Ra, and Ptah. Aside from these is none. He who
hides his name behind (the word) "Amun" is Ra at his head, Ptah at
his body. His cities on earth are eternal: Thebes, Heliopolis, and
Memphis -- forever.9
The Ramesside tombs at Thebes contain many guidebooks for the
afterlife voyage with Re through the night. The literature from
this period consists mainly of narratives related to the Osiris-Seth-Horus episodes. The story of The Destruction of Mankind is an
example of these stories that happened to be copied on the walls of
several royal tombs.
Re, the god, who came into being by himself, when he was king of
humans and gods together. Then humankind plotted something in the
presence of Re. Now, his majesty (life, prosperity, health) was
old. His bones were of silver, his flesh of gold, and his hair of
real lapis lazuli.
Then his majesty perceived the things that were being plotted
against him by humankind. Then his majesty said to those who were
in his following: "Summon for me my Eye, also Shu, Tefnut, Geb, and
Nut, as well as the fathers and mothers who were with me when I was
in Nun, as well as my god Nun also, who brings his entourage with
him. You are to bring them secretly. Let humankind not see. Let
their hearts not flee...."
Then these gods were brought in....
Then Re said to Nun: "O eldest god, from whom I came into being,
O ancestor gods, humankind, which came into being from my Eye, has
plotted things against me. Tell me what you would do about it. I am
seeking, I cannot slaughter them until I hear what you say about
Then the majesty of Nun said: "My son, Re, the god greater than
he who made him and mightier than they who created him, sitting on
your throne, the fear of you is great when your Eye is against
those who scheme against you...."
Then they said..."Cause your Eye to go that it may catch for you
those who scheme evilly. The Eye is not foremost in it in order to
smite them for you. Let it go down as Hathor."
Then this goddess came and slaughtered humankind in the desert.
Then the majesty of this god said: "Welcome in peace, Hathor, who
did for me the deed for which I came."
Then the goddess said: "As you live for me, I have prevailed over
humankind, and it is pleasant in my heart."
Then the majesty of this god said: "Go to Elephantine and bring
me hematite abundantly." ...Moreover, maidservants crushed barley
to make beer, then this hematite was added to this mash. It was
like the blood of humankind. Then seven thousand jars of the beer
were made and the majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Re,
came together with these gods to see this beer....
Then the majesty of Re said:"How good it is! I shall protect
humankind with it." ... "Please carry it to the place in which she
expected to slay humankind." Then the majesty of the King Dead, or Going Forth by Day.
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