The Ennead of Heliopolis



The Ennead is a group of nine gods and goddesses in the Egyptian mythology topped by Ra, the Chief sun god. Before life, the whole universe was nothing but a huge dismal sea and all the gods and goddesses were living in chaos and darkness. Then Ra broke forth from the water to be the first creature on earth. After coming out of the primeval water, Ra masturbated in On, the high sand, and then he took his phallus in his grasp to create orgasm of it. After putting the seeds of his sons in his mouth, Ra spat them and managed to create Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of mist. As soon as Shu and Tefnut reached the surface of earth, its darkness was replaced with light and Ra's loneliness was replaced with the companionship of the other couple. After creating Shu and Tefnut, Ra sent his eye to see them and when the eye came back she found another eye taking her place and this enraged her. To please the first eye, Ra gave her more power than the second one by making her the solar eye, the eye of the sun, and surrounded her with a cobra that defends on him and fights his enemies, while the other eye was regarded as the lunar eye. Thus the symbol of the Cobra was usually placed on the king's crown as a source of protection. The creation of the mortal men and women was the second step after the creation of Shu and Tefnut and the outcome of Ra's weeping out of joy for seeing his son and daughter. When Shu and Tefnut joined together, they created the god of earth who was named Geb and the goddess of the Sky, named as Nut, who were the fathers of the numerous gods and goddesses. As paintings on the walls of the temples Shu was standing between Geb and Nut separating heavens from earth.

The Sun God Ra

Ra in the Ancient Egyptian Mythology was regarded as the Sun god and the father of the Great Ennead who has a supreme power over the other gods and goddesses. He is believed to be the creator of the whole universe and the people who inhabit it and he travels daily through the sky imparting light and warmth over the people of earth and at the end of the day he goes to the underworld of the dead and comes again in the next morning. The people believed that the sun god and sails in a boat that can sail in the water of Nun at night and fly in the day hours. The return of the sun in the next morning represents the victory of Ra over the darkness which makes all the people enjoy happiness. There were many forms for the sun god differs by the difference of the time: Ra, Atun, and Khepri and they set in the center of the boat and Horus is the steersman during this daily voyage. There were two boats in the ancient Egyptian mythology: firstly, Matet that means becoming stronger and was the one that flies through the skies in the morning, secondly, Semket that means becoming weaker and was the boat of the night. There are some spells in the Book of the Dead that praises the magnitude power of Ra who manages to travel through out the universe, the journey that needs thousands of years in the few hours of the day. During this journey there were many other gods and goddesses that were accompanying the boat of the sun god including Thuth, the god of wisdom, and Maat, the goddess of truth. There were also some mythical creatures such as the two fishes Abtu and Ant who were leading the boat during its journey in the dismal sea. In addition, deceased king was usually presented among the crew of the boat setting at the bow of it and holding the records of Ra and doing what is required from him. According to the ancient Egyptian mythology, the dead souls were usually accompanying the boat of the sun god during the journey at night and thus Nehbaka, the goddess of the matter revivified that was responsible for pleasing and satisfying these dead souls.
The boat of the night was usually setting of from the mountains of sunset called Manu. The myth says that the solar boat was usually attacked by the enemies of Ra including Sebau, the legion of the devils, and Apophis who represented in the form of a serpent and was regarded as the major enemy of Ra who threatens the stability of the whole universe. In spite of that Ra and the other wise and powerful companions were usually able to defeat those enemies and the solar boat reaches its shore safely every day. The ancient Egyptian's justification for the natural phenomene such as the mist and the eclipses and so was that these are the weapons of Apophis uses in order to prevent the sun form rising in the morning, but thanks to the beams of the sun and the scorpions that stink Apophis till he goes far away from the ship. When Apophis escapes his form turns to a black cat that is admired for its agility. There are numerous inscriptions on the walls of the temples demonstrating the torture of Apophis every night by knives, spears and so and also the night was associated with blood as a symbol for the flowing blood that streams of wounds of Apophis. There were many names for Apophis and this was one of the factors that make the mission of the crew of the solar boat more difficult and make the poor dead souls a victim for that vicious enemy. This problem was solved by writing all the names of Apophis in a papyri and placing it with the dead people in order to be able to help Ra to overcome the wickedness of that enemy. The return of the sun every morning was regarded as a clear evidence on the mighty of Ra who has the power of traveling all that long journey in that short time and also the ability to defeat his enemies at night.
The eye of Ra is one of the famous myths in the ancient Egyptian mythology. It was believed that Ra has a solar eye, surrounded by a cobra, and a lunar eye. One of the myths of the battle of Horus and Seth says that Seth managed to capture the lunar eye of Ra and through it out of the boarders of the world and this caused its destruction. Then it was restored by Thuth, who plays a great role in the adventures of Horus and Isis and Osiris, and was known as wedjat.
There are many myths that highlight the idea that Ra grew old and became weary of rising every morning and traveling through the world in his solar boat and serving the mortal people on earth. At that time he was supposed to make his sons and grandsons who are mentioned in the Great Ennead responsible for some of these missions. One of the most interesting myths about Ra in that part of his life appears on the walls of the tomb of Seti I next to Luxor. Some parts of the inscription of this myth are removed but the scholars managed to complete the story by their own speculations and it highlight the form of Nut as a cow carrying Ra on her back. These inscriptions that date back to the 19th dynasty are depicting Nut as a cow carrying Ra on her back and supported by Shu her father. This myth says that Ra repined to Nun from the weariness of his life and she tried to help him by asking Nut, the goddess of the sky, to appear as a cow and carry Ra on its back. Nut became responsible for carrying Ra forever and when she got tired and her limbs were trembling he charged her father Shu, the god of air, to support her. When the people of earth saw what happened to Ra because of their negligence for him, they prepared an army and decided to fight against his enemies. Ra was satisfied with their attempts and forgave them for all their earlier sins. Ra began to charge the other gods and goddesses such as Geb and Thuth and others with some of his daily chores to lessen the daily pressures upon him. He asked Geb, the god of earth, to protect the mortal people form his enemies who are the serpents. He also made Thuth, the god of wisdom, his assistant at that time, and commanded him to register what he plans for and the punishment that he intends to do with those enemies.
 

The God of the Air, Shu

Shu is the god of air in the ancient Egyptian mythology and the father of Nut the god of the sky that he was usually embodied supporting her with his hand, and Geb the god of earth. He was presented in a human shape and distinguished by the huge but light ostrich feather covering his head. Shu is described in the Coffin Texts as the brother of Tefnut and the first god that Ra created in the same day of his own creation. There are many myths explaining the way in which Ra managed to create Shu and Tefnut with out a companion and some other myths saying that Shu was the son of Hathor or Lusaset. Shu was regarded as the companion and assistant of Ra since he is the dawn breeze that paves the way for the sun to come to the universe. People believed that he is the one who managed to demolish the darkness of the world and make it a suitable place for the mortal men and women to live in.

 The Godess of Humidity, Tefnut

Tefnut was known as the goddess of mist and the sister of Shu. Tefnut and Shu were the parents of Nut, the goddess of the sky, and Gab, the god of the earth. She is depicted on the walls of the temples either as a woman with the head of a lioness carrying the solar disk surrounded by the cobra over her head, or as a lioness only, or as an ordinary woman with the solar disk surrounded by the cobra over her head. She is also presented as one of the gods who stand while weighing the heart of the dead person in front of Thuth and Anubis as it is indicated in the papyrus of Ani and Hunefer. Tefnut was the heroine of an interesting myth of "the return of the eye of Ra". In the myth of the creation of the sun and the moon, When Ra created Shu and Tefnut he sent his eye to watch them. When his eye finished her mission she found another eye taking her place and this enraged her. To placate her, Ra made one of his two eyes the solar eye that appears as a cobra fighting his enemies and the other one the lunar eye. Tefnut was associated with the lunar eye of Ra in many myths.
As it is indicated on the walls of the temple of Edfu and Dandara, for some reasons Tefnut got angry from her father to the extent that she left him and took the form of a lioness that terrifies the humans and animals in Nubia and lives on their flesh and blood. She became very destructive and wild due to living in this uncivilized environment. Ra decided to reconcile his daughter and make use of her power in protecting himself against his enemies and thus he sent Thuth and Shu to bring her back to the civilized environment of Egypt. Thuth convinced her of returning to Egypt where she would lead a prosperous life and find people who dignify her and present sacrifices for her. The return of Tefnut, the eye of Ra, was a great occasion that was remarkably celebrated by as it is presented on the wall of the temples. After coming to the civilized Egypt, she regained her kindness and gentility. The major theme of this myth is that people who live in civilized environment behave in a more gentle, tolerant and respectful way than those who live in the jungles and savage areas.

The God of the Earth, Geb

Geb is the god of earth in the ancient Egyptian mythology and the son of Tefnut and Shu. According to what is mentioned in mythology, Geb was created in order to make Ra's life happier and livelier. He was responsible for the living creatures on the surface of the earth and the dead bodies that are buried in the underworld. In many papyruses, he is presented as one of the gods who stand while weighing the heart of the dead person in front of Thuth and Anubis. Geb was always embodied as a man with the white crown of Lower Egypt or a goose over his head, and the goose was used as a symbol for him. His statue can be seen in the temple in Dandara and it is probable that he was one of the gods in Heliopolis. There was another gilded wooden statue for him in the tomb of Tutankhamun that was used as a means of protection of the king. One of the myths says that Ra charged Geb of drawing the dangerous snakes who were causing many problems from their holes in the earth and it is highly assumed that Geb managed to fulfill this mission using some spells and rituals. Geb was the father of Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys who were powerful gods. One of the spells highlight that Geb entrusted Osiris with the rule of earth and supported him to overcome his vicious enemies as it is indicated in the Pyramid Texts. It is recorded also that, to put an end for the conflict between Geb's elder son Horus and his brother Seth, Geb made Horus the ruler of Upper Egypt and Seth the ruler of Lower Egypt.

 The Godess of the Sky, Nut

Nut is the goddess of the sky and the daughter of Shu in the ancient Egyptian mythology. In the Pyramids Text, Nut is described as a very beautiful and powerful goddess who surmounts the whole earth with her arms and who is held by the hands of her loving father Shu. Nut is the heroin of many myths that talk about her protective power for both men and gods and her nature as the mother of many powerful gods and was known as "the great protectoress". Nut was depicted on the ceiling of the temple in Dandara and the tomb of Ramsses VI in Luxor as a beautiful woman with very tall arms, large breast and detailed anatomy. Some times she appears wearing a water vase and other times she was pictured pouring water of purification over the deceased souls. Nut is one of the most remarkable members of the Ennead who was mentioned in a large number of myths. One of the most famous myths about her is the one that says that the sun rolls over its body throughout the hours of the day in the solar boat until it reaches its mouth at the end of the day where she eats it and then gives it birth the morning. There is another myth that highlight that Geb was dissatisfied with the idea of eating her sons at the end of every day, but Nut insisted on doing that as a means of protection for them.

Nut as Hathor

Of special interest is the myth that highlights the role that Nut played when Ra was suffering from some problems with the inhabitants of earth when he escaped the anger of the people over the back of Nut in her cow goddess shape. Thus one can see Nut depicted as a cow goddess over the walls of the temples, while the solar sun is placed next to her front legs.

The Curse of Nut

The myth tells that Ra cursed Nut whom he regarded as his wife, for her love affair with Geb. The curse was depriving her from the ability of giving birth in any of the days of the solar year. Nut asked Thuth, the god of wisdom, for help and he managed to win one seventy-second part of every day while playing with the moon at draughts. The total of the days that Thuth won was five days and he added them to the days of the solar year to become 365 days instead of 360 only. During these five days, the curse of Ra was not applied on Nut. Thus she managed to give birth of her son Osiris or the god of the dead in the first year, the Elder Horus in the second, Seth in the third, Isis in the fourth and Nephthys in the fifth. In this way the nine gods were born and this justifies the reason for regarding Nut as the Great Mother in some myths.

The Godess of Mystery and Magic, Isis

Isis is one of the most prominent and admired ancient Egyptian goddesses who was known as the daughter of Geb and Nut and the sister and wife of Osiris. She was called the Great Mother or the mother of universe due to her great sacrifice and suffer she bore in order to protect her son Horus from his vicious uncle Seth who was plotting to kill him after killing his father. There is a lament song that highlights her great love and loyalty for her husband Osiris and the unbearable burdens she bore in order to gather the pieces of his body and to protect his son. She is presented in the Book of the Dead standing with Nephthys, her sister, behind Osiris to help him as the chief god of the dead and she is supposed to be the goddess of grains who assists her husband the god of grains since she was usually associated with the Nile. The drawings on the walls of the Temple of Phiala, one of the major temples for worshiping Isis, present her feeding Horus and others depict Thuth presenting gifts for her and her son.
Isis appears also on the wall paintings in the temple of Luxor protecting Khnum who is molding a child on his potter's wheel in the Birth Room. More paintings, amulets and statues for her were found in the temple of Seti I and also in Tutankhamun tomb. The myth of Isis has some points of contradictions in her attitudes. The most shocking thing is her attitude towards Seth since she sympathized with him and helped him to escape from the hands of Horus in spite of killing her husband and being the reason for all her suffer. Moreover, it is explained that she made her grandfather Ra suffer a lot in order to gain more power to be able to achieve her own goal and that she gained some magical power by the help of Thuth and used them with both her enemies and friends. In addition, her anguish for Osiris death caused the death of the sons of the king of Byblos who tried to protect and help her.

The Knot of Isis

The Knot of Isis was a stylized representation of the genitals of Isis and was always made of red stone. Almost every woman carried this amulet in order to be granted all of Isis’s wisdom and knowledge. When Isis was shown clutching the Papyrus Scepter (described below), the amulet would contain a green stone and served as a fertility charm. Placed on the throat or on the chest in row of gods.

The God of The Hereafter, Osiris

Osiris is on of the most famous ancient Egyptian gods who was considered the eldest son of Nut and Geb and the father of Horus the younger. He was regarded as the chief god of the underworld and revival who states the final judgment on the dead souls and Anubis was his assistant who was in charge of preparing the body before standing in the hands of Osiris. The people believed that he has the power of resurrection and fertility and that the Nile is his deathbed. There are a lot of information about Osiris way of treating the recently dead souls in the Book of the Dead, the Coffin Texts, and the Pyramid Texts. Osiris is described in the Book of the Dead as the lord of immortality, the heir of the North and South of the earth, the prince of gods and humans, and the Lord of Mendes and ruler in Abydos. In the prehistoric period, Osiris was regarded as the god of fertility and it is recorded that the crook and the flail in his hand resulted from his association with Anedjti who was the major god of Delta village of Busiris in that time.
After unifying the gods of Egypt, Osiris was regarded as the chief god of the underworld but he was also depicted as a man holding the crook and the flail remained and Abydos was the center of his worship. Osiris was worshiped in several temples and his statue appears in the drawings on the walls of Upper Egypt temples such as the temples of Dendera and Philae. He was usually depicted as a man wearing a beard, catching a crook and a flail in his hand and wearing the Mummy's white dress, and with a white crown of Lower Egypt and some times a white crown and two plumes over his head. Most of the scenes that depict Osiris present him topping the throne of Maat or setting on a throne floating on water.

The Assassination of Osiris

The famous myth of Osiris is narrated in details in the Pyramids Texts. It tells that Osiris was assassinated by his brother Seth who was jealous of him because of his great power that enables him to serve the mortal humans and grow the grains. Seth put the body of Osiris in a coffin and sent it away. After a long journey of suffer, Isis managed to find the body of her husband and the father of her son Horus but Seth cut the body into pieces and thrown each one in an area of the earth. Isis looked for the pieces of Osiris's body and gathered them and by the help of Thuth and Anubis she wrapped him in the Mummy's clothes. When Horus grew up he took his revenge and put an end for his uncle's viciousness.

 The God of The Uncontrolled Power, Seth

Seth plays the role of the antagonist of the good gods or the villain in the ancient Egyptian mythology who was always defeated at the end of every battle in spite of his great stregnth. He was known as the god of storms and winds and was often connected to the desert that was a symbol for the death place. He was the husband of Nephthys and the father of Anubis, the jackal-headed god of death, but his wife was supporting Isis against him. In the early period he was worshiped by the people of Upper Egypt who regarded him as the beneficent god who helps the dead and the protector of the solar boat who walks before it and attacks Apophis. Seth was often depicted as a man with the head of an animal and a forked tail in his back and other times as an animal and always colored in red. Most of the time one finds it associated with serpent, crocodile, ass, pig, and fish. The only kind of sacrifice that was presented to him was the red oxen. Seth occupied a good position in the 19th and 20th dynasty and this is clear from the paintings on the walls of the Valley of the Kings in which he appears learning Thothmes III how to use the arrow and the bow.
Most of Seth's statues have been destroyed by the passage of time, but there is still a statue in Cairo Museum that presents both Seth and Horus crowning Ramesses III, and some drawings in Kom Ombo, and at Edfu that narrates the story of his war against his nephew Horus. Seth villainy was motivated by his jealousy from his brother who was the god of corn and vegetation that made him puts his brother in a coffin and sends him to an unknown place till his death. And when his wife Isis, who suffered a lot in her attempts for protecting her son from Seth, found the body he cut it into pieces. When his nephew Horus grew up, he managed to defeat him and all the temples that were built for the worship of Seth were destroyed by the order of Horus. Seth is described in the book of the dead as a god with vicious nature since his birth and there are many myths that highlight his villainy. For Instance, when he united with Apophis, the enemy of Ra whom he was responsible for attacking, and began to attack the solar boat in order not to prevent the sun from coming to the world in the morning using his weapons including clouds, mists, rains, and darkness.
There are other information about the battles between the good gods like Ra and Thuth against Seth and he was usually defeated at the end. Of special interest is the myth narrated by Herodotus highlighting the power of Seth where he says that one day Seth went to visit his mother Nut in her temple after being away for a long time but the guards prevented him from entering because they did not know him. This enraged him to the extent that he equipped an army and destroyed the walls of the temple. Then a group of priests wanted to place a golden statue for Seth inside the temple, but other group of priests prevented them and they quarreled together and some of them were killed. Herodotus says that this was a mock battle that was planned as a part of a religious festival.

The Good Sister, Nephthys

Nephthys is a minor goddess of the Ennead that was known as the wife of Seth and the mother of Anubis the Jackal-headed god of death in the ancient Egyptian mythology. There is no reference that highlights that she was once worshiped in any place in Egypt. Yet she played a great role in the worship of Osiris. Nephthys was usually embodied as a woman of a headdress with handsome hieroglyphic inscriptions of her name and some signs that describe her as the Lady of the House. Most of her depictions present her with her sister Isis such as those in the Seti I and Ramsses III. Those two sisters were always presented as two faces of the same coin since Nephthys was a symbol for death and decay and was associated to darkness, while Isis was a symbol for life and associated with day and light. Some carvings also present a picture of her standing with her sister behind Osiris and the Book of Dead explains that she supported Isis in collecting the parts of Osiris' body and his rebirth. As it is recorded in some vignettes, Nephthys accompanied by other goddesses was responsible for guarding the organs of the dead people. She is one of the four goddesses that appear guarding the funeral chests of Tutankhamun in the Egyptian museum now and also on shepenkhonsu's mummy catonnage. One of the rare but interesting myths in which Nephthys played a major role is the myth of the secret love affair between Osiris and her that was discovered by her husband Seth. Due to this, it was suspected that Anubis was the son of Seth.

Nephthys Amulet

Nephthys was the sister, and helper, of Isis and Osiris and the sister-wife of Seth. She was a protective goddess and protected the dead just as she protected Horus. She is shown wearing a headdress of the hieroglyph sign of her name, Nbt-hwt Placed on the chest or stomach.





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