Osiris and isis

Sun King mythology III: Solar deities of Ancient Egypt

As noted in Part I and Part II, Sun gods and Sun goddesses are found throughout the ancient world, and there are certain commonalities between them, though each has its own character and complexity. It’s clear that the way “The Sun” aka “The Son” is seen in this Game can be traced, one way or another, to Ancient Egypt. While various mythologies come into play with the Game, for our purposes, Ancient Egyptian mythology, specifically the epic battle between Set and his nephew Horus, seems to be most important.

Egyptian Sun mythology

Ancient Egypt was a civilization spanning about 3,000 years. Over that period of time, and because the Ancient Egyptian worldview was “multi-layered” (Oxford Guide to Egyptian Mythology 2003 p 106), interrelated deities morphed and mingled making it pretty difficult to do a superficial survey and make generalizations. Nonetheless, I’m going to try. Wikipedia is really handy here because of the checks and balances built in, because there is a consistency of how information is presented, and because of the footnotes which would enable a person to go to primary sources when necessary. Anyone who can, should really consider donating to Wikipedia.

Egyptian sun or sun-related deities include Atum, Aten, Ra, Horus, Isis, Nut, and Sekhmet.

Atum

tomb painting of Atum with Sekhmet behind him
Atum with lion-headed goddess Sekhmet behind him
Atum is the first god, a self-created god, and according to Egyptian Book of the Dead, ascended from chaos-waters with the appearance of a snake, the animal renewing itself every morning.

A product of the energy and matter contained in this chaos, he created his children, the first deities, out of loneliness. He produced from his own sneeze… Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. The brother and sister, curious about the primeval waters that surrounded them, went to explore the waters and disappeared into the darkness. Unable to bear his loss, Atum sent a fiery messenger, the Eye of Ra, to find his children. The tears of joy he shed on their return were the first human beings. (Wikipeida: Atum)

Atum is often portrayed wearing a red and white crown symbolizing Lower Egypt (with its capitol at Memphis) and Upper Egypt (with its capitol at Tanis) respectively. The cult of Atum was centered in Heliopolis (“City of the Sun”) and the largest surviving monument in Heliopolis is the Al-Masalla obelisk erected by Senusret I of the Twelfth dynasty (about 2,000 B.C.). It is a 120 ton 68 foot obelisk.

Al Masalla Obelisk - Heliopolis

Aten

Aten is the “sun disk” or “sun sphere.” It is often portrayed with “rays” that seem to be arms with hands at the end.

Aten - Sun disc - looks like a disc with rays, hands at the end of each ray

The following Aten warms with 19 rays.
Aten 19 rays

Ra

Ra
Ra
It’s not clear to me if Ra – who later merged with Horus – is a later version of Atum, or a seperate but related God. Ra was assocaited with falcons, hawks, and the midday sun. He ruled the sky, earth, and underworld.

Ra was also assocaited with bulls and cattle. The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, had its centre in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city.

Mnevis bull

Sekhmet

Sekhmet is a solar deity with the head of a lion. She is associated with Hathor and cat-headed goddess Bast. Sekhmet is a powerful warrior goddess and protector of Pharaohs. In the myth of the Celestial Cow, mankind plotted against Ra causing him to send his eye as the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet to punish them. When Sekhmet becomes bloodthirsty and threatens to devour all of humankind, Ra serves her beer mixed with red dye obtained from ELEPHANTine Island. Mistaking the beer for blood, Sekhmet consumes enough to become drunk, at which point Ra transforms her into Hathor, goddess of love.

Sekhmet
Sekhmet
Hathor
Hathor

Hathor

Hathor, aka “Mistress of the West,” is the sky goddess. She is also goddess of music, dance, foreign lands, fertility, and patron goddess of mining. Sometimes she is a tree diety, Lady of the Sycamore. She is also known as the “cow goddess” and her headdress is a sun disc with Uraeus (a stylized cobra / serpent) between two cow horns. She is associated with the milky way which was seen as a river or “Nile in the Sky” where the sun and moon sail. She is associated with Bat (cow goddess) and Bast (cat goddess).

Hathor is the wife of Horus. Sometimes she is the mother, sometimes the daughter, of Ra. Sometimes she is the Eye of Ra.

Eye of Ra

The Eye of Ra or Eye of Re is a being in ancient Egyptian mythology that functions as a feminine counterpart to the sun god Ra and a violent force that subdues his enemies. The Eye is an extension of Ra’s power, equated with the disk of the sun, but it also behaves as an independent entity, which can be personified by a wide variety of Egyptian goddesses, including Hathor, Sekhmet, Bastet, Wadjet, and Mut. The Eye goddess acts as mother, sibling, consort, and daughter of the sun god. She is his partner in the creative cycle in which he begets the renewed form of himself that is born at dawn. The Eye’s violent aspect defends Ra against the agents of disorder that threaten his rule. This dangerous aspect of the Eye goddess is often represented by a lioness or by the cobra, a symbol of protection and royal authority. The Eye of Ra is similar to the Eye of Horus, which belongs to a different god, Horus, but represents many of the same concepts. (Wikipedia: Eye of Ra)

Nut

Nut is the goddess of the sky. She was seen as a star-covered nude woman arching over the earth, or as a cow. Her headdress is a pot. She is associated with ladders used to ascend into heaven.

Nut solar boat
Nut arches over solar boat

Bast

BastBast is the cat-headed lioness goddess, goddess of cats, protection, joy, dance, music, and love. She is depicted carrying a sacred rattle and a box or basket. As a protector of the solar diety, Ra, she is called Lady of Flame and Eye of Ra.

Isis

IsisIsis, mother of Horus, is “the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden, but she also listened to the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats and rulers” (Wikipedia: Isis) The name Isis means “throne” and she is depicted with a throne on her head, and holding a staff and ankh. The pharoah is depicted as her child, sitting on the throne that she provides. Isis’ brother and husband is Osiris.

Osiris

OsirisOsiris is the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is depicted with green, or sometimes black skin, a pharoah’s beard, and an ostritch feather on each side of his crown. He holds a crook in one hand and a flail in the other. His legs are wrapped, or partially wrapped, like a mummy. He is the husband of Isis and father of Horus.

Horus

HorusThe earliest depictions of Horus were in Nekhen, an early capitol of Upper Egypt. Horus is the sky god, and the god of war and hunting.

Portrayed as “Horus the Younger” he is a naked boy with a finger at his mouth. His mother is Isis.

Portrayed as “Horus the Elder,” he is the god of light, and is portrayed as a falcon with outstretched wings, or a man with the head of a falcon, who’s right eye is the sun, and left eye the moon. His wife is Hathor.

Four Sons of Horus
Four Sons of Horus

Horus has four sons who are associated with stars and with canopic jars used to protect the organs of mummified pharaohs. They are: Imsety (has the head of a human, associated with the south, and protects the liver), Duamutef (has the head of a jackal, associated with the east, and protects the stomach), Hapi (has the head of a baboon, associated with the north, and protects the lungs), Qebehsenuef (has the head of a falcon or hawk, associated with the west, and protects the large intestines). The heart, which was thought to house the soul, was left inside the body.

Canopic Jars depicting the sons of Horus
Canopic Jars depicting the sons of Horus

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