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Ancient Egypt Myths, Folktales,Magic and More

Ancient Egypt Myths, Folktales,Magic and More

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Published by Zavier Mainyu

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Published by: Zavier Mainyu on Oct 08, 2011
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Myths, Folktales, Magic, and More
Ancient Egypt is arguably the most fascinating and well-developed group of societies of the ancient world. The Egyptians were master builders andastronomers, and their ideas about life and death are reflected in modern-dayChristianity. The Egyptians were perhaps the most influential culture inhistory, since their ideas spread not only to Mesopotamia, but also to India,Israel, Greece, Rome, and ultimately to the western hemisphere. The roots of many profound Western ideals can be traced back to Egyptian influences.
Unit 3 Introduction
Unit 3 Introduction
Prof. Stephen Hagin
Symbolic Connections in WL 
12th edition
Kennesaw State University
Because we have warmed up to the mythological ideas from the first two units, we should be able to understand the Egyptian stories a little better from the start. One challenge will beto become familiar with a whole new set of gods and goddesses. Please examine thecharacter glossary to become more familiar with these new deities.The Egyptians lived in a more predictable environment when compared with the Sumerians,Babylonians, and Hebrews. The
 Epic of Gilgamesh, Atrahasis,
show us a violent and competitive nature (drought, flood, monsters of the forest, etc.). The Babylonians fearedtheir nature because they could not control it or predict it. The Egyptians, however, werefortunate to live on the
 Nile River
, which has a precise flood cycle that the ancients couldcalculate accurately (sometimes to the exact day). Egypt was also geographically isolatedfrom the warring cultures across the Arabian Peninsula. This provided a sense of control and comfort that the neighboring Near Eastern cultures lacked.Therefore, it should not be surprising that the Egyptians were the only culture at the timeto believe in an
, based on rewards or punishments for actions committed in one’searthly life. The Hebrews believed that a dead soul went into the Sheol, the pit of eternaldarkness. Gilgamesh learns that there is “no permanence,” even though he is 2/3 god. TheEgyptians, however, believed that a virtuous soul would be granted immortality with thegods (the stars) in the sky in a specific area known as the
(the constellation
).This concept of the afterlife is the source for most future interpretations of this ideal.You will also notice that the Egyptians were much more forward-looking and upward-looking than the Mesopotamians. Recall how many times the focus in Mesopotamia wasdownward-looking. The Apsu is the underground water, and characters were constantlylooking at the ground to notice the water flooding around their ankles. Most Sumeriansworked in the fields and dug irrigation canals, forcing them to look downward toward theearth. The dead bodies would be buried under the earth, yielding the concept of theUnderworld. Inanna descended into the Underworld, as did the
 creatures. Even Enki was seen traveling into the Apsu/Underworld in the beginning of “TheHuluppu Tree.” Don’t forget how Enki tempted his grand-daughter, tantalizing her as shepeered into the well at the top of the mountain. Finally, we recall Etana looking down onthe earth after the eagle flew him up to the heavens.Like the Babylonians, the Egyptians were master astronomers, but to Egypt the
wastheir main focus, not the earth. Of course, Egypt also had earth and water gods, but theheavens were their primary focus. Many Egyptian stories contain powerful sky gods, andreferences to the Zodiac and other constellations are more prominent in this culture as well.Although eternal life was initially relegated only to the ruling 
, eventually the
Unit 3
common Egyptian people believed that they too could ascend to the heavens to become a starin the sky, just like their favorite gods (the whole pantheon was called the
).The sun was the main feature of the daytime sky, assumed by the great god
who wasferried across the firmament (the dome of the sky) in a divine boat. Several interpretationsof the solar boat exist. It is often called the
solar barque
and the
boat of heaven
, which transports the sun across the river in the sky (the
Milky Way
is the astronomicalequivalent to the
 Nile River
). We see this boat referred to as the solar barque (bark)because Egyptian boats were made of wood (this gives us the word “embark,” referring to a journey that might have been taken on a boat). The nighttime version of this boat was alsocalled the
Boat of a Million Years
, with the word “million” being the Egyptian term forinfinity or eternity, suggesting that time itself or the cycles of nature will never cease. Thedead soul would be escorted to the heavens in the divine boat that crosses the sky.Throughout most of Egypt’s history, the region was divided between two major realms: the
Upper Kingdom
and the
Lower Kingdom
. Remember, however, that the Nile River flowsfrom South to North, meaning that the higher ground is located at the bottom of the map(Upper Egypt), while the lower-lying areas, including the Nile Delta, are located at the top of the map (Lower Egypt). These two kingdoms had independent pharaohs, each wearing different colored crown to designate their reign over the Upper or Lower parts of the Nile.The pharaohs of Upper Egypt wore red crowns, while the kings of Lower Egypt wore whitecrowns. At different times, powerful leaders were able to unite the two halves of Egypt toform a unified country. When these pharaohs reigned over both parts, they wore the unifiedcrown that combined the red and white crowns together. Any character depicted with both crowns represents incredible power. You will notice that several gods, such as
, wearthe double crown, often called the
. Was such unity possible in Mesopotamia?One of the most revered gods of the Egyptian pantheon was
, the god of the blackfertile silt deposited by the Nile’s flooding, and also the judge of the underworld. Osiris sitson his throne to judge the dead, with the scribe god
recording the verdict, Osiris’illegitimate son
overseeing the operation, and the hungry monster
ready toeat any corrupted hearts that outweigh the feather of justice (a white ostrich feather of 
). The souls who passed the test proceeded onto eternal rest and peace in the Duat.Ironically, the myth of Osiris mostly centers around the heroic exploits of his son Horus andhis battle with the god of the desert,
. This classic battle of duality reflects the one mainfear of the ancient Egyptians: that the Nile would one day dry up and would be replaced bythe desert. If you recall the video
Quest for the Lost Civilization
, researcher Graham Hancock and geologist Robert Bauval have theorized that the
was originally built during a time of heavy rainfall in Egypt, indicating that the Egyptians too confronted global climatechange. The weather shifts that apparently caused river beds to dry up in Mesopotamia alsotransformed Egypt’s land to a bone-dry desert, leaving the Nile as the last lifeline of humanity, thus receiving its cultural praise. Watch for the interactions of male and femaleforces in this unit, which will reflect more of a blending of the traditions that we havestudied in both Units 1 and 2.

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