Sunday, June 22, 2014

Egypt: The Sun's Journey

Here is the author's note about this compilation of Ra legends: "The myths from which this chapter has been constructed date from the Empire period, and especially the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties. Ra is first a human god (the Pharaoh), then a world god like Ptah in his giant form, and lastly a cosmic deity. The priests were evidently engaged in systematizing the theology of the sun cult. Ra, the sun, is shown to be greater than his father Nu; and a concession is made to the worshippers of Isis in the legend which credits Ra with imparting to her the powers she possessed. Horus is given recognition; he possesses himself of the "eyes" of Ra (the sun and moon)."

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Ancient Egypt unit. Story source: Egyptian Myth and Legend by Donald Mackenzie (1907).



The Sun's Journey

Ra beheld that which his followers among men had done, and he was well pleased. He spake unto them saying: "Now is your sin forgiven. Slaughter atones for slaughter. Such is sacrifice and the purport thereof."

When Ra had thus accepted in atonement for the sin of men the sacrifice of his enemies who desired to slay him, he spake unto the heavenly goddess Nut, saying: "Henceforth my dwelling place must be in the heavens. No longer will I reign upon the earth."

So it happened according to his divine will. The great god went oil his way through the realms which are above, and these he divided and set in order. He spake creating words and called into existence the field of Aalu, and there he caused to assemble a multitude of beings which are beheld in heaven, even the stars, and these were born of Nut. In millions they came to praise and glorify Ra. Unto Shu, the god of atmosphere, whose consort is Nut, was given the keeping of the multitude of beings that shine in thick darkness. Shu raised his arms, uplifting over his head the Celestial Cow and the millions and millions of stars.

Then Ra spake unto the earth god, who is called Seb, and said: "Many fearsome reptiles dwell in thee. It is my will now that they may have dread of me as great as is my dread of them. Thou shalt discover why they are moved with enmity against me. When thou hast done that, thou shalt go unto Nu, my father, and bid him to have knowledge of all the reptiles in the deep and upon the dry land. Let be made known unto each one that my rays shall fall upon them. By words of magic alone can they be overcome. I shall reveal the charms by which the children of men call thwart all reptiles, and Osiris, thy son, shall favour the magicians who protect mankind against them."

He spake again and called forth the god Thoth who came into being by his word. "For thee, O Thoth he said, "I shall make a resplendent abode in the great deep and the underworld which is Duat. Thou shalt record the sins of men, and the names of those who are mine enemies; in Duat thou shalt bind them. Thou shalt be temporary dweller in my place; thou art my deputy. Lo! I now give messengers unto thee."

So came into being by his power the ibis, the crane, and the dog ape, the messengers of Thoth.

Ra spake again, saying: "Thy beauty shall be shed through the darkness; thou shalt join night with day." So came into being the moon (Ah) of Thoth, and Ra said: "All living creatures shall glorify and praise thee as a wise god."

When all the land is black, the sun barque of Ra passes through the twelve hour-divisions of night in Duat. At eventide, when the god is Tum, he is old and very frail. Five-and-seventy invocations are chanted to give him power to overcome the demons of darkness who are his enemies. He then enters the western gate, through which dead men's souls pass to be judged before Osiris. In front of him goes the jackal god, Anubis, for he is "Opener of the Ways." Ra has a sceptre in one hand; in the other he carries the Ankh, which is the symbol of life.

When the sun barque enters the river Ûrnes of the underworld, the companions of Ra are with him. Watchman is there, and Striker, and Steersman is at the helm, and in the barque are also those divinities who are given power, by uttering magical incantations, to overcome the demons of evil.

The gloomy darkness of the first hour-division is scattered by the brightness of Ra. Beside the barque gather the pale shades of the newly dead, but none of them can enter it without knowledge of the magical formulae which it is given unto few to possess.

At the end of the first hour-division is a high and strong wall, and a gate is opened by incantations so that the barque of Ra may pass through. So from division to division, all through the perilous night, the sun god proceeds, and the number of demons that must be thwarted by magic and fierce fighting increases as he goes. Apep, the great Night serpent, ever seeks to overcome Ra and devour him.

The fifth hour-division is the domain of dreaded Sokar, the underworld god, with three human heads, a serpent's body, and mighty wings between which appears his hawk form. His abode is in a dark and secret place which is guarded by fierce sphinxes. Nigh to him is the Drowning Pool, watched over by five gods with bodies like to men and animals' heads. Strange and mysterious forms hover nigh, and in the pool are genii in torture, their heads aflame with everlasting fire.

In the seventh hour-division sits Osiris, divine judge of the dead. Fiery serpents, which are many-headed, obey his will. Feet have they to walk upon and hands, and some carry sharp knives with which to cut to pieces the souls of the wicked. Whom Osiris deems to be worthy, he favours; such shall live in the Nether World — whom he finds to be full of sin, he rejects, and these do the serpents fall upon, dragging them away, while they utter loud and piercing cries of grief and agony, to be tortured and devoured; lo! the wicked perish utterly.

In this division of peril the darksome Night, serpent Apep attacks the sun barque, curling its great body round the compartment of Ra with ferocious intent to devour him. But the allies of the god contend against the serpent; they stab it with knives until it is overcome. Isis utters mighty incantations which cause the sun barque to sail onward unscathed nor stayed.

In the eighth division are serpents which spit forth fire to illumine the darkness, and in the tenth are fierce water reptiles and ravenous fishes. The god Horus burns great beacons in the eleventh hour-division; ruddy flames and flames of gold blaze aloft in beauty: the enemies of Ra are consumed in the fires of Horus.

The sun god is reborn in the twelfth hour-division. He enters the tail of the mighty serpent, which is named "Divine Life," and issues from its mouth in the form of Khepera, which is a beetle. Those who are with the god are reborn also. The last door of all is guarded by Isis, wife of Osiris, and Nepthys, wife of Set, in the form of serpents. They enter the sun barque with Ra.

Now Ûrnes, the river of Duat, flows into the primeval ocean in which Nu has his abode. And as Ra was lifted out of the deep at the beginning, so he is lifted by Nu at dawn. He is then received by Nut, goddess of the heavens; he is born of Nut and grows in majesty, ascending to high noon.

The souls of the dead utter loud lamentations when the sun god departs out of the darkness of Duat.

Next: Osiris



(1200 words)






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