Religions of the Ancient World- Egyptian Cosmogonies Essay Example

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Stories are essential in most religious traditions and especially myths. Myths are those stories whose setting is in the beginnings of time, which retell the coming into being or the conception of the earth or the universe. Legends are also significant as they are set in the history of humans, and recount significant relations between humans and divinities.

Key words; myths, stories, legends, creation


Creation legends and myths played a crucial role in ancient Egypt. They particularly are extremely crucial in aiding individuals understand how Egyptians perceived their world and its origins. Additionally, they also reveal practices and beliefs that are essential in their culture. It is essential to note, however, that the Egyptians did not have a single, common myth of cosmogony; rather, there were a number of varied myths and stories. This paper will, thereby, analyze two of these stories and highlight the main differences between the two.

The reading ‘Creation Legends’ argues that there are three cosmogonies Heliopolis, Memphis and Hermopolis. The Heliopolis story argues that ‘the lord of the limits of the sky’ created the world also known as the ‘lord of Heliopolis’ (Hart p.11). This god supposedly rose from Nu at the start of time to form the basics of the world. The Memphis cosmogony, on the other hand, claims that it is Ptah of Memphis who created the earth. The Hermopolis story argues that eight primordial deities who were commonly referred to as Ogdoad created the world (Hart).

There are numerous similarities, as well as, differences between these three stories of creation. The Ogdoad story of creation, for instance, is more scientific, especially with its inclusion into the story of the primeval matter and its physical component. In this story, the original substance of cosmology is more complex than the one in the Heliopolis legend. The Hermapolis cosmology also does not have the imagery that forms the foundation of the Heliopolis story, and the precision of the theology of Memphite, but its limited statements most likely results from the almost complete destruction of inscribed material of pharaoh that is yet to be excavated. The concept of a balanced totality is also common in two of these myths. In the Hermapolitan story uses four gods and goddesses, while the Heliopolis story gives the god Nu 4 children (Hart).

These differences and similarities might have resulted from various cultural and religious beliefs, and traditions of the different cities from which each arose. The Hermopolis might have originated because of the fact that the region was the key cult centre of Thoth, also Hermopolis.

What is common in all of the Egyptian creation stories was the fact that the event of creation could not be understood or fully comprehended by means of a straightforward and single principle. It is apparent from the creation stories that the Egyptians realized this and to address the issue they had to find numerous ways in which to express the essentially inexpressible ideas about creation (Hornung 1992).


Hart, G, Egyptian myths, Published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British M, London.

Hornung, E 1992, Idea into image: essays on ancient Egyptian thought, Timken, London.