Egyptian Mythology is based on the various gods of ancient Egypt who formed the religion of the era and helped explain the world and the reasons many things occur. Most of the Egyptian Mythology is taken from the religious writings, arts, short stories, temple decorations as well as other texts discovered over the years. Most of the myths and stories recovered were incomplete or in fragments.
It is believed that Egyptian mythology originated from the natural order of things such as the rising and setting of the sun, the flooding of the Nile River and the subsequent renewal of fertility to the lands near the river. This natural order could be disrupted by enemies or even nature with low rainfall reducing the river flow and so forth. This brought about a religion or mythology based on chaos, order and renewal. Various rituals also form part of the mythology.
Many of the Egyptian myths focus on origin. From the origin of the world, natural phenomena and even some of the human institutions. Even kingship was said to originate with the gods and it is then passed on to the human Pharaohs. Warfare was said to originate when the sun god Ra withdrew in to the sky, then the humans began to fight among each other.
Maat refers to order and is believed to have been established at the creation of the world from the chaos. Maat also refers to the normal patterns and behavior of natural phenomena as well as that of humans. When maat exists, life and happiness becomes possible. Egyptian gods govern the all the forces of nature as per the myths and thus are responsible for life and the correct functioning of everything in existence. The human responsible for maat among the people is the Pharaoh and in the myths, pharaoh is the son of various gods and represents them on earth. He is also responsible in seeing to the rituals necessary to keep the gods happy.
As in most myths, the Egyptian mythology focuses around traditions, daily life as well as the big questions such as the fate of the universe. Egyptian gods relate to physical objects such as the sun and the earth as well as more abstract forces such as creativity and knowledge. The Egyptians believed that their gods were the power behind all forces and elements. The myths are often incomplete or even only partial narratives, and tend to be quite flexible. Some of the myths even seem to contradict each other, but this could also be due to varied religious ideas and practices in different regions of Egypt at the time. Many areas based their religion around a patron god and adapted the myths to suit their cults. The Egyptians also combined and adapted many myths and combined old myths with new ones, making their tales and deities very complicated.
Some of the fundamental myths focus on the shape of the world, in this case a flat piece of land (personified as the god Geb), over which is the sky (the goddess Nut). Sky and earth as separated by air (Shu) and the sun (Ra) travels across the sky and then disappears in to the Duat (an area on the border of the formless water that earth was brought from (personified by the god Nun)). Egypt was seen as the center of the world and most myths are told of the gods being in Egypt, very seldom in a foreign setting.
Creation myths are many and some are similar while others are not but most have a few elements in common. Most myths agree that the world came from the waters of chaos (Nu) and that a pyramid (benben) was the first thing to arise from the waters. The sun was said to arise from this first mound either directly or a lotus flower and originally in the form of a child, a falcon, a scarab beetle or a heron. The origin of humans is not as well documented in the myths except for the myths which say humans came from the tears of Ra-Atum or Eye of Ra or molded from clay by Khnum. Most myths are around creationism from chaos rather than human beginnings.
Gods and goddesses
The sun god Ra, was leader of earth and all the gods after creation. There are various myths surrounding his rule and conflicts with some of the other gods and later humanity as well until he leaves earth and lives in the sky, traveling through the heavens daily.
Osiris is associated with kingship and fertility and certain myths tell of him being killed and dismembered by his brother Set, who then takes over ruling the world. His parts are scattered all over Egypt but his wife Isis (who is also his sister) recovers all the parts and with the help of Anubis and Nephthys restores his body to completeness. He is then revived for enough time to impregnate Isis with a son, Horus. Isis raises Horus out of sight of Set and when he is grown, he challenges Set for the throne. There are many parts to the myths of their conflict, including one in which Set pulls out Horus’s eyes, which are restored by Hathor or Thoth. The “eye of Horus”is a very powerful symbol in ancient Egyptian life. There are two endings to the myth, one in which Horus eventually rules and another where they divide the kingdom between them.
Royal children such as the first human kings are said to descend from the joining of a god with a human woman. In some of the myths the god is Ra and in others it is Amun. This was one way of stating that the human ruler was there due to deliberate intervention by a god or gods. Although not described in any detail, many of the recovered texts seem to indicate a belief that the world is destined to end along with everything else besides the gods Atum and Osiris. This also seems to indicate that the world will then be reformed anew as these gods represent renewal and creation.