The Hermopolitan Cosmogony; from “Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt” (Rosalie David)

The Hermopolitan myths represented several different, non-contradictory versions of creation, which were primarily concerned with emphasizing the importance of the city. Unlike other cosmogonies, creation at Hermopolis was not restricted to one supreme god. Indeed, the main myth centered around an Ogdoad (group of eight gods) which included four male gods and their female counterparts. These were Nun and Naunet (primeval waters), Huh and Hauhet (eternity), Kuk and Kauket (darkness) and Amun and Amaunet (air). These serpent-headed males and their frog-headed consorts were accredited with the creation of the world on the ‘First Occasion’. Subsequently, they then ruled the world until they died and continued their existence in the underworld, where they ensured that the Nile flowed and the sun rose so that life could continue to flourish on earth. Unlike many other religious systems, that of the Egyptians did not regard the underworld as a place of darkness and misery. To them, it was the home of some of their gods — a place from which the deities could act to benefit mankind, and from the Middle Kingdom, it was the location of an ideal kingdom that everyone aspired to reach after death. This was a realm of eternal springtime — an idealized version of Egypt in fact, where there was no illness, danger or unhappiness. According to another version of this myth, life had emerged from a Cosmic Egg which was laid on the Island of Creation either by a goose called the Cackler’ or an ibis which represented Thoth, the chief god of Hermopolis; and in yet another account, the Ogdoad created a lotus which rose up from the Sacred Lake in the temple at Hermopolis, and opened its petals to reveal Re (either in the form of a child or a scarab-beetle which changed into a boy, who proceeded to create the world and mankind. Therefore, although the cosmogonies presented different views of how creation had occurred, they shared several basic underlying concepts. Most stated that creation had taken place on a primordial mound or island (regarded as a place of great spiritual potency) that had emerged from the primeval ocean, and each temple was believed to be that Island of Creation where the king could approach the gods on behalf of mankind. The moment of creation achieved completion and perfection, but the dynamic principles of life and change continued to develop simultaneously alongside and within the static universe. At first, there was a golden age when the gods ruled on earth, providing mankind with all the elements for a stable, peaceful society, including law, ethics and religion. When they left the earth, their divine son and successor, the king of Egypt, inherited their rulership which he was expected to exercise according to the principles of order, equilibrium, truth and justice, personified by the goddess Ma’at. In order to uphold this standard, a constant battle had to be waged on many levels so that order was continually re-established, and the chaos or non-existence, which had prevailed before creation and still permeated the universe, could be vanquished. Generally, these different texts represent concepts that are compatible and provide a uniform approach to questions that relate to the nature and creation of the universe. They do not appear to represent competing systems of thought and belief. However, once the Egyptians had developed an explanation of how the world had been created, they did not just even limit themselves to one creation mythology but allowed and encouraged a multiplicity of approaches. Later, in the New Kingdom, they identified the god Amun as the First Principle or Ultimate Cause of creation who was beyond all human knowledge and whose nature and will were thus incomprehensible to mankind. this was the limit of their speculation about the origin of existence.

 

— quoted from: Rosalie David “Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt”