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I am a living god come forth. I am with the earth millions of years. Three lyres. One sun in the east. The image of grace in my two eyes. One glad body. A day. The wind which moves the boats, moves them.

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The strident sun is walking through a field of stars. The beautiful one is singing in two halves of the sky. A child speaks. An old man nods and dreams. The people have come from their houses to sit in doorways to sniff the air. O sun. Osiris risen. O child climbing along mother's back, laughing. Two men in a bark boat, rowing, stop to hear your mother singing. Maat at the double season. Strident sun in heaven. Ten thousand thousand sticks of light have been raised against the demon. He is fallen. His beard has been cut. His two hands and ten fingers have been severed. His sinews are torn by the knife.

Be quiet. Ra is in the wind. He speaks when the earth is silent and he alone existed until he named the names of things. River, he said, and River lived. From his tongue spring words of water. The river quakes with the sound of his voice. Air escaping from his nose. Breathe deep. The wind a sigh from his mother. Such things are made everyday: Duck, Mandrake, Raisin.

Grape, Pomegranate, Melon. Cypress, Palm, Osiris. Air and earth are my horizons. What lies between is what I am. O infinite form of being: beast and stone and vegetable; the way a man may stand in his garden or dance by the river while wakes of small boats rock the reeds.

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The cities and the people in them, gods who walk in white linen, like women under the blue stone of heaven. I am the priest in a hidden house, guide to inner worlds. I am the idea of myself in my mother's belly, a bright trembling star in the memory of morning, a grain of sand blown east.

I am the husband of Isis: woman, and widow, and witch. To embrace her is to dream of ripening wheat. To sleep in her arms is to dream of honey. With a word she drives the snakes from the river. The boats sail far to its mouth. Air is what I breathe. Earth is where I stand. I have given my face to Amenta. It is white with heat. The world is bright as bronze. The dead rise up to see me, breathe the air and look into my face, a yellow disk on the eastern horizon. Mine is a heart of carnelian, crimson as murder on a holy day.

Mine is a heart of cornel, the gnarled roots of a dogwood and the bursting of flowers. I am the broken wax seal on my lover's letters. I am the phoenix, the fiery sun, consuming and resuming myself. I pace the halls of the underworld. I knock on the doors of death. I wander into the fields to stare at the sun and lie in the grass, ripe as a fig. The souls of the gods are with me. They hum like flies in my ears. I will what I will. Mine is a heart of carnelian, blood red as the crest of a phoenix.

The night sun rests in the lap of a bear, dreaming in the northern sky. A half-moon, I shine above the legs. I come forth from the edge of heaven.

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I climb to the deepest pit of the sky and rest awhile above cooling rocks, above houses in the cities and people who sleep warm nights on the roofs under a half-moon, dreaming. Oh, I am weak and feeble at the sight of my children sleeping. Oh, I am weak with wonder to see my dark wife dreaming, her hair unbraided and perfumed, falling across her eyes and in her red, red mouth and around her firm, brown shoulders. I am weak and feeble, gliding in cloudless dark. Forgetful of the teeth and tongues of snakes, I rest above my homeland dreaming. Below are my house and cattle.

I grow a little stronger. My beams of light are arrows which wound the night and drive it back. I am the eye of a sleeping lion who dreams of stalking the fields with his mate.


I am the eye of a resurrected man come home to kiss his wife. I am a half-moon, high in the darkness, a cup of light spilling dreams from the sky. I must move on to the furthest edge of heaven. The wheat in my fields has sprung up in straight rows. I am a half-moon in the night, keeping watch.

I must move on. O starry ones! I am a man by a river, gazing up. And how these same stars quiver above Kheraba and An. How these lights reach farther than the watch fires of Heliopolis. And what of hidden things? O hawk! O restless son, traveling into this season. The snake writhes in your talons. Your wings brush the edge of the sky. Long flight of days, passing many lands, death sleeps among your many feathers. O soul, ancient ram! Two horns of sense and reason implanted in your forehead. Son of the mountain sky. Dusty hoof which tramps an old trail.

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O king! This rock on which we live endures. Yours is the plumed white crown, tower of flesh infused with spirit. Above, the eye of god is dreaming us. Below, we are. Air and earth and mist and fire. To the east the mountains are singing. O lord of acacia trees! This sad mortality! The boat is set upon its sledge and filled with yellow flowers. O jackal Anubis! I have passed through the underworld door. Nothing grows and nothing dies; all that was and would be, is. This life is a singular breath and your moving eye is time.

Upon the brow of men the word is writ, and in their hearts the word is deed. Smoke from temple fires curls like hair. The ankh in your one hand, the knife in your other. O he whose face is too ponderous for sculpture into stone! Hapi, the waters flow. Papyrus and lotus spring up.

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In your boat, sailing from some unknown city, your body glistens like water. The gods have heard my name. I am a man by the river, gazing up. Husband and tiller and reaper and king. I am the lord of seasons, of that which falls and returns to light. I am he who sowed the seed. I am the bread I have made. Rejoicing in the houses.

The sound of brass bells on dancing ankles. The hips of women are swaying through dusty streets. Day upon day the sun is risen. Day upon day the sun will rise. Day upon day this heat on adobe walls and the splay of light on Osiris. Morning stars and eventide. Chants ring through the valley and across the sands, to rise to the altar of heaven.

The soul of Osiris walks with wind into the temples of gods. He sets sail in the boat of the morning sun. He comes to port at eventide. He twists and twines through star-studded waters, the sound of his oars the ssh-sssh of wind. The sun beats on and on like a tireless heart. Blessings on thee, hawk, fierce and beautiful as love, whose horizons are the edges of memory so vast a man gets lost. Blessings on thee, beetle sun, which rolls into life every day, kicking six legs and humming your shiny beetle song. This world is a little patch of ground you travel with no particular haste.

The sun has burst upon the land, light yellow dust on the head of a bee. The gods are all in rejoicing. They are drunk with sun and singing, and they crown each other king. The lady of the house places garlands on Osiris. Vines and flowers from northern and southern cities meet themselves upon his forehead. It hovers between your shoulders.

His enemies beat themselves with sticks and fall in the water. From the netherworld the dead are rising to catch a glimpse of his shining face. The sea is pregnant with form. And the belly of sky is beautiful. Every day, the sun. Every day. And I walk east in the garden to see you, west through the country to be with you. O sun, my head fills with light. Do not turn me away from your easy lust, whole in the sky, white with heat. Do not bind me in layers of darkness, a worm in the brown cake of earth.

My hands are bread I have made every day. The sun comes into my heart where sparrows nest. I am ridiculous and rolling on the ground, pleased with such company. Every day, the sun on the wall, the sun, lingering on a ripe fig. I am he who worships the sun, a space in my heart a bird could fill. I am one who listens to the grass speaking in the garden. May I chew the green blade of eternity in a garden filled with sun. May I walk into the fire and be burned like kernels of wheat, ground into the pulp of existence.

May the sun come and bake me brown as bread. May I rise like bread everyday. In the field with my cattle, my shadow sinks into black earth and rises. The smell of things growing. These tears, dropping onto the dark, fertile earth of the Ben-Ben, gave birth to men and women. These early creatures had nowhere to live, however, and so Shu and Tefnut mated and gave birth to Geb the earth and Nut the sky.

Geb and Nut, though brother and sister, fell deeply in love and were inseparable. Atum found their behaviour unacceptable and pushed Nut away from Geb, high up into the heavens. The two lovers were forever able to see each other but were no longer able to touch. Nut was already pregnant by Geb, however, and eventually gave birth to Osiris , Isis , Set, Nephthys , and Horus — the five Egyptian gods most often recognized as the earliest or, at least, the most familiar representations of older god-figures. Osiris showed himself a thoughtful and judicious god and was given rule of the world by Atum who then went off to attend to his own affairs.

Osiris administrated the world efficiently, co-ruling with his sister-wife Isis, and decided where the trees would best grow and the water flow most sweetly. He created the land of Egypt in perfection with the Nile River providing for the needs of the people. When the chest was completed, Set threw a great banquet to which he invited Osiris and seventy-two others.

At the end of the party he offered the great chest as a gift to the one who could best fit inside it. Osiris, of course, fit perfectly and, once he was inside the coffin, Set slammed the lid on tight and threw it into the Nile River. He then told everyone that Osiris was dead and assumed the rule of the world. Isis refused to believe that her husband was dead and went searching for him, finally finding the coffin inside a tree at Byblos.

She brought the body back to Egypt and set about gathering the herbs and making the potions which would bring Osiris back to life; leaving her sister Nephthys to guard over the place where she had hidden the body. Upon finding her gone, he asked Nephthys where she was and, when the goddess answered, he knew she was lying. He then flung the fragments of Osiris all over the land of Egypt so that Isis would never be able to find them and, this accomplished, returned to his palace to rule. When Isis returned and found the coffin destroyed and the body gone, she fell to her knees in despair and wept.

Nephthys, feeling guilty for having betrayed her secret, told Isis what had happened and offered to help her find the parts of Osiris. Wherever they found a body part, they would bury it on the spot and build a shrine to protect it from Set. In this way the forty-two provinces of Egypt were established by the two goddesses. They finally assembled all of the body except for the penis, which had been eaten by a fish. Isis then created a replacement part for the phallus and mated with her husband, becoming pregnant with her son Horus. Osiris had been brought back to life successfully by Isis but, because he was incomplete, could not rule the world as he had before.

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He instead descended to the underworld to become the righteous judge and ruler of the land of the dead. The battle raged for eighty years until Horus defeated Set and banished him from Egypt to dwell in the arid deserts though there are many variants of this story and, in some, Horus and Set agree to divide the kingdom and, in others, Set is destroyed. Horus then ruled with his mother Isis and aunt Nephthys as his counselors and harmony was again restored to the land. Although there are many different versions of this myth, the one element which remains standard in all of them is the concept of harmony which is disrupted and must be restored.

The repulsing of Apep [ Apophis ], the evil dragon-like creature that lurked on the horizon, was [a] popular tale. Each evening, at sunset, it tried to stop the passage of the setting sun through the underworld. If the sky was clear, it indicated an easy passage; a blood-red sunset showed a desperate battle between the forces of good and evil; but the sun was the victor and there was always a new dawn. Everything in the universe was thought to be maintained in a constant balance without a terminus and, as human beings were a part of that universe, they too participated in this eternal balance.

Ma'at was made possible by the underlying force which existed before creation and made all aspects of life possible: heka. Heka was the magical power which enabled the gods to perform their duties and sustained all life and was personified in the god Heka who also allowed for the soul to pass from earthly existence to the afterlife. When the soul left the body at death, it was thought to appear in the Hall of Truth to stand before Osiris for judgement. If the heart was found to be lighter than the feather, the soul was allowed to move on to the Field of Reeds, the place of purification and eternal bliss.

If the heart was heavier than the feather, it was dropped on to the floor where it was eaten by the monster Ammut the gobbler and the soul would then cease to exist. Existence, being a part of the universal journey which began with Atum and the Ben-Ben, was the natural state of a soul and the thought of being eternally separated from that journey, of non-existence, was more terrifying to an ancient Egyptian than any underworld of torment could ever be; even in a land of eternal pain, one still existed.

A concept of an underworld similar to the Christian hell did develop in Egypt but was by no means universally accepted. The enduring admiration for Egyptian mythology, and the culture it informed, is a testimony to the power of the life-affirming message inherent in these ancient tales. Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Become a Member.

Mark, J. Ancient Egyptian Mythology. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Mark, Joshua J. Last modified January 17, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 17 Jan Written by Joshua J. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. Mark published on 17 January Remove Ads Advertisement.