The Gods of the Egyptians Vol 1

Studies in Egyptian Mythology

by E. A. Wallis Budge | 1904 | 170,388 words

Volume 1-16 chapters including The Gods of Egypt, Primitive Gods and Nome-Gods, Hell and the Damned, Ra the Sun-God and His Forms, Hathor and the Hathor-Goddesses, The Horus Gods, and more. Includes 49 plates, 38 illustrations....

Chapter IX - Rā, The Sun-god, And His Forms

Rā is the name which was given by the Egyptians of the dynastic period to the god of the sun, who was regarded as the maker and creator of everything which we see in the visible world around us, and of the gods in heaven, as well as of heaven itself, and of the Ṭuat or underworld and the beings therein ; the original meaning of his name is unknown, but at one period of Egyptian history it seems to have been thought that the word indicated “operative and creative power,” and that as a proper name it represented in meaning something like “Creator,” this epithet being used much in the same way and with the same idea as we use the term when applied to God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and of all things therein.

The worship of the sun in Egypt is extremely ancient and appears to have been universal; at a very early period adoration of him was associated with that of the hawk-god Ḥeru, who was the personification of the “height” of heaven, and who appears to have been a type and symbol of the sun. The worship of the hawk-god Ḥeru, , is the oldest in Egypt, and, strictly speaking, he should have been discussed before Rā, but as Rā and the personifications of his various forms are the greatest of the gods of the Egyptians, he must be regarded as the true “father of the gods,” and his attributes, and the myths which grew up round him must be considered before those of Horus.

The god Rā is usually depicted with the body of a man and the head of a hawk, but sometimes he is represented in the form of a hawk ; on his head he wears his symbol, , i.e., the disk of the sun encircled by the serpent khut, , of which mention has already been made. When he has a human body he holds the emblem of life, , in his right hand, and a sceptre, , in his left, and from the belt of his tunic hangs down the tail, which is a survival of the dress of men in predynastic times, and probably later.

Viewed from a practical point of view Rā was the oldest of all the gods of Egypt, and the first act of creation was the appearance of his disk above the waters of the world-ocean ; with his first rising time began, but no attempt was ever made to say when, i.e., how long ago, his first rising took place. When the Egyptians said that a certain thing had been in existence “since the time of Rā”[1] it was equivalent to saying that it had existed for ever.


Boats of the Sun

The Egyptians, knowing that the sun was a fire, found a difficulty in assuming that it rose directly into the sky from out of the watery mass wherein it was brought forth, and they, therefore, assumed that it must make its journey over the waters in a boat, or boats, and as a matter of fact they believed that it passed over the first half of its course in one boat, and over the second half in another.

The morning boat of the sun was called Māṭet, , i.e., “becoming strong” and the name of the evening boat was Semktet, , i.e., “becoming weak”; these are appropriate names for the rising and the setting sun.[2] The course which Rā followed in his journey across the sky was thought to have been defined at creation by the goddess called Maāt, who was the personification of the conceptions of rectitude, straightness, law, order, unfailing regularity, and the like, and there is no doubt that it was the regular and unfailing appearance of the sun each morning, as much as its light and heat, which struck wonder into primitive man, and made him worship the sun.

In passing through the Ṭuat, or underworld, at night Rā was supposed to be obliged to leave his boat at certain places, and to make use of others, including even one which was formed by the body of a serpent; according to one opinion he changed his boat every hour during the day and night, but the oldest belief of all assigned to him two boats only.

Rā was accompanied on his journey by a number of gods, whose duties consisted in navigating the boat, and in helping it to make a successful passage from the eastern part of the sky to the place where the god entered the Ṭuat; the course was set by Thoth and his female counterpart Maāt, and these stood one on each side of Horus, who acted as the steersman and apparently as captain also. Before the boatof Rā, one on each side, swam the two pilot fishes called Ȧbṭu, , and Ȧnt, , respectively.[3] But, judging from the religious and mythological texts which have come down to us, not all the power of Rā himself, nor that of the gods who were with him, could ward off the attacks of certain fiends and monsters which endeavoured to obstruct the passage of his boat.


Mythological Fish

Chief among such were the serpent Āpep, , and Sebȧu, , and Nȧk, , and of these the greatest and most wicked was Āpep. In dynastic times Āpep was a personification of the darkness of the darkest hour of the night, against which Rā must not only fight, but fight successfully before he could rise in the east in the morning ; but originally he was the thick darkness which enveloped the watery abyss of Nu, and which formed such a serious obstacle to the sun when he was making his way out of the inert mass from which he proceeded to rise the first time. In the Book of the Dead he is frequently mentioned,[4] but rather from a moral than a physical point of view.

Thus in the xxxixth Chapter the deceased says:

“Get thee back, Fiend, before the darts of his beams. Rā hath overthrown thy words, the gods have turned thy face backwards, the Lynx (Mafṭet, ), hath torn open thy breast, the Scorpion goddess, , hath cast fetters upon thee, and Maāt hath sent forth thy destruction. Those who are in the ways have overthrown thee; fall down and depart, O Āpep, thou Enemy of Rā.”

A little further on the deceased says:

“I have brought fetters to thee, O Rā, and Āpep hath fallen because thou hast drawn them tight. The gods of the South, and of the North, of the West and of the East have fastened chains upon him, and they have fastened him with fetters; the god Rekes () hath overthrown him, and the god Ḥertit () hath put him in chains. O Āpep, thou Enemy of Rā, thou shalt never partake of the delights of love, thou shalt never fulfil thy desire ! He maketh thee to go back, O thou who art hateful to Rā ; he looketh upon thee, get thee back. He pierceth thy head, he slitteth up thy face, he divideth thy head where its bones join and it is crushed in thy land, thy bones are smashed in pieces, thy members are hacked off thee, and the god Aker () hath passed sentence of doom upon thee.”


Rā and Āpep

From the “Books of Overthrowing Āpep,”[5] we obtain further information as to the destruction of the monster, and we find, that this work was recited daily in the temple of Ȧmen-Rā at Thebes.

The first Book was divided into Chapters, which were entitled:—

  1. Chapter of spitting upon Āpep.
  2. Chapter of defiling Āpep with the left foot.
  3. Chapter of taking a lance to smite Āpep.
  4. Chapter of fettering Āpep.
  5. Chapter of taking a knife to smite Āpep.
  6. Chapter of putting fire upon Āpep.

The following Books describe with great minuteness the details of the destruction which was to fall upon Āpep, and they are insisted on to a wearisome degree ; according to these the monster, which is referred to at one time as a crocodile and at another as a serpent, is first to be speared, then gashed with knives, and every bone of his body having been separated by red-hot knives, and his head, and legs, and tail, etc., having been cut off, his remains were to be scorched, and singed, and roasted, and finally shrivelled up and consumed by fire.

The same fate was to come upon Āpep’s confederates, and everything which formed parts of him and of them, i.e., their shadows, souls, doubles, and spirits, were to be wiped out of existence, including any offspring which they might possess.


Names of Āpep

Not content with reciting the words of power which would have the effect of destroying Āpep and his fiends, great care was taken to perform various ceremonies of a magical character, which were supposed to benefit not only Rā, but those who worshipped him on earth. Āpep was both crafty and evil-doing, and like Rā, lie possessed many names ; to destroy him it was necessary to curse him by each and every name by which he was known.

To make quite sure that this should be done effectively the Papyrus of Nesi-Ȧmsu adds a list of such names, and as they are the foundation of many of the magical names met with in later papyri they are here enumerated:—

  1. Neshṭ.
  2. Ṭuṭu.
  3. Ḥau-ḥrȧ.
  4. Hemhemti.
  5. Qeṭṭtu.
  6. Qerneru.
  7. Iubani.
  8. Āmam.
  9. Ḥem-taiu.
  10. Sȧaṭet-ta.
  11. Khermuti.
  12. Kenememti.
  13. Sheta.
  14. Serem-taui.
  15. Sekhem-ḥrȧ.
  16. Unti.
  17. Karȧu-ȧnementi.
  18. Khesef-ḥrȧ.
  19. Seba-ent-seba.
  20. Khak-ȧb.
  21. Khan-ru .... uāa.
  22. Nāi.
  23. Ām.
  24. Turrupa (?)
  25. Iubau.
  26. Uai.
  27. Kharubu, the four times wicked.
  28. Sau.
  29. Beṭeshu.



Rā and Āpep

In the Egyptian texts we have at present no account of the first fight which took place between Rā and Āpep, but it is clear from several passages in the “Books of Overthrowing Āpep” that such a thing must have occurred, and that the means employed by the Sun-god for destroying his foe resembled those made use of by Marduk in slaying Tiamat. The original of the Assyrian story is undoubtedly of Sumerian origin, and must be very old, and it is probable that both the Egyptians and the Sumerians derived their versions from a common source.

In the Assyrian version[7] Marduk is armed with the invincible club which the gods gave him, and with a bow, spear, net, and dagger ; the lightning was before him, and fierce fire filled his body, and the four-fold wind and the seven-fold wind went with him. Marduk grasped the thunderbolt and then mounted his chariot, drawn by four swift and fiery horses which had been trained to beat down under their feet everything which came in their way. When he came to the place where Tiamat was, Kingu, whom she had set over her forces, trembled and was afraid, but Tiamat “stood firm with unbent neck.”

After an exchange of words of abuse the fight began, and Tiamat pronounced her spell, which, however, had no effect, for Marduk caught her in his net, and drove the winds which he had with him into her body, and whilst her belly was thus distended he thrust his spear into her, and stabbed her to the heart, and cut through her bowels, and crushed her skull with his club. On her body he took his stand, and with his knife he split it “like a flat fish into two halves,” and of one of these he made a covering for the heavens. With the exception of the last, every detail of the Assyrian account of the fight has its equivalent in the Egyptian texts which concern Rā and Āpepi.

An allusion to the fight is found in the apocryphal work of “Bel and the Dragon,” wherein we are told that both the god and the monster were worshipped in Babylon ; but the narrative says that the dragon was destroyed by means of lumps of pitch, and fat, and hair seethed together, and that these having been pushed into the creature’s mouth he burst asunder. In Egyptian papyri Āpep is always represented in the form of a serpent, in each undulation of which a knife is stuck, ; in the “Book of the Gates” (see above p. 197) we see him fastened by the neck with a chain (along which is stretched the scorpion goddess Serqet), the end of which is in the hands of a god, and also chained to the ground by five chains.

It has already been said that Rā was the “father of the gods,” and we find that as early as the Vth Dynasty a female counterpart, who was the mother of the gods, was assigned to him. This goddess is called in the text of Unȧs (1. 253) Rāt, , and in later times her title appears to have been “Rāt of the two lands, the lady of heaven, mistress of the gods,” ; she is also called “Mistress of Heliopolis.” Her full name was, perhaps, Rāt-taiut, , i.e., “Rāt of the world.” She is depicted in the form of a woman who wears on her head a disk with horns and a uraeus, and sometimes there are two feathers above the disk;[8] the attributes of the goddess are unknown, but it is not likely that she was considered to be more important than any other great goddess.


The City of the Sun

The home and centre of the worship of Rā in Egypt during dynastic times was the city called Ȧnnu, , or An by the Egyptians, On by the Hebrews, and Heliopolis by the Greeks ; its site is marked by the village of Maṭarîyeh, which lies about five miles to the north-east of Cairo. It was generally known as Ȧnnu meḥt, i.e., Annu of the North, to distinguish it from Ȧnnu Qemāu, i.e., “Annu of the South,” or Hermonthis. Among the early Christians great store was set upon the oil made from the trees which grew there, and in the famous “Fountain of the Sun” the Virgin Mary is said to have washed the garments of her Son ; the ancient Egyptians also believed that Rā bathed each day at sunrise in a certain lake or pool which was in the neighbourhood.

Of the origin and beginnings of the worship of Rā at Heliopolis we know nothing, but it is quite certain that under the Vth Dynasty, about ii.c. 3350, the priests of Rā had settled themselves there, and that they had obtained great power at that remote period. The evidence derived from the Westcar Papyrus[9] indicates that User-ka-f, the first king of the Vth Dynasty, was the high-priest of Rā, and that he was the first to add “son of the Sun” to the titles of Egyptian monarchs.

Up to that time a king seems to have possessed :—

  1. A name as the descendant or servant of Horus.
  2. A name as the descendant or servant of Set.
  3. A name as lord of the shrines of Nekhebet and Uatchit, .
  4. A name as king of the North and South, .

User-ka-f, however, introduced the title of “son of the Sun,” , which was always followed by a second cartouche, and it was adopted by every succeeding king of Egypt. According to the Westcar Papyrus User-ka-f and his two immediate successors Sahu-Rā and Kakaȧ were the sons of the god Rā by Ruṭ-ṭeṭeṭ, the wife of a priest of the god Rā of Sakhabu, ; these were brought into the world by the

goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Meskhenet, and Ḥeqet, and by the god Khnemu, and it was decreed by them that the three boys should be sovereigns of Egypt.


Rā Worship

This legend is of importance, not only as showing the order of the succession of the first three kings of the Vth Dynasty, but also because it proves that in the early Empire the kings of Egypt believed themselves to be the sons of Rā, the Sun-god. All chronological tradition affirms that Rā had once ruled over Egypt, and it is a remarkable fact that every possessor of the throne of Egypt was proved by some means or other to have the blood of Rā flowing in his veins, or to hold it because he was connected with Rā by marriage.

The bas-reliefs of Queen Ḥātshepset at Dêr al-Baḥarî, and those of Ȧmen-ḥetep III. at Luxor, and those of Cleopatra VII. in the temple at Erment (now destroyed, alas!) describe the process by which Rā or Ȧmen-Rā became the father of the kings and queens of Egypt. From these we see that whenever the divine blood needed replenishing the god took upon himself the form of the reigning king of Egypt, and that he visited the queen in her chamber and became the actual father of the child who was subsequently born to her.

When the child was born it was regarded as a god incarnate, and in due course was presented, with appropriate ceremonies, to Rā or Ȧmen-Rā, in his temple, and this god accepted it and acknowledged it to be his child. This clever priestly device gave the priests of Rā great power in the land, but their theocratic rule was not always the best for Egypt, and on one occasion they brought about the downfall of a dynasty. The first rise to power of the priests of Rā took place at the beginning of the Vth Dynasty, when the cult of Rā became dominant in the land. About the time of Userkaf we find that a number of shrines, which united the chief characteristics of the low rectangular tomb commonly known by its Arabic name of

masṭaba, i.e., “bench,” and of the pyramid,, were built in honour of the god;[10] but, according to Prof. Sethe, the custom of building such only lasted for about one hundred years, i.e., from the reign of Userkaf to that of Men-kau-Ḥeru. Be this as it may, the priesthood of Heliopolis succeeded in making their worship of Rā to supersede generally that of almost every other god of Egypt, and in absorbing all the local gods of importance throughout the country into their theological system, wherein they gave them positions subordinate to those of Rā and his company of gods.


Rā and Rā-tem

Originally the local god of the city was Tem, who was worshipped there in a special temple, but they united his attributes to those of Rā and formed the double god Rā-Tem,(Unȧs, 1. 222). With the close of the VIth Dynasty the power of the priests of Rā declined, and it was not until the reign of Usertsen I., about B.C. 2433, that the sanctuary at Heliopolis was rebuilt, or perhaps entirely refounded. This king dedicated the temple which he built there to Rā and to two forms of this god, Horus and Temu, who were supposed to be incarnate in the famous Bull of Mnevis, which was worshipped at Heliopolis as Apis was worshipped at Memphis.

In front of the temple he set up two massive granite obelisks, each 66 feet high, the pyramidions of which were covered with copper ; these were still in situ about A.D. 1200. Between the XIIth and the XXth Dynasties we hear little of Heliopolis, but a further restoration of the temple buildings took place under Rameses III., who set apart large revenues for the maintenance of the worship of Rā and the dignity of his priests and servants.

When Piānkhi invaded Egypt, about B.C. 750, he visited Heliopolis after the capture of Memphis, going by way of the mountain of Kher-āḥa, , and he performed certain ceremonial ablutions in the “Lake of cold water,” , and washed his face in the “milk of Nu wherein Rā was wont to wash his face;”[11] this “Lake” is clearly the fountain of the sun which we have already mentioned.



At a place called Shāi-qa-em-Ȧnnu[12] he

“made great offerings at Shā-qa-em-Ȧmen to Rā at sunrise, viz., white oxen, milk, ānti unguent, incense, and sweet-smelling woods, and then he passed into the temple of Rā, which he entered bowing low in adoration to the god. The chief kher ḥeb priest, , offered up prayer on behalf of the king, that he might be able to repulse his enemies, and then having performed the ceremony connected with the ‘Star-room,’ , he took the seṭeb girdle, and purified himself with incense, and poured out a libation, when one brought to him the flowers which are offered up in the Ḥet-Benbenet,[13] . He took the flowers and went up the steps [leading to] the ‘great tabernacle,’ , to see Rā in Ḥet-Benbenet. He stood [on the top] there by himself, he pushed back the bolt, he opened the doors [of the tabernacle], and he saw his father Rā in Ḥet-Benbenet. He made adoration to the Māṭet Boat of Rā (i.e., the boat of the  rising sun), and to the Sektet boat of Tem (i.e., the boat of the setting sun).

He then drew close the doors again, and having affixed thereto the clay for a seal he stamped it with the seal of the king himself. He then admonished the priests [saying],

‘I have set [my] seal here, let no other king enter herein [or] stand here.’

And they cast themselves on their bellies before his majesty, saying,

‘May Horus who loveth Ȧnnu (Heliopolis) be firm and stable, and may he never come to an end.’

And the king went into the Temple of Tem, and he performed all the ceremonies and service connected with the worship of father Tem-Kheperȧ, , the prince of Ȧnnu.”

From the above it is certain that the sacred boats of Rā were kept in a sort of wooden tabernacle with two doors, , that could be fastened by a bolt, and from what we know from pictures of these boats it is equally certain that the Māṭet boat contained a hawk-headed figure of Rā, and that the Sektet boat contained a man-headed figure of Rā. The text says that the tabernacle, , was situated on the top of a flight of steps, and this is what we should expect, for we know that the support was intended to represent the high ground in or near the city of Khemennu, (Hermopolis), whereon Rā established himself on the day when he proceeded from the watery abyss of Nu, before the pillars of Shu were set up.

In the Book of the Dead this high ground is called “Qaqa in Khemennu,” . During the period of the Persian invasion the prosperity of the priesthood of Heliopolis declined, and it is said that later, during the reign of Ptolemy II. (b.c. 285-247) many of its members found an asylum at Alexandria, where their reputation for learning caused them to be welcomed.

A tradition says Solon, Thales, and Plato all visited the great college at Heliopolis, and that the last-named actually studied there, and that Manetho, the priest of Sebennytus, who wrote a history of Egypt in Greek for Ptolemy II., collected his materials in the library of the priesthood of Rā. Some time, however, before the Christian era, the temple buildings were in ruins, and the glory of Heliopolis had departed, and it was frequented only by those who went there to carry away stone or anything else which would be useful in building or farming operations.


Cult of Heliopolis

We have now to consider briefly what was the nature of the doctrine which was the distinguishing characteristic of the teaching of the priests of Heliopolis. In the first place it proclaimed the absolute sovereignty of Rā among the gods, and it made him the head of every company of the gods, but it did not deny divinity to the older deities of the country.

The chief authorities for the Heliopolitan doctrine are the Pyramid Texts, to which allusion has so often been made, and from these we see that the priests of Rā displayed great ingenuity and tact in absorbing into their form of religion all the older cults of Egypt, together with their magical rites and ceremonies. Apparently they did not attempt to abolish the old, indigenous gods; on the contrary, they allowed their cults to be continued, provided that the local priesthoods would make their gods subordinate to Rā. Thus Osiris and Isis, and their companion gods, were absorbed into the great company of the gods of Heliopolis, and the theological system of the priests of Osiris was mixed with that of the priests of Rā.

Nothing is known of the origin of Osiris worship, but the god himself and the ceremonies which accompanied the celebration of his festivals suggest that he was known to the predynastic dwellers in Egypt. The belief in the efficacy of worship of the Man-god, who rose from the dead, and established himself in the underworld as judge and king, was indelibly impressed on the minds of the Egyptians at a very early period, and although the idea of a heaven of material delights which was promised to the followers of Osiris did not, probably, commend itself in all particulars to the imaginations of the refined and cultured folk of Egypt, it was tacitly accepted as true and was regarded as a portion of their religious inheritance by the majority of the people.

On the other hand, the priests of Rā declared that the souls of the blessed made their way after death to the boat of Rā, and that if they succeeded in alighting upon it their eternal happiness was assured. No fiends could vex and no foes assail them successfully, so long as they had their seat in the “Boat of Millions of Years;” they lived upon the food on which the gods lived, and that food was light.

They were apparelled in light, and they were embraced by the god of light. They passed with Rā in his boat through all the dangers of the Ṭuat, and when the god rose each morning they were free to wander about in heaven or to visit their old familiar habitations on earth, always however taking care to resume their places in the boat before nightfall, at which time evil spirits had great power to injure, and perhaps even to slay, the souls of those who had failed to arrive safely in the boat.

But although the priests of Rā under the Early Empire, and the priests of Ȧmen-Rā under the Middle and New Empires, were supported by all the power and authority of the greatest kings and queens who ever sat upon the throne of Egypt, in their proclamation of a heaven, which was of a far more spiritual character than that of Osiris, they never succeeded in obliterating the belief in Osiris from the minds of the great bulk of the population in Egypt. The material side of the Egyptian character refused to be weaned from the idea of a Field of Peace, which was situated near the Field of Reeds and the Field of the Grasshoppers,[14] where wheat and barley grew in abundance, and where a man would possess a vine, and fig trees, and date palms, and be waited upon by his father and his mother, and where he would enjoy an existence more comfortable than that which he led upon this earth.

The doctrine of a realm of light, where the meat, and drink, and raiment were light, and the idea of becoming a being of light, and of passing eternity among creatures of light did not satisfy him. The result of all this was to create a perpetual contest between the two great priesthoods of Egypt, namely, those of Rā and Osiris ; in the end the doctrine of Osiris prevailed, and the attributes of the Sun-god were ascribed to him. In considering the struggle which went on between the followers of Rā and Osiris it is difficult not to think that there was some strong reason for the resistance which the priests of Rā met with from the Egyptians generally, and it seems as if the doctrine of Rā contained something which was entirely foreign to the ideas of the people.

The city of Heliopolis appears always to have contained a mixed population, and its situation made it a very convenient halting-place for travellers passing from Arabia and Syria into Egypt and vice versâ; it is, then, most probable that the doctrine of Rā as taught by the priests of Heliopolis was a mixture of Egyptian and Western Asiatic doctrines, and that it was the Asiatic element in it which the Egyptians resisted. It could not have been sun-worship which they disliked, for they had been sun-worshippers from time immemorial.


Hymns to Rā

The above paragraphs contain a statement of the facts concerning the worships of Rā and Osiris which appear to be fairly deducible from the extant religious literature of the Egyptians, but it is time to let the hymns to these gods declare the attributes which were assigned to them during the most flourishing period of Egyptian history. More hymns were addressed to these two than to any other gods, a fact which proves that they were considered to be the chief means of salvation for the Egyptians.

The following hymns are taken from the Papyri of Hunefer, and Ani, and Nekht[15]:—

“Homage to thee, O thou who art Rā when thou risest, and Temu when thou settest. Thou risest, thou risest, thou shinest, thou shinest, thou who art crowned king of the gods.

Thou art the lord of heaven, thou art the lord of earth; thou art the creator of those who dwell in the heights and of those who dwell in the depths.

Thou art the God One who didst come into being in the beginning of time. Thou didst create the earth, thou didst fashion man, thou didst make the watery abyss of the sky, thou didst form Ḥāpi (the Nile), thou didst create the watery abyss, and thou dost give life unto all that therein is.

Thou hast knit together the mountains, thou hast made mankind and the beasts of the field to come into being, thou hast made the heavens and the earth. Worshipped be thou whom Maāt embraceth at morn and at eve.

Thou dost travel across the sky with heart swelling with joy; the Lake of Testes becometh contented thereat. The serpent-fiend Nȧk hath fallen, and his two arms are cut off.

The Sektet boat receiveth fair winds, and the heart of him that is in the shrine thereof rejoiceth. Thou art crowned prince of heaven, and thou art the One dowered [with all attributes] who comest forth from the sky. Rā is he whose word when uttered must come to pass.

O thou divine Youth, thou heir of everlastingness, thou self-begotten one, thou who didst give thyself birth! O thou One, thou mighty [one] of myriad forms and aspects, King of the world, Prince of Ȧnnu (Heliopolis), lord of eternity and ruler of everlastingness, the company of the gods rejoice when thou risest and when thou sailest across the sky, O thou who art exalted in the Sektet boat.”

(From the Papyrus of Hunefer, sheet 1.)

“Hail, thou Disk, thou lord of rays, who risest on the horizon day by day! Homage to thee, O Ḥeru-khuti, who art the god Kheperȧ the self-created; when thou risest on the horizon and sheddest thy beams of light upon the lands of the North and of the South, thou art beautiful, yea beautiful, and all the gods rejoice when they behold thee, the King of heaven.

The goddess Nebt-unnut is stablished upon thy head ; and her uraei of the South and of the North are upon thy brow ; she taketh up her place before thee. The god Thoth is stablished in the bows of thy boat to destroy utterly all thy foes.

Those who are in the Ṭuat come forth to meet thee, and they bow in homage as they come towards thee to behold thy beautiful form. And I have come before thee that I may be with thee to behold thy Disk every day.

May I not be shut up in [the tomb], may I not be turned back, may the members of my body be made new when I view thy beauties, even as [are those of] all thy favoured ones, because I am one of those who worshipped thee upon earth.

May I come in unto the land of eternity, may I come even unto the everlasting land, for behold, O my lord, this hast thou ordained for me.

Homage to thee, O thou who risest in the horizon as Rā, thou restest upon law unchangeable and unalterable. Thou passest over the sky, and every face watcheth thee and thy course, for thou hast been hidden from their gaze.

Thou dost show thyself at dawn and at eventide day by day. The Sektet boat, wherein is thy Majesty, goeth forth with light; thy beams are upon all faces ; the [number] of thy red and yellow rays cannot be known, nor can thy bright beams be told.

The lands of the gods, and the lands of Punt must be seen, ere that which is hidden [in thee] may be measured. Alone and by thyself thou dost manifest thyself when thou comest into being above Nu.

May I advance, even as thou dost advance ; may I never cease to go forward as thou never ceasest to go forward, even though it be for a moment; for with strides thou dost in one little moment pass over the spaces which would need millions and millions of years [for men to pass over; this] thou doest and then thou dost sink to rest.

Thou puttest an end to the hours of the night, and thou dost count them, even thou; thou endest them in thine own appointed season, and the earth becometh light. Thou settest thyself therefore before thy handiwork in the likeness of Rā [when] thou risest on the horizon.

Thou art crowned with the majesty of thy beauties ; thou mouldest thy limbs as thou dost advance, and thou bringest them forth without birth-pangs in the form of Rā, as thou dost rise up into the upper air.

Grant thou that I may come unto the heaven which is everlasting, and into the mountain where dwell thy favoured ones. May I be joined unto those shining beings, holy and perfect, who are in the Underworld ; and may I come forth with them to behold thy beauties when thou shinest at eventide and goest to thy mother Nu.

Thou dost place thyself in the west, and my two hands are [raised] in adoration of thee when thou settest as a living being. Behold, thou art the maker of eternity, and thou art adored when thou settest in the heavens. I have given my heart unto thee without wavering, O thou who art mightier than the gods.

A hymn of praise to thee, O thou who risest like unto gold, and who dost flood the world with light on the day of thy birth. Thy mother giveth thee birth, and thou dost give light unto the course of the Disk.

O thou great Light, who shinest in the heavens, thou dost strengthen the generations of men with the Nile-flood, and thou dost cause gladness in all lands, and in all cities, and in all temples. Thou art glorious by reason of thy splendours, and thou makest strong thy Double with divine foods.

O thou mighty one of victories, thou who art the Power of Powers, who dost make strong thy throne against evil fiends ; who art glorious in majesty in the Sektet boat, and who art exceedingly mighty in the Ātet boat, make thou me glorious through words which when spoken must take effect in the Underworld; and grant thou that in the nether world I may be without evil.

I pray thee to put my faults behind thee ; grant thou that I may be one of thy loyal servants who are with the shining ones ; may I be joined unto the souls which are in Ta-tchesertet, and may I journey into the Sekhet-Ȧaru by a prosperous and happy decree.”

(From the Papyrus of Ani, sheet 20 f.)

“Homage to thee, O thou glorious being, thou who art dowered with all attributes, O Tem-Ḥeru-khuti, when thou risest in the horizon of heaven, a cry of joy cometh forth to thee from the mouth of all peoples.

O thou beautiful being, thou dost renew thyself in thy season in the form of the Disk within thy mother Hathor ; therefore in every place every heart swelleth with joy at thy rising for ever. The regions of the North and South come to thee with homage, and send forth acclamations at thy rising in the horizon of heaven; thou illuminest the two  lands with rays of turquoise light.

O Rā, thou who art Ḥeru-khuti, the divine man-child, the heir of eternity, self-begotten and self-born, king of earth, prince of the Ṭuat, governor of the regions of ȧuḳert; thou comest forth from the water, thou hast sprung from the god Nu, who cherisheth thee and ordereth thy members.

O thou god of life, thou lord of love, all men live when thou shinest; thou art crowned king of the gods. The goddess Nut doeth homage unto thee, and Maāt embraceth thee at all times.

Those who are in thy following sing unto thee with joy and bow down their foreheads to the earth when they meet thee, thou lord of heaven, thou lord of earth, thou king of Right and Truth, thou lord of eternity, thou prince of ever-lastingness, thou sovereign of all the gods, thou god of life, thou creator of eternity, thou maker of heaven wherein thou art firmly established.

The company of the gods rejoice at thy rising, the earth is glad when it beholdeth thy rays ; the peoples that have been long dead come forth with cries of joy to see thy beauties every day. Thou goest forth each day over heaven and earth and art made strong each day by thy mother Nut.

Thou passest through the heights of heaven, thy heart swelleth with joy; and the Lake of Testes is content thereat. The Serpent-fiend hath fallen, his arms are hewn off, the knife hath cut asunder his joints. Rā liveth by Maāt the beautiful.

The Sektet boat draweth on and cometh into port; the South and the North, the West and the East turn to praise thee, O thou primeval substance of the earth who didst come into being of thine own accord. Isis and Nephthys salute thee, they sing unto thee songs of joy at thy rising in the boat, they protect thee with their hands. The souls of the East follow thee, the souls of the West praise thee.

Thou art the ruler of all the gods, and thou hast joy of heart within thy shrine, for the serpent fiend Nȧk hath been condemned to the fire, and thy heart shall be joyful for ever.”

(From the Papyrus of Neicht, sheet 21.)


The Praises of Ra

Even more instructive, however, than these are the Seventy-five Praises of Rā which are found inscribed on the walls of royal tombs of the XIXth and XXth Dynasties at Thebes. In these we find enumerated a large number of most remarkable epithets and attributes, some idea of the meaning of which will be gathered from the following rendering:—

  1. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem,[16] lord of the hidden circles [of the Ṭuat], bringer of forms, thou restest in secret places and makest thy creations in the form of the god Ṭamṭ (, i.e., the universal god).
  2. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, thou creative force (), who spreadest out thy wings, who restest in the Ṭuaṭ, who makest the created things which come forth from his divine limbs.
  3. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, Ta-thenen, begetter of his gods. Thou art he who protecteth what is in him, and thou makest thy creations as Governer of thy Circle.
  4. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, looker on the earth, and brightener of Ȧmenti. Thou art he whose forms () are his own creations, and thou makest thy creations in thy Great Disk.
  5. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the Word-soul, that resteth on his high place. Thou art he who protecteth thy hidden spirits (), and they have form in thee.
  6. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, mighty one, bold of face, the knitter together of his body. Thou art he who gathereth together thy gods when thou goest into thy hidden Circle.
  7. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem. Thou dost call to thine Eye, and dost speak to thy head, and dost give breath to the souls in their places, and they receive it and have their forms in him.
  8. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, destroyer of thy enemies ; thou art he who doth decree destruction for the dead ().
  9. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the sender forth of light into his Circle ; thou art he who maketh the darkness to be in his Circle and thou coverest those who are therein.”
  10. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the illuminer of bodies in the horizons ; thou art he who entereth into his Circle.
  11. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, support () of the Circles of Ȧment; thou art indeed the body of Temu ().
  12. “Praise be to thee, O Ra, exalted Sekhem, the hidden support of Ȧnpu (); thou art indeed the body of Kheperȧ ().
  13. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, whose duration of life is greater than that of her whose forms are hidden ; thou art indeed the bodies of Shu ().
  14. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the guide (s ebi) of Rā to his members ; thou art indeed the bodies of Tefnut ().
  15. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou dost make to be abundant the things which are of Rā in their seasons, and thou art indeed Seb ().
  16. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the mighty one who doth keep count of the things which are in him; thou art indeed the bodies of Nut.
  17. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the lord who advancest; thou art indeed Isis ().
  18. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, whose head shineth more than the things which are in front of him ; thou art indeed the bodies of Nephthys () .
  19. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, united is he in members, One, who gathereth together all seed ; thou art indeed the bodies of Horus () .
  20. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, thou shining one who dost send forth light upon the waters of heaven ; thou art indeed the bodies of Nu () .
  21. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the avenger of Nu who cometh forth from what is in him ; thou art indeed the bodies of the god Remi () .
  22. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art the two Uraei who bear their two feathers [on their heads]; thou art indeed the bodies of the god Ḥuaaiti ().
  23. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou goest in and comest out and thou comest oat and goest in to thy hidden Circle, and thou art indeed the bodies of Āaṭu ()
  24. “Praise be to thee, O Ra, exalted Sekhem, the Soul who departeth at his appointed time ; thou art indeed the bodies of Nethert ().
  25. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, who standeth up, the Soul One, who avengeth his children; thou art indeed the bodies of Netuti ().
  26. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou raisest thy head and thou makest bold thy brow, thou ram, mightiest of created things.
  27. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the light of Shu at the head of Ȧḳert () ; thou art indeed the bodies of Ȧment ().
  28. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, the soul that seeth, the governor of Ȧment; thou art indeed the bodies of the double Circle ().
  29. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the Soul that mourneth, and the god that crieth (); thou art indeed the bodies of Ȧakebi ().
  30. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou makest thy hand to pass and praisest thine Eye, and thou art indeed the bodies of the god of hidden limbs ().
  31. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art the Soul exalted in the double hidden place (); thou art indeed Khenti-Ȧmenti ().
  32. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, of manifold creations in the holy house ; thou art indeed the bodies of the god Kheprer ().
  33. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou placest thine enemies in their strong fetters, and thou art indeed the bodies of Mati ().
  34. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou givest forth light in the hidden place, and thou art the bodies of the god of generation ().
  35. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the vivifìer of bodies ; thou makest throats to inhale breath, and thou art indeed the bodies of the god Ṭebati ().
  36. “Praise be to thee, O Ra, exalted Sekhem ; thou assemblest “bodies in the Ṭuaṭ, and they gain the form of life, thou destroyest foul humours, and thou art indeed the bodies of the god Serqi ().
  37. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, Hidden-face (), Seshem-Nethert (); thou art indeed the bodies of Shai ().
  38. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, lord of might; thou embracest the Ṭuat and thou art indeed the bodies of Sekhen-Ba ().
  39. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou hidest thy body in that which is within thee, and thou art indeed the bodies of Ȧmen-khat ().
  40. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, more strong of heart than those who are in his following ; thou sendest fire in the house of destruction, and thou art indeed the bodies of the Fire-god Rekḥi ().
  41. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou sendest forth destruction, and thou makest beings to come into existence in thy creations in the Ṭuat, and thou art the bodies of Ṭuati ().
  42. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, Bua-ṭep (), governor of his Eye ; thou sendest forth light into the hidden place, and thou art indeed the body of Shepi (
  43. “Praise be to thee, O Ra, exalted Sekhem, Ṭemṭ-ḥātu, stablisher of Ȧmta () ; thou art indeed the bodies of Ṭemṭ-ḥātu ().
  44. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, creator of hidden things, generator of bodies ; thou art indeed the bodies of the god Seshetai ().
  45. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou providest those who are in the Ṭuat with what they need in the hidden Circles, and thou art indeed Āper-ta ().
  46. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thy limbs rejoice when they see thy body, O Uash-Ba (), when thou enterest thy body, and thou art indeed the bodies of Ḥāi().
  47. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, aged one of the pupil () of the Utchat, Bai (); thou makest full thy splendour, and thou art indeed the bodies of Thenti ().
  48. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou makest straight ways in the Ṭuat, and openest up roads in the hidden place, and thou art indeed the bodies of Maā-uat (
  49. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art the Soul who movest onwards, and thou hastenest thy steps, and thou art indeed the bodies of Ȧkhpȧ ().
  50. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou sendest forth thy stars and thou illuminest the darkness in the Circles of those whose forms are hidden, and thou art indeed the god Ḥetchiu ().
  51. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the maker of the Circles, thou makest bodies to come into being by thine own creative vigour. Thou, O Rā, hast created the things which exist, and the things which do not exist, the dead (), and the gods, and the spirits; thou art indeed the body that maketh Khati () to come into being.
  52. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the doubly hidden and secret god (), and the souls go where thou leadest them, and those who follow thee thou makest to enter in ; thou art indeed the bodies of Ȧmeni ().
  53. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art Uben-Ȧn () of Ȧment, and the light of the lock of hair on thee. . . . ; thou art indeed the bodies of the god Uben.
  54. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the Aged One of forms who dost go about through the Ṭuat, to whom the souls in their Circles ascribe praises ; and thou art indeed the bodies of Then-ȧru ().
  55. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; when thou dost unite thyself to the Beautiful Ament, the gods of the Ṭuat rejoice at the sight of thee ; thou art indeed the bodies of Ȧāi ().
  56. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the Great Cat, the avenger of the gods, and the judge of words, and the president of the sovereign chiefs (or, assessors), and the governor of the holy Circle ; thou art indeed the bodies of the Great Cat ().
  57. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; when thou fillest thine eye, and speakest to the pupil thereof, the divine dead bodies shed tears; thou art indeed the bodies of Meṭu-khut-f ().
  58. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art the Soul on high and thy bodies are hidden ; thou sendest forth the light, and thou lookest upon thy hidden things (or, places) ; thou art indeed the bodies of Ḥer-ba ().
  59. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, exalted of Soul; thou destroyest thine enemies, thou sendest fire on the wicked, and thou art the bodies of Qa-Ba ()
  60. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, Ȧuaiu (), who hidest in purity ; thou hast gained the mastery over the souls of the gods, and thou art indeed the bodies of Ȧuai.
  61. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, Oldest one () Great one, Governor of the Ṭuat, Creating one (); thou didst create the two Setchet () and thou art indeed the bodies of the two Setchet gods ().
  62. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem, Mighty One of journeyings ; thou orderest thy steps by Maāt, thou art the Soul that doeth good to the body, thou art Senk-ḥrȧ (, i.e., Face of Light), and thou art indeed the bodies of Senk-ḥrȧ.
  63. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou dost protect (or, avenge) thy body, and thou dost hold the balance [among] the gods as the hidden Amȧ (), [and] as Ȧm-ta (), and thou art indeed the bodies of the double god Amȧ-Ȧmta ().
  64. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the lord of the fetters of thine enemies, the One, the Prince of the Apes (), and thou art indeed the bodies of Ȧntetu ().
  65. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou sendest forth flames into thy furnaces (), and thou cuttest off the heads of those who are to be destroyed (), and thou art indeed the bodies of the two gods Ketuit ().
  66. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art the god of generation (), thou destroyest [thy] offspring, thou art One, thou stablishest the two lands by [thy] spirit (), and thou art indeed the bodies of the god Ta-Thenen ().
  67. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou stablishest the gods who watch the hours () on their standards, and who are invisible and secret, and thou art indeed the bodies of the Watcher gods ().
  68. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the double Tchent god () of heaven, and the gate of the Ṭuat, and the god Besi () [with] his spiritual bodies (PLAATJE), and thou art the bodies of Besi. ()
  69. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the Apes ()....., and thou art the true creative Power of [thy] divine attributes (), and thou art indeed the bodies of the Ape-god in the Ṭuat.
  70. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou makest new the earth, and thou openest a way for that which is therein, thou that art the Soul which giveth names unto his limbs, and thou art indeed the bodies of Sma-ta ().
  71. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art Neḥi () who burnest up thine enemies, the Fire-god Setcheti (), who burneth up fetters, and thou art indeed the bodies of Neḥi ().
  72. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art the god of motion (), the god of light (), who travelleth, thou makest the darkness to come into being after thy light, and thou art indeed the bodies of Shemti.
  73. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art the lord of souls who art in the house of thy obelisk (), thou art the chief of the gods who are supreme in their districts (), and thou art indeed the god Neb-baiu (, i.e., Lord of souls).
  74. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem; thou art the double Sphinx-god, the Double obelisk-god (), the Great God who lifteth up his two Eyes, and thou art indeed the bodies of the double Sphinx god Ḥuiti ().
  75. “Praise be to thee, O Rā, exalted Sekhem ; thou art the lord of light and declarest the things which are hidden, and thou art the Soul that speaketh with the gods who are in their “Circles, and thou art indeed the bodies of Neb-Senku (, i.e., the Lord of light).”[17]

An impartial examination of the above translation will show the reader the lofty conceptions which were associated by the Egyptians with Rā the Sun-god, and there is not room for any reasonable doubt that they ascribed to the god, whose symbol was the sun, all the attributes which modern nations are wont to regard as the properties peculiar to God Almighty.

He was One, and the maker of “gods” and men ; he was the creator of heaven, earth, and the underworld ; he was self-begotten, self-created, and self-produced ; he had existed for ever and would exist to all eternity ; he was the source of all life and light; and he was the personification of right and truth, and goodness, and the destroyer of darkness, night, wickedness, and evil. There is scarcely an attribute of importance ascribed to our God for which there is no equivalent in the hymns and texts which relate to Rā and describe his greatness and power, for he was not only the god of the living but also the god of the dead, and the god of everything unborn.

His relations with Osiris, who was part god and part man, and was the cause and type of immortality for man, were at once those of a god, a father, and an equal, and when we consider that Osiris was a king who reigned over Egypt, and that every king was an incarnation of Rā, it is easy to understand how he came to have the power to rise from the dead, and to act as the judge of the dead on behalf of his father Rā.


Tem of Heliopolis

Tem, or Temu, or Ȧtem, .

Tem, or Temu, or Ȧtem, was originally the local god of the city of Ȧnnu, or Heliopolis, and in the dynastic period at all events he was held to be one of the forms of the great Sun-god Rā, and to be the personification of the setting sun. In the predynastic period, however, he was, as M. Lefébure has pointed out,[18] the first man among the Egyptians who was believed to have become divine, and who was at his death identified with the setting sun; in other words, Tem was the first living man-god known to the Egyptians, just as Osiris was the first dead man-god, and as such was always represented in human form and with a human head.

It is important to note this fact, for it indicates that those who formulated the existence of this god were on a higher level of civilization than those who depicted the oldest of all Egyptian gods, Horus, in the form of a hawk, or in that of a hawk-headed human body. In the papyri and on the monuments he usually wears, the crowns of the South and North, upon his head, and he holds, the emblem of life, in his right hand, and the sceptre, (PLAATJE), in his left. In the boat of Rā he is depicted in human form even when Rā is symbolized by a disk which is being rolled along by a beetle, and the god Kheperȧ is represented by a beetle, and the rising sun Ḥeru-Khuti is shown under the form of a hawk’s head, from which fall rays of light.[19]


Rā-tem of Heliopolis

Tem was, in fact, to the Egyptians a manifestation of God in human form, and his conception in their minds marks the end of the period wherein they assigned animal forms to their gods, and the beginning of that in which they evolved the idea of God, almighty, inscrutable, unknowable, the maker and creator of the universe. It is useless to attempt to assign a date to the period when the Egyptians began to worship God in human form, for we have no material for doing so ; the worship of Tem must, however, be of very great antiquity, and the fact that the priests of Rā in the Vth and VIth Dynasties united him to their god under the name of Rā-Tem,, proves that his worship was wide-spread, and that the god was thought to possess attributes similar to those of Rā.

The Pyramid Texts show that the attributes of Temu were confounded with those of Rā, and that the protection and favour of this god were all essential for the well-being of the deceased in the Underworld ; indeed, it is Tem the father who stretches out his hand to Pepi I. and sets him at the head of the gods, where he judges the great and the wise.[20] This passage shows that Tem was regarded as the father of the human race, and as he was also divine his powers to help the dead were very great.

In many respects he was held to be the equal of Rā, and the prayers and hymns which were addressed to him frequently show that the Egyptians were very anxious to propitiate him. This is not difficult to understand if we remember the dogmas of the Heliopolitan priesthood about the means by which the souls of the blessed departed from this world.

They taught that souls when they left this world went to the region which lay between the earth and the beginning of the Valley of the Ṭuat, and which was called Ȧmentet, and that they waited there until the Boat of the Setting Sun, i.e., the boat of Rā in his form of Temu, made his appearance there ; as soon as it arrived the souls flocked to it, and those who had served Rā upon earth and whose bodies had been buried with the orthodox rites, and ceremonies, and prayers of the priesthood of Rā, and were, therefore, provided with the necessary words of power, were admitted to the boat of Tem, where they enjoyed the protection and favour of the god in his various forms to all eternity.

There was, moreover, another aspect of Tem which gave the god a position of peculiar importance in the minds of the Egyptians, i.e., he was identified not only with the god of the dead, Osiris, but also with the young Horus, the new and rising sun of the morrow. All these ideas are well expressed in a hymn to Tem which is found in the Papyrus of Mut-ḥetep (Brit. Mus., No. 10,010, sheet 5), and which was composed to enable every spirit who recited it to “come forth by day” and in any form he pleased and to have great power in the Ṭuat.

The lady Mut-ḥetep says,

“O Rā-Tem, in thy splendid progress thou risest, and thou settest as a living being in the glories of the western horizon; thou settest in thy territory which is in the Mount of Sunset (Manu,). Thy uraeus is behind thee, thy uraeus is behind thee. Homage to thee, O thou who art in peace ; homage to thee, O thou who art in peace. Thou art joined unto the Eye of Tem, and it chooseth its powers of protection [to place] behind thy members.

Thou goest forth through heaven, thou travellest over the earth, and thou jonrneyest onward. O Luminary, the northern and southern halves of heaven come to thee, and they bow low in adoration, and they do homage unto thee, day by day. The gods of Ȧmentet rejoice in thy beauties, and the unseen places sing hymns of praise unto thee.

Those who dwell in the Sektet boat go round about thee, and the Souls of the East do homage to thee, and when they meet thy Majesty they cry: ‘Come, come in peace!’ There is a shout of welcome to thee, O lord of heaven and governor of Ȧmentet! Thou art acknowledged by Isis who seeth her son in thee, the lord of fear, the mighty one of terror.

Thou settest as a living being in the hidden place. Thy father [Ta-]tunen raiseth thee up and he placeth both his hands behind thee; thou becomest endowed with divine attributes in [thy] members of earth; thou wakest in peace and thou settest in Manu. Grant thou that I may become a being honoured before Osiris, and that I may come to thee, O Rā-Tem ! I have adored thee, therefore do thou for me that which I wish. Grant thou that I may be victorious in the presence of the company of the gods.

Thou art beautiful, O Rā, in thy western horizon of Ámentet, thou lord of Maāt, thou being who art greatly feared, and whose attributes are majestic, O thou who art greatly beloved by those who dwell in the Ṭuat! Thou shinest with thy beams upon the beings that are therein perpetually, and thou sendest forth thy light upon the path of Re-stau.

Thou openest up the path of the double Lion-god, thou settest the gods upon [their] thrones, and the spirits in their abiding-places. The heart of Naȧrerf (i.e., Ȧn-ruṭ-f, a region of the Underworld) is glad [when] Rā setteth ; the heart of Naȧrerf is glad when Rā setteth.

Hail, O ye gods of the land of Ȧmentet who make offerings and oblations unto Rā-Tem, ascribe ye glory [unto him when] ye meet him. Grasp ye your weapons and overthrow ye the fiend Sebȧ on behalf of Rā, and repulse the fiend Nebṭ on behalf of Osiris.

The gods of the land of Ȧmentet rejoice and lay hold upon the cords of the Sektet boat, and they come in peace; the gods of the hidden place who dwell in Ȧmentet triumph.”

In the opening words of another hymn Tem is addressed as

“Rā, who in thy setting art Tem-Ḥeru-khuti (Tem-Harmachis), thou divine god, thou self-created being, thou primeval matter,”[21]

from which we see that the attributes of selfcreation, etc., which, strictly speaking, belonged to Kheperȧ, were ascribed to Tem.



In the Myth of Rā and Isis Rā is made to say,

“I am Kheperȧ in the morning, and Rā at noonday, and Temu in the evening.”[22]

From which we may understand that the day and the night were divided into three parts, each of which was presided over by one of the three forms of Rā here mentioned. In the time of the Middle Empire Tem is often mentioned with Ḥeru-khuti, Rā, and Kheperȧ, and the priests of Heliopolis always attempted to prove that he was the ancestor of all the other forms of the Sun-god.

In the Book of the Dead (xvii. 5 ff.) the deceased is made to identify himself with Tem as the oldest of the gods, and he says,

“I am Tem in rising ; I am the only One ; I came into being in Nu. I am Rā who rose in the beginning.”

The statement is followed by the question, “Who then is this?” and the answer is,

“It is Rā when at the beginning he rose in the city of Suten-ḥenen, crowned like a king in rising. The pillars of Shu were not as yet created when he was upon the high ground of him lUSAASET AND NEBT-HETEPthat dwelleth in Khemennu” (i.e., Thoth).

Thus it is clear that the Heliopolitans made out that it was Tern who was the first god to exist in primeval matter, and they consistently coupled him with Harmachis,, and with Kheperȧ,, as forms of the rising sun ; on the other hand, they often, with fine inconsistency, identified him with the setting sun, and made the wind of evening, which gave refreshment to mortals and breath to the dead, to go forth from him.


Shrines of Tem

It is difficult to say definitely where the original shrine of Tem was situated, but it appears to have been in the Eighth Nome of Lower Egypt, (, Nefer Ȧbt, the Heroopolites of the Greeks), at the place which is called both Thuket, , and Pa-Ȧtemt, , and it is described as the “gate of the East.” Under the form “Pithom” the sacred name of the city Pa-Ȧtemt is familiar to all from the Bible. The site of Pa-Ȧtemt or Pithom was long thought to be buried beneath the ruins called by the Arabs Tell al-Maskhûtah,[23] which are situated close to the modern village of Tell el-Kebîr, and the excavations made on the spot by M. Naville prove that this view is correct.

The inscriptions prove beyond all doubt that the great god of Pithom was Tem, and from the allusions which are made in them to the “Holy serpent” therein, and from the fact that one part of the temple buildings was called Pa-Qerḥet,[24] , or Ȧst-qerḥet, , that is, “the house of the snake-god Qerḥet,” it is tolerably certain that one of the forms under which Tem was worshipped was a huge serpent. A town situated as Pithom was on the large canal joining the Red Sea and the Nile, and on the highway from Arabia to Heliopolis must have contained a very mixed population, which would include a number of merchants and others from Western Asia.

These probably brought in with them a number of strange  practices connected with the worship of their own gods, which having been adopted by the indigenous peoples in the district modified their worship. From a passage in the Pyramid Texts already quoted it seems that the original form of the worship of Tem was phallic in character, but if it was . nothing is known about it; some scholars have regarded obelisks as phallic emblems, and have pointed to their earliest forms, in which their tops were surmounted by disks, in proof of the correctness of their view.


Iusāaset And Nebt-ḥetep

Attached to the god Tem were two female counterparts called respectively Iusāaset,, and Nebt-Ḥetep, , and they formed members of the company of the gods of Heliopolis, being mentioned with Tem, lord of the two lands of Ȧnnu, Rā, and Ḥeru-khuti.[25] Iusāaset, the Σαωσις of Plutarch, is called the “mistress of Ȧnnu,” and the “Eye of Rā,” , and she is regarded as the mother, and wife, and daughter of Tem according to the requirements of the texts ;[26] as the wife of Tem she is said to be the mother of Shu and Tefnut.

She is depicted[27] in the form of a woman who holds the sceptre, , in her right hand, and “life,” , in her left; on her head she wears the vulture head-dress surmounted by a uraeus, and a disk between a pair of horns. In this form she is called the “mistress of Ȧnnu,” , and was the wife of Tem-Ḥeru-khuti. The goddess Nebt-ḥetep appears to have been nothing but a form of Iusāaset, for in the scene in which she is represented in the form of a cow she is called “mistress of the gods, Iusāaset-Nebt-ḥetep.”

According to Brugsch[28] Tem was joined to the god Osiris under the phase Tem-Ȧsȧr, and formed with Hathor of Ȧnnu, or Ānt, , and Ḥeru-sma-taui, , the head of the triad of Heroopolis. As local forms of the god Tem-Rā he enumerates Khnemu in Elephantine, Khnemu-Ḥeru-shefit in Heracleopolis Magna, and Khnemu-Ba-neb-Ṭeṭṭeṭ in Mendes.



Kheperȧ .

The third form of Rā, the Sun-god, was Kheperȧ kheper-tchesee, , i.e., Kheperȧ the self-produced, whose type and symbol was a beetle ; he is usually represented in human form with a beetle upon the head, but sometimes a beetle takes the place of the thuman head. In one scene figured by Lanzone he is represented seated on the ground, and from his knees projects the head of the hawk of Horus, which is surmounted by , “life.”[29]

In the section which treats of the Creation we have already translated and discussed the text which tells how the Sun-god Rā came into being under the form of Kheperȧ from out of the primeval watery mass of Nu, and how by means of his soul, which lived therein with him, he made a place whereon to stand, and straightway created the gods Shu and Tefnut, from whom proceeded the other gods.

The worship of the beetle was, however, far older than that of Rā in Egypt, and it is pretty certain that the identification of Rā with the beetle-god is only another example of the means adopted by the priests, who grafted new religious opinions and beliefs upon old ones. The worship of the beetle, or at all events, the reverence which was paid to it, was spread over the whole country, and the ideas which were associated with it maintained their hold upon the dynastic Egyptians, and some of them appear to survive among the modern inhabitants of the Nile valley.

The particular beetle which the Egyptians introduced into their mythology belongs to the family called Scarabæiciae (Coprophagi), of which the Scarabaeus sacer is the type. These insects compose a very numerous group of dung-feeding Lamellicorns, of which, however, the majority live in tropical countries; they are usually black, but many are adorned with bright, metallic colours. They fly during the hottest hours of the day, and it was undoubtedly this peculiarity which caused the primitive Egyptians to associate them with the sun. Thus as far back as the VIth Dynasty the dead king Pepi is said

“to fly like a bird, and to alight like a beetle upon the empty throne in the boat of Rā.”[30]

According to Latreille[31] it was the species of a fine green colour (Ateuchus Aegyptiorum) which was first identified with the sun. The insect lays a vast numbers of eggs in a mass of dung, which it proceeds to push about with its legs until it gradually assumes the form of a ball, and then rolls it along to a hole which it has previously dug.

A ball of dung containing eggs varies in size from one to two inches in diameter, and in rolling it along the beetle stands almost upon its head, with its head turned away from the ball; in due course the larvae are hatched by the heat of the sun’s rays beating down into the hole wherein it has been placed by the beetle, and they feed upon the covering of dung which protected them. The mind of the primitive Egyptian associated the ball of the beetle containing potential germs of life with the ball of the sun, which seemed to be rolled across the sky daily, and which was the source of all life.

The beetle shows great perseverance in conveying the egg-laden balls of dung to the holes in which the larvae are to be hatched, and they frequently carry them over rough ground on the broad, flat surface of their heads, and seek, when unable singly to complete the work, the assistance of their fellows. It is this habit of the beetle which is represented in mythological scenes where we see the disk or ball of the sun on the head of the beetle, . A curious view was held by the ancient writers Aelian,[32] Porphyry,[33] and Horapollo[34] to the effect that beetles were all males (Κάνθαρος γὰς πᾶς ἄῤῥην), and that as there were no females among them, the males were, like the Sun-god Rā, self-produced.

This erroneous idea probably sprang up because the male and female scarabaeus are very much alike, and because both sexes appear to divide the care of the preservation of their offspring equally between them, but in any case, it is a very ancient one, for in the Egyptian story of the Creation the god, whose type and symbol was a beetle, not only produced himself, but also begot, conceived, and brought forth two deities, one male (Shu), and the other female (Tefnut).


The Father of the Gods

In the Egyptian texts Kheperȧ is called the “father of the gods,”, and in the Book of the Dead (xvii. 116) the deceased addresses him, saying, 44 Hail, Kheperȧ in thy boat, the “double company of the gods is thy body,” but the form of the Sun-god with which he is most closely allied is that of Ḥeru-khuti, or Harmachis. In the Book of the Dead Kheperȧ plays a prominent part in connection with Osiris; he is called the “creator of the gods” (Ani, 1, 2); “Ḥeru-khuti-Temu-Ḥeru-Kheperȧ” (Qenna, 2, 15), and whatever forms he takes, or has taken, the deceased claims the right to take also. Moreover, the god Kheperȧ becomes in a manner a type of the dead body, that is to say, he represents matter containing a living germ which is about to pass from a state of inertness into one of active life.

As he was a living germ in the abyss of Nu, and made himself to emerge therefrom in the form of the rising sun, so the germ of the living soul, which existed in the dead body of man, and was to burst into a new life in a new world by means of the prayers recited during the performance of appropriate ceremonies, emerged from its old body in a new form either in the realm of Osiris or in the boat of Rā. This doctrine was symbolized by the germs of life rolled up in the egg-ball of the beetle, and the power which made those to become living creatures was that which made man’s spiritual body to come into being, and was personified in the god Kheperȧ.

Thus Kheperȧ symbolized the resurrection of the body, and it was this idea which was at the root of the Egyptian custom of wearing figures of the beetle, and of placing them in the tombs and on the bodies of the dead ; the myriads of scarabs which have been found in all parts of Egypt testify to the universality of this custom. As to its great antiquity there is no doubt whatsoever, for the scarab was associated with burial as far back as the period of the IVth Dynasty.

Thus in the Papyrus of Nu (Brit. Mus., No. 10,477, sheet 21) we are told in the Rubric that Chapter lxiv. of the Book of the Dead was found inscribed in letters of real lapis-lazuli inlaid in a block “of iron of the south” under the feet of the god (i.e., Thoth), during the reign of Men-kau-Rā (Mycerinus), by the prince Heru-ṭā-ṭā-f in the city of Khemennu.


Kheperȧ and the Heart

At the end of the second paragraph this Chapter is ordered to be recited by a man

“who is ceremonially clean and pure who hath not eaten the flesh of animals or fish, and who hath not had intercourse with women.”

The text continues,

“And behold, thou shalt make a scarab of green stone, with a rim of gold, and this shall be placed in the heart of a man, and it shall perform for him the ‘Opening of the Mouth.’ And thou shalt anoint it with ānti unguent, and thou shalt recite over it the following words of power.”

The “words of power” which follow this direction form Chapter xxx b. of the Book of the Dead, wherein the deceased addresses the scarab as

“my heart, my mother ; my heart, my mother ! My heart whereby I came into being.”

He then prays that it will not depart from him when he stands in the presence of the “guardian” of the Balance wherein his heart is to be weighed, and that none may come forward in the judgment to oppose him, or to give false or unfavourable evidence against him, or to “make his name to stink.” Curiously enough he calls the scarab “his double” (ha). Another Rubric makes the lxivth Chapter as old as the time of Ḥesepti (Semti), the fifth king of the 1st Dynasty, and the custom of burying green basalt scarabs inside or on the breasts of the dead may well be as old as his reign.

Be this as it may, scarabs were worn by the living as protective amulets, and as symbols of triumphant acquittal in the Judgment Hall of Osiris, and as emblems of the resurrection which was to be effected by the power of the god Kheperȧ whom they represented, and the words of power of Chapter xxx b made them to act the part of the ka or double for the dead on the day of the “weighing of words” before Osiris, and his officers, and his sovereign chiefs, and Thoth the scribe of the gods, and the two companies of the gods. If scarabs were placed under the coffin no fiend could harm it, and their presence in a tomb gave to it the protection of the “father of the gods.”

Footnotes and references:



See Unȧs, l. 292.


Book of the Dead. (Papyrus of Ani, pl. 1, line 15.)


See the Vocabulary to my Chapters of Cowing Forth by Day, under Āpep (p. 61).


See Archaeologia, vol. lii. (The Papyrus of Nesi-Ȧmsu).


See my paper in Archaeologia, vol. lii., pp. 202-204.


See King, Babylonian Religion, p. 71 ff.


See Lanzone, op. cit., pi. 186, Nos. 1-4.


See Erman, Westcar Papyrus, pi. ix. ff.


See an interesting paper on this subject by Sethe in Aegyptische Zeitschrift, 1889, p. lll ff. (Die Heiligthü her des Re‘ im alten Reich).


(Stele of Piānkhi, 1. 102).



I.e., the shrine or holy of holies of the temple of Rā.


(Book of the Dead, cxxv. 19).


See my Chapters of Coining Forth by Day (Translation), pp. 8, 36.


Literally, "Power."


For the hieroglyphic texts from the tombs of Seti I., Seti II., and Rameses IV., and a French translation, see Naville, La Litanie du Soleil, Leipzig, 1875.


Trans. Soc. Eibl. Arch., ix., p. 175.


Lanzone, op. cit., pl. 398.


(Pepi I., l. 201)


Naville, Todtenbuch, Bd. i., pl. 19.





This is the Pi-hahiroth of the Bible.


Great Harris Papyrus, sheet i., line 4.


Brugsch, Religion, p. 281.


Lanzone. op. cit., pl. 51.


Op. cit., p. 290.


Lanzone, op. cit., pl. 329.


(Unȧs, l. 447)


Cailliaud, Voyage, tom. ii., p. 311.


De Nat. Animal., x. 15.


Be Abstinentia, iv. 9.


Ed. Loemans, p. 11.

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