Creating the Past Ancient Egyptians and Norsemen along with all other cultures believe that the world and all that lies there in was created by a Supreme Being or force. For most people faith alone is not enough to base their very existence on; people want to know why, how, and all of the details. It is only human nature for a person to be curious and want to know why something happened the way it did. Curiosity is the reason the Egyptians and Norsemen began to write or create myths and deities. Authors since the beginning of time have written based on the inspiration of their lives and surroundings, including the Egyptians and Norsemen.
Ancient Egyptian and Norse creation mythologies and deities yield logical evidence of the cultures from which they came. A few different creation stories occupied the Egyptian region, but most all of them began the same. According To Pierre Montet, the world was created from nothing in a time when there was no sky, when neither the earth, nor men nor gods existed, and when even death did not exist (154). In Egypt like in most other places, only a small percentage of boys and girls attended school, and they were from upper class families. The lack of education in the Egyptian culture harnessed the attempts to create an accurate creation myth (Warner 13). The main and most believed creation stories came from the three most important religious centers; Heliopolis, Memphis, and Hermopolis.
Each city was devoted to a different deity, and they rivaled each other trying to show how their own god originated creation (Cavendish 97). It is only normal for a group of people to want the credit for a great event. The creation myth from Heliopolis acknowledges Atum as its sole creator, and the Egyptians said that he rose out of the primeval waters, that formed from the emptiness and nothing, along with a hill of land. Then to create offspring Atum masturbated to form Shu, God of air, and Tefnut, goddess of moisture. They in turn united to form the earth god, Geb, and the sky goddess, Nut (Cavendish 97). The Egyptians said that from the union of Geb and Nut the non-cosmic deities Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nepthys formed. So evidently the earth and sky were imagined as being in a close embrace and were committing an act of procreation.
A very well thought theory considering what the Egyptians knew about biological generation, and their typical way of life (Budge 20). In the Memphis creation myth, the Egyptians claimed that Ptah, their supreme god, joined with Naunet and fathered Atum, who then created the world (Cavendish 97). In Hermopolis, Egyptians claimed that a group of eight deities consisting of Nun, Huh, Kuk, and Amun joined with their mates Naunet, Hauket, Kauket, and Amaunet to create the world (Cavendish 97). Two different stories about the creation of night and day accompanied the three different stories of world creation. The Egyptians said in one story that Atum was sometimes identified with the sun god, Re, producing Atum-Re who would sail across the sky in his sektet in the morning to produce the light of day.
Then at night Nut would swallow him creating the darkness, and then give birth to him again in the morning (Philip 16). In some areas of Egypt the Egyptians said that Atum-Re did not like the union of Geb and Nut. Therefore, in order to separate them he would rise during the day creating light, and as long as the sun shone Nut remained separated from Geb. Then as soon as the sun went down Nut would gradually descend until she embraced Geb creating night (Budge 20). Many aspects of Egyptian culture including the environment and people reflect information that was vital to the creation of myths and deities. In the environment, the idea of the primeval water and land emerging reflects the conditions of the Nile Valley.
Each year the Egyptians watched as the Nile flooded and covered everything. Then as the water subsided high points of land emerged from the water. Hence came the story of Atum and his emergence from primeval water (Warner 13). One of the first pieces of land to emerge from the flooded Nile was a giant hill. So the Egyptians placed Atum’s temple on top of that hill making it the most sacred place in Egypt due to the fact that the creation of the world began there (Warner 13). The Egyptians perceived that life was dependent upon the sun; since it aided in the fertility of the earth, production of abundant crops, and successful harvests.
Since the Egyptians witnessed the sun and sky contributing so much to the fertility of the earth, they naturally would create myths where the procreation of many deities would take place in the sky (Budge 21). In ancient Egypt, women had a higher position with more advantages and recognition than other cultures. This is evident in the part of the creation myth in which the sky, Nut, is portrayed by a female goddess while the earth, Geb, is portrayed by a male god. This was a giant honor considering that the sky was the most significant aspect of Egyptian mythology (Warner 15). In ancient Egypt, animals were used as symbols for the Gods and their temples.
In many cases, people worshipped the animal symbol of the gods, or actually, the gods in animal form. In mythology, the worship of animals was a result of the domination of the world surrounding man. Rex Warner wrote that it was common for the Egyptians to worship animals (16), but as time passed and the Egyptians grew wiser they began to understand the world. Therefore, they started changing the gods to human form or at least fusing them with human parts (Spence 4). Whenever new aspects of the Egyptian society organized or changed, to reflect the times, the Egyptians created new gods. For example during the time of social organization and crafts Ptah, god of craftsmen, was created and worshipped (Casson 72).
Many gods in the Egyptian myths had a certain purpose. For example, Anubis was the god of the dead, and when the Egyptians were buried in the ground, like most middle and lower class people, a jackal would always come and dig up their bones. So from that the Egyptians derived Anubis, the jackal headed god of the dead (Casson 71). Many texts show that when followers of one god fought with followers of another god, both of the gods were pictured in conflict (Montet 152). This shows another example of how actions of the Egyptians were reflected in their stories or myths.
Rex Warner backed up that statement when he said, it is accordingly not surprising that in the earliest written cosmogonies, or creation myths, we find a mixture of thought and imagery about the beginnings of things which derives both from the new needs of civilized society, and from the cruder concepts of the pre-literary past (13). People are attracted to elaborate and beautiful things, and the architecture in Egypt was magnificent. The Egyptians built temples for gods on grand scales with many amenities, and the richer the temple the more admired, worshipped, and elaborate the god became in myths (Montet 19). Lionel Casson wrote the prominence of a god and the union he might make were a result of the political and economic fortune of the town of his origin (73). Along with many other developments, Ancient Egypt was one of the first cultures to emphasize life after death …