In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian

A Would-Be Ombite Creation Myth (Part 1)

Artist’s reconstruction of a Naqada I village (from DePaul University)

People often don’t realize that there’s more than one Creation myth in ancient Egyptian mythology. Each priesthood developed its own beliefs about how the universe was made and who made it. Naturally, they each considered the Deities whom they were assigned to worship as supreme. For these reasons, the priesthood of Iunu or Heliopolis believed that Atum created the universe by ejaculating it from Himself, while the priesthood of Khmun or Hermopolis believed it all began with a convergence of eight primordial Deities. The priests of Mennefer or Memphis, in turn, were convinced that Ptah created the world by commanding it to exist, and the priests of Waset or Thebes claimed that Amun started it all. These – the Heliopolitan, Hermopolitan, Memphite and Theban cosmogonies – are the four most popular schools of thought when it comes to Egyptian theology.

It’s rather unfortunate, however, that most resources on Egypt forget to mention that there were quite a few more cosmogonies than just these four. There’s one in which the world is created by the Goddess Neith, while another cites Geb (Father Earth) as the Creator. Heck, there’s even a version where Sobek, the crocodile God, gives birth to the Sun (which brings to mind the hermaphroditic version of Godzilla in the 1998 American remake). The fact is that every priesthood in Egypt had its own ideas about this stuff, but many of these stories have either (1) received little attention in most modern media or (2) not survived in any written accounts.

If you’re asking yourself how the Egyptians could have tolerated having so many different Creation myths, it’s because they thought about religion very differently than we do today. As far as they were concerned, each of these stories were simultaneously true; they were simply different ways of telling the same tale. In this way, I like to think the Egyptians actually predicated the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which it’s theorized that wavefunction collapse doesn’t actually happen. (This would mean that all possible alternative histories and futures are real). Suppose there is some unknowable Supreme Being out there, and suppose It defined Itself as Amun, Neith, Ptah, and every other Deity we’ve ever heard of all at the same time. Suppose It also created a different universe with a different history under each of these alternate personalities, and suppose that each of these Gods is both the same being and a different being at the same time (like the Doctor in Doctor Who, who’s always the same character, but who’s also completely different between each of his incarnations). Maybe when we pray to one or more of these different Deities, we’re actually engaging in some kind of interdimensional communication. If you can wrap your mind around this craziness, then you have an idea of just how Egyptian theology actually works.

Seth’s cult was one of the very oldest in Egypt, going all the way back to the predynastic era (i.e., to 3200 BCE at least, when the North Star was still Thuban in Draco). This means Seth was worshiped in Egypt even before the Pharaohs came along. What’s more, His cult appears to have originally been centered in an Upper Egyptian gold-mining town called Nubt, which would later be called Ombos in Greek and Naqada in Arabic. The people of Nubt had a temple that was dedicated to Seth, and it stands to reason that this temple was maintained by a priesthood. It also stands to reason that these priests would have had their very own idea of how the cosmos came into existence, and that they would have viewed Big Red as a Creator of some sort. Unfortunately, there are no written records to indicate what such a cosmogony might have been like; the temple of Seth in Nubt no longer stands, and whatever secrets it once held are seemingly lost to us forever.

I can’t claim to know exactly who created the multiverse or how They did it, and I really don’t care about it too much. It’s enough for me to put my trust in Seth, to enjoy and give thanks for His blessings, and to mythologize the things that happen in my own private life. But it’s always bugged me a little bit that when it comes to Big Red’s origins, the only story you ever hear is the Heliopolitan cosmogony, in which He’s presented as (1) Ra’s younger great-grandson, (2) Shu and Tefnut’s younger grandson, (3) Geb and Nut’s younger son, (4) Osiris and Isis’ younger brother, and (5) Nephthys’ older brother. We know that these roles and relationships were assigned to Seth at a comparatively later point in Egyptian history, and we know that this is really just what Heliopolitans believed. But what would a citizen of Ombos have been raised to think? What kinds of roles and relationships would Seth have been given by an Ombite theologian?

There’s no way to definitively answer these questions at this point (and I seriously doubt there ever will be), but the following is my own attempt at imagining what an Ombite Creation myth might have been like. I’ve actually been kicking this cosmogony around in my noggin for half a decade now, and this is the first time I’ve ever felt like sharing it with the public. Please keep in mind, however, that what you’re about to read is not meant to be taken as some kind of dogmatic scripture. It wasn’t supernaturally revealed to me by Seth or anything like that; He’s never once said anything to me like, “BELIEVE THIS STORY, IT’S ABSOLUTELY TRUE, OR I’LL KILL YOU.” Big Red is certainly my inspiration for writing this, but it’s really just a thought experiment of sorts, and I hope it will either be accepted, critiqued, and/or improved upon as such.

With that being said, here are a few notes for your consideration. In writing this, I’ve tried to make it seem like something a person living in predynastic Nubt would have actually believed. I’ve therefore chosen not to include anything involving Horus or Osiris, since these motifs seem to have developed after the unification of Egypt. I’ve only used Deities that we know were worshiped or at least recognized either in Nubt itself or in some of the other towns in its area (including Abdju/Abydos, Gebtu/Coptos and Waset/Thebes). Aside from Seth, His mother Nut and the hippo Goddess Taweret, I’ve also included Sobek, Montu (the Theban Sun God of war), Raet (a Theban Sun Goddess), Min (the Coptic God of fertility and sexuality), Isis, and Khentiu-Amentiu (a mysterious jackal God of the dead who was worshiped in Abydos, and who may or may not be an earlier form of Anubis, Wepwawet or Osiris).

I’ve also elected to use versions of these entities’ names that might have actually been pronounced by predynastic Egyptians. Seth is called Suti, Taweret is called Taurt, Sobek is called Sebek, Isis is called Aset, and Apophis is called Apep. My version of the First Cause is inspired by Plutarch’s account of Seth’s nativity, but I’ve had to take some liberty with Apep’s origin. The order in which the Gods are born is based on how Their stars are arranged in the sky. Suti, Taurt and Sebek are first because the Big Dipper (“the Foreleg”), Draco (“the Great Hippopotamus”) and the Little Dipper (“the Great Crocodile”) are in the celestial north; Montu and Raet are next since the Zodiac is beneath these constellations; and Min and Aset follow since Orion and Sirius are beneath the Zodiac. I’ve also equated Nut with Nun, the primordial ocean of chaos, and I refer to the Nile by its indigenous name, Iteru.

With all that being said, I now humbly submit the following.

Part 2

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One response to “A Would-Be Ombite Creation Myth (Part 1)

  1. G. B. Marian May 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Reblogged this on In The Desert Of Seth and commented:

    I’m reposting this article (which is actually Part 1 of 2) because I’m interested to see what other Kemetics might think. A link to Part 2 which is the really important part – is included at the end of the post.

    Like

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