As I’ve been reading a few books recently that deal with Egyptian mythology, I figure it’s a good time to write a post on this subject. I’ve addressed aspects of Egyptian mythology before, but have not yet gone back to the beginning, with the Egyptian creation myth. There are actually several versions of the creation story, each associated with different cities. Several different gods were identified as the creator, but as the religion developed, some of these gods came to be merged, or to play a lesser role. The first god, known as Atum or Amon, was associated with the sun-god Ra.
The story has it that the world originally existed in the form of a primordial ocean. This is similar to the formless waters in the Genesis account, or to Tiamat as the watery representative of chaos in Babylonian mythology. It seems to be a common theme that SOMETHING existed before the world as we know it, but it didn’t have a physical form as we know it. In the case of the Egyptians, the annual flood of the Nile was integral to their society.
So, as the Nile did every year, the waters of chaos receded and left a hill, similar to the mounds left by the river. It was on this hill that Ra/Atum/Amon originated, and he preceded to give birth to other gods. As he had no female counterpart, he had to turn to less orthodox methods of reproduction, said by some to include spitting, vomiting, copulation with his own shadow, and masturbation. I wonder if any Egyptian children used the latter as an excuse when caught with their pants down. “I was just imitating the action of the great Atum in creating the universe!”
While it seems that most local myths were eventually combined into one that gave the creator-god multiple names, the story told in Memphis is somewhat different. In this account, the creator was Ptah, known as the patron of craftsmen.
He created the world merely by speaking, as the Biblical Elohim would also do in Genesis 1. In the combined creation myth, he was regarded as the creator of Atum, and hence an even more powerful god than the solar deity.