How did Ra create the universe?
The ancient Egyptians had a deep mythology that explains the origins of the universe. They believed that various deities, such as Ra, the sun god, controlled the creation and life of the universe. Ra is regarded as one of the most influential deities.
Ra was highly worshipped during the ancient Egyptians’ time, especially in the city of Heliopolis. He was depicted as a person with a sun disk on his head and a falcon’s head. He was associated with various other forms, such as Amun-Ra, Khepri, Atum, and Re-Horakhty. Among the other notable deities that Ra is known to have fathered are the gods and goddesses Tefnut, Set, Geb, Osiris, and Shu. Ra was also the patron and ancestor of all pharaohs.
The exact way Ra created the universe is the subject of various different stories told by the Egyptians. These stories can be found in different versions depending on the time and location of ancient Egypt. One of the most popular and common stories is the one from Heliopolis.
The Heliopolitan Creation Myth
The initial stage of the universe was marked by a vast and chaotic underwater abyss known as Nun. After the mound of earth known as Benben was revealed, Ra was atop it. He was also referred to as Atum. Ra became stranded in the darkness, which is why he created other beings to protect him. Depending on the source, he masturbated or spat into his own mouth and out his kids, who were Tefnut and Shu, the goddesses of moisture and air, respectively.
Tefnut and Shu went to Nun to explore its waters. Ra, who was missing them terribly, sent his eye to find them. Upon seeing them, he cried as he felt happy. His tears caused the first humans to appear. Tefnut and Shu had kids, namely, Geb, who was the Earth’s god, and Nut, who was the sky’s goddess. Ra did not like how they embraced each other. He ordered Shu to separate them, as they were very close. He lifted Nut up and held her.
The children of Geb and Nut were named Isis, Nephthys, Osiris, and Horus. They were born on special days following the addition of five new days to Thoth’s calendar. Ra emerged from Benben as a sun disk and started moving across the sky. He lived in two vessels: the morning boat known as Mandjet and the evening vessel known as Mesektet. His crew of gods protected him from his enemies, such as the giant serpent known as Apophis.
Ra created goddesses and gods for his creation, and he would grant orders and laws to his creatures. He was a benevolent king for a long time. However, as time passed, Ra grew old and weak. His children became rebellious and disrespectful towards him. They even plotted to overthrow him. Ra learned about their plans from his eye, which he had sent among them in the form of Hathor, a goddess of love and beauty.
Ra was angry and decided to punish his children by sending Hathor to destroy them. Hathor transformed into Sekhmet, a lioness goddess of war and destruction. She slaughtered many humans and drank their blood. Ra regretted his decision and tried to stop her by making her drunk with beer mixed with red dye. Ra then decided to withdraw from the world and ascend to the heavens. He left behind Shu to hold up Nut and Geb to support Shu. He also left behind Osiris to rule over the living and Anubis to judge the dead.
Ra still watches over his creation from his heavenly throne. He still travels across the sky every day and night in his boats. He still faces his enemies every night in his journey through the underworld. He still merges with Osiris every night and with Horus every morning. He still gives life and power to all his creatures.