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Creation Myths of Ancient Egypt

     There are several creation myths which developed in various locations in Egypt. The myths all had at the center of their story a primordial mound know as the "Island of Creation." It was the goal of religion to recreate this time which caused the Egyptians to be very traditional in their beliefs. Each of the major creation myths claimed that the temple of their local god/s was the physical location of the island. Three major stories which developed in the Old Kingdom were the Heliopolitan Myth, the Memphite Myth, and the Hermopolitan Myth. Each was named after the city where the myth developed respectively.


     The Heliopolitan Myth developed in Heliopolis and centered around Re-Atum as the key god figure. According to the myth, Re-Atum willed himself into existence. From him, Shu, the god of air and Tefnut, the god of moisture, were created. These two in turn had Geb, the earth god, and Nut, the sky god. From these the god of the elements were able to produce creation. In turn, these two produced Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys. This myth was the most widely accepted and famous of the creation myths.


     The Memphite Myth originated in Memphis. According to this myth it was Ptah who was the supreme creator god. According to this myth, Ptah was the one who started the cycle and not Re-Atum. From Ptah, a daughter was created who in turn created Re-Atum. According to this myth Ptah, was creator of the world, the gods, cities, food, drink, and all that was needed for life. This myth never did gain popular support among the majority of people in Egypt.


     The Hermopolitan Myth was developed at Hermopolis. Here the god Thoth, god of wisdom, was the main player. There are several versions to this myth. One account has a group of eight gods all playing major roles in the creation from a primordial ocean. Another account has a cosmic egg as the source of life. Another account for the creation was Thoth coming from a lotus flower which arose in the "Sea of Knives."


     Later, myths developed in the New Kingdom. One developed in Karnak at the temple of Amen-Re. This one claimed that Amen-Re was the creator of man and the gods. Another one in the new Kingdom from Khnum the ram headed god of Elephantine. This myth has Khnum creating man on his potters wheel.


Map of Orgins of Creation Myths



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