Ogdoad (Egyptian)

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Depiction of the Ogdoad with serpent and frog heads (Roman-era relief at the Hathor temple in Dendera).
Drawing of a representation of the Ogdoad in the temple of Philae.[1]

In Egyptian mythology, the Ogdoad (Greek ογδοάς "the eightfold", Egyptian Khemenu, Ḫmnw) were eight primordial deities worshipped in Hermopolis.

References to the gods date to the Old Kingdom, and even at the time of composition of the Pyramid Texts towards the end of the Old Kingdom period they appear to have been antiquated and mostly forgotten by everyone except religious experts. They are frequently mentioned in the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom. The oldest known pictorial representations of the group do not predate the time of Seti I (New Kingdom, 13th century BC), when the group appears to be re-discovered by the theologians of Hermopolis for the purposes of a more elaborate creation account.[2] Texts of the Late Period describe them as having the heads of frogs (male) and serpents (female), and they are often depicted in this way in reliefs of the Ptolemaic period.[3]

Budge (1904) compares the concept to a group of four pairs of primeval gods mentioned in the Babylonian Enûma Eliš, viz. Apzu and Tiamat, Lahmu and Lahamu, Anshar and Kishar, Anu and Nudimmud.[4]

Budge also argues that the Ogdoad is the original "company of gods" or paut neteru, represented by nine "axes" or "flagpoles" (the hieroglyph sign for "god",
N10
t
R8 R8 R8 R8 R8 R8 R8 R8 R8
), arrived at by augmenting the original Ogdoad by the local chief deity of Heliopolis, Tem, by the authors of the theological system reflected in the Pyramid Texts.[5]

Names

The eight deities were arranged in four male-female pairs (the female names being merely derivative female forms of the male names), as follows:[6]

Nu
W24 W24 W24
N1
N35A A40
Nut
W24 W24 W24
N1
N35A X1
H8
B1
Ḥeḥu
V28 V28 G43 A40
Ḥeḥut
V28 V28 G43 X1
H8
B1
Kekui
V31
V31
y G43 N2 A40
Kekuit
V31
V31
y G43 N2 X1
H8
B1
Qerḥ
W11
r
V28 D41 A40
Qerḥet
W11
r
V28 D41
X1 H8
B1

The names of Nu and Nut are written with the determiners for sky and water, and it seems clear that they represent the primordial waters.

The fourth pair appears with varying names, sometimes the name Qerḥ is replaced by Ni, Nenu, Nut, or Amun, and the name Qerḥet by Ennit, Nenuit, Nut, Nit, or Amunet. The common meaning of qerḥ is "night", but the determinative (D41 for "to halt, stop, deny") also suggests the principle of inactivity or repose.[7]

Attributes

Ḥeḥu and Ḥeḥut have no readily identifiable determiners; according to a suggestion due to Brugsch (1885), the name is associated with a term for an undefined or unlimited number, ḥeḥ, suggesting a concept similar to Greek aion. But from the context of a number of passages in which Ḥeḥu is mentioned, Brugsch also suggested that he may be a personification of the atmosphere between heaven and earth (c.f. Shu).

The names of Kekui and Kekuit are written with a determiner combining the sky hieroglyph with a staff or scepter used for words related to darkness and obscurity, and kkw as a regular word means "darkness", suggesting that these gods represent primordial darkness, comparable to Greek Erebus, but in some aspects they appear to represent day as well as night, or the change from night to day and from day to night.

The fourth pair has no consistent attributes as it appears with varying names. The common meaning of qerḥ is "night", but the determinative (D41 for "to halt, stop, deny") also suggests the principle of inactivity or repose.[7]

There is no obvious way to allot or attribute four functions to the four pairs of gods, and it seems clear that "the ancient Egyptians themselves had no very clear idea" regarding such functions. [8] Nevertheless, there have been attempts to assign "four ontological concepts"[9] to the four groups. For example, in the context of the New Kingdom, Karenga (2004) uses "fluidity" (for "flood, waters"), "darkness", "unboundedness" and "invisibility" (for "repose, inactivity").[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from a photograph by Béato. C.f. Lepsius, Denkm, iv.pl.66 c.", published in Maspero (1897). The scene is collapsed from "the two extremities of a great scene at Philae, in which the Eight, divided into two groups of four, take part in the adoration of the king."
  2. ^ Sethe (1929), 35ff, 65f.
  3. ^ Smith, Mark (2002), On the Primaeval Ocean, p. 38 
  4. ^ Budge (1902), p. 287f.
  5. ^ Budge 1904, p. 282.
  6. ^ Budge 1904, p. 283.
  7. ^ a b Budge 1904, p. 283-286.
  8. ^ Budge 1904, p. 287-288.
  9. ^ Harco Willems (1996) - The Coffin of Heqata: (Cairo JdE 36418) : a Case Study of Egyptian Funerary Culture of the Early Middle Kingdom - p.470f Peeters Publishers, 1996.
  10. ^ Maulana Karenga (2004) - Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics - p.177 Psychology Press, 2004 ISBN 0415947537 - Volume 70 of Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta.

Bibliography

  • Baines, John D.; Shafer, Byron Esely; Silverman, David P.; Lesko, Leonard H. (1991), Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice, Cornell University Press 
  • Budge, E.A. (1904), The Gods of the Egyptians: Or, Studies in Egyptian Mythology, 1 
  • Dunand, Françoise; Zivie-Coche, Christiane (2004), Gods and Men in Egypt: 3.000 BCE to 395 CE, Cornell University Press 
  • Hart, George (2005), The Routledge Dictionary Of Egyptian Gods And Goddesses, Routledge, p. 113 
  • Sethe, Kurt (1929), Amun und die acht Urgötter von Hermopolis 
  • Salmon, George (1887), "Ogdoad", in Smith, William; Wace, Henry, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines, Volume IV, London: John Murray 


External links

  • Butler, Edward P. "Hermopolitan Ogdoad". Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
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