Ogdoad

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In Egyptian mythology, the Ogdoad (Greek "ογδοάς", the eightfold) were eight deities worshipped in Hermopolis during what is called the Old Kingdom, the third through sixth dynasties, dated between 2686 to 2134 BC. First it was a cult having Hathor and Ra; later changing to a cult where Hathor and Thoth were the main deities over a much larger number of deities; and even later, Ra was assimilated into Atum-Ra through a merger with Atum of the Ennead cosmogony.

The concept of an Ogdoad also appears in Gnostic systems of the early Christian era, and was further developed by the theologian Valentinus (ca. 160 AD.).

Contents

Membership and worship

The eight deities were arranged in four female-male pairs, the females were associated with snakes and the males were associated with frogs: Naunet and Nu, Amaunet and Amun, Kauket and Kuk, Hauhet and Huh. Apart from their gender, there was little to distinguish the female goddess from the male god in a pair; indeed, the names of the females are merely the female forms of the male name and vice versa. Essentially, each pair represents the female and male aspect of one of four concepts, namely the primordial waters (Naunet and Nu), air or invisibility (Amunet and Amun), darkness (Kauket and Kuk), and eternity or infinite space (Hauhet and Huh)[1].

Together the four concepts represent the primal, fundamental state of the beginning, they are what always was. In the myth, however, their interaction ultimately proved to be unbalanced, resulting in the arising of a new entity. When the entity opened, it revealed Ra, the fiery sun, inside. After a long interval of rest, Ra, together with the other deities, created all other things.

Variants

There are two main variations on the nature of the entity containing Ra:

Egg variant

The first version of the myth has the entity arising from the waters after the interaction as a mound of dirt, the Milky Way, which was deified as Hathor. In the myth an egg was laid upon this mound by a celestial bird. The egg contained Ra. In the original version of this variant, the egg is laid by a cosmic goose. However, after the rise of the cult of Thoth, the egg was said to have been a gift from Thoth, and laid by an ibis, the bird with which he was associated.

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