The Egyptians viewed their world largely in tems of the natural and the supernatural. Things that could be explained easily and seemed simple were consider to be natural. Things seemingly beyond explanation were deemed supernatural and thought to be the work of the gods. A variety of dieties were important to the ancient Egyptians. Several of the myths involving them are worth examining to gain insight into Egyptian cosmology.
The Story of Ra
Before there was anything, there was a massive ocean of immense power. Out of this darkness rose a shining egg. That egg was Ra. Ra was first, and as such was all powerful. Ra's power lay in his hidden secret name, but as he spoke and named things, they became beings in existence. For example, he said, "I am Khepera at dawn, Ra at noon, and Tem in the Evening." The sun god thus had forms, and the sun began to rise, pass through the sky, and set each day.
The sun rode in the sky, over the land. The land seperated from the water. As each thing became its own unique thing, so other things were different from it and became things in their own right. Nut became the sky and Geb the earth, born of their parents Shu (god of air) and Tefnut (goddess of water). After this, Ra named all things on earth. Last he came to mankind and named them. Ra then himself became a man, becoming the first Pharaoh of Egypt.
Geb and Nut had children: they were Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, and Set. Isis was the wisest, more clever than a million men. By trickery, she created a snake that bit Ra, forcing him to reveal his Secret Name to Isis by which he ruled all of creation. Thus the power was transfered and the pattern of transference between Pharaohs set in motion.
Gods and Goddesses
The Story of Isis and Osiris
When Osiris was grown up he married his sister Isis, a custom which the Pharaohs of Egypt followed afterwards. And Set married Nephthys: for he too being a god could marry only a goddess. Since Isis had the Secret Name of Ra, Osiris ruled over both Upper and Lower Egpyt, and thus all of the Earth. Osiris thought the people most violent, so he set out to teach them how to grow wheat and barley after the annual flooding of the Nile in the fertile valley. Osiris was the god of agriculture. Having taught them so much already, Osiris went on to teach the Egyptians how to make wine and beer, which animals were suitable for eating, how to make just laws and rule well, etc.
All the while, Set the Evil One was becoming very envious of Osiris' and the admiration he received from the people. Set began making a plot to kill his brother (and brother-in-law). Set obtained the exact measurements of Osiris' body and had a box constructed that would fit him and no other. The box was constructed of extremely rare and valuable materials and all who saw it desired it to be theirs. Set offered that the box could be won by anyone who would fit into it. Many tried, but of course no one fit until Osiris gave it a try. As he lay in the box, Set and his helpers rushed forward, put the lid on it, and sealed the box with molten lead. They then cast the box out on the Nile.
Isis was greatly upset. Her husband Osiris was dead, but since his body was not properly buried he would not be allowed to go to Amenti and would have to stay at Duat the Place of the Testing. In order to prevent this, Isis sought out and at long last found what was Osiris' coffin. She brought it back to Egypt and hid it among the reeds until such time when she could properly prepare Osiris' body.
As fate would have it, Set came upon the coffin while hunting and recognized it immediately. At the site of it, Set's hatred of Osiris returned and he tore open the coffin. He ripped Osiris' body into fourteen parts and spread them all over the Nile so that the crocodiles might eat them. Isis recoverd thriteen of Osiris' body parts- the last was his "manhood" and could not be found. Isis prepared Osiris' body and after this the spirit of Osiris passed into Amenti to rule over the dead until the last great battle, when Horus (the war-like son of Osiris and Isis pharaohs emulated) should slay Set and Osiris would return to earth once more.
At the last battle between Horus and Set, Set turned into a huge red hippopotamus that straddled the Nile. Horus struck him in the head with harpoon and killed him. For eternity, Set and Horus battle in the spirit world for the right to the souls of men. Osiris was then able to rest in his grave peacefully. Each night he would return from the dead to gather up those who had been faithful to him and his idea of good rule and took them to the underworld. That's why the Egyptians embalmed the dead and strove to make sure that their great lords were well prepared for the journey with Osiris to the underworld.