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The Hermopolis Theology

the primordial Eight principles

Creation from formative Chaos

Thoth
illustration from Amazon com Egyptian Mysteries; p.10
(Thames & Hudson, Art and Imagination Series)

Lucy Lamy writes:

"From Hermopolis, city of Hermes (Thoth), Master of Writing, Numbers, Measurement and Time, comes the description of the Nun, the primordial environment, picturing its qualities and characteristics: 'He [the Demiurge] created the Eight: He formed its body as that of a sacred child who issues forth from a lotus in the middle of the Nun.'

illustration from Amazon com Egyptian Mysteries; p.10
(Thames & Hudson, Art and Imagination Series)

The primordial Eight, as envisaged at Hermopolis (the Ogdoad), together form, as the text indicates, a single entity. The Nun is envisaged as a swampy mire, a seething primal cradle in which live four couples of serpents and frogs. Their names are Naun and Naunet, meaning both 'the initial waters' and 'inertia', Heh and Hehet, meaning 'spatial infinity'; Kek and Keket, 'the darkness'; and Amun and Amunet, 'That which is hidden'. This latter couple is sometimes replaced by Niau and Niaut, 'the void'.

As might be suspected, these qualities of the primordial state have often been compared with the shadowy waters of the Biblical Genesis, when 'the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep'. But rather than regard the Nun as an initial or primal chaos, in the Biblical mode, it seems more fruitful to see it as indefinable substance, the eternal and infinite source of the Universe. The lotus, which has its roots in mud, its stem in water and its leaves and flowers opening out into air, receiving the celestial dew and the sun's rays, has always been a symbol of the four elements.  This symbol is employed often in Egypt, in architecture as well as in myth. It appears in many legends of the Creation, including this very explicit one in which the Eight also figure:

"You [the Eight] have made from your seed a germ [bnn], and you have instilled this seed in the lotus, by pouring the seminal fluid; you have deposited in the Nun, condensed into a single form, and your inheritor takes his radiant birth under the aspect of a child." (Edfu VI, 11-12, and Esna V, 263.)

The Eight are called the 'fathers and mothers of Re', for the child that comes forth from this primordial lotus is Re, or Ra, the principle of light itself."

[Lucy Lamy, Amazon com Egyptian Mysteries; Art and Imagination  Series, Thames & Hudson, 1981, p.10-11]

Here then we have the principle of Creation out of chaos.  We do not find the dualistic element that is so prevalent in the Heliopolitan theology.  Rather, chaos, the original Ogdoad, is the formative and nurturing principle from which creation springs.



Heliopolis Theology
Memphis theology
Hermopolis theology
Theban theology






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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 2 December 1999, last modified 10 October 2005