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Ogdoad of Hermopolis

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Thoth

Thoth

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Definition: The Ogdoad of Hermopolis was the group of gods who created the world, or at least the sun, according to Egyptian mythology centered in Hermopolis Magna. The Ennead of Heliopolis is a contrasting grouping of 9 creating Heliopolitan gods. A third cosmogony is the Memphis Theology, which is centered on the god Ptah.

Since the Ogdoad of Hermopolis is an Ogdoad, there are 8 deities, in 4 pairs of males and females. Their functions may be described as chaos and generation, eternity, darkness, and moisture, or as invisibility, endlessness, obscurity, and water, all perhaps in a primeval watery chaos. The pairs are spelled out in English as Amun and Amaunet, Heh (Huh) and Hehet, Kek and Keket, and Nun and Naunet, although spelling varies. Sometimes in later representations, the male (the first in each pair) is depicted as frog-headed and the female with a snake head, all generated spontaneously from the Nile mud.

The Egyptian cosmogony that is based on the Ogdoad of Heliopolis evolved over time. One version is that from the original chaos, the 4 sets of gods were motivated to get together to produce the sun or a primordial mass (in Hermopolis, of course). This may have produced to a cosmic egg (sometimes a goose egg laid by the Great Cackler or an ibis egg from Thoth) from which hatched the sun god. Amun or Thoth is credited with stirring up the old gods to create the primordial mass. The Ogdoad then fades into the background or dies and lives in the Underworld. Even though the deities are, in a sense, retired, they still make the sun rise and the Nile flow. In another version, a lotus emerged from the waters, opened up, and revealed, again, the sun god. Thus the sun god is an essential feature for the creation of a world with living creatures.

The Ogdoad of Hermopolis provides a cosmogony without a tale of divine inter-generational fighting (theomachy).

Also Known As: Hermopolitan Ogdoad
Examples:

The Greek historian Herodotus says there were 12 gods in Egypt, but before them there were the 8. Griffiths says the Greek name for the city of Hermopolis is based on the connection the Greeks made between their god Hermes and the Egyptian Ibis god, Thoth.

Relevant passages from Herodotus History Book II are 43.4 and 145.1.

Since the Ogdoad of Hermopolis produced the sun (god), and the sun was the head of the Ennead at Heliopolis, it can be claimed that the Ogdoad of Hermopolis produced the Ennead.

References:

  • "Neglected Factors in the Greek Intellectual Revolution"
    William F. Albright
    Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1972).
  • "The Orders of Gods in Greece and Egypt (According to Herodotus)"
    J. Gwyn Griffiths
    The Journal of Hellenic Studies (1955).
  • "Otiose Deities and the Ancient Egyptian Pantheon"
    Susan Tower Hollis
    Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt (1998).
  • "Proceedings of the American Oriental Society, at Its Meeting in Boston, Mass.," May 22d, 1889
    Journal of the American Oriental Society (1890).
  • Vincent Arieh Tobin, J. Gwyn Griffiths, Olaf E. Kaper "Myths" The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Ed. Donald B. Redford, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2001
  • "www.philae.nu/akhet/Ogdoad.html" The Ogdoad of Hermopolis

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