Sunday, February 8, 2009
Atum - The Egyptian Creator
The name "Atum" is thought to be derived from the word 'tem' which means to complete or finish. Thus he has been interpreted as being the 'complete one' and also the finisher of the world, which he returns to watery chaos at the end of the creative cycle. As creator he was seen as the underlying substance of the world, the deities and all things being made of his flesh.
Atum embraces the idea of 'Totality' and of 'The Perfect State'. He is therefore both male and female in One.
Atum is one of the most important and frequently mentioned deities from earliest times, as evidenced by his prominence in the Pyramid Texts, where he is portrayed as both a creator and father to the king.
"Atum" is the Creator God of the Ennead of Heliopolis, who rose out of the Primeval Waters (the Nun) to form the Primeval Mound, the first piece of land which emerged when the water withdrew.
Some of his epiteths were: 'Lord to the limit of the sky', 'He Who came into being of Himself', the 'Lord of All' and 'Lord of Iunu. He self-developed into a being, standing on a raised mound. Atum is the creator god who created the universe, he is the supreme being and master of the forces and elements of the universe.
Among animals belonging to a more primeval realm are the ichneumon, the lizard and the primeval serpent. This last is especially interesting as it touches on a rather unusual concept in Egyptian myth; the concept of the End of the World.
There is a dialogue between Atum and Wesir in the Book of Going Forth By Day, whre Atum states that he will submerge the world with all its deities, humans and everything else in the Nun (primeval waters) and that only he himself and Wesir will survive in the form of serpents. Another story telling about an earlier catastrophe ending with only one survivor, the 'kerhet' - snake as conveying the image of the snake shedding its skin (destruction) and emerging in a new form.
Another belief held that Atum created his children by having sexual intercourse with a goddess, referred to as Iusaaset (also spelt Juesaes, Ausaas, Iusas, and Jusas), meaning the great one who comes forth. She was described as his shadow. Consequently, Jusas was seen as the mother and grandmother of the gods. The strength, hardiness, medical properties, and edibility, led the acacia tree to be considered the tree of life, and thus the oldest, which was situated close to, and north of, Heliopolis, was said to be the birthplace of the deities. Thus, as the mother and grandmother, of the deities, Iusaaset was said to own this tree.