Cosmology and Worldview

The Egyptians believed that the world rose up out of the primeval waters of chaos, and was surrounded by chaos on all sides (the sea and the desert). In ancient times, the gods had set out certain patterns to keep the chaos at bay, and this allowed a place for mankind to grow and flourish, but one day the chaos would come back and the world would end.

The gods kept order (called maat) in the heavens, with the rising and setting of the sun, and the periodic flooding of the Nile, which renewed the soil and ensured fertility. But maat also meant social order, proper behaviour and correct observance of rituals. It was the pharaoh‘s job as intermediary between gods and men to keep maat, putting off the day of ultimate destruction.

Egyptian Creation Myth

Ra, the sun god, ruled on earth for a long time. But as he grew old, he grew weak, and people started to plot against him. When Ra found out about this, he sent his Eye (which could leave his body and act independently, in the form of a goddess) to punish them. The Eye of Ra killed many people, but Ra decided he didn’t want to destroy all of humanity. So he dyed beer red to resemble blood and spread it over a field. The Eye drank the beer and became inebriated, ceasing her rampage. Weary of humanity, Ra withdrew to the sky, and began his daily journey through the heavens and Duat (the underworld). The surviving humans were bereft, and attacked the people among them who had plotted against Ra. This was the origin of death, warfare, and the constant struggle to protect maat from the destructive actions of other people.

Osiris was the god of Kingship and Fertility, and at one time he ruled on Earth. But he was overthrown by his brother, Set, who killed him, and dismembered his corpse, scattering it all over Egypt. Osiris’ sister-wife, Isis was a great healer, and she set about recovering her husband’s body, piece by piece, and restoring it. She managed to bring Osiris back to life for just long enough to conceive a son, Horus.

Isis raised Horus in hidden places and protected him from every evil or destructive creature that threatened him, and cured every sickness or injury that befell him, until he was old enough to challenge Set for the kingship. The challenge took many forms, some violent, some judicial, and at one time, Set tore out Horus’ eye (though the gods managed to restore it). In the end, Horus won back his throne and maat was restored. He performed the proper funeral rites, which allowed his father to live again in the underworld, and so Osiris became the king of the dead in Duat, in charge of rebirth, while Horus ruled over the living.

Cesaire’s Journey:

Cesaire started out from the Isle of Meroe in modern-day Sudan, and the first place mentioned in her voyage was the Nile, where she sailed for ten years.

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