Darkness is the opposite of brightness and it is characterized by the absence of visible light. The emotional response of humans to darkness has led to many culturally different metaphorical usages.
For example, in Christianity the first narrative of creation begins with darkness. Darkness is said to have existed before the world, then light was introduced. Ultimately, the separation of light from darkness followed. In Exodus 10:21, darkness appears as the “second to last plague” and, in Mathew 8:12, darkness is the location of “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
In the Qur’an (Nab 78.25), the individuals who transgress the boundaries of what is right are doomed to “burning despair and ice-cold darkness”. These perceptions of darkness largely associate it with evil. However, this was not always so. In the past, darkness was seen as something that existed since the beginning of time, and there are many deities associated with darkness as well as with the night.
The best example is probably Erebus from Greek mythology. His name comes from the Greek “Erebos” meaning “deep darkness” or “shadow”. Erebus was a primordial deity seen as the personification or embodiment of darkness. He is one of the first five beings in existence born from Chaos.
Along with his sister Nyx, Erebus fathered other deities such as Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death). Aether, Hemera, the Hesperides, the Moirai, Geras, Styx, and Charon are other children that resulted from the same union. It is interesting to note here the fact that Nyx was the goddess of the night. She was very beautiful and powerful and it is said that even Zeus himself, the chief of all the gods, feared her. In his “ Theogony”, Hesiod writes:
“From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bore from union in love with Erebus”.
Nyx, as represented in the 10th-century Paris Psalter at the side of the Prophet Isaiah.
Greek mythology also has other deities related to darkness and the night. Asteria was the goddess of nocturnal oracles and the stars, and Achlys was the primordial goddess of eternal night, misery, and sorrow.
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Asteria and Phoebe on the Pergamon Altar. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Hindu Deities of Darkness
In the Hindu tradition, Ratri is the goddess of the night while Rahu is the celestial deity of darkness and eclipses. Rahu is associated with the demon Svarbhaanu which swallows the sun, resulting in eclipses. In art, he appears as a serpent with no body riding a chariot drawn by eight black horses.
Rahu: Head of Demon Snake, Konarak Idol, British Museum.
Rahu kala, the influence of Rahu in Vedic astrology, is regarded as inauspicious. In Hindu mythology, there is also Varuna, the ruler of all the sky gods.
The God Varuna on his mount makara, 1675-1700 Painted in: India, Rajasthan, Bundi placed in LACMA museum.
In Norse mythology, Nott is the goddess which personifies the night. She is the grandmother of Thor and the daughter of Norvi. Nott is associated with the horse Hrimfaxi and she supposedly had three marriages. Her third marriage was to the god Dellingr and together they had a son: Dagr – the personification of the day. Also in Norse mythology, the trickster god Loki is considered a night deity.
Nott rides her horse in this 19th-century painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.
Dark Roman Gods
In Roman mythology, Nox was the primordial goddess of the night. She was equivalent to the Greek Nyx. Scotus was the primordial god of darkness and linked the Greek god Erebus. Summanus was the god of nocturnal thunder.
Nyx, The primordial goddess of the night.
Aztec Lords of the Night
Aztec mythology has many deities associated with the night and with darkness. The Lords of the Night were a group of nine gods. They each were said to have ruled over a particular type of night. Metztli was a deity of the night, the moon, and of farmers. Yohaulticetl was the lunar goddess known as the Lady of the Night.
Lords of the Night, Page 14 of the Codex Borgia.
Tezcatlipoca was the god of the night sky, the night winds, obsidian, rulership, divination, jaguars, sorcery, war, strife, and also beauty.
Tezcatlipoca depicted in the codex Rios in the aspect of a Jaguar—in this form he was called Tepeyollotl.
In Egyptian mythology, Nephthys was the goddess of the night, death, and birth. Kuk was an uncreated god who personified the primordial darkness. Apep was the Egyptian serpent deity of evil and darkness.
Nephthys - Musée du Louvre, Paris, France. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 fr )
More Deities of Darkness
Artume was the Etruscan goddess of the night and Shalim was the Canaanite god of dusk. In Arabian mythology, Al-Qaum was the Nabatean god of the night and of war, but also seen as a protector of caravans.
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Ahriman is the Iranic god of darkness, night, and evil. In Lithuania, Breksta was the goddess of twilight and dreams who protects humans from sunset to sunrise. The Zorya were two guardian goddesses related to the morning and evening stars in Slavic mythology. In Maori mythology, Hine-nui-te-pō, the ruler of the underworld, is also the goddess of the night and of death.
As it can be seen, darkness was often, but not always, associated with evil. There have been many cases in mythology when “dark” deities were simply a personification of the primordial darkness which existed even before the appearance of the world.
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GODS of Death, Destruction, and the Underworld
Religion: Ancient Egyptian Mythology
Anubis isn’t only a god of the death, but also embalmment and tombing. Anubis is believed to be the son of Osiris (a god of death) and Nephthys (goddess of the sky and mourning). Anubis is believed to have a significant canine face, more like a jackal, with the body of a man. When someone dies, Anubis takes them to the Underworld, where they’re under the care of Osiris. Anubis’ duties as a god of death are to ensure that the deceased gets a fair burial and judgment in the afterlife.
This god of death is also believed to assist with resurrection. According to mythology, Anubis acts like the bodyguard for Osiris, where he uses his physical prowess to tackle the attackers. Not only he oversees death and its related matters but is also the god of protection and justice.
Religion: Greek Mythology
According to Greek mythology, Thanatos was the personified spirit of the god of non-violent death. He is described as a minor and barely appearing in person but if you refer to the Greek vase painting, Thanatos appears as a bearded old man with wings, or more likely a beardless youth. Since Hades took over the Underworld, the honor of ruling the death itself fell to Thanatos.
The name of this god of death itself translates to ‘death’ in Greek. Thanatos is the son of Hypnos, the god of sleep, and Nyx, the goddess of night. It is believed that Thanatos is responsible for transporting the dying and dead souls to the Underworld, where they’re under the care of Hades.
Religion: Greek Mythology
According to Greek mythology, the victorious Olympian brothers Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus divided the significant duties of the world amongst themselves. Hades was assigned the ruler of the Underworld. It is believed that Hades has a massive palace beneath the earth, and he owned all the precious stones and jewels, which is why he enjoyed all the luxurious of lavish living. For all his possessions, Hades also became the rule of wealth.
While Thanatos took over the ruling of the death, Hades was the god of the Underworld. And despite the stories of his encounters and the fear of his name – which people believed took them closer to death itself, Hades was considered the least powerful of all the brothers and was believed to be of a non-evil, giving nature. Cerberus, his constant three-headed hound always accompanied this god of the Underworld.
Religion: Hindu Mythology
The Hindu Vedic tradition was honored as the god of death. In Hinduism, there’s a very valued book known as the ‘Book of Destiny’, where you can find the records of each person’s lifetime and death. Yama is believed to be the ruler of this entire process. The honor of being the god of death was granted to Yama as according to Hindu mythology, Yama was the very first human to die and found his way to the Underworld where he became the ruler of the dead.
Hindus also believe that Yama is the king of all ancestors, king of ghosts, and the king of justice. While some people fear the god of death because of these two hounds, others believe that Yama doesn’t possess any wickedness or evil at all.
Religion: Norse Mythology
Freyja is a popular goddess in Norse mythology regarded for her association with death. But that’s not all that the goddess is associated with. Freyja is also an example of love, beauty, fertility, abundance, battle, and war. Despite being a goddess of death, Freyja is often remembered as a figure that helps in childbirth, to boost positivity, and to seek assistance on marital problems. And even though she is associated with something most people fear – death – she was a beautiful goddess loved by all, including the Asgardians, giants, and elves.
Freya’s image depicts her flying around in her feline carriage or hawk-feathered cloak. She is one of the most famous and loved goddesses in Norse mythology. Not only she was in-charge of the death, but also the underworld where the majority of the souls were of people who died in a battle. The other half of the underworld was taken care of by Odr, the god she married.
Religion: Greek Mythology
Even though Hecate was the goddess of death according to Greek mythology, she was also associated with magic, crossroad, light, knowledge of poisonous plants and herbs, and ghosts. On the other hand, people also correlated as a goddess of childbirth and fertility. However, most of the scenarios in mythology discussed her links with destruction and the underworld more. People who follow Greek mythology also believed that Hecate ruled the world of spirits.
The goddess appeared in the generation between the Titans and Olympians and is therefore also regarded as the goddess of necromancy and witchcraft. Hecate’s description shows her holding two torches, which is a sign of protection. People also believe that she is the gatekeeper between the real world and graveyards.
7. Meng Po
Religion: Chinese Mythology
Chinese mythology claims several realms beneath the Earth. Meng Po is responsible for the Diyu realm, which is the realm of the dead. The goddess’s task is to ensure that the souls who are to be incarnated have their memories wiped out so they do not remember anything about their previous life or their time in hell. For the same reason, she is also often referred to as the goddess of forgetfulness.
The goddess is believed to serve the soup on the Bridge of Forgetfulness or the Nai He Bridge. The soup is a special recipe that the goddess prepares herself by collecting herbs from various streams and ponds. This soup wipes the memory of the person who is to be reincarnated into the next life to ensure they move on without the burdens and experiences of their previous life. She is believed to meet the dead souls at the entrance of the Fengdu realm.
Religion: Norse Mythology
According to Norse mythology, Hel is regarded as the ruler of the underworld and death. She is the daughter of Loki – the god of mischief – and giantess Angrboda. Her appearance has an unclear depiction, which is like half flesh-colored and half blue skin with some gloomy texture. She is believed to be the caretaker of a large hall called Eljuonir, which according to Norse mythology is a hall where mortals go if they died of a natural cause or sickness.
Norse mythology depicts Hel’s character as a merciless goddess. She is known as a greedy demigod with half of her body dead and only half alive. The goddess is often portrayed in black and white, representing the two sides of the spectrum as a simultaneous time of the beginnings and endings.
9. Morrighan (Celtic)
Religion: Irish Mythology
One of the most revered gods, the Morrighan is the goddess of war, strife, battle, death, and fertility according to Celtic mythology. She was one of the most well-regarded goddesses notably in Ireland but also in other parts of Europe including France. She is also known by the names ‘Phantom Queen’ or ‘Great Queen’ and was depicted as one goddess or a trio of sister goddesses. The trio – in most cases – comprised of Badb (crow), Macha (sovereignty), and Nemain (frenzy in battle). This does not mean she was different gods but one with different aspects.
Morrighan can take the form of a raven or crow, and in her original form, she was often surrounded by these ominous birds. In some cases, she would also take the form of a cow or wolf, which indicated that she was also considered the goddess of the fertility of sovereignty and land. Since she had a great association with war and battles, she was also regarded as a great warrior.
Religion: Egyptian Mythology
Osiris is the god of death and the underworld but he is also regarded as the god of transition, regeneration, and resurrection. And while he is the god of death according to Egyptian mythology, he is often described as the Lord of Love in ancient times. He depicts black-green skin, which symbolizes resurrection and rebirth.
After becoming a Pharaoh, he was viciously murdered by his own brother due to jealousy. Set chopped up Osiris’ body and locked him in a coffin that he sent down the Nile. Osiris’ body was found by his sisters, lovers, and his son, who put him back together. His rebirth and resurrection called for savage times and Osiris became the ruler of the Underworld.
Religion: Maori Mythology
Whiro is the god of death and known as the lord of evil or darkness. They are said to be responsible for the ills of all persons. It is also believed that Whiro gained his powers by eating the bodies of the people who die and are descended into the underworld. Whiro is known as the embodiment of all evil, a contrast to his brother who is also his enemy, Tane.
The process of eating the dead makes Whiro sufficiently powerful to break free of the underworld, which will enable them to rise to the surface and devour everyone and anything on it. This is why cremation is put into place to prevent this because Whiro cannot gain strength from ashes. Whiro is believed to live in Taiwhetuki – the house of death – which is a deep and dark cave that contains all the evil, including black magic.
Religion: Canaanite Mythology
According to the ancient West Semitic, Mot is the god of death, doubt, and infertility. He was a prominent god to the Canaanites. He was one of the sons of El and has a history of the battle of brothers. He was not only the god of death but also the underworld and was worshipped by the people of Phoenicians and Ugarit. It was believed that Mot’s bottom lip touched the earth while the top reached the heavens.
The non-social god preferred isolation and was rather scared of other Gods. His biggest energy was Baal, the god of rains and storms. It was believed that Baal later feared Mot more because he built a divine palace without windows to keep away from his enemy gods.
Religion: African Mythology
Like most gods of African origin, Adro is one of the aspects of one supreme god. Adro depicts the evil side while Adroa is the benevolent side, also known as the god in the sky. Adroa was remote from the matters on earth. Each of the two aspects of the supreme god has half a body, one eye, one arm, one ear, one kidney, one leg, etc.
While Adroa is regarded as perfection itself, he had no direct contact or involvement in earth matters. Adro was responsible for the matters on earth and was the only one who could get direct with humans. Adro remained invisible but he could take different forms for appearance. Sometimes he would also appear almost translucent like a white and tall half-man to people who are on the verge of death. Adro possesses young women, causes illnesses and death, and even abducts people for the sake of eating them.
Religion: Egyptian Mythology
Sekhmet is a goddess most commonly associated with death, retribution, and destruction in Egyptian mythology. Other than that, she was also correlated to the powers of medication, healing, and the sun. The goddess is depicted in the form of a lioness figure according to history. Most people confuse Sekhmet with Bestet but there are certain features that differentiate between the two. According to mythology, the sculptures of Sekhmet are red while Bestet’s green. Sekhmet cannot be associated with either good or evil. She is believed to have an unpredictable nature, which can lead to destruction. She is known to bring bad luck, plaque, and disease to people who disobeyed her.
The lioness-headed goddess of war and destruction was formed from the divine eye of Ra, the god of the sun, who initially formed her to end humanity’s evil but eventually transformed her into a gentler goddess Hathor.
Religion: Slavic Mythology
Also known as Cert, Czernobog, and Chernobog, this god is the embodiment of evil and darkness and everything unfortunate known to mankind. The name ‘Crnobog’ itself translated to ‘dark master’ or ‘black god’ which is a clear depiction of his power over destruction, havoc, night, and all unfortunate things. According to Slavic history, Crnobog was the most feared god with a highly mysterious nature that made him even more frightening to people.
The god is believed to be the ruler of the chaos, night, winter, and could generate all the evils around the earth. It was said that the impact of his powers begins with the winter solstice – when the nights are the longest – and would last up to spring when the power would switch in favor of Belobog, the god of goodness, light, and summer.
Religion: Siberian Mythology
According to Siberian mythology, the earth was the creation of Ulgan, the creator god. Ulgan was also responsible for creating Elrik, by giving this piece of mud a spirit and giving it a name. Elrik is believed to have an image that’s close to a totemic bear. He is closely connected to the creation of humanity but later became the ruler of the underworld, judge of the dead, and the darkness.
Since Elrik was driven by pride, his bond with Ulgan didn’t work and by deceiving the god of creation on numerous occasions, he was eventually banished in the 9 th layer of the earth. Eventually, Elrik took charge of the dead, while leaving the charge of the living with Ulgan.
Religion: Hindu Mythology
According to Hindu mythology, Shiva is one god who has multiple aspects. Even though he is a god of destruction and death, he is worshipped and given a high regard. People do not regard him as an evil god. In fact, the worshippers of Shiva believe that for new and better things to emerge, it is crucial for the old things to die. Therefore, Shiva is doing well by running the world in cycles and allowing all living creatures to be able to begin a new cycle of life.
Shiva is also believed to be of a complex nature. He is considered the strongest, even more than Vishnu and Brahma.
Religion: Inuit Mythology
Sedna is the goddess of the sea, marine animals, and the underworld. She is also regarded as the Mother of the Sea or Mistress of the Sea. There are many versions of Sedna’s story but the most popular one is where she was bluffed into marrying a Fulmar, who appeared as a handsome man and promised a life full of luxuries. When her father came to know about his reality, he tried to rescue his daughter and took her back in his kayak. The entire family of birds started chasing Sedna. To save himself, the father drowned Sedna and chopped off her fingers that Sedna used to cling to the boat. Sedna drowned and became the ocean’s spirit while her fingers became the fish, whales, walruses, and seals.
The goddess of the ocean and destruction has a good side, as she sends food to her people where she rules. However, if she isn’t worshipped properly, she does not spare anyone from her wrath and starvation and make people suffer.
Religion: Aztecs Mythology
Coatlicue is an Aztec goddess of earth, fire, and destruction. She has a loving and nurturing like the earth but at the same time has the tendency to devour on human life through calamities and natural disasters. According to Aztecs, the sun regularly needed blood sacrifices from mankind for maintaining its power.
That’s why most enemies were abducted on the battlefield and not killed. The captives were later sacrificed on top of a hill for the sun. It is also believed that Coatlicue sacrificed herself to enable the earth to shift into the 5 th era. Coatlicue is the mother of the god of war and has her statue places in the Axis Mundi – the point where according to Aztecs the world revolves.
Religion: Persian Mythology
Ahriman is considered the ancient equivalent of Satan. The god of death and destruction is also the bringer of death, ills, diseases, and every evil in the world. Ahriman is believed to have many demons at his disposal. These demons are known as ‘daevas’, who are responsible for spreading and injecting evil across the world. The main weapon Ahriman used against humanity and all the goodness in the world was lust.
Many people believe that Ahriman is the predecessor of Satan. Towards the end of the world, Ahura Mazda – Ahrmiman’s brother – is believed to triumph over his hellish brother and put the goodness back in the world.
21. Batara Kala
Religion: Javanese and Balinese Mythology
Batara Kala is an ogre-like god, responsible for the creation of the earth and light, bringer of devourer and destruction, the ruler of time, and bad luck. Batara Kala is also the ruler of the underworld along with Setesuyara. The god of destruction and underworld in the Javanese and Balinese mythology is the son of Java’s own version of Shiva, Batara Guru. Batara Guru had the most beautiful wife in the world, Dewi Uma, who was forced for intimacy by Batara Guru on top of a divine cow. Dewi Uma was so ashamed that she cursed both of them took on the hideous form of ogre-like creatures.
Batara Kala was the result of this union, who also looked like a fierce ogre with an insatiable appetite and bad behavior.
Religion: Hindu Mythology
The goddess of death, Kali is one of the most feared warriors according to Hindu mythology. Not only she has a great history of the battlefield, but she also has a terrifying appearance with a bloody knife in her hand. Kali is known for her fierceness and the death deity is irresistible to men and other deities alike. Her gore appearance makes her stand out while the believers think she is the rescuer of women in danger.
According to Hindu mythology, her appearance is only one side of her personality. She has a good side that she uses to save innocents from suffering and ending up in ugly death. She is also believed to protect the world against the demons.
23. Ah Puch
Religion: Maya Mythology
Out of all the death gods, Anubis hates Ah Puch the most, even though Kali really admires him because he wears a necklace made out of eyeballs. He is the god of death, disaster, and darkness, often seen as a skeleton-like creature or in a stage that resembles the highest state of decomposition. Ah Puch is believed to be the ruler of the lowest and most feared of Xilbalba’s nine levels – Mitnal.
The god of death and destruction does not simply kill. Once he grabbed a soul, he would torture it and burn them until they screamed in agony. And to further intensify the pain, he would snuff the fire with water and torch it again. This process would continue until the soul was completely destroyed.
Religion: Japanese Mythology
Shinigami is not a single god but a name given to a group of Japanese soul-rippers. The concept of Shinigami is relatively new to Japanese mythology. These agents are also known as the grim reaper, death spirit, or death binger.
These supernatural spirits or gods invite humans towards death in certain aspects of Japanese culture and religion. As for their conduct, Shinigami is described as monsters, helpers, and creatures of darkness. These are often mentioned in religions and tales in Japanese culture.
Religion: Egyptian Mythology
According to ancient Egyptian mythology, Apophis already existed before the creation of the world. Apophis is the great serpent and the arch-nemesis of Ra. Apophis found peace in chaos and darkness. After the creation of the world, it was filled with light, peace, order, and most importantly, humans.
That’s exactly what Apophis didn’t like. He was the god of thunder, earthquakes, storms, darkness, and death, and is sometimes also linked to god Set, who is also associated with the disorder, chaos, storms, and darkness.
Lessons from the Past
The ancient Egyptians certainly believed in the wisdom of female rulers. Indeed, when there was a political crisis, the ancient Egyptians chose a woman time and again to fill the power vacuum—precisely because she was the least risky option. For the ancient Egyptians, placing women in power was often the best protection for the patriarchy in times of uncertainty.
Compared to other states of the time, the kingdom of Egypt was different. Natural boundaries of deserts and sea protected it from the constant invasions, warlording, and aggression that Mesopotamia, Syria, Persia, Greece, or Rome endured. In these lands, if a young child took the throne, it would be a call to military competition to seize it from him. But in Egypt, where sovereigns, no matter how young, were revered as god-kings, women protected them. Rather than see the child as an obstacle to power, mothers, aunts, sisters would defended the youths at the center of the wheel of power. This stabilizing tendency was employed repeatedly in Egypt’s history.
Symbols and Depictions
Because the ancient Egyptians associated Apep with all that was evil and frightful, they believed that Apep was the cause of sine natural occurring events such as solar eclipse, floods, and earthquakes.
Also, he was usually depicted as a serpent or a yellow snake. In some cases, he was seen as a lizard (i.e. The Evil Lizard) or a crocodile.
Apep could be seen in a similar fashion as the god Set. Unlike Set however, Apep was a different kind of evil deity, an unreasonable type of bad natural force. Commonly called the “Uncreator”, Egyptians depicted him with very large coils, which many believed could squeeze out the life from his opponents.
To symbolize the overpowering nature of Apep, some ancient Egyptian artworks depicted him dismembered. Paintings of Ra, in the shape of a huge cat, piercing Apep were quite common.
Ancient Gods – When Darkness Ruled the World - History
L ike other creation myths, Egypt's is complex and offers several versions of how the world unfolded. The ancient Egyptians believed that the basic principles of life, nature and society were determined by the gods at the creation of the world. It all began with the first stirring of the High God in the primeval waters.
The creation myth is recounted in the sacred hieroglyphic writings found on pyramids, temples, tombs and sheets of papyrus. These writings describe how the earth was created out of chaos by the god Atum. The earth was seen as a sacred landscape, a reflection of the sky world where the gods resided.
The creation of the universe took place over a long period of time when the gods lived on earth and established kingdoms based on the principles of justice. When the gods left the earth to reside in the sky world, the pharaohs inherited the right to rule.
The First Gods
The Book of the Dead, dating to the Second Intermediate Period, describes how the world was created by Atum, the god of Heliopolis, the centre of the sun-god cult in Lower Egypt. In the beginning, the world appeared as an infinite expanse of dark and directionless waters, named Nun. Nun was personified as four pairs of male and female deities. Each couple represented one of four principles that characterized Nun: hiddenness or invisibility, infinite water, straying or lack of direction, and darkness or lack of light.
Atum created himself out of Nun by an effort of will or by uttering his own name. As the creator of the gods and humans, he was responsible for bringing order to the heavens and the earth. As Lord of the Heavens and Earth, he wears the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt and carries the ankh, a symbol of life and a was sceptre, a symbol of royal authority.
According to the Pyramid Texts, written on the walls of pyramids, the creator god emerged from the chaotic darkness of Nun as a mythical Bennu bird (similar to a heron or phoenix). He flew to Heliopolis, an ancient city near Cairo, where, at dawn, he alighted on the Benben, an obelisk representing a ray of the sun. After fashioning a nest of aromatic boughs and spices, he was consumed in a fire and miraculously sprang back to life. The capstone placed at the top of an obelisk or a pyramid is associated with the Bennu. Called a pyramidion or the Bennu, it is a symbol of rebirth and immortality.
The Creator God's Offspring
At a time the Egyptians called Zep Tepi (the First Time), Atum created two offspring. His son, Shu, represented dry air, and his daughter, Tefnut, represented corrosive moist air. The twins symbolize two universal principles of human existence: life and right (justice).
The twins separated the sky from the waters. They produced children named Geb, the dry land, and Nut, the sky. When the primeval waters receded, a mound of earth (Geb) appeared, providing the first solid dry land for the sun god, Re, to rest. During the dynastic period, Atum was also known as Re, meaning the sun at its first rising.
Shu, the god of air, separates the sky goddess, Nut, from the earth god, Geb. Two ram-headed gods stand beside Shu.
Drawing: Catherine Fitzpatrick
Geb and Nut produced four offspring: Seth, the god of disorder Osiris, the god of order and their sisters, Nephthys and Isis. This new generation completed the Heliopolitan Ennead, the group of nine deities that began with Atum, the primeval creator god.
In another version of the creation story, the city of Hermopolis, in Middle Egypt, substituted the Ennead with a group of eight deities called the Ogdoad. It consisted of four pairs of gods and goddesses symbolizing different aspects of the chaos that existed before creation. The goddesses were depicted as snakes and the gods as frogs. Their names were Nun and Naunet (water), Amun and Amaunet (hiddenness), Heh and Hauhet (infinity), and Kek and Kauket (darkness).
The Sun God's Eye
The sun god, Re (a form of Atum), ruled over the earth, where humans and divine beings coexisted. Humans were created from the Eye of Re or wedjat (eye of wholeness). This happened when the eye separated from Re and failed to return. Shu and Tefnut went to fetch it, but the eye resisted. In the ensuing struggle, the eye shed tears from which humans were born.
The familiar eye motif is an enduring symbol for the creator, Atum, for Re and for Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis. It represents the power to see, to illuminate and to act. The act of bringing the eye back to the creator was equivalent to healing the earth the restoration of right and order. Maintaining right and order to prevent the earth from falling into chaos was central to the pharaoh's role.
Another version of the creation myth states that the wedjat simply wandered off, so Re sent Thoth, the moon god, to fetch it. When it returned, the eye found that another eye had taken its place. To pacify the furious eye, Re placed it on his brow in the shape of a uraeus (a cobra goddess), where it could rule the whole world. Pharaohs wore the uraeus on their brows as a symbol of protection and to show that they were descended from the sun god.
The First Rebellion
When Re became old, the deities tried to take advantage of his senility. Even humans plotted against him, which led to their fall from divine grace. In reaction to the rebellion, Re sent his eye to slaughter the rebels, a deed he accomplished by transforming himself into Sekhmet, a raging powerful goddess (depicted as a lion). After punishing his foes, he changed himself into the contented goddess Hathor (depicted as a cow).
In pain, and weary of these problems, Re withdrew from the world. Taking the form of Hathor, he mounted on Nut (sky), who raised him to the heavens. The other gods clung to Hathor's belly and became the stars. Following this, Thoth, the moon god, was given a spell to protect humans from harm when the sun disappeared below the earth. From that moment on, humans were separated from the gods, as earth was separated from the heavens.
Now Re lived in the heavens, where order was established. Each morning he was reborn in the east and travelled across the sky in a boat, called the Bark of Millions of Years, accompanied by a number of gods who acted as his crew. The sun god was carried across the sky by the scarab god, Khepri, a dung beetle. His chief enemy was the Apep, a huge serpent that lived in the Nile and the waters of Nun. Apep tried to obstruct the solar bark's daily passage, but the sun god was ultimately victorious.
The sun god was the most important deity in the Egyptian pantheon. He had many names: as the sun disk, he was Aten as the rising sun, he was Khepri, the scarab at the sun's zenith, he was Re, the supreme god of Heliopolis and as the setting sun, he was Atum. Egypt's pyramids and obelisks, as well as the sphinx, were associated with the sun god. In the New Kingdom, the sphinx was a symbol for the sun god as Re-Horakhty, the winged sun disk that appeared on the horizon at dawn.
|The scarab buries its eggs in dung, which it rolls into a hole in the earth, where the eggs hatch. It became a symbol for the sun god, who took the form of a scarab when he pushed the sun out of the eastern horizon for its daily journey across the sky.|
The sun, symbol of light and enlightenment, is probably the most enduring symbol found in ancient and modern religions. Living in a land of eternal sunshine, it is little wonder the ancient Egyptians chose the sun as the prime symbol for the creator of the universe.
Protector of the Pharaohs
Egyptians viewed Horus as the protector of the Pharaoh. As a god known in all of Egypt, he was an important unifying tool used to tie the people together under their leader. Great efforts were taken by rulers to show themselves as Horus in human form. When associated with a pharaoh, Horus was represented as a hawk resting on the shoulder of the pharaoh with his wings spread around the pharaoh’s head. Pharaohs would take on a Horus name to tie themselves to the god in both their reign and their afterlife.
In believing that Horus ruled the Earth under the authority of the gods, it was important for Pharaoh to become Horus in a living form. When the Pharaoh died, this association would unite the ruler with Osiris in the underworld. Horus would then move into the form of the next pharaoh.
© Steven Zucker - Hunefer's Book of the Dead detail, with Horus and Osiris
The first Mesopotamian ruler who declared himself divine was Naram-Sin of Akkad. Naram-Sin reigned sometime during the 23rd century BCE but the exact dates and duration of his reign are still subject to research. According to his own inscription the people of the city of Akkad wished him to be the god of their city. This first instance of self-deification also coincides with the first world empire of the rulers of Akkad, the first time that a dynasty established a territorial ruler over large parts of Mesopotamia. It was also accompanied by certain changes in religion, in which the king proliferated the cult of the Ishtar, the goddess of war and love. Naram-Sin seems to have emphasized Ishtar in her war-like aspect (‘ashtar annunitum) and began to refer to himself as the husband/warrior of Ishtar.
After Naram-Sin no ruler declared himself divine until about 200 years had passed, when Shulgi (2095–2049 BCE), the second king of the Third Dynasty of Ur, took up the custom of self-deification once more. His self-deification may have been viewed in attempts to consolidate the empire he had inherited from his father. The cult of the divine ruler seems to have culminated under Shu-Sin, who was probably Shulgi’s son or grandson and began an extensive program of self-worship (Brisch in press). After Shu-Sin the divinization kings was abandoned once more.
Whether the kings of the Old Babylonian period (c. 2000–1595 BCE) can be considered divine is still subject to debate. Some consider the kings Rim-Sin of Larsa (1822–1763 BCE) and the famous Hammurabi of Babylon (1792–1750 BCE) to have been divine. Both kings struggled to expand their area of influence, and therefore their self-deification may have been part of a strategy to consolidate and legitimize their powers.
One of the most popular Titan gods, Prometheus is held in high esteem among the great benefactors of mankind. His father Iapetus was also a Titan but his mother was an Oceanid. Being the god of forethought, he foresaw the defeat of the Titans at the hands of the new Olympian gods and cleverly sided with the Olympians during the battle, thus escaping imprisonment at Tartarus along with the others.
Prometheus was then assigned the task of molding mankind out of clay. Once he was done creating mankind, he became rather attached to them, always worried for their welfare. This led him to cross paths with the mighty Zeus time and again since he did not care so much about humans. So when Zeus took away fire from mankind, Prometheus stole it from the heavens and gave it back to the humans. Zeus punished him for his treachery by chaining him to a rock where an eagle would eat his liver every day (his liver regenerated every night for he was immortal). Eventually, he was freed from his agony by the powerful demigod Hercules.
15 facts about the Sumerian King List: When gods ruled Earth
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Among the numerous ancient texts, manuscripts and scrolls that completely disagree with mainstream history –or at least offer a complementary view— we find the ancient Sumerian King list which according to many is one of the most mysterious and important ancient texts ever discovered on Earth.
Why? Because it suggests that the ancient rulers had implausible lengthy reigns:
“…Alulim became king he ruled for 28800 years. Alaljar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridug fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira. In Bad-tibira, En-men-lu-ana ruled for 43200 years…”
This ancient text describes in great detail a time when Earth was ruled by beings referred to as ‘Gods’ for thousands of years.
The list composed in Ancient Sumerian offers details about numerous generations of kings that ruled over the land of ancient Sumer. The list not only offers us their names, but it details their supposed length and location of Kingship.
In this article, we bring you 15 mind-boggling facts about the Ancient Sumerian King list.
The Ancient Sumerian king list provides a comprehensive list of the Sumerian Kings from the beginning, before the great flood, and the 10 kings who lived before the Flood who lived for thousands of years.
The first part of the Sumerian King List reads: “…After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug. In Eridug, Alulim became king he ruled for 28800 years. Alaljar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridug fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira. In Bad-tibira, En-men-lu-ana ruled for 43200 years. En-men-gal-ana ruled for 28800 years. Dumuzid, the shepherd, ruled for 36000 years. 3 kings they ruled for 108000 years…”
Fragments of the Sumerian Kind list were discovered in 1900’s by German-American researcher Hermann Hilprecht at Nippur.
After 1906, 18 other lists have been discovered dating from the second half of the Isin dynasty.
There are more than a dozen of copies of Sumerian King Lists, found in Babylon, Susa, and Assyria, and the Royal Library of Nineveh from the VII century BC.
The best-preserved specimen of the Sumerian King List is called the Weld-Blundell Prism, which is a clay, cuneiform inscribed vertical prism housed in the Ashmolean Museum.
Mainstream scholars suggest that the Ancient Sumerian King list is a mixture of prehistorical and mythological accounts.
Scholars are unable to explain why the unique list blends mythical pre-dynastic rulers with historical rulers.
The list is only partially accepted in the academic community. Experts claim that some of the accounts are myths while other are genuine.
The Sumerian King list suggests that Ancient kings had implausible lengthy reigns, which has led many to conclude its not real.
Experts argue that the antediluvian reigns described in the Sumerian King list were measured in Sumerian numerical units known as sars (units of 3,600), need (units of 600), and sosses (units of 60).
Researchers have mixed feelings about the Sumerian King list. The mind-boggling lengthy reigns described in the SumerianKing list has led to the creation of countless theories trying to explain the implausible lengthy reigns.
Some scholars argue that the years of reign described in the Sumerian King list were not actual years, but are a reflection of the importance of the king.
The more years the king ‘ruled’ the more important He was to history in the eyes of mortal humans.
The only problem with this theory is that no one can explain why the period of reign was switched to realistic numbers afterward.