EGYPTICAL APPLICATIONS > Phosphenism and…
Among the populations that practiced a solar cult we cannot but mention the ancient Egyptians, in whose pantheon shines powerfully the neter of the Sun Ra. Although apparently polytheistic, the Egyptian civilization is actually deeply monotheistic, with the recognition of a single main solar divinity of which the different neters (generally and imprecisely translated as “divinities”) are an aspect or a function. Their system could in part be compared to the Catholic one, where the One God is flanked by the Saints, several of whom are dedicated to a precise “function” (for example, Saint Lucia, patroness of the eyes). With greater precision we could say, however, that the neters constitute the chemical elements of a single molecule, the Unique God.
Even the superficial judgment of the Egyptians who worship animals, since many neters are depicted with a human body and animal head or, more rarely, the opposite, is absolutely erroneous and a more in-depth analysis shows that the animal represented from time to time symbolizes a precise function. If today we wanted to represent with an image the concept of slowness we would use a snail, and a fox for cunning, without arousing the scandal of anyone.
For the Egyptians, the Sun represented the main divinity, so important that it was impersonated by more than one neter. A famous sentence of the Egyptian sacred texts quotes “I am Kepri in the morning, Ra at noon, and Atum in the evening”, indicating with this the different aspects of the sun throughout the day, carriers of different characteristics.
Kepri, the sacred beetle, whose name means “transformation, evolution, becoming, taking shape”, is the morning sun, the sun of dawn. Ra, represented by a generally red solar disk, is the full and burning sun of noon, while Atum is the sun of sunset. What is less known is that there is also a fourth aspect of the sun, the nocturnal one, represented by Osiris.
Osiris, son of Geb, neter of the Earth, and Nut, female neter of Heaven, is part of the heliopolitan ennead, that is to say of the nine deities of the pantheon of Heliopolis that explain the birth of the world (cosmogony) at a metaphysical level. The other cosmogonies described in their culture (the Ogdoad, the Theban triad with Amon, Mut and Konshu and the Menfi triad with Ptah, Sekmet and Nefertum) represent increasingly concrete and material “manifestations” of the cosmic process of becoming.
Heliopolis, Greek name meaning city of the sun, whose original name was Iunu, was one of the main centers of Egyptian worship, dedicated to the solar gods Atum and Ra. Today its remains are on the outskirts of Cairo.
Egyptian ritual practices took place every day in the temples. From the documentation that we have received we know that daily, at sunrise Kepri, the statue of the god was extracted from the naos, the sancta sanctorum where it was stored, to be exposed to the rays of the star during the day. The statue was perfumed, incensed, adorned, and then withdrawn back into the naos.
We do not know the practices carried out by priests, but it is likely that even in their case the sun was the protagonist. In fact, in all temples there is an open-air ritual area. In the following we will try to discover something more.
The cult of Osiris, deity of the dead
Osiris, the husband of his sister Isis, soon became the symbol and representation of the deceased, as evidenced by reading the Book of the Dead, a name that designates a series of papyri found in many tombs.
The definition of “Book of the Dead” was first given by the Prussian scholar Richard Lepsius in 1842. The Egyptians called it “Formulas for going out on the day”. This Book collects almost 200 prayers, formulas and invocations in which the deceased presents himself as “the Osiris” who, pronouncing precisely the most appropriate invocation, will be able to earn eternal life in the afterlife. The deceased “Osiris”, if aware of these formulas, becomes “justified”, that is, with a literal translation of “just voice” (Ma-khru). The Egyptians believed in the survival of the soul after death, a soul that had to be prepared to face all the dangers and trials that would wait for it in the afterlife to finally reach union with the Cosmos. But he also ran the risk that his soul, the Ba, would perish definitively suffering the “second death”, hence the fundamental importance that the deceased knew the formulas of the “Book of the Dead”, which were therefore transcribed on papyri accompanying him to the tomb.
But the reading of another fundamental Book of Egyptian culture, “The Book of those who are in the Duat” (Duat = beyond) gives us another very important indication: Osiris is also the initiate, that is, the one who has to deal with