Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.
When all the land is black, the sun bark of Ra passes through the twelve hour-divisions of night in Duat. At eventide, when the god is Tum, he is old and very frail. Five-and-seventy invocations are chanted to give him power to overcome the demons of darkness who are his enemies. He then enters the western gate, through which dead men's souls pass to be judged before Osiris. In front of him goes the jackal god, Anubis, for he is "Opener of the Ways".
Ra has a sceptre in one hand: in the other he carries the Ankh, which is the symbol of life. When the sun bark enters the river rnes of the underworld the companions of Ra are with him. Watchman is there, and Striker, and Steersman is at the helm, and in the bark are also those divinities who are given power, by uttering magical incantations, to overcome the demons of evil. The gloomy darkness of the first hour-division is scattered by the brightness of Ra. Beside the bark gather the pale shades of the newly dead, but none of them can enter it without knowledge of the magical formulae which it is given unto few to possess.
At the end of the first hour-division is a high and strong wall, and a gate is opened by incantations so that the bark of Ra may pass through. So from division to division, all through the perilous night, the sun god proceeds, and the number of demons that must be thwarted by magic and fierce fighting increases as he goes. Apep, the great Night serpent, ever seeks to overcome Ra and devour him.
The fifth hour-division is the domain of dreaded Sokar, the underworld god, with three human heads, a serpent's body, and mighty wings between which appears his hawk form. His abode is in a dark and secret place which is guarded by fierce sphinxes.
Nigh to him is the Drowning Pool, watched over by five gods with bodies like to men and animals' heads. Strange and mysterious forms hover nigh, and in the pool are genii in torture, their heads aflame with everlasting fire.
In the seventh hour-division sits Osiris, divine judge of the dead. Fiery serpents, which are many-headed, obey his will. Feet have they to walk upon and hands, and some carry sharp knives with which to cut to pieces the souls of the wicked. Whom Osiris deems to be worthy, he favours; such shall live in the Nether World: whom he finds to be full of sin, he rejects; and these do the serpents fall upon, dragging them away, while they utter loud and piercing cries of grief and agony, to be tortured and devoured; lo! the wicked perish utterly.
In this division of peril the darksome Night serpent Apep attacks the sun bark, curling its great body round the compartment of Ra with ferocious intent to devour him. But the allies of the god contend against the serpent; they stab it with knives until it is overcome. Isis utters mighty incantations which cause the sun bark to sail onward unscathed nor stayed.
In the eighth division are serpents which spit forth fire to illumine the darkness, and in the tenth are fierce water reptiles and ravenous fishes. The god Horus burns great beacons in the eleventh hour-division; ruddy flames and flames of gold blaze aloft in beauty: the enemies of Ra are consumed in the fires of Horus.
sun god is reborn in the twelfth hour-division. He enters the tail of the mighty
serpent, which is named "Divine Life", and issues from its mouth in
the form of Khepera, which is a beetle. Those who are with the god are reborn
also. The last door of all is guarded by Isis, wife of Osiris, and Nepthys,
wife of Set, in the form of serpents. They enter the sun bark with Ra.
Now rnes, the river of Duat, flows into the primeval ocean in which Nu has his abode. And as Ra was lifted out of the deep at the beginning, so he is lifted by Nu at dawn. He is then received by Nut, goddess of the heavens; he is born of Nut and grows in majesty, ascending to high noon.
The souls of the dead utter loud lamentations when the sun god departs out of the darkness of Duat.
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Source: Egyptian Myth and Legend by Donald Mackenzie (1907). Weblink.
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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