I was asked for my personal response on the following well-researched essay: The Symbolic Meaning of the Scene of Geb, Nut and Shu by Joost Kramer
My first response to the text is to question why the author hasn’t tried to determine what is meant by sky and earth. He has assumed that Geb and Nut represent the profane elements and that the separation or upholding of Nut is a cosmological scene, “merely” a creation scene. Even though he queries this, he still does not question what else Geb/earth/underworld and Nut/sky/the stars might represent.
The arching figure of Nut, as he says, ranges from east to west; he identifies the east, her “backside” as he so quaintly puts it, as the origin of birth, the place where the sun rises – the west is the place of the setting sun (where the sun is eaten by Nut – conception was often depicted by ingestion in Egyptian myth) and the entry point to the underworld where the night barge travels, battling Apophis in an eternal fight to resurrect the sun each day. Nut in this sense can be seen as the daytime pathway, or the pathway of conscious awareness.
The fact that Geb is indicated to have Osirian overtones in his title as Lord of the Netherworld is interesting and ties in with my hypothesis above. Geb may be the father of Osiris, but there is a school of thought that all gods are emanations of the gods before them leading back to Atum or to Nun (the primordial watery abyss from which all things came); so I do not see a contradiction in one deity being another and yet being separate. As such I would suggest that Geb represents not only the Underworld and the world of the dead but the deep unconscious, the primordial being within each of us, The Hidden.
The author, in his attempt to explain the separation scene, has concluded it is not a separation scene (although he continues to refer to it as “the separation scene”) but simultaneously has, I think, neglected to consider the symbolism of Shu standing on Geb and supporting Nut. I think the author is correct in seeing a sense of movement in the scene, a cycle of life, the cycle of the day; and naturally within a funerary context it would be easy to conclude that it is merely a representation of the death and resurrection of the corpse concerned.
But what about the meaning for the living. Who is Shu? Interestingly, Shu means “emptiness” or “he who rises up”. I would posit that Shu is us, that we are Shu and only by standing with our feet in the underworld, while supporting the stars (cf Aleister Crowley – Every man and every woman is a star) can we engage ourselves with the cosmic movement of deity, really align ourselves with the daily triumph of Atum over his enemies and the nightly battle with the primordial demons of our inner, hidden selves. Shu is also identified with “air”, an amorphous thing that can only be sensed by the external movement of say the wind, but without which we cannot survive.
Within this scene, I would not see separation, but an absolute necessity of joining; an emergence of the Übermench, the human being that takes an active role in the spiritual cycle: a person who becomes empty and whose spirit is raised up – but just as a living person cannot progress by solely burying their head in the ground of the dead, neither can they progress if they give into the purely conscious, profane world with its beautiful distractions. It would be so easy to spend a life just watching the sun moving across the sky and to watch the twinkling stars without seeking beyond the light reflecting off our own retinas.
If you wish to copy this text, please link back to this blog and accredit me, the author. Thank you.
Nb: If you find two pagans who agree, you haven’t found two pagans!
A pagan is person who practises a spiritual path; he or she follows either an established tradition under the “Pagan” umbrella or takes aspects of paganism, which are meaningful to him or her, and creates a way of living. A pagan is not somebody who only worships once a week or at special times in the year; a pagan path embraces all aspects of living and is a philosophy as well as a spirituality.
So what comes under the “Pagan” umbrella?
There are innumerable pagan paths: some draw on native religions such as the traditions and beliefs of Native Americans; some look to history and “re-kindle” Greek, Roman or Egyptian mythologies; then there are the neo-pagan religions of Wicca and the eclectic lifestyles and approaches of Green Witches, Hedgewitches and Kitchen Witches. There are Discordians and the followers of the Feri tradition, modern-day neo-shamans, magickians, wizards and witches. But not every pagan is a witch!
Pagans can be monotheists (believing in one god or goddess), polytheists (believing in two or more gods/goddesses), polyentheists (believing that god/goddess exists in all things) or even atheists (no belief in a god/goddess).
Paganism can (although does not have to) incorporate occult studies, and indeed some occultists would not describe themselves as pagan, although some definitely would. The occult world includes Thelemites (who follow the religion/philosophy of Aleister Crowley), Satanists (Satanism as created by Anton LeVey in the 1960s), Luciferians, Gnostics, Qabbalists … the list is virtually endless.
Isn’t it a bit vague having so many different paths under one word?
Yes and no. It can appear vague and confusing when you first approach paganism, but once you start learning, studying and exploring you will be overwhelmed with the richness both of paganism and the diversity of the people attracted to it. One thing is key amongst pagans: to accept the path that the other person walks. There is no preaching and there are no attempts to convert people. We are happy to be who we are, and we rejoice in seeing other people be who they truly are. Human diversity is celebrated within paganism!
Is paganism a cult?
No, paganism is not a cult. There is no one figure who commands all pagans. Even though there are occasionally oddballs proclaiming that they are, for example, King or Queen of the Witches, this is something rejected by pagans and usually cause for much hilarity.
We abhor bullying and coercion in any area of life and this is something that goes very much against the Pagan Path. To reiterate the previous answer: There is no preaching and there are no attempts to convert people. We are happy to be who we are, and we rejoice in seeing other people be who they truly are. Human diversity is celebrated within paganism!
The word “cult” is often used as a slur word to disparage someone else’s religious or spiritual beliefs. Often people using the word “cult” have their own agenda of conflict and negativity, rather than a true desire to promote spirituality and personal growth.
Are pagans devil worshippers?
The majority of pagans do not believe in the devil; Satan or the devil for them is a construct of Judeo-Christian religions and mythology. There is a lot of confusion in this area as the pagan image of, for example, Pan (who is the god of nature, hunting and revelry) has been subsumed into Christian culture as the epitome of “what the devil looks like”. Pan is by no means an evil god, and many pagans would even dispute the existence of evil itself, but would say that “evil” is energy just as “good” is energy: a gun is only a piece of metal until the gun-holder decides how to use it. This is a key point within paganism: there is no doctrine telling us what is wrong or right. We each carry a heavy responsibility as to how we use this “moral energy”. It would be easier if we were told what to do, but instead we have to cultivate self-awareness, respect of others, sensitivity to the environment, a knowledge of cause and effect and make our decisions bearing all this in mind within our spiritual framework.
Are pagans witches?
Some pagans are witches, but the majority are not. Many pagans do not practise witchcraft or spellwork. Witches can come in many guises: some are Wiccans, some Dianic witches, Green Witches, Hedgewitches, Kitchen witches, etc. Traditional witchcraft and Voodoo even draw on the spellcraft of Pennsylvanian Christian pow wow magic. Witchcraft is like a river with many tributaries feeding it – some of which lead to surprising sources.
What is a pagan ritual?
The answer to this will depend very much on which tradition you choose to work with. A pagan ritual in general will aim at focusing the energy of the person or participants (if it is group work); this energy can be drawn from themselves or from any of the Five Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether/Spirit, for example. Sometimes the energy is focused on sending healing to people, or on blessing the group, reconnecting with deity or many other things.
Rituals can be either in a group or worked individually. Rituals can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish. The main point, however, is to learn the basics and for that there are many good books and (through the Herefordshire Moot) willing people to teach and advise you.
Do pagans believe in Jesus?
Some do and some do not. Many pagans believe in a wide variety of higher beings. Jesus is one of these beings for some pagans. Some believe he was a great spiritual teacher, but not a god. Some have no feelings about him at all.
Who is the pagan god?
There is no single pagan god. As mentioned before, some pagans believe in one god or goddess, some believe in two or more and some believe in none. It depends on the tradition you are called to work with.
What do pagans do?
Pagans are just like anybody else. You will find pagans working in industry, in the military, employed, unemployed, well, sick, happy, sad, divorced, married, hand-fasted (pagan marriage) and other. Most pagans will work around the pagan year honouring the equinoxes and solstices, marking the new moon and full moon. Some will do elaborate rituals in groups or on their own, some will do nothing more than light a candle and internally connect with what is important to them.
Do pagans pray?
Some pagans pray in what would be recognised as a “traditional way”, others use forms of meditation, drumming, chanting or dancing. There are many ways of connecting with deity and pagans are pragmatic in that, if it works, they’ll try it!
Where are the pagan churches?
Most pagans would say that their church is Nature and that She is where they worship. Others might say that when they cast a circle (create a sacred space), that is their church. Since pagans believe that deity is everywhere, however deity is conceived, the idea of a fixed building in which to worship is unnecessary.
How do you become a pagan?
Try firstly to read as much as you can about paganism and its different offshoots. Meet up with pagans. Ask lots of questions! When you feel the time is right, you will know how best to dedicate yourself to your chosen path and deity or deities. Most people begin with a personal, individual dedication. Groups, such as covens (not all groups of pagans are covens), do not usually allow people to join them until they have shown a commitment to studying and learning about that particular path. A moot, however, is a social environment for meeting pagans: you don’t even have to be pagan to come along, just bring your interest and respect for others.
What do I need to be a pagan?
You only need yourself and a sincere interest to learn, a yearning in your belly that this is where you belong, combined with an open heart and mind for your fellow pagans. No one is going to judge you if you step on this Path and decide at a later date it is not for you. Our Paths can be winding ones, and each step teaches us something valuable.
Why do people say bad things about pagans?
People often ridicule what they do not understand. Hollywood has also created many damaging and untrue stereotypes. This is why it is important for people genuinely interested in paganism to inform themselves from reputable authors and to meet up with real pagans. You cannot teach your paganism by watching “Charmed” or “The Craft” or any other light entertainment. Paganism is a spiritual way of living that requires commitment, soul-searching, self-awareness and hard work. Nothing worth having comes easily, but the joy of finding yourself on the right Path with like-minded others can’t be overestimated.
This is a brief summary of the Occult of Personality podcast interview with David Beth. I would recommend you listen to the full interview, as I will naturally have only picked out points most interesting to me, and there is plenty more to be had from the interview. My sincere thanks to David Beth for revising, editing and approving this summary.
Who is David Beth?
David Beth is Sovereign Grand Master of the OTOA (Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua) and the LCN (La Couleuvre Noire) and presiding bishop of the Ecclesia Gnostica Aeterna. The OTOA and LCN are originally Haitian Gnostic occult societies associated with each other, but which function separately. The OTOA works with a fusion of ancient Haitian and European Hermetic currents. The LCN is more specialised, with a focus on sorcery and direct spiritism. DB shares leadership in these groups with SGMA Courtney Willis.
DB is also involved with the Fraternitas Borealis, a hyperborean magick group with a cosmic tradition of magical exploration. The Gnostic church focuses on a more general transformation through the apostolic-gnostic sacraments and gnostic initiations and conducts esoteric research in a more classical gnostic sense. The Fraternitas Borealis achieves the same thing through experimentation with magical techniques and sorcery as well as basing itself on very specific transcendental ideals.
On the Ecclesia Gnostica Aeterna:
The EGA is an apostolic Gnostic church, where Gnostic attainment and liberation is achieved through the sacraments. The Church views itself as a continuation of the ancient mystery schools, a way of empowerment passed on through Gnostic Christianity. The sacraments are tools to provide the seeds of gradual enlightenment and development as Gnostic beings. It is then the initiate’s role to cultivate the seed to flower and fruit. Initiation is a combination of outside forces being given to you that also need to be fused alchemically with your own readiness. Occult spirituality needs nurturing.
Unlike the ancient form of Gnosticism, this is not approached as escapism or as a way of leaving the body and its associations behind; this Gnosis is Kosmic Gnosis, i.e. through the body and senses we can achieve a unified experience with the cosmos, hence avoiding dualism.
On the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua:
The OTOA was never a Masonic fraternal organisation as such, perhaps in the beginning and more particularly through its division into lodges. Building on occult haitian-voudoist roots, they took the essence and qualities of Masonry, stripping away the superstructure and further into the C20th the Masonic elements were gradually eliminated. In the 1960s the organisation was based in Chicago, New York and Haiti, comprising small groups totalling maybe 50 people. The OTOA presents a more abstract form of Voudon gnosis but still with a practical focus. There are a few group rituals although most of what is done is on an individual basis. Initiations are given from master to student. The OTOA provides knowledge of Voudon Gnosis (a basic preparation to approach the LCN) – you need the foundations of the OTOA first, and once the principles have been grasped then a student would be eligible to move on to the LCN, although not each student wishes to progress to the LCN because of the extreme character of the (spirit) work and the specific demands of the LCN subcults.
On La Couleuvre Noire and Bertiaux:
Bertiaux’s Voudon Gnostic Workbook is the main public teaching tool of the LCN, presenting a spiritist type of sorcery. The student first establishes contact with spirits, working “lucky hoodoo”, a simple but effective way of establishing spirit contact before moving on to more complex areas. There is a symbiotic relationship between the spirits and the practitioner. Whether the spirits are internal beings, Jungian archetypes or external realities is irrelevant as long as the relationship is effective.
A fundamental understanding of metaphysics allows us to incorporate esoteric Voudon into our own systems. Bertiaux drew parallels between systems; his was not a kitchen magick taking simplistic ingredients to make a composite whole, he goes deeper than that, drawing on the essential core which because of its bare-bones truth can be clad in the flesh of other systems.
On his book, Voudon Gnosis:
DB’s own book was published as an introduction and commentary but would only really be understandable to slightly more experienced occultists. It is not a dogmatic introduction to how people should study Voudon Gnosis although it contains some “official doctrine”; it is intended more as an introduction to ideas and perspectives. At the same time however the book, through its language and ideas, can work as an opener of inner gateways and dimensions and so takes on a truly unique magical character. It is a book to be read with your gut and soul open on multiple levels, not processed purely by the cerebral cortex. Topics cover Las Prise des Yeaux, Points Chauds, Spider Sorcery, Time Travelling, Elemental Sex Magick and The Grimoire Ghuehde, including two appendices on ‘Nganga and the Fetish’ and ‘A-Mor: an initiated analysis of Love’.
On the Merciless Path:
DB speaks of the Merciless Path which has complex implications within the Fraternitas Borealis and calls for a focus and dedication which should be observed by anyone with a sincere intent to study Voudon Gnosis or in fact any occult system; a dedication of their whole being to their spiritual and occult calling: this is a vocation. Occultism has become part of pop culture, a thing done in our spare time. A vocation calls for everything else to be submitted to the path, a kind of sadhu of Western Esotericism who sacrifices everything to focus on their spiritual development through occultism. It is called the Merciless Path because this type of dedication is self-critical; it requires constant challenging of our own status quo, and questions what our ideals and motivations are. It is a cruel look in the mirror everyday. People should continually move out of their comfort zones, and continue walking the thorny path even when it gets difficult. Instead, many approach their “spirituality” like an “occult supermarket” buying only those ingredients that fit their lives to build their own religion. Occultism as originally conceived in Gnosticism and sorcery is only for people with a vocation. It requires the student to take a stand against society, to face their fears and stand against the crowd in a secular society where spirituality is not highly regarded. The only spirituality that flourishes in mainstream societies such as America is the superficial spirituality of evangelists.
On membership, students and mentoring:
The OTOA and LCN have a very small capacity and are consequently selective in their membership. The aim is to create a smooth-running structure to facilitate the mentor relationships between student and teacher and to provide the best possible working environment; however, students must also display a suitable character to respond to such an opportunity to learn. The societies want people who work individually and have an experimental mind and approach (in particular applicable to the Fraternitas Borealis). It doesn’t provide a social group or environment like many other pagan groups. There is a focus on the individual and the burden of work falls on him or her.
Advice to students, the ‘Left-Hand Path’, sexual magick and esoteric love:
When asked what advice he would give to people interested in membership, DB said for the individual to question exactly what their motivation is in their involvement with occultism. What do they truly want? Materialistic powers? To overcome their outsider position in the society at large? Is it a vocation or supplemental to their life/a hobby? Their true motivations will soon be uncovered within the group. The would-be student must be ready to have his or her Self challenged and to break through boundaries. Lots of groups provide a sociological setting for people to have a devotional relationship with the divine where they can meet like-minded people and share in the odd ritual. People of the ‘Left-Hand Path’ (an inadequate and sorely abused term) need to challenge their own ideas, concepts and status quo constantly. They may need to do things they consider inappropriate, especially within the context of sexual magick. As a preliminary, they need to want to work with sexual energies and sexual magick in all forms in a way employed for spiritual advancement. If a person has some kind of extreme sexual tendency, such as masochism, they may have to act as a sadist in some contexts. The intention here is to break through the original framework and free the practitioner of such extreme constraints. If you work with sexual energies, you are also working on the liberation of self, without being dependant on an outside person (a Luciferian idea). In specific ritual contexts, the other person can act as a spark to ignite the inner fire of transformation. The risk here, however, is that the practitioner can confuse the other person with a full embodiment of the divine bride or groom.
The body is viewed as a temple, a tool to express the divine. Through experiences of the body, a person can experience the divine, and by employing the body in particular ways combined with a trained mind, it can lead to spiritual enlightenment. It is not about satisfying cravings for darker magick but about challenging what you think is proper for you. It is not an occult path that supports a person in maintaining the chimera of who they are at this moment – it strips that away and challenges it. The student must avoid interpreting things the way they want to, which is why the mentor relationship is so important, so he or she does not get stuck within their own prejudices and fantasies.
Myth conveys an esoteric reality; a form of collective memory clad in myth. The symbolism of myths communicates most to the cultural group it is closest too. Unlocking myths provides you with occult tools; such as Parsifal, the spiritual warrior, walking the Merciless Path, he sacrifices all to his cause. Myth provides us with a link to a living occult tradition; for example, the icon of Christ, the dying and resurrected man who through spiritual transformation obtained divine status. We must die to the profane self, crucify self on the cross of the elements and be resurrected in a higher self. In such an instance it is irrelevant whether Jesus was a historical figure or purely mythical, the message is still relevant against either premise.
On magick’s role in spirituality:
The spiritual journey per se is the path up the mountain; the magickal journey is the exploration of the mountain. Magick fulfils a searcher’s cravings for exploration and is a way to discover one’s own potential. Magickal work can support spiritual existence if employed as a supplement to spiritual development.
On the state of published occult knowledge today and pop culture:
Occult works are more prolific today as the fear of persecution has for the most part been removed. The question naturally exists as to what is authentic, and in particular with the use of the internet, one must consider the source.
The last 30 years of publishing have seen a plethora of poor quality material produced. New occult writers are bringing very little that is new to the circle, merely regurgitating the discoveries of the Old Guard. Nowadays fundamental research is missing, and people are instead looking for quick answers and quick-fixes. Superficiality is what glues people together today. There is no longer a desire for a Weltanschauung (a philosophical, conceptual understanding of the world at large), there is a greater desire for the “wild ride”, so occultism succeeds in popular culture as long as it is wild and interesting. People are a product of their society, a fact that infiltrates the occult community too. There must be a will to study and learn. The opportunities are there, but many don’t take advantage of them because they are comfortably ensconced in the society they live in; they neither have the capacity or the will to sit down and study properly. The purpose of true occult spirituality is to engage in a work that serves a higher purpose (which ultimately benefits the Self too). It cannot be approached as social group membership or in a consumer role with the wish to fulfil the aggrandisement of his or her ego.
On the future:
DB envisages a hope for the future where there is a chain of initiates who will carry on the work until the dark times of spiritual apathy are over, when a new consciousness will kick into action which will tear down the dualistic, exploitative and dehumanising structure we currently inhabit. The attainment of Kosmic consciousness for all of humanity will be sparked by this chain of initiates.
I have just re-read Madame Blavatsky’s article entitled Ancient Egyptian Magic. The article contains very little concrete information about Egyptian Magic and focuses instead on ridiculing for the most part archaeologists; she seems to find it amusing that men of science sit amongst the remnants of a civilisation trying to classify things according to scientific principle, when every which way they turn they are faced with ‘magic’. The main impetus of the articles seems rather to prove the philosophical lineage that Theosophy was apparently based on. She rounds off the articles rather abruptly with:
“For the present, enough has been said to show that the Theosophists have the evidence of the whole of antiquity in support of the correctness of their doctrines.”
What a coincidence that I suggested in a comment yesterday that Josephus (that first century Jewish historian) perhaps suggested the Hyksos as being the antecedents of the Jews as a way of underlining their antiquity. Such a longing for the ‘support of correctness’ from the ‘whole of antiquity’ is still prevalent in today’s pagan community where people try sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, to draw a line of antiquity up to present-day practices.
As individuals we may not need to underline the antiquity of our beliefs and practices, but as a community [sic] to hold our own against the Big Three (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) for example we feel we need to match their history. A sad truth and personally one that I feel falls under the bracket of counting angels dancing on the head of a pin (a waste of time, I’d rather just watch them dance).
This is surely one of the differences about paganism; we are (or should be) unafraid to take the wisdom of history, apply it to practice and consideration, and reshape as appropriate. Change for change’s sake never facilitates progress, but neither does the calcified reliance on ‘our roots’ and on ‘the way things have always been done’. If spirituality is a growing thing, if our relationship with the divine is to develop, surely we must expect change and rejoice in new spiritual traditions arising, IF THEY TRULY ENGENDER SELF-DEVELOPMENT AND DIVINE PROXIMITY (thus excluding cults of personality and such self-indulgent paths focused around ‘wot I beleev’ and that encourage people to part with money to share in the egotistical meanderings of more powerful personalities).
Maybe our roots do stretch back to earlier cultures; after all we recognise the spirit in lightning, rain, the hills, the earth – we worship the female aspect of divinity alongside the male; some are pure polytheists, some monotheists, some animists or even a mixture. There is much to be learned from the past, and not just from pagan religions of antiquity, but we mustn’t allow ourselves to fossilize in seeking justification for all our beliefs and practices in the cultures and religions of long-dead peoples.
I am constantly researching and reading about Ancient Egypt – the culture, land, the people, the religion. But my primary aim in this is in looking to regenerate what I learn to make it applicable to now; perhaps the word ‘reinterpret’ is more accurate. I am not creating a religion (Heaven forefend – the Christian analogy of a plank in my eye, a splinter in yours springs to mind!) but neither am I getting too stuck in the past. The prime focus is me, my spirituality and my self-development which edges me into divine proximity with the ultimate source both within and without. I am aware of the lack of connectivity in that statement; that it essentially sounds like I stand alone conversing on a mountain top with my personal burning bush. That’s not how it is, or how it should be. I am the only one who can walk my path; no one else can move my limbs. Only by walking the path can you meet others along the way, support each other, shout back directions to stragglers and listen to those ahead of you as they shout to you when you fall behind. This is a busy road and I, for one, am not walking it with my eyes shut and my fingers in my ears. I am conscious and connected to my fellow travellers (of whatever religion or spirituality), and it is only natural to want to talk about the origins of our journey (both personal and suprapersonal), just as long as we keep moving forwards and remember where we are actually heading.
© StarofSeshat 2009
In the Beginning there was Nothing; and the Nothing had a Voice and spoke my Name.
My Ren (name) came into being and dwelt with Nothing, until Nothing spat and breathed upon the void and I was not alone.
The water moved and a serpent arose. Typhon, the chaos demon, swam and split the waters.
Then I knew fear, and fear was my Sekhem (immortal power).
The waters shifted and there arose the primeval hill: my Khu (immortal light of the mind) flew from the darkness and was a Light resting upon the hill.
I was before Atum, but Atum knew me.
I was before Atum, and I proceed through him.
I hold the darkness in my mortal Ba (heart) and Typhon protects my mortality so that my Khu may fly freely over the waters and rest at will in the hands of Atum; there, my immortal parts shall merge: my Ren, my Sekhem, my Khu, and I shall become the first Sunrise.
O Atum! When you came into being you rose up as a High Hill,
You shone as the ben-ben stone in the Temple of the Phoenix in Heliopolis.
Hail to you, O Atum!
Hail to you, O Becoming One
who came into being of himself!
You rose up in this your name of High Hill,
You came into being in this your name of “Becoming One”.
In Egyptian [Ennead] cosmogony, the world is depicted as coming into being out of the primeval waters of chaos (the abyss). The first thing to appear was the world-mound, the ‘mound of the first time’ (the High Hill alluded to in the passages above). Atum is the primeval hill itself. He is the creative principle that called the world into being from the original chaos.
The root of his name is in the word ‘tem’ which means ‘complete’ or ‘finish’ in both the constructive and destructive senses. He is the uncreator as well as the creator. At the end of the world he will destroy everything and return to the form of the primeval serpent.
He is also known as the Lord of Totality. Everything originates from him. Our kas (ka = the life force or double of a person that is released from the body seventy days after embalming) come from him.
He is Father of the Gods, he is the ‘self-engendered one’. By copulating with himself, he essentially masturbated the gods into creation. His hand thus represents the female principle inherent in himself. He was the father of Shu and Tefnut, the first divine couple through whom the other gods proceed.
He is the primal mound, the original creation. This was represented at Heliopolis (the main theological centre that established a form of orthodox belief around Atum) in the form of the ben-ben stone, which may have actually been a meteorite.
He is the Sun which is considered the primary factor in the process of creation. As such he is linked to the ‘self-developing scarab’ (the scarab was also believed to be self-engendering). Atum in his solar form was often fused with Re (or Ra) to become Re-Atum. The Coffin texts say that Atum emerges in the east and rests in the west – here he is the complete manifestation of the sun. But in funerary contexts he is shown as an aged ram-headed man travelling to the underworld each evening to be reborn the next day; consequently he played an important role in mortuary books. At other times Re is seen as the rising sun and Atum as the setting sun.
He is a chthonic god (i.e. pertaining to the underworld). As a primeval god and the Evening Sun he has strong associations with the underworld, as such his power is invoked in netherworld contexts. Atum is depicted in the Valley of the Kings as an aged, ram-headed figure supervising punishment of evildoers and enemies of the sun god, and as subduer of netherworld forces such as the serpents Apophis and Nehebu-Kau.
Atum is frequently depicted in anthropomorphic form wearing the dual crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The main focus of worship was in Heliopolis before his cult was eclipsed by that of Ra, but his influence was widespread. In his underworld aspects he is shown with the head of a ram; in his chthonic form he is symbolised as a serpent. He can also appear as a scarab, mongoose, lion, bull or lizard.
“All manifestations came into being after I developed…no sky existed no earth existed…I created on my own every being…my fist became my spouse…I copulated with my hand…I sneezed out Shu…I spat out Tefnut…Next Shu and Tefnut produced Geb and Nut…Geb and Nut then gave birth to Osiris… Seth, Isis and Nephthys… ultimately they produced the population of this land.”
Hail and honour to Atum.
The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson
Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz