Gods of Ancient Egypt

The Becoming

Oil on canvas. 91 x 76cm. 1988

The myth of creation tells of the first creation, when the sun was born from the primeval waters, and also of the daily rising of the sun.

"I am he who came into being as Khepri. I became the creator of all that came into being. After I came into being many creations came forth from my mouth. I formed them from the primeval water, from inertness... I spat forth Shu (air), I emitted Tefnut (moisture). I became from one god, three gods... Shu and Tefnut were raised up from the primeval waters." (The Gods of the Egyptians. Vol.1. E.A.Wallis Budge. pp 308-311)

In the painting, Nun, the personification of the primeval waters, lifts up the boat of Ra, the sun god, so it can sail across the sky. Nut, the sky goddess, arches over the world with hands and feet touching the earth. In the boat is Khepri, the sun god as it rises, who pushes the ball of the sun high into the sky. Thoth, the ibis-headed god, who symbolises wisdom, makes happen what the sun god wishes to exist.

Khepri is the word for the scarab beetle and also the verb "to become".

The sun is the right eye of Ra, the left eye is the moon.

The sun god is called Khepri in the morning, Ra at noon and Temu in the evening. Every day he travels across the sky in his sacred boat, the Barque of a Million Years. At night he is called Auf and he travels through the underworld in his night barque.

The image of Nun raising the solar barque comes from the papyrus of Anhai, a priestess of the XX Dynasty.