19th century illustration of Atum from the Swedish encyclopedia Nordisk familjebok.
|God of creation|
|Name in hieroglyphs||
|Major cult center||Heliopolis|
Atum (alternatively spelled Tem, Temu, Tum, and Atem) is an important deity in Egyptian mythology, whose cult centred on the city of Heliopolis (Egyptian: Annu). His name is thought to be derived from the word 'tem' which means to complete or finish. Thus he has been interpreted as being the 'complete one' and also the finisher of the world, which he returns to watery chaos at the end of the creative cycle. As creator he was seen as the underlying substance of the world, the deities and all things being made of his flesh or alternatively being his ka.
Atum is one of the most important and frequently mentioned deities from earliest times, as evidenced by his prominence in the Pyramid Texts, where he is portrayed as both a creator and father to the king. He is usually depicted as a man wearing either the royal head-cloth or the dual white and red crown of Upper Egypt, and Lower Egypt, reinforcing his connection with kingship. Sometimes he also is shown as a serpent, the form which he returns to at the end of the creative cycle and also occasionally as a mongoose, lion, bull, lizard or ape.
In the Heliopolitan creation myth established in the sixth dynasty, he was considered to be the first god, having created himself, sitting on a mound (benben) (or identified with the mound itself), from the primordial waters (Nu). Early myths state that Atum created the god Shu and goddess Tefnut from spitting or from his semen by masturbation in Heliopolis.
Atum was a self-created deity, the first being to emerge from the darkness and endless watery abyss that girdled the world before creation. A product of the energy and matter contained in this chaos, he created divine and human beings through loneliness: alone in the universe, he produced from his own semen Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. The brother and sister, curious about the primeval waters that surrounded them went to explore the- and disappeared into the darkness. Unable to bear his loss, Atum sent a fiery messenger to find his children. The tears of joy he shed on their return were the first human beings.
He is generally represented in human form and as the source of the Pharaoh's power he wears the double crown of Egypt- red for Lower Egypt, White for Upper Egypt and he also carries a tall cross, the symbol of eternal life.
Iusaaset, the grandmother of deities
Another belief held that Shu and Tefnut were created by Atum having sexual intercourse with a goddess, referred to as Iusaaset (also spelt Juesaes, Ausaas, Iusas, and Jusas, and in Greek as Saosis), meaning the great one who comes forth. She was described as his shadow or his hand. Consequently, Iusaaset was seen as the mother and grandmother of the gods. The strength, hardiness, medical properties and edibility, led the acacia tree to be considered the tree of life, and thus the oldest, which was situated close to, and north of, Heliopolis, was said to be the birthplace of the deities. Thus, as the mother and grandmother, of the deities, Iusaaset was said to own this tree.
In the Old Kingdom the Egyptians believed that Atum lifted the dead king's soul from his pyramid to the starry heavens. By the time of the New Kingdom, the Atum mythos, merged in the Egyptian pantheon with that of Ra, who was also the creator and a solar deity, their two identities were joined into Atum-Ra. But as Ra was the whole sun, and Atum became to be seen as the sun when it sets (depicted as an old man leaning on his staff), while Khepri was seen as the sun when it was rising.
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Atum. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.|