Much of what we know about Egypt comes from stories. While we are discussing the mythologies of the world, which means by definition that we are discussing the stories of the world, it is important to remember exactly what is fact and what is legend.
Egypt is the only trans-Asian country which means is spans two continents – Africa and Asia. The Sinai Peninsula forms a land bridge of sorts connecting the northeastern corner of Africa with the southwestern corner of Asia. Technically, Egypt is the world’s only Eur-afra-sian country since it is bordered by the Mediterranean on the north as it shares a northern border with the Gaza strip and Israel, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, the Red Sea to the south as well as Sudan, and Libya on the west.
Egypt is located in what historians and anthropologists call the cradle of civilization. Its history is as long as any nation and it became one of the world’s first cultural and ethnic entities while at the same time becoming one of the first actual political and geographical countries. At one time or another, Egypt has been ruled and influenced by Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and European cultures. Its eighty-nine million residents were some of the first Christians but Islamic conquests during the seventh century made it an Islamic nation.
Most Egyptian territory lies within the Sahara Desert which is largely uninhabitable. The majority of Egyptians live near the banks of the Nile River. The world’s longest river, the Nile is thought to be the result of climate change in the earth’s early history. The historian Herodotus called Egypt is the “gift of the Nile” and for many, it is considered the gift of the world. Hate mathematics? Blame an early Egyptian whose artifacts left writings resembling early multiplication and a series of numbers looking like multiples of ten. In fact, it is hard to find something that does not have an Egyptian connection.
Egypt was a major trade country with its borders on seas and the Nile. Early Egyptians cultivated wheat and made paper from papyrus. Water buffalo from Africa and camels from Asia only served to intensify the multicultural aspect of life in early Egypt. European expeditions waited until Napoleon to discover Egypt although certainly trading with Asia and India introduced some aspects of Egyptian life prior to this.
Many of us only know Egypt from the big and small screen. Movies about the early Christians with the actor Charleston Heston and later music videos by Michael Jackson starring comedian Eddie Murphy and supermodel Iman do little to tell the true story of Egypt. The ancient name for the country is from a word meaning black soil, and is best written as “km.t”. This was to distinguish the land of Egypt from the desert area or red soil. The English version of the country’s name comes from an ancient Greek word “Aigyptos” which dates back to the French “Egypte” and Latin “Aegyptus”. Early Greek tablets show it written as “a-ku-pi-ti-yo” which became the Coptic “gyptios” and the Arabic “qubti”. The official name of Egypt is “Misr” which translates as metropolis, civilization, or country.
When we think of Egypt we often first think of the pyramids but also of animal forms of the many gods and goddesses. People mistake reverence for these animal forms as worship. The early Egyptians did not worship animals, only the deities they felt took the animal form. The Egyptian deity Bastet was, before 1000 BCE, considered a sun god with the head of a lion and the wife of Ra, the supreme sun god. However, in 1000 BCE, when Bubatis became the capital of Egypt, she became the first” Cat Women”, a goddess with the body of a female and the head of a cat. Cats were then mummified upon their death so that they could be reincarnated and the killing of a cat became an offense that might result in the offender’s death.
The greatest of ancient deities is often considered to be Isis but in truth, there are many influential Egyptian mythologies and deities. The eye became a symbol of which these deities could keep watch over the world after their passing. Even currency in the United States contains a form of the Egyptian Oudjat eye. From the past to the present, Egypt has been a bridge for the world. So are the mythologies of the world. Tomorrow we will follow the Nile to other parts of Africa. Storytelling is today one of the greatest natural resources of Africa and it remains a major source of religion, education, and life in general. They even have a story about how story telling began. As one shaman was quoted as saying, “A story is like the wind: it comes from a distant place and we feel it.”
Today you will write the story of you. You may not have control over the setting, the characters, or even the action to a large part, but you do have control over yourself. We make a choice each and every hour whether to act or simply react. Steve Jobs said it best: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Today you will add a chapter to the mythology of that which is you. Happy writing; blessed living!