The Destruction of Mankind from The Book of the Celestial Cow

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Unit 3

color is the air which goes forth after me from the mouth of Atum.

“I am Everlasting, who fashioned the Chaos-gods, reproduced by the spittle of Atum, which issued from his mouth when he used his hand. It is my son who will live, whom I begot in my name. He knows how to nourish him who is in the egg in the womb for me, namely the human beings who came forth from my eye, which I sent out while I was alone with Nun in lassitude, and I

could find no place on which to stand or sit, when Iunu had not yet been founded that I might dwell in it.”

Nun said to Atum: “Kiss your daughter Ma’at and put her at your nose, that your heart may live, for she will not be far from you. I am the living one who knits on heads, who makes necks firm, and who nourishes throats. I knit Atum together. I make firm the head of Isis on her neck. I knit together the spine of Khepri for him.”

Question for Alternate Stories of Creation

1. What are the key differences between the main creation story and the alternate versions?


The Destruction of Mankind

from The Book of the Celestial Cow

Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University

Most cultures have myths that tell of the time when heaven and earth were united, but various tales also tell us that these realms were ultimately separated by the gods after some falling out with their creations. Notice that the heavens and earth will be separated in The Destruction of Mankind, similarly to the scene in the Babylonian Epic of Creation, when Marduk slices Tiamat’s body into two parts, one becoming the earth while the other half forms the dome of the sky.

This myth is cut in hieroglyphs on the walls of a small chamber in the tomb of Seti I about 1350 BCE — although it first appears on one of the shrines discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The text relates to a human rebellion against the gods, and the punishment of these humans by the gods (a reference to the time of Akhenaten and his persecution of the old gods).

During the course of your reading, keep in mind that the sun god Ra is one and the same with Atum, the creator god who was self-created (often called the Great “He-She”). Traditionally, the name Ra is used in this story, since it reflects the persona of the blazing sun and the wrath of the gods to punish mankind and to establish order and justice on heaven and earth. For these reasons, these gods are often listed together in the forms of hyphenated names, such as Atum-Ra.

Regardless of the personas that step forward between stories, the Atum-Ra figure was an early theological concept that was replaced over time by the various progeny of the original Ennead (collected Egyptian pantheon), especially Horus, as you will read about in the story Osiris, Isis, and

Horus. To enhance the readability of this story, I have condensed these hyphenated names, favoring









dozens of names, each highlighting a certain skill, feature, or godly power (similarly to what we

witnessed with Ninhursag’s identity in Units 1 and 2).







The Destruction of Mankind is a story that resembles many from our Mesopotamian unit. Unlike the

second unit’s stories where the gods become angry at the noise from the humans, this story shows the gods retaliating against the blasphemy of the people.

Remember that Ra was considered to be old and feeble by the time people are created, so perhaps the new generation of humans never had a chance to get to know this ancient sun god, therefore never fully appreciating him. He resembles Anshar from The Epic of Creation — a very distant, aging god whose time has long since passed him by.

Ra gathers together his lesser gods and decides to send out his evil eye in the form of Hathor-Sekhmet. This character is really a fusion of two other goddesses — Hathor (a goddess of sexual pleasure) and Sekhmet (goddess of healing). Both are depicted as lionesses. We will see Hathor alone (without being combined with another goddess) in the Osiris story.

This force of the Udjat Eye really is Atum’s strongest power, a force like the midday sun, blazing brightly in the noon sky. Condensed into the Udjat eye, it travels across the land punishing the people who had previously blasphemed Ra. The people flee to the mountains for cooler weather. Ironically, Hathor loves her new power, and she becomes bloodthirsty, like a vampire, terrorizing the people below her. Ra is powerless to stop her, since his force is still embodied in Hathor. Therefore, he has to resort to trickery. He instructs his servants to collect mandrake roots, which emit a red color when boiled, and was considered to be an aphrodisiac. They brew some beer made from the mandrake, and they mix it with blood, and spread it across the land, collecting in vast pools. When Hathor travels across the land and sees the “blood,” she slurps it all up, becomes drunk, and passes out. Problem solved.

Notice that this is similar to the trick played by Inanna against Enki when she collected the holy me. Also, Ea uses cunning tactics as well when he breaks the pledge with the other gods and warns Atrahasis/Ut-napishtim by speaking to the reed hut wall during the man’s dream.

Tricks such as these might seem “immoral” to many, but they are essential to solve dilemmas of situations where the options are limited or nonexistent. In essence, Nature always finds a way, and often through the feminine forces of slippery, wavering trickery. The serpent in the Garden of Eden uses the exact same approach. Eventually, Atum created the rituals and festivals of the Egyptian holy days by ordaining the day that Hathor was settled down.

Here is the story of Ra (Atum), the god who was self-begotten and self-created, after he had assumed the sovereignty over men and women, and gods and things — the ONE god.

After Ra had been ruling gods and men for some time, men began to complain about him, saying, “His Majesty has become old. His bones have turned into silver, his flesh into gold, and his hair into lapis lazuli.”

His Majesty heard these murmurings that the men and women were uttering, and commanded his followers to summon to his presence his Eye (the goddess Hathor), and several other gods: “Cry out, and bring to me my Eye, and Shu, and Tefnut, and Geb, and Nut, and the father-gods, and the mother-gods who were with me in the watery abyss, even when I was in Nun, side by side with my god Nun. Let there be brought along with my Eye his ministers, and let them be led to me here secretly, so that men and women may not










perceive them coming here, and may not therefore take to flight with their hearts. Come here with them in the Great House in Heliopolis, and let them declare their plans fully, for I will go from Nun into the place where I brought about my own existence, and let those gods be brought unto me there.”

Ra gathered the gods to him to hear their counsel. The gods met in secrecy, so that mankind would know nothing of this meeting. In due course all the gods assembled in the Great House, and they ranged themselves down the sides of the House, and they bowed down in homage before Ra until their heads touched the ground. Then the maker of men and women, the king of those who have knowledge, spoke his words in the presence of the Father of the first-born gods. And the gods spoke in the presence of his Majesty, saying, “Speak, for we are listening.”

All the company of great gods gathered around Ra as he told the story of mankind’s insolence. Then Ra spoke to Nun, the father and mother of the first-born gods, saying, “Nun, you are first born, oldest of the gods. I am your son; I seek your counsel. O first-born god from whom I came into being, O gods of ancient time, my ancestors, listen to what the men and women are doing. See for yourself: Those who were created by my Eye are uttering words of complaint against me. The men that I have created speak evil of me. Tell me what you would do in response to this matter. Consider this decision for me, and seek out a plan for me, for I will not slay them until I have heard what all of you shall say to me concerning it.”

Nun replied, “You, my son Ra, are greater than the god who made You (Nun, himself/herself). You are the king of those who were created with You. Your throne is established, and the fear of You is great. Let the Eye (Hathor) shine against and attack those who blaspheme You. If You turn Your eye upon the men who blaspheme You, they shall perish from the earth.”

The gods replied, “Let the Eye shine. Go forth and destroy those who blasphemed You, for no eye can resist the shine when it goes forth in the form of Sekhmet (Hathor).”

Doing as Nun had suggested, Ra turned his terrible gaze upon the men of the earth. Immediately, the goddess Sekhmet went in

pursuit of the blasphemers, and slew the men and the women who were on the mountain and the desert land.

The men ran in disarray, hiding in the shadows where the Eye of Ra could not harm them. Ra responded, “Look! They have fled to the mountains, for their hearts are afraid because of what they have said.” So the Eye of Ra, in the form of the goddess Hathor, went into the hiding places, striking fear in the hearts of men. Much of mankind was slain.

Hathor returned to Ra after the first day as mighty as a lioness. On her return Ra welcomed her, and the Majesty of this god said, “Come, come in peace, O Hathor, for the work is accomplished.”

Then this goddess said, “You have given me life! I have been mighty among mankind. It is pleasing to me. When I gained the mastery over men and women, it was sweet to my heart.”

But Ra retorted, “I myself will be master over them as their king — and I will destroy them.”

But having tasted blood, Sekhmet would not be appeased. For three nights the goddess Hathor-Sekhmet waded about in the blood of men, the slaughter beginning at Hensu (Herakleopolis Magna). Ra now realized that Hathor-Sekhmet would destroy the human race completely. Angry as he was, he wished to rule mankind, not see it destroyed. There was only one way to stop Hathor-Sekhmet — he had to trick her.

Then the Majesty Ra ordered his messengers: “Cry out, and let there come to me swift and speedy messengers who shall be able to run like the wind.” Immediately, the messengers arrived.

And Ra spoke, saying, “Let these messengers go to Abu, a town at the foot of the First Cataract, and bring unto me mandrakes in great numbers.” The messengers left, dug as many mandrakes as could be found, and returned with great haste.

When these mandrakes were brought unto him, the Majesty of this god gave them to Sekti, the goddess who dwells in Heliopolis, to crush. He ordered his attendants to brew seven thousand jars of beer, and to color it red using both the mandrakes and the blood of those who had been slain.








When these female women slaves were

bruising grain for making beer, the crushed mandrakes were placed in the vessels to hold the beer, together with some of the blood of those who had been slain by Hathor. In sum, they made seven thousand vessels of beer.

When the Majesty Ra, the King of the South and North, had come with the gods to look at the vessels of beer, they saw the daylight, which had appeared after the slaughter of men and women by the goddess in their season as she sailed up the river.

Ra said, “It is good; it is good. Nevertheless, I must protect men and women against her.” Ra continued, “Let them take up the vases and carry them to the place where the men and women were slaughtered by her.” Then Ra’s servants poured the beer mixture on the fields, poured out these vases of beer that cause men to lie down and sleep, and the meadows of the Four Heavens were filled with beer.

And it came to pass that when this goddess arrived at the dawn of day, she found the Heavens flooded with beer, and she was pleased with this. When the goddess Hathor came and drank the beer mixed with blood and mandrakes, her heart rejoiced, and she became very merry. Looking down, her gaze was caught by her own reflection, and it pleased her. She drank deeply of the beer, became drunk, fell asleep, and abandoned her bloodthirsty quest.

Then said the Majesty of Ra to this goddess, “Come in peace, come in peace, O Amit,” at which moment beautiful women came into being in the city of Amit (or Amem). And Ra spoke concerning this goddess, saying, “Let there be made for her vessels of the beer that produce sleep at every holy time and season of the year, and they shall be in number according to the number of my hand-maidens.” And from that early time until now men have been wont to make on the occasions of the festival of Hathor vessels of the beer which make them to sleep in number according to the number of the handmaidens of Ra.

Questions for Part I of The Destruction of Mankind

1. Why does Ra ask the other gods for input?

2. How does the Eye kill the blasphemers?

3. How can you explain Hathor’s bloodlust?

4. How can you explain Ra’s change in attitude — first to destroy man; then to save them?

Part II: Ra Creates Order and Judgment of Mankind

But the story doesn’t end here. Ra admits that he himself has become bloodthirsty, and the power trip seems to revitalize him. He decides to retire to the furthest heavens by ascending higher in the sky riding atop the cow goddess Nut. The people protest and beg for him to stay, but Ra ascends anyway. After climbing so high, Nut becomes concerned that she is too far up (similar to Etana and the eagle), so Ra asks the younger gods to support Nut with their bodies to allow her to be far enough away that the people would be forced to admire these deities from a greater distance.

Several diagrams illustrate the model of the Egyptian sky, with the stars of the heavens affixed to Nut’s belly. Notice on this diagram that there are two solar disks. This shows that the sun journeys through two entry points in Nut’s body — her mouth and her sex organ. Different versions explain the journey of the sun differently, some stating that the sun enters through the mouth and exits in a










birthing posture out the lower end. Other translations show the sun entering Nut’s private areas, to mirror insemination, and exits out her mouth, as if to suggest a projection of her voice.

Now, although the blasphemers of Ra had been put to death, the heart of the god still was not satisfied. The next morning he confessed to Hathor his true feelings: “I am smitten with the pain of the fire of sickness. Why did I have such pain? I live, but my heart has become exceedingly weary because I still have to live with those men. I have slain some of them, but worthless men still live, and I did not slay as many as I ought to have done, considering my power.”

Then the gods who were in his following said to him, “Don’t worry about your lack of action, for your power is in proportion to your will.”

Ra, the Majesty, said unto the Majesty of Nut, “My members are as weak as they were at the first time. I will not permit this to come upon me a second time.”

At these words, the goddess Nut straightway became a cow, and the other gods lifted Ra on her back. He ascended into the heights of heaven, being still on the back of the Cow-goddess Nut, and he created there Hetep and Sekhet-Aaru as abodes for the blessed, and the flowers that blossomed therein he turned into stars. He also created the millions of beings who lived there in order that they might praise him.

When men and women saw that Ra was leaving the earth upon the back of the cow, they repented of their murmurings, saying, “Remain with us, and we will overthrow your enemies who speak words of blasphemy against you and destroy them.”

As a reward for this, Ra forgave those men their former blasphemies, but persisted in his intention of retiring from the earth. Ra was setting out for the Great House, but the gods who were in the train of Ra remained with the men. During that time the earth was in darkness.

And when the earth became light again, and the morning had dawned, the men came forth with their bows and their weapons, and they set their arms in motion to fight the enemies of the Sun God.

Then said the Majesty of this god, “Your transgressions of violence are placed behind you, for the slaughtering of the enemies is above the slaughter of sacrifice.” Thus came into being the slaughter of sacrifice.

And the Majesty of this god said unto Nut, “Gather together men for me, and make ready for me an abode for multitudes. I will gather herbs (aarat). I will make it to contain as dwellers the things (khet) resembling stars of all sorts.” Immediately, the stars (akhekha) came into being. Then the goddess Nut trembled because of the height.

The height to which Ra had ascended was now so great that the legs of the Cow-goddess on which he was enthroned trembled, and to give her strength he ordained that Nut should be held up in her position by the godhead and upraised arms of the god Shu. And the Majesty of Ra said, “I decree that supports come to bear the goddess up.” That was when the props of heaven (heh) came into being.

And the Majesty of Ra said, “O my son Shu, I pray that you set yourself under my daughter Nut, and guard for me the supports (heh) of the millions which are there, and which live in darkness. Take the goddess upon your head, and act as a nurse for her.” This came into being the custom of a son nursing a daughter, and the custom of a father carrying a son upon his head. This is also why we see pictures of the body of Nut being supported by Shu. The legs of the Cow-goddess were supported by the various gods, and thus the seat of the throne of Ra became stable.

Ra continued to stabilize his creation until the earth was formed into its various parts. Ra then spoke this incantation over the figure of the cow: “The supporters called Heh-enti shall be by her shoulder. The supporters called Heh-enti shall be at her side, and one cubit and four spans of hers shall be in colors, and nine stars shall be on her belly, and Set shall be by her two thighs and shall keep watch before her two legs, and before her two legs shall be Shu, under her belly, and he shall be made painted in green. His two arms shall be under the stars, and his name shall be written in the middle of them, namely, Shu himself.








“A boat with a rudder and a double shrine

shall be placed there, and Aten (i.e., the Disk) shall be above it, and Ra shall be in it, in front of Shu, near his hand. And the udders of the Cow shall be made to be between her legs, towards the left side. “And on the two flanks, towards the middle of the legs, shall be done in writing, with these words: ‘The exterior heaven,’ and ‘I am what is in me,’ and ‘I will not permit them to make her to turn.’ That which is written under the boat, which is in front, shall read, ‘You should not be motionless, my son.’ And the words which are written in an opposite direction shall read, ‘Your support is like life,’ ‘The word is here as the word there,’ ‘Your son is with me,’ and ‘Life, strength, and health be in your nostrils!’

“And that which is behind Shu, near his shoulder, shall read, ‘They keep ward,’ and that

which is behind him, written close to his feet in an opposite direction, shall read, ‘Ma’at,’ ‘They come in,’ and ‘I protect daily.’ And that which is under the shoulder of the divine figure which is under the left leg, and is behind it, shall read, ‘He who seals all things.’

“That which is over his head, under the thighs of the Cow, and that which is by her legs shall read, ‘Guardian of his exit.’ That which is behind the two figures which are by her two legs, that is to say, over their heads, shall read, ‘The Aged One who is adored as he goes forth,’ and ‘The Aged One to whom praise is given when he goes in.’ That which is over the head of the two figures, and is between the two thighs of the Cow, shall read, ‘Listener,’ ‘Hearer,’ ‘Sceptre of the Upper Heaven,’ and ‘Star.’”

Questions for Part II of The Destruction of Mankind

5. Why does Ra ride up to the heavens on the back of a cow (Nut)?

6. What does Ra create by elevating Nut above the earth?

7. How does this act create order out of chaos?

8. Draw a sketch of the new earthly order.








This story ends when Ra bestows greater purpose and authority to the gods Geb and Thoth, two gods that we will see later in the Osiris story.

Then Ra turned to Thoth, god of wisdom, and said: “Let a call go forth for me to the Majesty of the god Geb, saying, ‘Come, with the utmost speed, at once.”‘

And when Geb (the earth) had come, the Majesty of this god said unto him, “Let war be made against the worms and serpents that are in you. They shall have fear of me as long as I have Being. But you know their magical powers. Go to the place where my father Nun is, and say to him, ‘Keep ward over the worms and serpents that are in the earth and water.’ And moreover, you shall

make a writing for each of the nests of serpents that are there, saying, ‘Keep guard, lest you cause injury to anything.’ They shall know that I am removing myself from them, but indeed I shall shine upon them. Since, however, they indeed wish for a father, you shall be a father unto them in this land for ever. Moreover, let good heed be taken to the men who have my words of power, and to those whose mouths have knowledge of such things. My own words of power are there. It shall not happen that any shall participate with me in my protection, by reason of the majesty which has come into being before me. I will










decree them to your son Osiris, and their children shall be watched over, the hearts of their princes shall be obedient, by reason of the magical powers of those who act according to their desire in all the earth through their words of power which are in their bodies.”

Once again, Ra commanded the presence of another god: “Call to me the god Thoth.” After he had arrived, Ra said unto Thoth, “Let us depart to a distance from heaven, from my place, because I would make light and the god of light (khu) in the Duat and in the Land of Caves. You shall write down the things which are in it, and shall punish those who are in it, that is to say, the workers who have worked iniquity or rebellion. Because of you I will keep away from the servants whom this heart of mine loathes.”

Over this region he appointed Thoth to rule, and he ordered him to keep a register of those who were there, and to mete out just punishments to them. In fact, Thoth was to be ever after the representative of Ra in the Other World.

Then Ra asked Thoth to prepare a series of spells and words of power, which would enable

those who knew them to overcome snakes and serpents and deadly reptiles of all kinds. Thoth did so, and the spells which he wrote under the direction of Ra served as a protection of the servants of Ra ever after, and secured for them the help of Geb, who became sole lord of all the beings that lived and moved on and in his body, the earth.

Ra then ordained Thoth to assume the powers of the habi bird and the Moon (aah). Said Ra: “I moreover give you the power to lift up your hand before the two Companies of the gods who are greater than you, and what you do shall be fairer than the work of the other gods; therefore, shall the divine bird tekni of Thoth come into being. Moreover, I give you the power to embrace the two heavens with your beauties, and with your rays of light; therefore, you shall come into being as the the Moon-god (Aah) of Thoth. Additionally, I give you power to drive back the Ha-nebu; therefore, you shall come into being the dog-headed Ape (anan) of Thoth, and he shall act as governor for me. In all, you are now in my place, in the sight of all those who see you and who present offerings to you. Every being shall ascribe praise unto thee, O you who are God.”

Questions for Part III of The Destruction of Mankind

9. Why does Ra transfer the moniker

“father” to Geb?

10. To whom does Ra transfer his “words of


11. Whom does Ra ordain as the recorder of

man’s deeds that can be used against

rebellious men?

12. What additional powers does Ra confer

onto Thoth?





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