Egyptian Creation Myths
What was the Solar Barque myth?
The solar barque, or Sun Boat, the “Boat of Millions,” was used by Atum-Ra to sail across the sky each day bringing light to the world and through the Underworld each night. Spirits of the dead could travel on the Sun Boat, and Ra himself used the boat to return to the sky in his old age, leaving Osiris as the dominant god.
There are many variations of this myth depending on the spiritual or theological message the given spell in which it occurred was intended to convey. In one version, the sun itself was said to be born of the goddess Nut. The Sun’s childhood was morning. At noon the sun was the great falcon god, and by evening he was old—perhaps the tired Ra who wished to remove himself from the solar cycle. Whatever the version, the solar barque, carrying the sun god and his ka (soul) enters the Underworld at night bringing new life to its population and emphasizing the concept that death was necessary to life. In some versions of the myth the solar barque is replaced at night by a lunar boat, which hauled the sun god over the chaotic sands of the Underworld. During this time the sun god and his companions, the worthy dead and certain gods, would struggle against chaos, represented by terrible monsters led by the daily slaughtered and reviving serpent Apophis, who forever threatened the divine order represented by the solar cycle. One myth has it that Apophis, 120 yards long, was a product of the spit of the goddess Neith early in creation. Apophis was the closest Egyptian mythology came to envisioning an ultimate devil or Satan figure.
In the days of the early dynasties it was said that Nut devoured the sun god each evening, leaving star gods in his place. In the morning the revived sun god ate the star gods, their blood creating what we see as the sunrise.
The Solar Barque myth may be said to have reflected the reality of death and resurrection acted out in the annual flood of the Nile as well as in the story of the death and resurrection of Osiris.