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  • Hey there, I’m Mike Rugnetta and this is Crashcourse Mythology and today were going

  • to start looking at pantheons.

  • Pantheons are families of gods, and those families are complicated.

  • Really complicated.

  • A whole tangle of grandparents and parents and uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews

  • and a couple of children of mortal women who were raped and a pretty staggering amount

  • of violence and incest to just round everything off.

  • They have amazing feasts, but honestly, can you imagine Thanksgiving with these people?

  • I mean Thoth, you had a mistress and a wife and you somehow gave birth to yourself.

  • How is that not awkward?

  • INTRO

  • The pantheons we are going to examine are

  • families of deities from cultures that are usually considered polytheistic, meaning that

  • they worshipped more than one god.

  • In most mythological traditions, the gods are seen as immortal, and according to David

  • Leeming, “they are personified projections of the human mythmaker’s dreams of overcoming

  • the inevitable effects of the physical laws that require death and disintegration.”

  • Yeah.

  • We went dark pretty quick.

  • In creation stories and other myths, gods represent the creative force that brings and

  • sustains life.

  • In many myths, gods arepersonifications of aspects of nature and of human naturethe

  • sun, the winds, impatience, love.”

  • Pantheons, David Leeming argues, help us to explain how and why the world we know came

  • into being, and can tell us a lot about a culture.

  • Leeming writes: “All pantheons are ontological and teleological;

  • that is they are metaphors for the human attempt to make sense of existence itself and to assign

  • ultimate cause.

  • Toread” a pantheon is to read a culture’s sense of itself and of the nature of the cosmos.”

  • But can pantheons explain the naked mole rat?

  • Let’s find out together.

  • If you thought that I was going to start with the Greeks, ha!

  • Gotcha!

  • High five Thoth.

  • But were not starting with Egypt either.

  • Sorry.

  • Were going to start with one of the oldest pantheons we have records for, the family

  • of Gods from ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia.

  • Sumer’s pantheon represents the most important natural forces in the lives of Ancient Mesopotamians,

  • and there are a lot of deities here, so strap in.

  • Try to pay attention to everyone’s responsibilities, and note what kinds of things don’t have

  • gods.

  • All right.

  • Here we go.

  • The first pair of deities are the earth goddess, Ki, and the sky god, called An.

  • An mates with Ki, AND Nammu, goddess of primal waters.

  • An and Nammu’s children are Enki, the trickster god, and his sister, Ningikuga the goddess

  • of the reeds.

  • An and Ki, the more significant duo, begat Ninlil, the air goddess, and Enlil the air

  • god.

  • Ninlil and Enlil give birth to Nanna, the Moon God.

  • Enki and his sister Ningikuga create Ningal, the Moon Goddess.

  • Ningal and Nanna then have three children.

  • Utu, the sun god, Inanna, theGreat Goddess of Heaven and Earth”, and Ereshkigal, the

  • Queen of the Underworld.

  • Ereshkigal’s “husbandis Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven.

  • And Inanna marries the Shepherd Dumuzi.

  • Dumuzi, it turns out, was the son of Enki, the trickster god, and his consort, the sheep

  • goddess Sirtur.

  • It may be worth nothing that yes: a sheep goddess DID give birth to a shepherd.

  • So that is the basic pantheon of Sumer, but what does all this tell us about Mesopotamia?

  • First it suggests that, at least in terms of their myths, natural phenomena--like the

  • earth and sky--take precedence over human actions and emotions--like love.

  • I mean, only two of the original Mesopotamian gods, Enki the trickster and Inanna, also

  • the goddess of love, are described as ruling over aspects of human nature.

  • And the sheep?

  • Well, we tend to think agriculture when we talk about the Fertile Crescent, but the fact

  • that their pantheon features Sheep and a Bull rather than a harvest deity might recall an

  • earlier life as herders.

  • Or perhaps the Bull is symbolic not only of masculinity but also of farming.

  • This is the fun part of pantheons specifically and mythology generally; you can read them

  • in many ways.

  • No, Thoth that’s not a joke about hieroglyphics.

  • But, it does get us to our next, significantly more complex family of gods, the Egyptian

  • pantheon.

  • Right off the bat I’m going to say that the Egyptian pantheon is even more confusing

  • than your average confusing pantheon.

  • But surprise, surprise, it’s also just as incestuous.

  • First off: There is no standard version of the Egyptian pantheon.

  • the myth changes depending upon who is writing it.

  • And where.

  • And when.

  • For example, in the story of Isis and Osiris, our most complete source isn’t even Egyptian,

  • it’s the Greek biographer Plutarch, who wrote in the first and second centuries CE,

  • well after Egypt had become Hellenized, and then Romanized.

  • In his version of the Isis and Osiris myths, he gives Egyptian gods Greek names.

  • For example, he refers to Thoth as Hermes, he does still give you credit for inventing

  • darts, though, so.

  • There are also different versions of the pantheon depending on where you are in Egypt.

  • For the most part well be sticking with the group of gods worshipped at the city of

  • Heliopolis and headed by Atum or Ra, but well give a nod to the fact that in Thebes the

  • pantheon was led by Amun.

  • And we can’t forget the attempted monotheism of Akhenaton.

  • That was classic.

  • But just to make this even trickier, a lot of the Egyptian sources we have for myths

  • are fragmentary and spread out over thousands of years.

  • So, for simplicity, were going to settle on the Nine-God pantheon that forms the core

  • of Egyptian religious belief, and itdoesn’t include Thoth.

  • Sorry, buddy.

  • Anyway, the Ennead, or Nine Gods, was in place in Heliopolis by 2700 BCE and is the one found

  • in the Pyramid Texts, which might be the oldest surviving set of religious texts in the world.

  • At the top of this pantheon is Atum, aka Re aka Ra, aka Khepri aka Amun or sometimes Amun-Ra,

  • depending on where in Egypt you are.

  • This is why were simplifying!

  • Atum is the great eye of the heavens and of creation.

  • He was the spitter in our Egyptian creation story.

  • So Atum’s creative cough creates Shu, the life spirit, and Tefnut, the world order or

  • cosmos.

  • This brother and sister pair mate, and give birth to Geb and Nut.

  • Geb is the spirit of life and Nut is an Egyptian Great Mother goddess.

  • The two are separated by their father, Shu, and Geb becomes Earth while Nut becomes the

  • sky and the stars, which is a neat reversal of the whole earth mother sky father thing.

  • Like their parents, brother and sister Geb and Nut become the mother and father of the

  • rest of the gods in this pantheon.

  • Their children, Osiris and Isis are probably the best known Egyptian gods, other than hawk-headed

  • Ra.

  • Osiris, god of the underworld and grain, kind of like a Demeter/Hades combo, was probably

  • the most popular of the Egyptian gods-because who doesn’t like food and death?

  • He dies and is revived, which happens more than you’d expect, in myth.

  • Actually, maybe just as much as you’d expect in myth.

  • Isis is a goddess of the earth and the moon, and is married to Osiris.

  • The mystery cult of Isis was popular well beyond Egypt, into Roman times.

  • And if youre not sure what a mystery cult, guess what, that’s the point.

  • The second son and third child from the Geb-Nut pairing is Seth.

  • Seth is a god of evil and darkness and is the nemesis of Isis and Osiris.

  • He is married to his sister, Nephthys, a goddess of death and dusk, because you know, if youre

  • going to be married for all eternity, it’s nice to share interests.

  • And the final piece of this puzzle is young Horus, not to be confused with old Horus,

  • or the guy from WarHammer.

  • He was conceived miraculously by Isis and Osiris after the latter’s death, and he

  • has aspects of a sun god.

  • He’s a light that defeats Seth’s darkness.

  • Most important though, Horus, who is often depicted with the head of a falcon (not a

  • hawk, not an ibis) is the spiritual force behind the pharaohs.

  • I know youre wondering when were going to talk about Anubis, Bastet, and Sekhmet,

  • but remember, for the sake of comparative simplicity, were sticking by this nine-god

  • pantheon.

  • So what conclusions can we draw from the basic pantheon?

  • There are multiple versions of sun gods and with Ra representing both the sun and creation,

  • and Horus representing both the sun and kingship, we can infer that the sun was important to

  • the Egyptians, probably as much for its eternal cycle of death and rebirth as for its providing

  • life-giving energy.

  • Ancient Egyptian culture is commonly said to focus on death, and that’s not wrong,

  • although death to the Egyptians probably didn’t hold the same terror that it does for many

  • in the modern world.

  • I think the most distinct example of this necro-centric ideal is the pyramids, and the

  • mummified corpses and jars full of organs found within them, but also this week’s

  • featured myth, the story of Isis and Osiris.

  • Take it away, Thoughtbubble.

  • Osiris was much beloved by the people of Egypt; he showed them how to cultivate grain, gave

  • them laws, and taught them to honor the gods.

  • His brother, Seth, was envious, but wouldn’t try anything while Osiris was away teaching

  • civilization to the world.

  • But when Osiris returned, Seth and seventy-two accomplices had a plan.

  • A plan involving...furniture.

  • They had secretly measured Osiris’s body and built a beautiful chest to his exact dimensions.

  • At a party celebrating Osiris’s return, Seth suggested that whoever fit in the chest

  • would receive it as a gift.

  • Osiris gave it a shot, and when he lay down in the box, the conspirators nailed it shut

  • and sealed it with lead.

  • They threw it in the river and, it floated out to sea.

  • Isis, Osiris’s wife, went looking for her husband, and found the chest near the

  • land of Byblos, where a great tree had grown up around it, encasing the coffin in its trunk.

  • She cut away the wood around the coffin and lay upon it, wailing with such grief and power

  • that the king’s younger sons died of fear.

  • Isis soon left the chest to visit Horus, and Seth found the coffin while boar hunting.

  • He cut up Osiris’s body into 14 pieces, and scattered them far and wide.

  • Isis, discovering what Seth