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Benu bird


The most famous sacred bird, the Benu, is a mythological creature in the Heliopolis creation myth. As mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, the Benu is said to be a form of the god Atum who has “risen, as a been in the house of the Benu in Heliopolis.” Other myths claim that the Benu emerged from a burning Persea tree in Heliopolis or sprang from the heart of Osiris.

The Benu was believed to be the incarnation of Re, for at the dawn of creation, the Benu rested on the first bit of dry land as it emerged from the waters of chaos and, by so doing, symbolized the sun’s rays touching the first earth mound (see been). A Middle Kingdom (2055–2650 b.c.) papyrus refers to the “Benu of Re” and “He who came into being by himself.” Seemingly, like Re, the Benu was thought to have created itself.

Ancient Egyptian Benu Bird

The name Benu derives from the Egyptian word weben, “to rise,” and the Benu may have been the basis of the Greek phoenix bird that rose from its ashes. Herodotus, the Greek traveler, visited Egypt in the fifth-century b.c. and noted that he had never actually seen a Benu bird (he called it a phoenix), only a painting of one. The priests of Heliopolis told Herodotus that the Benu bird appeared only every 500 years when its parents died.

 Then the Benu carried the bodies of its deceased parents, encased in a chunk of myrrh (an aromatic substance used to preserve bodies), to the sun temple at Heliopolis, the final resting place of the deceased Benu. When Tutankhamen’s solid gold coffin was opened, a black scarab with a Benu bird carved on its back was one of the magical objects found on his mummy. A symbol of rebirth in the Netherworld, the image of the Benu was frequently carved on scarabs and buried with the mummy to help with resurrection in the next world.


Ancient Egyptian Benu Bird picture


Ancient Egyptian Benu Bird

Ancient Egyptian Benu Bird




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