The Book of the Heavenly Cow:
We read in the Bible, (Genesis 6:11 – 13), that, having become the wicked and perverse man, a sinner to the creator, God decided to put an end to all that he had created, but since there was a person, Noah, who he had never sinned against him, he decided he would not destroy all the creatures but he would save a part of it with Noah and his family.
The Bible says:
<< …… and the earth was ruined at the sight of God and was full of violence ……. and God said to Noah ……. humanity is full of violence ……. and here I will reduce it to ruin ……. >>.
It was then that God sent the Great Flood that destroyed every living creature except those he had brought to the Ark with Noah.
This episode of the Bible is now well known by anyone, but less well known is instead a similar episode much earlier than the Old Testament, of which it will certainly have influenced the writing, which appears in the “Texts of the Pyramids” dating back to the Old Kingdom, (V – VI dynasty).
This is the “Book of the Heavenly Cow” which takes up the most popular myth of the solar cycle, this myth has come to us as it appears on the walls of some royal tombs in the Theban necropolis.
The first discovery occurred in the tomb of Tutankhamun, (XVIII dynasty), then in a small hall, which is accessed from the right wall of the sarcophagus chamber, in the tomb of Seti I, (XIX dynasty), and in the tombs of Rameses II , III and VI, (XIX dynasty).
Part of the text was also found on a limestone fragment from the Ramesside period preserved at the Calvet Museum in Avignon (France).
Mehetueret was a cow deified in the pantheon of Egyptian gods called the “Heavenly Cow” or “Great Heifer” and was worshiped as a goddess of rebirth and the great flood.
He emerged from the primeval Nun with the solar disk between his horns even before there were day and night, death and rebirth.
Mother of Ra, as reported in the “Texts of the sarcophagus“, from the beginning, gives birth to him every day to chase away the darkness of the night.
Mehetueret is sometimes represented as a female figure with a snake’s head which bears the solar disk surrounded by cow’s horns, and in this form is identified with the goddess Renenet, the snake that feeds, not to confuse with Wadjet the goddess-cobra protector of Lower Egypt. In the “Book of the Dead” the double identity of Mehetueret is described, which, considered an abstract divinity of the predynastic period, undergoes the transformation into Hathor, more concrete and more easily subjected to a popular cult.
But let’s come to the “Book of the Heavenly Cow“, like the god of the Bible, even Ra, by now elderly, with golden limbs and silver bones, had “broken” with an evil and rebellious humanity that had thought hostile words against him.
He decides to punish in an exemplary way the men he created but, before taking action, he brings together the council of the primitive gods in the “Great Castle” of the god Nun.
We do not know what the council decided but we know that Ra decided to destroy all humanity. Ra then sent her eye, “the Eye of Ra“, the uraeus, a goddess in which other goddesses often identify herself, in this case, Mehetueret, in the desert, where a multitude of men had withdrawn. (Hathor in the vindictive form of Sekhmet).
Sekhmet killed those men and on his return, once again Hathor, he told the sun god that the mission had been sweet to his powerful heart on men.
With great emphasis, he intended to continue the extermination that this time would have struck Heraclesopolis.
But we know how the leaders are, Ra had a rethink deciding not to continue the destruction, at this point, it was necessary to stop Hathor who, having returned Sekhmet, thirsty for blood, was ready to continue his work.
Ra then prepared a beer-based drink in which he had added the “Didit”, a mixture of red fruits or minerals made perhaps by Elephantine.
7000 pitchers (or jars) were prepared for that drink whose color was similar to blood but had a soporific effect.
The drink was spread in the fields that it covered for three palms. In the morning, when the goddess arrived, to see all that blood:
<< ……… her face was beautiful and she began to drink and it was a thing pleasing to her heart, so much she drank that became drunk and no longer recognized the men …….. >>.
Once humanity has been saved, Ra, the sun god, withdrew from the sovereignty of the world, saying:
<< ……… as it is true that I live for myself, my heart is very tired of living with them. …….. >>,
and turning to Thot he added:
<< …….. you will be in my place as a substitute. You will be Thot, the substitute for Ra. >>.
Ra established his seat on the back of the “Cow of Heaven”, the goddess Nut, which the god Shu raises.
Sources and bibliography:
Mario Tosi, “Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Gods of Ancient Egypt”, Ananke, 2004
Traunecker Claude, “The gods of Egypt”, Xenia, 1994)