The Creation Myths
The Sun god Ra was thought to have created himself by willing himself into existence. He found himself in a swirling watery place. So, he created a hill, and on this hill, a temple was built. The next thing he did was create the other gods. He made himself a companion from his own shadow. He spit, and thereby created his son and daughter, Shu and Tefnut. Shu was the god of air and Tefnut, of moisture. They in turn created social order by coming up with the principles of life and the principles of order.
Eventually, Shu and Tefnut got separated from their father and got lost. Ra had only one eye which was removable and allowed him to see everywhere. Using this eye, he sent it in search of his children, and after a while, they returned with it. He wept tears of joy at their return, and where these tears hit the ground, men grew from them. So Ra created the world. Shu and Tefnut were the parents of the Earth and the Sky.
Note: In other versions of this myth, Ra is also often known as Atum and Khepri.
Betrayal of Ra
Ra's wife, Nut, was in love with the god Geb. When Ra discovered her betrayal, he was furious. He forbid her from having children on any of the 360 days that made up the year at that time. This broke Nut's heart, so she called on her friend, Thoth, to help her. Thoth thought very carefully, and came up with an idea. He needed Silene, the moon goddess, to help him because her light rivaled that of Ra. So he asked her if he could have a seventh of her light, and she agreed. This is the reason that the moon wanes every month. So, Thoth took the light from the moon goddess and added five days to the calendar to make 365 days. Now, Nut had five days on which she could have children without disobeying Ra. And have children she did, five of them, one each of the five days.
The Legend of Ra and Hathor
Although Ra was usually well-respected as ruler of all men, there was once a time when he started to grow old when people began to lose their adoration for him. In fact, the people began to mock him. When Ra heard of this, he was outraged, and decided he had to do something about it. He called a meeting with all of the other gods to discuss the problem.
The gods met in secrecy so that the people would not know of their meeting. Ra told the gods why he called the meeting and about the awful way the people were treating him. He spoke specifically to his father Nu, asking him to please give him council, as he was very angry but did not want to harm the people until he had his word on the matter. Nu, after some thought, told Ra that he was a greater god than Nu, that he was the son mightier than his father, and that if Ra turned his eye upon any person that said bad things about him, they would perish. So, Ra turned his terrible gaze toward the Earth, and the people ran to hide from it into the shadows.
This hiding perturbed Ra, so he once again called a meeting with the gods to get their advice. They told him that he should send his eye down to Earth so that the people could not hide from it and would perish. So the eye of Ra, in the form of the goddess Hathor, came down to Earth among the people and spread bloodshed throughout the world. Hathor then returned to Ra in the form of Sekhemet, a mighty lioness, and that she would continue the killing, as she had felt what it was like to have the power of Ra.
Ra was not happy, as he did not want all of humankind to be killed. He only wanted their respect, which he thought he would win by scaring them a little. Sekhemet had to be stopped. Ra devised a way to do this. He ordered 7,000 jars of beer to be colored red. He had the beer taken to the place where Sekhement would do her next killing. The beer was poured in the field there, and when Sekhemet arrived, she saw her reflection and thought that the beer was blood. Appeasing her appetite for blood, she drank, and became drunk so that she had to abandon her mission to spill more blood.