Many of the Egyptian temple’s cult rituals were designed to protect the sun-god Re as he made his daily voyage across the sky and through the perilous underworld. This ritual incantation—taken from a fourth-century B.C. papyrus found at the temple of Karnak, in Luxor— descibes Re’s initial conception of the universe and his ongoing struggles against the forces of chaos (embodied here in the form of a mighty serpent named Apophis). Temple priests would recite this incantation four times a day, in an effort to “curse’ Apophis and ensure the safe return of Re each morning; the All-lord said, after he had come into being:

“I am he who came into being as Khepri [the morning sun god]. When I had come into being, being came into being, and all beings came into being after I had come into being. Many were the beings that came forth from my mouth, before heaven came into being and, before the ground and creeping things had been created in this place. I put together (some) of them in Nun [chaos] as weary ones, before I could find a place in which I might stand. It (seemed) advantageous to me in my heart; I planned with my face; and I made (in concept) every form when I was alone, before I had spat out what was Shu [god of air], before I had sputtered out what was Tefnut [goddest of moisture], and before (any) other had come into being who could act with me.

“ I planned in my own heart, and there came into being a mutitude of forms of being, the forms of children and the forms of their children. I was the one who copulated with my fist, I masturbated with my hand. Then I spewed with my own mouth: I spat out what was Shu, and I sputtered out what was Tefnut. It was my father Nun who brought them up, and my Eye followed after them since the ages when they were distance from me…I created all creeping things and whatever lives among them. Then Shu and Tefnut brought forth Geb and Nut. Then Geb and Nut brought forth Osiris, Horus, Khentien-irti, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys from the body, one of them after another; and they brought forth their multitudes in this land.

“When (these gods) rich in magic spoke, it was the (very) spirit of magic, for they were ordered to annihilate my enemies by the effective charms of the speech, and I sent our those who come into being from my body to overthrow that evil enemy.

“He is one fallen to the flame, Apophis [the serpent of chaos] with a knife on this head. He cannot see, and his name is no (more) in this land. I have commanded that a curse be cast upon him; i have cosumed his bones; I have annihilated his soul in the course of every day; I have cut his vertebrae at his neck,severed with a knife which hacked into his flesh and pierced his hide…I have taken away his heart from its place, his seat and his tomb. I have made him nonexistent: his name is not; his children are not; he is not and his family is not; he is not and his [tomb’s] false door is not; he is not and his heirs are not. His egg shall not last, nor shall his seed knit together—and vice versa. His soul, his corpse, his state of glory, his shadow and his magic are not. His bones are not and his skin is not. He is fallen and overthrown…

“ See thou, O Re! He thou, O Re! Behold I have driven away thy enemy— (Thus) thou shalt journey in the evening-barque, thou shalt be powerful, thou shalt live, thou shalt be healthy, thou shalt make thy states of glory to endure, thou shalt drive away thy enemy by thy command; for these have done evil against pharaoh—life, prosperity, health!— with all evil word: all men, all folk, all people, all humanity and so on, the easterners of every desert and the every enemy of pharaoh—life, prosperity, health!— whether dead or living, I have driven away and annihilated. Thou dissolvest, fallen Apophis. Re is triumphant over thee, Apophis! Pharaoh—life, prosperity, health!— is triumphant over his enemies!”

From James B. Pritchard,ed.,Ancient Near Eastern Texts(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 6–7.