Recently I have been turning back time on Egyptian religion. Trying to understand its origins and track where the oldest gods sit on the evolution. What most scholars seem to think is that all religion began as animism or some form of shamanism. This meant that all the things in that ancient world had a spiritual power of they own. That there were also unseen forces at work and spirits who could influence the world. It is not so strange that these beliefs have survived into modern day.
So how can we look back and find the oldest gods? Mythology helps us a little as we know the creation stories. But then there comes the thought that if the pre-creation deities are our oldest gods, where do they begin to manifest in creation and as who?Pre-creation deities are vast and may or may not have been able to manifest themselves into creation. However who they began to shrink into, to branch into, as part of manifestation can probably be found.
Engravings from Qurta, near or in Egypt. They are supposedly as old as the cave paintings in France.
Thankfully some of the artwork around the world gives us a glimpse of the oldest gods. Gods being a loose term. Animals were our teachers, our guides, our influences. Like in modern animism animals became something greater than food or scenery. They could be talked with as spirits, given work, negotiated with, thanked. But not only animals. Plants, mountains, rivers, land, sky, and sea. All of these things had spirits that could be talked with and appeased. Like Hapi, the god of the inundation. In the start could he have been the spirit of the Nile? Or Meretseger who is closely associated with a mountain in Egypt. Could she have began as a spirit of the mountain? Hethert is depicted as a cow, cow-headed woman, and cow part composite woman. She is a very old goddess and maybe one of the first to manifest. The cow is a hugely important animal all over the world, whether it is wild or tame. The cow spirit that was negotiated with by ancient shamans for more meat or milk, could that have started with Hethert? All theories and all sparks.
But all this talk of cows brings me back full circle. This seems to happen to everyone when they start a project or journey. Things in your life seem to reflect back to experiences you have already had. As I sit and think on these animistic thoughts and the great cow spirit that could or could not have been Hethert I feel that sense that I have come full circle. My family started in the very bottom of Ohio. Small town where everyone knew you. My grandpa by the time he was 30 owned a cattle farm. Not a huge one but enough to raise money and have a decent portion of land. I loved being up on the hill with the cows when I was young. My grandpa came with me until I hit my teen years. I would get close to our close, some would let me pet them. In the mornings I would be in the barn helping feed the cows and petting their heads. I even got to pet the calves still in the barn only a few days old. I bottle fed a blind calf and got charged by a cow with a horse fly on her neck. I got to watch the bull charge and call the cows down from the hill. As I said, this feel like a full circle.