The Ennead were the nine great Osirian gods: Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Set, and A HREF="nephthys.html">Nephthys. The term is also used to describe the great council of the gods as well as a collective term for all the gods.
Atum was the first who created himself (or arose out of Nu, the primal nothingness) and who created Shu and Tefnut from either his spittle or his blood. From their union came Geb and Nut. Their children, the great-grandchildren of Atum, were the first gods of earth: Osiris and Isis, and Set and Nephthys. From those four were all the pharaohs and many of the gods descended.
The Ennead (a word derived from Greek, meaning the nine) is a grouping of nine deities, most often used in the context of Egyptian mythology. As three of threes, the number was considered of great carnal power, and the groupings of nine Gods were considered very important.
There were multiple Enneads in ancient Egypt. Pyramid Texts mention the Great Ennead, the Lesser Ennead, the Dual Ennead, plural Enneads, and even the Seven Enneads.
Some Pharaohs created Enneads that incorporated themselves; most notably, Seti I in his temple at Redesiyah worshipped the Ennead that combined six important deities with three deified forms of himself.
Interestingly, the Egyptian term pesedjet, usually translated as Ennead, does not necessarily mean a group of nine. There are some pesedjets that had a varying number of Gods throughout Egyptian history, and may have contained as few as seven, and as many as ten Gods.
The origins of this grouping are uncertain. The thinking up until mid-20th century was that it was created by Heliopolis priests in order to place their local sun-god Ra above all other deities such as Osiris; however many modern Egyptologists now doubt the theory. It is however almost a certainy that the Ennead first appeared during the decline of Ra's cult during the 6th dynasty, and due to it the cult soon saw a great resurgence.
From the primeval waters represented by Nun, a mound appeared. Upon the mound sat Atum who had begotten himself. Bored and alone, he masturbated - some think the myth actually states he committed autofellatio - or, according to other stories, spat, producing air (Shu), and moisture (Tefnut). Shu and Tefnut in turn gave birth to the earth (Geb) and the sky (Nuit), who initially were engaged in eternal copulation. Shu separated them, lifting Nuit into her place in the sky. The children of Nuit and Geb were Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nepthys.
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