The Concept of the Egyptian Sep Tepy
Written by: Michelle Belanger
The ancient Egyptians had a concept they called the Sep Tepy or “First Time”. This was a primordial golden age, an age of the gods, that preceded the rise of the culture we know today as ancient Egypt. According to the Egyptians’ own legends, the exceptionally advanced technologies and mystical systems which the dynastic Egyptians enjoyed were actually the legacy of this elder culture. Many of the Egyptian temples were believed to be reconstructions of temples that had existed in the Sep Tepy but where destroyed in the cataclysm that ended that golden age. The following material is drawn from Andrew Collins’ reading of the Edfu Building texts, as it appears in his book, “The Gods of Eden.” I am currently tracking down a copy of these texts so I can read and redact them for myself, but unfortunately, all I’ve been able to turn up is an oblique reference to them in a Budge book, and a few scattered lines quoted in books like Lucy Lamy’s “Egyptian Mysteries.” But I think the Edfu documents are important enough to continue the search. That, and it’s always a good idea to go back to the source, even when something is being redacted by someone whose scholarship seems pristine. In translations, especially, our personal biases often influence our presentation of the work.
However, second-hand though it may be, I think you will still find the Edfu material interesting.
First, let me give some background material on the primary resource this is coming from: In the ancient Egyptian city known as Edfu, there are extensive texts which adorn the walls of the existing Ptolemaic temple. These are known as the Building Texts, and they record the history of the Sep Tepy as it was passed down among the ancient priesthood.
The texts describe a temple surrounded by a possibly man-made channel of water with a nearby field of reeds. This is called the Island of the Egg, and it is associated with the point of First Creation (the point where the self-created first uttered I became, and the becoming became…). In Thebes, this was known also as the Island of the Twin Flames. Divine pillars, called djed pillars, are situated around a sacred domain here called the Wadjeset-Hor or Wadjeset-Neter.
The original divine inhabitants of this temple numbered 60. These were led by a group of individuals referred to as durwarty falcons, or Sages. The Sages were themselves ruled by an enigmatic figure known simply as “This One”, who was also described as an embodied bird. Bird imagery predominates, and many of these original divine inhabitants are referred to as “winged”.
Of the sixty, those that are described as the “companions”, particularly of the One, all have names which incorporate the word hr, which means “face” or “countenance” - generally these names imply a striking countenance, very fair and beautiful of face, radiant, attractive, etc.,
The following I shall quote directly:
“The Edfu account speaks at length of the events surrounding the Island of the Egg and the Wadjeset-Neter, collectively referred to as the “homeland”, and alludes to some kind of violent conflict which brought to a close the first period of creation. An enemy appears in the form of a serpent known as the Great Leaping One. It opposes the sacred domain’s divine inhabitants, who fight back with a weapon known only as the Sound [or whole, uncorrupted] Eye.” (Collins, 175)
(the Eye it should be noted is associated in other tales with the Eye of Ra, an object or force which is capable of great, fiery destruction as well as the Wadjet Eye or Eye of Horus which was a magickally fashioned eye of spirit made to replace a natural eye lost in battle).
The Eye wreaks destruction on enemy and allies alike. There is mass devastation. The first temple is destroyed and all the inhabitants die. There is a period of darkness where death and decay are everywhere, and the Island of the Egg is now renamed, being given titles like the Island of Combat, the Island of Trampling, and the Island of Peace. This is the end of the First Age, or Sep Tepy.
A second generation of divine inhabitants reclaim this sacred area as a new age dawns. These are the Shebtu, who are seen as builder-gods. They have titles like “Lords of the Island of Trampling”, “The Far Distant”, “The Sailor”, and the “Lord, mighty-chested, who made slaughter, the Soul who lives on the spilling of blood”.
These new divine inheritors of the sacred temple are tied to the original inhabitants in an enigmatic way. In one version, one of the Ogdoad (a group of eight builder gods) claims to be a reincarnation of one of the older divinities, who is portrayed as also being his grandsire (so he is simultaneously claiming to be descended from this god and to be this god at the same time, clearly expressing the reincarnational principle we hold so strongly to). In contrast to the Sages, however, the new divinities are described as being “living deities” who can live “in the company of the sun”.
The Shebtu, being builders, fall to construction projects, fortifying the place of the temple with a great enclosure. They also build the Grand Seat or Temple of the Falcon. Very specific descriptions and measurements of the lay-out of this temple & its enclosure follow.
The Shebtu also have in their possession powerful relics from the Sep Tepy which are stored in a subterranean chamber within the island named, appropriately enough, “Place-in-which-the-things-of-the-earth-were-filled-with-Power”. (This underground area is also referred to as the Underworld, and the Place of the Well, and it has an association with akhekhu, an Egyptian word often translated as darkness or shadow.) These powerful relics allow them to harness and control the rains and the tide, thus staving off a second flood that threatens the new temple. Collins identifies this Underworld as the physical reality reflected symbolically in the Shat-en-am-Duat, or “Book of What is in the Duat” -- a portions of which I’ve quoted in other works.
“Various subsequent stages in the creation of the world involve a gradual progression in the design and appearance of the Temple of the Falcon, while a further building, named as the Solar Temple, is said to have been built on the site of an earlier battle, plausibly one connected with the destruction of the first divine inhabitants by the enemy serpent ... It must be point out, however, that these additional building phases are not necessarily to be seen as later events, since the texts are often mixed up, duplicated and confused and may therefore refer to events relating to the first two periods of creation.”
Finally, the Shebtu inexplicably sail away to another part of the world to continue their task of rebuilding. Time passes, and the divine inhabitants of the Wadjeset-Neter are replaced by the Shemsu-Hor, or “Followers of Horus”, semi-divine beings who ruled pre-dynastic Egypt and eventually gave way to the Horus-kings of the First Dynasty circa 3100 BCE.
28,000 BCE: The ancient historian Manetho describes a period of about 25,000 years before the rise of Menes, first king of the First Dynastic period in Egypt. The first rulers are the gods themselves, particularly Horus, who ruled for a period of about 13,000 years.
15,000 to 11,000 BCE: Cataclysmic end of the last Ice Age, typified by a rising of waters and multiple natural disasters.
15,000 BCE: According to the Edfu Building texts, when the original gods are destroyed, after a transitional time of darkness, death, and decay, there is a period of rebuilding led by the Shebtui, or builder-gods, who then leave for parts unknown to continue their work.
12,500 to 9500 BCE: the people of the Nile river valley have agriculture, domesticated animals and advanced tool-making technology as attested by tens of thousands of vases, cups, and other artifacts carved from excessively hard stones such as diorite, amethyst, porphyry, and rose quartz.
12,000 BCE: In the fifth century BCE, Herodotus records that 11,340 years have passed since the reign of the first Pharaoh, placing the beginning of that reign in the twelfth millennnium. It is likely that this first Pharaoh is included among the Shemsu-Hor, who were recognized as being demi-divine like the later Horus-kings.
11,380 to 9220 BCE: Precessional Age of Leo. Several writers have argued convincingly that the Sphinx is dated to this period and is intended as a monument to mark specific events related to this age. The date of 10,500 BCE seems significant based on astronomical parallels that occur on the Spring Equinox in that year. The Valley Temple and Osireion, as well as other cyclopean structures probably date to this period or before.
7000 to 5000 BCE: Precessional Age of Gemini. Egyptologist Lucy Lamy offers compelling evidence that pre-dynastic Egypt is split at this time between Upper and Lower Egypt and governed by c_-rulers, typified as twins and mythologized as Horus in the North and Set in the South. The association with twin rulers holding sway over Egypt continues into Dynastic times, when early Pharaohs were symbolically buried in two locations -- one in Upper Egypt’s old capital, one in Lower Egypt’s traditional capital.
Circa 5000 to 4000 BCE The Nilotic culture mysteriously wanes and much technology seems to be lost. Eastward, beliefs and technologies associated with the elder race emerge in Sumeria. This culture flourishes for a while but is dealt a fatal blow by Assyrian invaders.
Circa 3500 BCE: advanced technology once again emerges in the Nile Valley. Some scholars attribute this to an influx of technology from Mesopotamia
2300 BCE: Akkadian Dynasty in Sumeria with Sargon I and Naram-Sin, who ruled for fifty-five years. (The date here is suspect: I have compared numerous timelines in books from the past 100 years, and there is a marked trend of shortening the past in recent years - that is to say, cultures such as Egypt and Sumer, which were given founding dates of in the 4th, 5th, or 6th millenniums BCE fifteen years ago when I was first studying archaeology, have now all been foreshortened to the 3rd millennium. I have run across timelines that tell me Egypt was founded first, and some that even insist Sumer was founded before Egypt. The most current things seem to want to place Egypt’s founding at about 3100 BCE and Sumer’s at 3300 BCE, a fact which makes no sense at all to me!)
Circa 3100 BCE: Hor-Aha, better known as Menes, unites Upper and Lower Egypt and initiates the First Dynastic Period. Accepted history in the Nile River Valley begins.