Monday, February 1, 2010
Ra (also spelled Ré) is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the fifth dynasty he became a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun, with other deities representing other positions of the sun. Ra changed greatly over time and in one form or another, much later he was said to represent the sun at all times of the day. The meaning of the name is uncertain, but it is thought if not a word for 'sun' it may be a variant of or linked to 'creative'.
Ra was thought to travel on a solar boat called the Mandjet (The Boat of the Millions or, alternatively, the Boat of Millions of Years) in order to protect the sun's fires from the primordial waters of the underworld as it passed through during the night. Ra traveled in the sun boat with various other deities including Set and Mehen who defended against the monsters of the underworld, and Ma'at who guided the boat's course. The monsters included Apep, an enormous serpent who tried to stop the sun boat's journey every night by consuming it. Alternatively, some ancient Egyptians believed that Ra died as the sun would set every night. The Mandjet barque would then turn into the Mesektet barge (the Night-barge) that would carry Ra through the underworld back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth at sunrise. These myths of Ra conceptualized the sunrise as the rebirth of the sun by the Sky goddess Nut, thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god.
from the Wikipedia
I remember to spend a whole night awake, when in the Army, reading about this - could it be Norman Mailer's Ancient evenings ?