The first recorded reference to a world egg occurs in an Egyptian papyrus of the New Kingdom Petosiris:
0 Egg of the water, source of the earth, product of the Eight, great in heaven and great, in the underworld, dweller in the thicket, chief of the Isle of the Lake of the Two Knives, I came forth with thee from the water; I came forth with thee from thy rest.
Egyptologists have not decided to whom this text refers. Probably it is Thoth, the god of the moon, who appeared in the form of an ibis, and who is described variously in different legends both as having hatched the world egg at Hermopolis, and as having emerged from the egg himself . Petosiris, the priest of Hermopolis, records that:
“Part of the Egg was buried in this place, and here were found all beings who came forth from the Egg.“
Various Egyptian deities are associated with the egg. An allusion to the Sun God Rah reads:
“0 Rah in his egg, who beams in his disk, rises above his horizon, shapes himself with his own metalmgT he sun itself is “The solar eye, an egg to which is given life among them.”
Elsewhere we find:
It was made against those of your retinue, on account of the wish of the spirits that are there, for not letting the breaths be inhaled except by the Great and August God who is in his egg. I come to thee and I am at thy service.
This ancient idea of a primeval egg which hatched the sun god occurs frequently; the sun myth took various forms in Egyptian thought. In one representation the sun is an egg, laid daily by the celestial goose Seb, the god of the earth. From this egg was born the Phoenix, symbol of the sun.12 Thus, in The Book of the Dead, the deceased says:
Hail, thou god Tem, grant unto me the sweet breath which dwelleth in thy nostrils. I am the Egg which is in the Great Cackler, and I watch and guard that mighty thing which hath come into being, wherewith the god Seb hath opened the earth.
Khnum, a god of creation, whose name signifies “The Moulder,” formed the world egg, as though from a lump of clay on his potter’s wheel. In ancient drawings we also find Ptah of Memphis seated on his throne. The Chandogya Upanishad describes the original act of creation as the breaking of an egg in two pieces : The Sun is Brahma-this is the teaching. A further explanation thereof (is as follows).
In the beginning this world was merely non-being. It was existent. It developed. It turned into an egg. It lay for the period of a year. It was split asunder. One of the two egg-shell parts became silver, one gold. That which was of silver is this earth. That which was of gold is the sky . . . Now what was born therefrom is yonder sun. When it was born shouts and hurrahs; all beings and all desires rose up toward it . . . He who, knowing it thus, reverences the sun ashrahma.
In Hindu mythology hirazyagmbha, the golden world egg, appears in a bewildering variety of forms, according to different traditions:
The restless, darting fish, at fall of evening,
Seeks where he may his refuge in the waters,
His nest the egg-born seeks, their stall the cattle;
Each in his place, the god divides the creatures.
These lines refer to the sun. The Rig Veda describes eight sky divinities. One of these, the Aditya Surya, was born from an egg: Eight sons there are of Aditi, Who from her body were produced. With seven she approached the gods. But the egg-born she cast away. Surya driving his chariot, drawn by red horses, across the sky each day represents the sun god, like Apollo in the Greek pantheon.
Again in the Rig Veda Prajapati, the original male, fertilizes the primeval waters, the original female, transforming them into the golden egg. Inside sits Brahma, the Golden Person, where he remains for a thousand years, floating in the waters of creation, his miraculous power shining through the seven shells of the egg, infusing it with a golden radiance. Within the egg with Brahma are the continents, oceans, mountains, planets, divisions of the universe, gods, demons, and humanity. According to the Lazus of Mana Brahma, the original substance, propagated himself:
He, having willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance, first with a thought created the waters, and placed in them a productive seed. The seed became an egg bright as gold, blazing like the luminary with a thousand beams; and in that egg he was born himself in the form of Brahma, the great forefather of all spirits . . . In that egg the great power sat inactive a whole year of the Creator, at the close of which, by his thought alone, he caused the egg to divide itself. And from its two divisions he framed the heaven above and the earth beneath. In the midst he placed the subtil ether, the eight regions, and the permanent receptacle of waters.
Aristophanes in The Birds writes:
There was Chaos at first, and Darkness, and Night,
And Tartarus vasty and dismal;
But the Earth was not there, nor the Sky, nor the Air,
Till at length in the bosom abysmal
Of Darkness an egg, from the whirlwind conceived,
Was laid by the sable plumed Night.
And out of-that egg, as the seasons revolved,
Sprang Love, the entrancing, the bright,
Love brilliant and bold with his pinions of gold,
Like a whirlwind, refulgent and sparkling.