LGBT History: Mythology III

Homosexuality in the past shows clearly that the different cultures had words (and therefore mental constructs and concepts) of same-sex activity; however since the needs of agricultural/pastoral living require reproduction not only to work the farm but also to provide support for the parent in old age, it was expected that no matter what one's affectional preferences were that each individual would marry and reproduce. Sexuality in ancient Egypt was open, untainted by guilt. Sex was an important part of life - from birth to death and rebirth. Singles and married couples made love. The gods themselves were earthy enough to copulate. The Egyptians even believed in sex in the afterlife. Sex was not taboo. Even the Egyptian religion was filled with tales of adultery, incest, homosexuality and masturbation... with hints of necrophilia! Masculinity and femininity itself were strongly linked with the ability to conceive and bear children.
Seth is the God of Desert, Storm and Chaos associated with many natural disasters. During the Pharaonic period Seth was also god of male homosexuality as well as of individuality. He was depicted in different forms - sometimes as a gender-variant male and sometimes as a red or white-skinned man with the head of a dog, the body of a greyhound and a long forked tail. His birthday was celebrated on 16 July. Seth was among the more colorful figures in the Egyptian pantheon.
Originally he was, according to legend, given Upper Egypt to rule while his handsome brother [or sometimes it's said his nephew] Horus ruled over Lower Egypt. After the reunification the two gods were frequently depicted as a couple with the symbol of unity between them. There is also a clear implication of a homosexual relationship and in one myth Seth gives birth to Horus' child.
At least some authors, however, have interpreted an at least more neutral message. In some versions, the act between Horus and Seth was consensual, if improper, and Seth's consumption of Horus' seed produced Thoth's lunar disc, thus being somewhat positive in outcome. Likewise, Seth was not demonized until very late in Egyptian history, and the sexual act has been recorded since the first versions.
According to one later myth Seth attempts to disgrace Horus by being the active partner in sex with him but on his mother's advice Horus catches Seth's semen in his hand and puts it on Seth's favorite food - lettuce which Seth then unknowingly eats. Seth, thinking his semen is inside Horus calls the judges and asks them to determine who it is who has been impregnated. Much to his surprise when the judges call forth the semen it responds from his own stomach disgracing himself and exonerating Horus.
Another legend has it that Seth tried to rape Horus, and that for several days that two battled, transformed into hippopotami in the Nile. Seth tore out Horus' eye but Horus ripped off Seth's penis. Eventually, however, after the intervention of Thoth, the monkey-like god of wisdom, the two gods’ were reconciled.
The legendary sexual struggle and eventual reconciliation between the two gods are viewed by historians as allegories for the fighting between upper and Lower Egypt which finally led to the country unifying around 3000BC.

Horus is God of the Sky and the Pharaoh, the child of Isis and Osiris. In one tale documented well in Richard Parkinson’s Homosexual Desire and Middle Kingdom Literature, Horus is either raped or seduced into a sexual encounter.

In the creation story for the Egyptian gods, the first deity, Atum (Ra), was both male and female, according to studies by researcher Mark Brustman. The ancestor to all self-produced two offspring, Shu and Tefnut, through either a sneeze or his own semen.

Isis was among the few goddesses worshipped by the Egyptians and their Mediterranean neighbors in Greece and Rome. The Great Mother Goddess and a protector of children, she also cared for society’s outcast, which may be why gay priests in ancient Egypt worshipped the deity. In one tale documented at Isiopolis, Isis appeared in a dream accompanied by an Egyptian retinue to calm the pregnant Telethusa, who feared she would deliver a girl against her husband’s wishes. Isis told the mother to carry the child, Iphis, who was born a girl but raised as a boy. Later in life, Iphis called on Isis to change his gender to male, an ancient gender affirmation granted by divine means.

Hapi, the god of the Nile, is depicted in hieroglyphics as an intersex person with a ceremonial false beard and breasts. While generally referred to as male, the god also was also considered a symbol of fertility.


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