Benben – Egyptian Mythology

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The Benben was a stone related to the myth of creation, and is often classified among the great symbols of Ancient Egypt. It had associations with the gods Atum, Ra, and with the Bennu Bird. Apart from its own symbolism and perceived importance, the Benben stone was also an inspiration to two of the most important architectural feats of ancient Egypt – pyramids and obelisks.

What Was the Benben?

Benben stone
Benben Stone from the Pramid of Aenehmat, III, Twelfth Dynasty. Public Domain.

The Benben stone, also called a pyramidion, is typically depicted as a pyramid-shaped rock. While the location of the original stone is unknown, there were many replicas made in ancient Egypt.

According to the version of the ancient Egyptian religion followed in Heliopolis, the Benben was the primordial stone or mound that emerged from the waters of Nu at the dawn of creation. In the beginning, the world consisted of chaos and darkness and there was nothing else. Then, the god Atum (in other myths Ra) stood on the Benben Stone and started creating the world. In some accounts, the name Benben derives from the Egyptian word weben, which stands for to rise. 

The Benben Stone had remarkable properties and functions in Egyptian Mythology. It was the place where the first sun rays fell every morning. This function connected it with Ra, the sun god. The Benben Stone gave powers and enlightenment to anybody in its surroundings. In this sense, it was a coveted item.

Worship of the Benben Stone

Due to its importance, scholars believe that the Egyptians kept the Benben stone in the city of Heliopolis. The city of Heliopolis was the religious center of Ancient Egypt and the place where the Egyptians believed creation had taken place. Since the Benben stone was a significant part of their culture, the Egyptians guarded it as a sacred relic in the sanctuary of Atum in Heliopolis. However, at some point in history, the original Benben Stone disappeared. The location of the original stone is still unknown.

Associations of the Benben Stone

Apart from its associations with creation and the gods Atum and Ra, the Benben stone had strong connections with other symbols inside and outside Ancient Egypt.

  • The Benben Stone was associated with the Bennu Bird. The Bennu Bird had a central role in the myth of creation since the Egyptians believed that its cry set about the beginning of life in the world. In the stories, the Bennu Bird cried out while standing on the Benben Stone.
  • According to some accounts, the Benben Stone also had associations with the Tree of Life in Ancient Egypt.
  • Some scholars believe that the Benben Stone was taken out of Ancient Egypt and placed in the Ark of the Covenant, which helped the Jewish people to destroy Jericho. It was believed that the Benben Stone had magical powers and properties. In this sense, this symbol influenced cultures outside Ancient Egypt.
  • Some believe that the Benben Stone was linked to the Stone of Destiny, the stone used for the coronation of the kings of Scotland. The connection could come from the fact that the Egyptians also used the Benben Stone in coronation ceremonies in Heliopolis. 

The Benben Stone in Temples

Due to its associations with Ra and Atum, the Benben stone became a central part of the solar temples of Ancient Egypt. Just as the original stone in Heliopolis, many other temples had a Benben Stone in or on top of them. In many cases, the stone was covered with electrum or gold so that it would reflect the sun rays. Many of these stones still exist and are exhibitions in different museums around the world.

The Benben Stone in Architecture

The Benben Stone also became an architectural term due to its form, and the stone was stylized and adapted in two main ways – as the tip of obelisks and as the capstone of the pyramids. Several sources propose that the Egyptians took the shape of the Benben stone as the inspiration for the first pyramids. 

Looking for the Benben Stone

Due to its significance and power, several figures have tried to find the original Benben Stone throughout history. Some sources state that one of the most important figures to have looked for the Benben Stone was Adolf Hitler. Hitler worshipped the occult, and it’s believed that he looked for items to enhance the strength of his domain during his rule. The mythical powers of the Benben Stone turned it into a coveted symbol, much like the Holy Grail.

Symbolism of the Benben Stone

The Benben Stone had connections with the powers of the sun and the Bennu Bird. It  maintained its importance throughout the history of Ancient Egypt for its associations with the myth of creation. In this sense, the stone was a symbol of power, solar deities, and the beginning of life.

Few symbols in the world have the importance of the Benben Stone. For starters, the pyramids are a central component of Egyptian culture, and were inspired by the Benben Stone. 

Due to the power and mysticism associated with this stone, it represents a symbol of strength. Together with other figures and magical items, the Benben Stone is a primordial aspect of occultism. The superstition surrounding this symbol has only kept growing throughout the millennia.

In Brief

The Benben Stone is one of the foremost symbols of Ancient Egypt. Present since its beginning, this primordial stone influenced the events of creation and the Egyptian culture. Its mystical component and might cause powerful men of different periods to look for it.