Is Incest Divine?
He was young; he was handsome; he was rich; and he was a king. No wonder King Tut is on the cover of National Geographic again. But now archaeologists have learned that he was also crippled by a club foot and had malaria. And he probably died at age 19 due to complications from being the product of several generations of incest.
The consequences of incest are based on genetics. The male supplies half of the offspring's genetic material and the female supplies the other half. When an abnormality exists, it is more likely to become part of the child's genes if both parents supply the same defective gene. In the case of siblings or other family members, the chances of the child getting the same abnormality from both parents is greater.
Only recently has reliable DNA testing on ancient remains become possible without destroying too much of those remains. By using these new techniques on mummies they've had for years, archaeologists have found that King Tut's stunted growth and club foot were probably hereditary conditions passed to him from years of inbreeding. Egyptian pharaohs always married their siblings if possible. The pharaoh's family members were the only ones who carried divine blood, so they were the most suitable mates.
Incest is far from rare in royal families. Monarchs of Europe, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Hawaii and Africa also practiced incest, according to National Geographic. There are obvious reasons for this state of affairs—or affairs of state, as it were. What dynasty wouldn't be interested in preserving the power, rewards and riches of being the ruling family?
The gods and goddesses of most of these royal families also practiced incest. If the gods did it, then clearly their royal progeny on earth could, too. There are incestuous gods and goddesses in most polytheistic religions. The Egyptian deities Nut and Geb were sister and brother and the parents of the couples Nephthys and Set, and Isis and Osiris (of the severed penis story).
The Incas of Peru had four ancestor pairs of sibling/spouse couples. Each couple created different elements of the world. A single Aztec deity, Ometeotl, split into the couple Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacacihuatl, Lord and Lady of Our Sustenance, in order to create humankind. Shinto kami (spirits) sister Izanami and brother Isanagi were extremely prolific, producing all the islands of Japan, and the kami of the sea, wind, mountains and other geographical features, trees, waterfalls, flowers and humans. Greeks—so of course, the Romans too—had multiple sets of brother and sister parents.
Incest for gods is a different issue than it is for humans. Most of these gods and goddesses were creator deities, building and peopling a universe with a limited list of ingredients for input. When you're the original creators, you have to work with what you've got. Plus if you're the Creator of the Universe, you're not subject to the same physical rules that your creations are, are you? At least with humans, the problems with interbreeding show in the results.
Recent chemical tests on locks of King George III's hair have shown that he had a hereditary blood disease called porphyria. It caused abdominal pain, red urine, and mental symptoms such as paranoia and anxiety. It could have been the ultimate cause for “Mad King George” being so mad—and as a result, there now being “Americans” rather than Britons living between Canada and Mexico. During George's time, the treatment for it was arsenic, which apparently made some of the symptoms worse. Other European royals—most of whom have been related to each other somehow or another in the past few centuries—have been diagnosed with porphyria (and hemophilia).