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Ancient Egyptian Religion

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Religion in Ancient Egypt was a pretty complex polytheistic system that consisted of various beliefs and rituals. They worshipped multiple deities because they believed that different deities were in control of different things like the weather, love, life, and death. The pharaoh of Egypt would be the center of formal religious practices because he was believed to have descended from the gods themselves so in a way, he was kind of a medium to reach a connection with the gods. The Egyptian pharaoh was obligated to praise and sustain the gods through rituals, offerings and other forms of worship that way the gods maintain order throughout the universe. Egyptians went to extreme lengths to ensure the survival and peace of their souls and the preservation of their bodies in the afterlife by providing tombs, grave goods, and offerings. Over the thousands of years certain characteristics of their religious beliefs shifted such as the standings of their gods. Different gods would become more preeminent over the others depending on the time period, but the overall structure of their religion survived even through periods of foreign ruling.

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Ancient Egyptian religion consisted of many different sets of beliefs and practices connected by their common focus on the relationships between the human world and the divine world. Egyptians believed that nature was controlled by divine forces. Their polytheistic belief was so complex that multiple deities were believed to manifest themselves many different times and they would also have many different mythological roles. They had an extremely diverse pantheon that included gods with major roles in the universe all the way down to some demons with very limited functions. The pantheon would even include gods attained from foreign cultures and sometimes it would even include pharaohs, even though they were humans a deceased pharaoh would be believed that he was divine. Different regions would hold different gods in higher regards due to their cult being most important in that certain region, so the importance of a deity would fluctuate depending on time period and region. Interrelationships were normal amongst Egyptian gods and they were just as complex as the religion itself. These relationships displayed the interaction between the different forces represented by the different gods. Gods would often be grouped based on their symbolic meaning for example a family triad consisted of a father, mother, and child that would be worshipped together. Gods would also be paired with gods that had similar characteristics but other times they would get paired with complete opposites. Such as when Amun the god of hidden power was linked to Ra the god of sun which resulted in Amun-Ra this combined hidden power with the most visible force in nature.

In ancient Egyptian mythology Horus, the sky god was portrayed as a falcon, he is often believed to be the most avian deity in Ancient Egypt. Horus is actually divided into two deities: Horus the Elder (or Horus the Great), the last born of the first five original gods, and Horus the Younger, the son of Osiris and Isis. Horus the Elder is one of the oldest gods of Egypt and is the son of Geb and Nut. He is often referred to as the distant one because of his role as the sky god which sets him far.

Set was one of the most ancient of the Egyptian gods and the focus of worship since the Predynastic Period. He was the son of Nut and Geb and the brother of Osiris, Horus the elder, Isis and Nephthys. Set was often associated with strange and frightening events like thunderstorms, eclipses, and earthquakes. He was known as a storm god who linked him to all of these frightening events. Even though Set was considered to be dangerous, strange and very strong he was not considered an evil being because he was a friend of the dead and he helped them ascend to heaven on his ladder. He also protected the life giving oases of the desert and at times he was also a powerful ally to the pharaoh and Ra, the sun god.

Thoth- Thoth was one of the earlier Egyptian gods. He was popular in Egypt, but he was particularly venerated in Khnum where he was worshipped as part of the Ogdoad. As his followers increased the myth was rewritten to make him the creator god. Others believe that Thoth created himself through the power of language. Also, some believed that he invented writing, medicine, the Egyptian’s civil and religious practices and magic.

Hathor is one of the most famous goddesses of Ancient Egypt. She was important in every area of life and death because her titles and attributes are so numerous. Hathor was a sky goddess and was also known as “Lady of the Stars.” She was also the goddess of women, fertility, children and childbirth. Hathor had a lot of power over anything that had to do with women. This includes women that had problems with conception or childbirth, health and beauty and matters of the heart.

Sobek was the ancient god of crocodiles. Some people believed that he was the creator of the world and created the order in the universe. He was also known and the god of the Nile and this meant that he brought fertility to the land. Sobek began as a dark god but he also used his protective qualities and his strength in the defense of the Pharaoh and the people. He was able to protect the justified dead in the netherworld and was able to restore their sight and revive their senses.

Ra is primarily known as the sun god of Ancient Egypt. He was a very popular and powerful god and was also described as the creator of everything. Ra’s popularity and worship was at its peak during the New Kingdom. Many of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings included depictions of Ra’s journey through the underworld over twelve stages. He was sometimes thought to be married to Hesat or Hathor although the latter is usually referred to as his daughter.

Amun was one of the eight ancient Egyptian gods who formed the Ogdoad of Hermopolis. He was god of the air and his consort was Ament. During the twelfth dynasty he was adopted in Thebes as the King of gods with Mut as his consort. He is often paired with the sun god Ra which forms Amun-Ra often considered the supreme God. Amun was the primeval creator in the Pyramid Texts, these texts portray him as a primeval deity and a symbol of creative force.

Along with Sekhmet and Nefertum, Ptah was one of the triad of Memphis. He became the ultimate creator, creating the Ogdoad of Hermopolis and the Ennead of Heliopolis. Ptah was described as the deity responsible for setting all the gods in their places and giving all things the breath of life. He was very popular in Egypt but his primary cult centers were in Memphis and Heliopolis.

Anubis- Anubis is one of the most iconic gods of Ancient Egypt. He was often mistaken with the jackal god because of their canine figure. At first, Anubis was known as the god of the underworld, but became associated with the embalming process and funeral rites. He was linked to the Eye of Horus which helped him guide the dead and helped them find Osiris. Anubis ensured that the weighing of the heart was conducted correctly in order to lead those worthy on to a heavenly existence and abandoned the guilty to Ammit. Ammit was ready to devour those deemed unworthy.

Isis was one of the oldest gods or goddesses of Ancient Egypt.

Ankh- The ankh is a cross with a looped top. It symbolizes the concept of life, eternal life, the morning sun, the male and female principles and the heavens and the earth. When someone carried the ankh, it symbolized holding the key to the secrets of existence. The union of the opposites in the ankh were represented in the looped cross. This symbol was very important, and it ended up being appropriated by the Christian faith in the fourth century as a symbol for their god.

The scarab is a famous beetle image in Egyptian art and it represents the Scarabaeus sacer, a species of the dung beetle. The scarab was usually associated with the gods because it rolled into a ball in which it laid its eggs. This symbolized food for the young when they hatched, and, in this way, life came from death. The god Khepri was closely identified with the scarab because he was thought to roll the ball of the sun across the sky, keep it safe in its travels through the underworld, and push it up into the dawn the next day.

The crook and flail were one of the most famous symbols from ancient Egypt. They symbolize the power and majesty of the king. The crook was a tool used y the shepherds while the flail was a means of herding goats and harvesting an aromatic shrub known as the labdanum.

The Djed is a column with a broad base narrowing as it rises to a capital and crossed by four parallel lines. It first appears in the Predynastic Period in Egypt. The Djed symbolizes stability but also it reminds people one of the close presence of the gods as it also references the god Osiris and was linked with resurrection and eternal life. It represents the god’s backbone and often it appears at the bottom of sarcophagi in order to help the newly arrived soul stand up and walk into the afterlife.

The Shen is a circle made of rope, knotted and it forms an unbroken circle. This symbolizes completeness, infinity and serving as protection. People wore Shen amulets for protection and Shen images appear on a stand. These images resemble the Greek omega; this “stand” is understood as the knotted rope that completes the circle. The Shen was often associated with the god Horus and the goddesses Nekhbet and Isis but other gods are also associated with this symbol.

The eye of Ra is also known as the Udjat eye and it is associated with the protective goddess Wadjet during the Predynastic Period. Later, it was more associated to Horus, Ra, and others through the motif of the Distant Goddess. The eye of Ra represented the goddess or was sent to retrieve and could transform into many forms.

The Sesen is a lotus flower that appears often in Egyptian art. This flower symbolizes life, creation, rebirth and especially the sun. The lotus flower is identified with the sun and life because it closes at evening and sinks down beneath the water and then at daybreak it emerges to open again. The Sesen was also a symbol of rebirth and for this reason it was associated with the god Osiris.

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