Ancient Egyptian deities
Ancient Egyptian deities are the gods and goddesses worshipped in ancient Egypt. The beliefs and rituals surrounding these gods formed the core of ancient Egyptian religion, which emerged sometime in prehistory. Deities represented natural forces and phenomena, the Egyptians supported and appeased them through offerings and rituals so that these forces would continue to function according to maat, or divine order. After the founding of the Egyptian state around 3100 BC, the authority to perform these tasks was controlled by the pharaoh, who claimed to be the gods' representative and managed the temples where the rituals were carried out; the gods' complex characteristics were expressed in myths and in intricate relationships between deities: family ties, loose groups and hierarchies, combinations of separate gods into one. Deities' diverse appearances in art—as animals, humans and combinations of different forms—also alluded, through symbolism, to their essential features. In different eras, various gods were said to hold the highest position in divine society, including the solar deity Ra, the mysterious god Amun, the mother goddess Isis.
The highest deity was credited with the creation of the world and connected with the life-giving power of the sun. Some scholars have argued, based in part on Egyptian writings, that the Egyptians came to recognize a single divine power that lay behind all things and was present in all the other deities, yet they never abandoned their original polytheistic view of the world, except during the era of Atenism in the 14th century BC, when official religion focused on the impersonal sun god Aten. Gods were assumed to be present throughout the world, capable of influencing natural events and the course of human lives. People interacted with them in temples and unofficial shrines, for personal reasons as well as for larger goals of state rites. Egyptians prayed for divine help, used rituals to compel deities to act, called upon them for advice. Humans' relations with their gods were a fundamental part of Egyptian society; the beings in ancient Egyptian tradition who might be labeled as deities are difficult to count.
Egyptian texts list the names of many deities whose nature is unknown and make vague, indirect references to other gods who are not named. The Egyptologist James P. Allen estimates that more than 1,400 deities are named in Egyptian texts, whereas his colleague Christian Leitz says there are "thousands upon thousands" of gods; the Egyptian language's terms for these beings were nṯr, "god", its feminine form nṯrt, "goddess". Scholars have tried to discern the original nature of the gods by proposing etymologies for these words, but none of these suggestions has gained acceptance, the terms' origin remains obscure; the hieroglyphs that were used as ideograms and determinatives in writing these words show some of the traits that the Egyptians connected with divinity. The most common of these signs is a flag flying from a pole. Similar objects were placed at the entrances of temples, representing the presence of a deity, throughout ancient Egyptian history. Other such hieroglyphs include a falcon, reminiscent of several early gods who were depicted as falcons, a seated male or female deity.
The feminine form could be written with an egg as determinative, connecting goddesses with creation and birth, or with a cobra, reflecting the use of the cobra to depict many female deities. The Egyptians distinguished nṯrw, "gods", from rmṯ, "people", but the meanings of the Egyptian and the English terms do not match perfectly; the term nṯr may have applied to any being, in some way outside the sphere of everyday life. Deceased humans were called nṯr because they were considered to be like the gods, whereas the term was applied to many of Egypt's lesser supernatural beings, which modern scholars call "demons". Egyptian religious art depicts places and concepts in human form; these personified ideas range from deities that were important in myth and ritual to obscure beings, only mentioned once or twice, that may be little more than metaphors. Confronting these blurred distinctions between gods and other beings, scholars have proposed various definitions of a "deity". One accepted definition, suggested by Jan Assmann, says that a deity has a cult, is involved in some aspect of the universe, is described in mythology or other forms of written tradition.
According to a different definition, by Dimitri Meeks, nṯr applied to any being, the focus of ritual. From this perspective, "gods" included the king, called a god after his coronation rites, deceased souls, who entered the divine realm through funeral ceremonies; the preeminence of the great gods was maintained by the ritual devotion, performed for them across Egypt. The first written evidence of deities in Egypt comes from the Early Dynastic Period. Deities must have emerged sometime in the preceding Predynastic Period and grown out of prehistoric religious beliefs. Predynastic artwork depicts a variety of human figures; some of these images, such as stars and cattle, are reminiscent of important features of Egyptian religion in times, but in most cases there is not enough evidence to say whether the images are connected with deities. As Egyptian society grew more sophisticated, clearer signs of religious activity appeared; the earliest known temples appeared in the last centuries of the predynastic era, along with images that resemble the iconographies of known deities: the falcon that represents Horus and several other gods, the crossed arrows that stand for Neith, the enigmatic "Set animal" that represents Set.
Many Egyptologists and anthropologists have suggested theories about how the gods
The Pyramid Texts are the oldest known corpus of ancient Egyptian religious texts dating to the Old Kingdom. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved onto the subterranean walls and sarcophagi of pyramids at Saqqara from the end of the Fifth Dynasty, throughout the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, into the Eighth Dynasty of the First Intermediate Period; the oldest of the texts have been dated to c. 2400–2300 BC. Unlike the Coffin Texts and Book of the Dead, the pyramid texts were reserved only for the pharaoh and were not illustrated. Following the earlier Palermo Stone, the pyramid texts mark the next-oldest known mention of Osiris, who would become the most important deity associated with afterlife in the Ancient Egyptian religion; the use and occurrence of pyramid texts changed between the Old and New Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt. During the Old Kingdom, pyramid texts could be found in the pyramids of kings as well as three queens named Wedjebten and Iput. During the Middle Kingdom, pyramid texts were not written in the pyramids of the pharaohs, but the traditions of the pyramid spells continued to be practiced.
In the New Kingdom, pyramid texts could now be found on tombs of officials. French archaeologist and Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, director of the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo, arrived in Egypt in 1880, he chose a site in South Saqqara, a hill, mapped by the Prussian Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius in the prior decades, for his first archaeological dig. There, Maspero found the ruins of a large structure, which he concluded must be the pyramid of Pepi I of the Sixth Dynasty. During the excavations he was able to gain access to the subterranean rooms, discovered that the walls of the structure were covered in hieroglyphic text. Maspero contacted the then'director of the excavations' in Egypt, Auguste Mariette, to inform him of the discovery, though Mariette concluded that the structure must be a mastaba as no writing had been discovered in a pyramid. Maspero continued his excavations at a second structure, around a kilometre south-west of the first, in search of more evidence.
This second structure was determined to be the pyramid of Pepi I's successor. In it, Maspero discovered the same hieroglyphic text on the walls he'd found in Pepi I's pyramid, the mummy of a man in the sarcophagus of the burial chamber; this time, he visited Mariette though he rejected the findings, stating on his deathbed that "n thirty years of Egyptian excavations I have never seen a pyramid whose underground rooms had hieroglyphs written on their walls." Throughout 1881, Maspero continued to direct investigations of other sites in Saqqara, more texts were found in each of the pyramids of Unas and Pepi II. Maspero began publishing his findings in the Recuils des Travaux from 1882, continued to be involved in the excavations of the pyramid in which the texts had been found until 1886. Maspero published the first corpora of the text in 1894 in French under the title Les inscriptions des pyramides de Saqqarah. Translations were made by German Egyptologist Kurt Heinrich Sethe to German in 1908–1910 in Die altägyptischen Pyramidentexte.
The concordance that Sethe published is considered to be the standard version of the texts. Samuel A. B. Mercer published a translation into English of Sethe's work in 1952. British Egyptologist Raymond O. Faulkner presented the texts in English in 1969 in The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts; the first systematic investigations of Pepi II and his wives' – Neith, Iput II, Wedjebetni – pyramids was conducted by Gustave Jéquier between 1926 and 1932. Jéquier conducted the excavations of Qakare Ibi's pyramid, he published the complete corpus of texts found in these five pyramids. Since 1958, expeditions under the directions of Jean-Philippe Lauer, Jean Sainte-Fare Garnot, Jean Leclant have undertaken a major restoration project of the pyramids belonging to Teti, Pepi I, Merenre I, as well as the pyramid of Unas. By 1999, the pyramid of Pepi had been opened to the public, the debris cleared away from the pyramid while research continued under the direction of Audran Labrousse; the corpus of pyramid texts in Pepi I's pyramid were published in 2001.
In 2010, the texts were discovered in Behenu's tomb. To date, the Pyramid Texts have been discovered in the pyramids of pharaohs: Unas: Teti: Pepi I: Merenre I: Pepi II: Qakare Ibi: and in the pyramids of queens: Akhesenpepi II, wife of Pepi I Neith, wife of Pepi II Iput II, wife of Pepi II Wedjebetni, wife of Pepi II Behenu, probable wife of Pepi II The spells, or utterances, of the Pyramid Texts were concerned with enabling the transformation of the deceased into an Akh; the spells of the Pyramid Texts are divided into two broad categories: Sacerdotal texts and Personal texts. The sacerdotal texts are ritual in nature, were conducted by the lector priest addressing the deceased in the second person, they consist of offering spells, short spells recited in the presentation of an offering, recitations which are predominantly instructional. These texts appear in the Offering and Insignia Rituals, the Resurrection Ritual, in the four pyramids containing the Morning Ritual; the writing in these texts indicates that they originated around the time of the Second and Third Dynasties.
The remaining texts are personal, are broadly concerned with guiding the spirit out of the tomb, into new life. They consist of provisioning and apotropaic –
Nu, feminine Naunet, is the deification of the primordial watery abyss in the Hermopolitan Ogdoad cosmogony of ancient Egyptian religion. The name is paralleled with nen "inactivity" in a play of words in, "I raised them up from out of the watery mass, out of inactivity "; the name has been compared to the Coptic noun "abyss. Nut is the name of the sky goddess of the Ennead of Heliopolis; the Ancient Egyptians envisaged the oceanic abyss of the Nun as surrounding a bubble in which the sphere of life is encapsulated, representing the deepest mystery of their cosmogony. In Ancient Egyptian creation accounts the original mound of land comes forth from the waters of the Nun; the Nun is the source of all that appears in a differentiated world, encompassing all aspects of divine and earthly existence. In the Ennead cosmogony Nun is perceived as transcendent at the point of creation alongside Atum the creator god. Beginning with the Middle Kingdom Nun is described as "the Father of the Gods" and he is depicted on temple walls throughout the rest of Ancient Egyptian religious history.
The Ogdoad includes along with Naunet and Nun and Amun, Hauhet and Heh and Kek. Like the other Ogdoad deities, Nu did not have any center of worship. So, Nu was sometimes represented by a sacred lake, or, as at Abydos, by an underground stream. In the 12th Hour of the Book of Gates Nu is depicted with upraised arms holding a "solar bark"; the boat is occupied by eight deities, with the scarab deity Khepri standing in the middle surrounded by the seven other deities. During the late period when Egypt became occupied, the negative aspect of the Nun became the dominant perception, reflecting the forces of disorder that were set loose in the country. Abzu Benben stone Noah Manu Tehom E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians: Or, Studies in Egyptian Mythology, vol. 1, 283f
Busiris (Lower Egypt)
See Busiris for namesakes Busiris was an ancient city in Lower Egypt, located at the present-day Abu Sir Bana. In antiquity, Busiris was the chief town of the Ati nome in Egypt, it stood east of Sais, near the Phatnitic mouth on the western bank of the Damietta Branch of the Nile. The city's pharaonic name was Djedu; the town and nome of Busiris were allotted to the Hermotybian division of the Egyptian militia. It was regarded as one of the birthplaces of the god of the underworld Osiris, as etymologically, the name itself implies; the festival of Isis at Busiris came next in splendor and importance to that of Artemis at Bubastis in the Egyptian calendar. Considerable ruins are still extant; the temple of Isis, with the hamlet which sprang up around it, stood at a short distance without the walls of Busiris itself, for Pliny mentions Isidis oppidum in the neighbourhood of the town. The ruins of the temple are still visible, a little to the north of Abusir, at the hamlet of Bahheyt, it was in the Roman province of Aegyptus secundus.
Busiris became a Christian bishopric. Extant documents provide the name of two of its early bishops: Hermaeon and Athanasius, the latter of whom took part in the Second Council of Ephesus in 449. In centuries, from the 8th onward, the name of several of its non-Chalcedonian bishops are known. No longer a residential bishopric, Busiris is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see of the lowest rank; the nominally revived diocese had the following near-consecutive incumbents: Alexander Chulaparambil Celestino Annibale Cattaneo, Capuchin friars Ignazio Arnoz, Mill Hill Missionaries Johannes Albert von Rudloff Theodor Kettmann, Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of Osnabrück This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed.. "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. London: John Murray. GigaCatholic with titular incumbent biography links
Isis was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Isis was first mentioned in the Old Kingdom as one of the main characters of the Osiris myth, in which she resurrects her slain husband, the divine king Osiris, produces and protects his heir, Horus, she was believed to help the dead enter the afterlife as she had helped Osiris, she was considered the divine mother of the pharaoh, likened to Horus. Her maternal aid was invoked in healing spells to benefit ordinary people, she played a limited role in royal rituals and temple rites, although she was more prominent in funerary practices and magical texts. She was portrayed in art as a human woman wearing a throne-like hieroglyph on her head. During the New Kingdom, as she took on traits that belonged to Hathor, the preeminent goddess of earlier times, Isis came to be portrayed wearing Hathor's headdress: a sun disk between the horns of a cow. In the first millennium BCE, Osiris and Isis became the most worshipped of Egyptian deities, Isis absorbed traits from many other goddesses.
Rulers in Egypt and its neighbor to the south, began to build temples dedicated to Isis, her temple at Philae was a religious center for Egyptians and Nubians alike. Isis's reputed magical power was greater than that of all other gods, she was said to protect the kingdom from its enemies, govern the skies and the natural world, have power over fate itself. In the Hellenistic period, when Egypt was ruled and settled by Greeks, Isis came to be worshipped by Greeks and Egyptians, along with a new god, Serapis, their worship diffused into the wider Mediterranean world. Isis's Greek devotees ascribed to her traits taken from Greek deities, such as the invention of marriage and the protection of ships at sea, she retained strong links with Egypt and other Egyptian deities who were popular in the Hellenistic world, such as Osiris and Harpocrates; as Hellenistic culture was absorbed by Rome in the first century BCE, the cult of Isis became a part of Roman religion. Her devotees were a small proportion of the Roman Empire's population but were found all across its territory.
Her following developed distinctive festivals such as the Navigium Isidis, as well as initiation ceremonies resembling those of other Greco-Roman mystery cults. Some of her devotees said; the worship of Isis was ended by the rise of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries CE. Her worship may have influenced Christian beliefs and practices such as the veneration of Mary, but the evidence for this influence is ambiguous and controversial. Isis continues to appear in Western culture in esotericism and modern paganism as a personification of nature or the feminine aspect of divinity. Whereas some Egyptian deities appeared in the late Predynastic Period, neither Isis nor her husband Osiris were mentioned before the Fifth Dynasty. An inscription that may refer to Isis dates to the reign of Nyuserre Ini during that period, she appears prominently in the Pyramid Texts, which began to be written down at the end of the dynasty and whose content may have developed much earlier. Several passages in the Pyramid Texts link Isis with the region of the Nile Delta near Behbeit el-Hagar and Sebennytos, her cult may have originated there.
Many scholars have focused on Isis's name in trying to determine her origins. Her Egyptian name was ꜣst, which became ⲎⲤⲈ in the Coptic form of Egyptian, Wusa in the Meroitic language of Nubia, Ἶσις, on which her modern name is based, in Greek; the hieroglyphic writing of her name incorporates the sign for a throne, which Isis wears on her head as a sign of her identity. The symbol serves as a phonogram, spelling the st sounds in her name, but it may have represented a link with actual thrones; the Egyptian term for a throne was st and may have shared a common etymology with Isis's name. Therefore, the Egyptologist Kurt Sethe suggested she was a personification of thrones. Henri Frankfort agreed, believing that the throne was considered the king's mother, thus a goddess, because of its power to make a man into a king. Other scholars, such as Jürgen Osing and Klaus P. Kuhlmann, have disputed this interpretation, because of dissimilarities between Isis's name and the word for a throne or a lack of evidence that the throne was deified.
The cycle of myth surrounding Osiris's death and resurrection was first recorded in the Pyramid Texts and grew into the most elaborate and influential of all Egyptian myths. Isis plays a more active role in this myth than the other protagonists, so as it developed in literature from the New Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period, she became the most complex literary character of all Egyptian deities. At the same time, she absorbed characteristics from many other goddesses, broadening her significance well beyond the Osiris myth. Isis is part of the Ennead of Heliopolis, a family of nine gods descended from the creator god, Atum or Ra, she and her siblings—Osiris and Nephthys—are the last generation of the Ennead, born to Geb, god of the earth, Nut, goddess of the sky. The creator god, the world's original ruler, passes down his authority through the male generations of the Ennead, so that Osiris becomes king. Isis, Osiris's wife as well as his sister, is his queen. Set kills Osiris and, in several versions of the story, dismembers his corpse.
Isis and Nephthys, along with other deities such as Anubis, search for the pieces of their brother's body and reassemble it. Their efforts are the mythic prototype for mummification and other anc
Egyptian temples were built for the official worship of the gods and in commemoration of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt and regions under Egyptian control. Temples were seen as houses for the kings to whom they were dedicated. Within them, the Egyptians performed a variety of rituals, the central functions of Egyptian religion: giving offerings to the gods, reenacting their mythological interactions through festivals, warding off the forces of chaos; these rituals were seen as necessary for the gods to continue to uphold maat, the divine order of the universe. Housing and caring for the gods were the obligations of pharaohs, who therefore dedicated prodigious resources to temple construction and maintenance. Out of necessity, pharaohs delegated most of their ritual duties to a host of priests, but most of the populace was excluded from direct participation in ceremonies and forbidden to enter a temple's most sacred areas. A temple was an important religious site for all classes of Egyptians, who went there to pray, give offerings, seek oracular guidance from the god dwelling within.
The most important part of the temple was the sanctuary, which contained a cult image, a statue of its god. The rooms outside the sanctuary grew larger and more elaborate over time, so that temples evolved from small shrines in late Prehistoric Egypt to large stone edifices in the New Kingdom and later; these edifices are among the largest and most enduring examples of Egyptian architecture, with their elements arranged and decorated according to complex patterns of religious symbolism. Their typical design consisted of a series of enclosed halls, open courts, entrance pylons aligned along the path used for festival processions. Beyond the temple proper was an outer wall enclosing a wide variety of secondary buildings. A large temple owned sizable tracts of land and employed thousands of laymen to supply its needs. Temples were therefore key economic as well as religious centers; the priests who managed these powerful institutions wielded considerable influence, despite their ostensible subordination to the king they may have posed significant challenges to his authority.
Temple-building in Egypt continued despite the nation's decline and ultimate loss of independence to the Roman Empire in 30 BC. With the coming of Christianity, traditional Egyptian religion faced increasing persecution, temple cults died out during the fourth through sixth centuries AD; the buildings they left behind suffered centuries of neglect. At the start of the nineteenth century, a wave of interest in ancient Egypt swept Europe, giving rise to the discipline of Egyptology and drawing increasing numbers of visitors to the civilization's remains. Dozens of temples survive today, some have become world-famous tourist attractions that contribute to the modern Egyptian economy. Egyptologists continue to study the surviving temples and the remains of destroyed ones as invaluable sources of information about ancient Egyptian society. Ancient Egyptian temples were meant as places for the gods to reside on earth. Indeed, the term the Egyptians most used to describe the temple building, ḥwt-nṯr, means "mansion of a god".
A divine presence in the temple linked the human and divine realms and allowed humans to interact with the god through ritual. These rituals, it was believed, sustained the god and allowed it to continue to play its proper role in nature, they were therefore a key part of the maintenance of maat, the ideal order of nature and of human society in Egyptian belief. Maintaining maat was the entire purpose of Egyptian religion, it was the purpose of a temple as well; because he was credited with divine power himself, the pharaoh, as a sacred king, was regarded as Egypt's representative to the gods and its most important upholder of maat. Thus, it was theoretically his duty to perform the temple rites. While it is uncertain how he participated in ceremonies, the existence of temples across Egypt made it impossible for him to do so in all cases, most of the time these duties were delegated to priests; the pharaoh was obligated to maintain, provide for, expand the temples throughout his realm. Although the pharaoh delegated his authority, the performance of temple rituals was still an official duty, restricted to high-ranking priests.
The participation of the general populace in most ceremonies was prohibited. Much of the lay religious activity in Egypt instead took place in private and community shrines, separate from the official temples; as the primary link between the human and divine realms, temples attracted considerable veneration from ordinary Egyptians. Each temple had a principal deity, most were dedicated to other gods as well. Not all deities had temples dedicated to them. Many demons and household gods were involved in magical or private religious practice, with little or no presence in temple ceremonies. There were other gods who had significant roles in the cosmos but, for uncertain reasons, were not honored with temples of their own. Of those gods who did have temples of their own, many were venerated in certain areas of Egypt, though many gods with a strong local tie were important across the nation. Deities whose worship spanned the country were associated with the cities where their chief temples were located.
In Egyptian creation myths, the first temple originated as a shelter for a god—which god it was varied according to the city—that stood on the mound of land where the process of creation began. Each temple in Egypt, was equated with this original temple and with the site of creation itself; as the primordial home of the god and the mythological location of the city's fou