Ancient Egyptian concept of the soul
The ancient Egyptians believed that a soul was made up of many parts. In addition to these components of the soul, there was the human body. According to ancient Egyptian creation myths, the god Atum created the world out of chaos, utilizing his own magic; because the earth was created with magic, Egyptians believed that the world was imbued with magic and so was every living thing upon it. When humans were created, that magic took the form of the soul, an eternal force which resided in and with every human being; the concept of the soul and the parts which encompass it has varied from the Old Kingdom to the New Kingdom, at times changing from one dynasty to another, from five parts to more. Most ancient Egyptian funerary texts reference numerous parts of the soul: the ẖt "physical body", the sꜥḥ "spiritual body", the rn "name, identity", the bꜣ "personality", the kꜣ "double", the jb "heart", the šwt "shadow", the sḫm "power, form", the ꜣḫ. Rosalie David, an Egyptologist at the University of Manchester, explains the many facets of the soul as follows: The Egyptians believed that the human personality had many facets - a concept, developed early in the Old Kingdom.
In life, the person was a complete entity, but if he had led a virtuous life, he could have access to a multiplicity of forms that could be used in the next world. In some instances, these forms could be employed to help those whom the deceased wished to support or, alternately, to take revenge on his enemies; the ẖt, or physical form, had to exist for the soul to have intelligence or the chance to be judged by the guardians of the underworld. Therefore, it was necessary for the body to be preserved as efficiently and as possible and for the burial chamber to be as personalized as it could be, with paintings and statuary showing scenes and triumphs from the deceased's life. In the Old Kingdom, only the pharaoh was granted mummification and, thus, a chance at an eternal and fulfilling afterlife. However, by the Middle Kingdom, all dead were afforded the opportunity. Herodotus, an ancient Greek scholar, observed that grieving families were given a choice as to the type and or quality of the mummification they preferred: "The best and most expensive kind is said to represent, the next best is somewhat inferior and cheaper, while the third is cheapest of all."Because the state of the body was tied so with the quality of the afterlife, by the time of the Middle Kingdom, not only were the burial chambers painted with depictions of favourite pastimes and great accomplishments of the dead, but there were small figurines of servants and guards included in the tombs, to serve the deceased in the afterlife.
However, an eternal existence in the afterlife was, by no means, assured. Before a person could be judged by the gods, they had to be "awakened" through a series of funerary rites designed to reanimate their mummified remains in the afterlife; the main ceremony, the opening of the mouth ceremony, is best depicted within Pharaoh Sety I's tomb. All along the walls and statuary inside the tomb are reliefs and paintings of priests performing the sacred rituals and, below the painted images, the text of the liturgy for opening of the mouth can be found; this ritual which would have been performed during internment, was meant to reanimate each section of the body: brain, limbs, etc. so that the spiritual body would be able to move in the afterlife. If all the rites and preservation rituals for the ẖt were observed and the deceased was found worthy of passing through into the afterlife, the sꜥḥ forms; this spiritual body was able to interact with the many entities extant in the afterlife. As a part of the larger construct, the ꜣḫ, the sꜥḥ was sometimes seen as an avenging spirit which would return from the underworld to seek revenge on those who had wronged the spirit in life.
A well-known example was found in a tomb from the Middle Kingdom in which a man leaves a letter to his late wife who, it can be supposed, is haunting him: What wicked thing have I done to thee that I should have come to this evil pass? What have I done to thee? But what thou hast done to me is to have laid hands on me although I had nothing wicked to thee. From the time I lived with thee as thy husband down to today, what have I done to thee that I need hide? When thou didst sicken of the illness which thou hadst, I caused a master-physician to be fetched…I spent eight months without eating and drinking like a man. I wept exceedingly together with my household in front of my street-quarter. I left no benefit undone that had to be performed for thee, and now, behold, I have spent three years alone without entering into a house, though it is not right that one like me should have to do it. This have I done for thy sake. But, thou dost not know good from bad. An important part of the Egyptian soul was thought to be heart.
The heart was believed to be formed from one drop of blood from the heart of the child's mother, taken at conception. To ancient Egyptians, the heart was the seat of emotion, thought and intention, evidenced by the many expressions in the Egyptian language which incorporate the word jb. Unlike in English, when ancient Egyptians referenced the jb they meant the physical heart as oppos
A pyramid is a structure whose outer surfaces are triangular and converge to a single point at the top, making the shape a pyramid in the geometric sense. The base of a pyramid can be quadrilateral, or of any polygon shape; as such, a pyramid has at least three outer triangular surfaces. The square pyramid, with a square base and four triangular outer surfaces, is a common version. A pyramid's design, with the majority of the weight closer to the ground, with the pyramidion on top, means that less material higher up on the pyramid will be pushing down from above; this distribution of weight allowed early civilizations to create stable monumental structures. Civilizations in many parts of the world have built pyramids; the largest pyramid by volume is the Great Pyramid of Cholula, in the Mexican state of Puebla. For thousands of years, the largest structures on Earth were pyramids—first the Red Pyramid in the Dashur Necropolis and the Great Pyramid of Khufu, both in Egypt—the latter is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still remaining.
The Mesopotamians built the earliest pyramidal structures, called ziggurats. In ancient times, these were brightly painted in gold/bronze. Since they were constructed of sun-dried mud-brick, little remains of them. Ziggurats were built by the Sumerians, Elamites and Assyrians for local religions; each ziggurat was part of a temple complex. The precursors of the ziggurat were raised platforms that date from the Ubaid period during the fourth millennium BC; the earliest ziggurats began near the end of the Early Dynastic Period. The latest Mesopotamian ziggurats date from the 6th century BC. Built in receding tiers upon a rectangular, oval, or square platform, the ziggurat was a pyramidal structure with a flat top. Sun-baked bricks made up the core of the ziggurat with facings of fired bricks on the outside; the facings were glazed in different colors and may have had astrological significance. Kings sometimes had their names engraved on these glazed bricks; the number of tiers ranged from two to seven.
It is assumed that they had shrines at the top, but there is no archaeological evidence for this and the only textual evidence is from Herodotus. Access to the shrine would have been by a series of ramps on one side of the ziggurat or by a spiral ramp from base to summit; the most famous pyramids are the Egyptian — huge structures built of brick or stone, some of which are among the world's largest constructions. They are shaped as a reference to the rays of the sun. Most pyramids had a polished reflective white limestone surface, to give them a shining appearance when viewed from a distance; the capstone was made of hard stone – granite or basalt – and could be plated with gold, silver, or electrum and would be reflective. After 2700 BC, the ancient Egyptians began building pyramids, until around 1700 BC; the first pyramid was erected during the Third Dynasty by the Pharaoh Djoser and his architect Imhotep. This step pyramid consisted of six stacked mastabas; the largest Egyptian pyramids are those at the Giza pyramid complex.
The Egyptian sun god Ra, considered the father of all pharaohs, was said to have created himself from a pyramid-shaped mound of earth before creating all other gods. The age of the pyramids reached its zenith at Giza in 2575–2150 BC. Ancient Egyptian pyramids were in most cases placed west of the river Nile because the divine pharaoh's soul was meant to join with the sun during its descent before continuing with the sun in its eternal round; as of 2008, some 135 pyramids have been discovered in Egypt. The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the largest in the world, it was the tallest building in the world until Lincoln Cathedral was finished in 1311 AD. The base is over 52,600 square metres in area. While pyramids are associated with Egypt, the nation of Sudan has 220 extant pyramids, the most numerous in the world; the Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is the only one to survive into modern times; the Ancient Egyptians covered the faces of pyramids with polished white limestone, containing great quantities of fossilized seashells.
Many of the facing stones have been removed and used for construction in Cairo. Most pyramids are located near Cairo, with only one royal pyramid being located south of Cairo, at the Abydos temple complex; the pyramid at Abydos, Egypt were commissioned by Ahmose I who founded the 18th Dynasty and the New Kingdom. The building of pyramids began in the Third Dynasty with the reign of King Djoser. Early kings such as Snefru built several pyramids, with subsequent kings adding to the number of pyramids until the end of the Middle Kingdom; the last king to build royal pyramids was Ahmose, with kings hiding their tombs in the hills, such as those in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor's West Bank. In Medinat Habu, or Deir el-Medina, smaller pyramids were built by individuals. Smaller pyramids were built by the Nubians who ruled Egypt in the Late Period, though their pyramids had steeper sides. Nubian pyramids were constructed at three sites in Sudan to serve as tombs for the kings and queens of Napata and Meroë.
The pyramids of Kush known as Nubian Pyramids, have different characteristics than the pyramids of Egypt. The Nubian pyramids were constructed at a steeper angle than Egyptian ones. Pyramids were still being built in Sudan as late as 200 AD. One of the unique structures of Igbo culture was the Nsude Pyramids, at the Nigerian town of Nsude, northern Igboland. Ten pyramidal structures were built of clay/mud; the first base section was 60 ft. in circumference and 3 ft. in he
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
Set or Seth is a god of chaos, the desert, disorder and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion. In Ancient Greek, the god's name is given as Sēth. Set had a positive role where he accompanies Ra on his solar boat to repel Apep, the serpent of Chaos. Set had a vital role as a reconciled combatant, he was lord of the red land. In the Osiris myth, the most important Egyptian myth, Set is portrayed as the usurper who killed and mutilated his own brother Osiris. Osiris's wife Isis reassembled his corpse and resurrected her dead husband long enough to conceive his son and heir Horus. Horus sought revenge upon Set, the myths describe their conflicts. Set is the son of the Earth and Nut, the Sky, he fathered Anubis. The meaning of the name Set is unknown but it is thought to have been pronounced *sūtiẖ based on spellings of his name in Egyptian hieroglyphs as stẖ and swtẖ; the Late Egyptian spelling stš reflects the palatalization of ẖ while the eventual loss of the final consonant is recorded in spellings like swtj.
The Coptic form of the name, ⲥⲏⲧ Sēt, is the basis for the English vocalization. In art, Set is depicted as an enigmatic creature referred to by Egyptologists as the Set animal, a beast resembling no known creature, although it could be seen as a composite of an aardvark, a donkey, a jackal, or a fennec fox; the animal has a curved snout, long rectangular ears, a thin forked tail and canine body, with sprouted fur tufts in an inverted arrow shape. Some early Egyptologists proposed that it was a stylised representation of the giraffe, owing to the large flat-topped "horns" which correspond to a giraffe's ossicones; the Egyptians themselves, made a distinction between the giraffe and the Set animal. During the Late Period, Set is depicted as a donkey or as having a donkey's head; the earliest representations of what might be the Set animal comes from a tomb dating to the Amratian culture of prehistoric Egypt, though this identification is uncertain. If these are ruled out the earliest Set animal appears on a ceremonial macehead of Scorpion II, a ruler of the Naqada III phase.
The head and the forked tail of the Set animal are present. A major element of Set's mythology was his conflict with his brother or nephew, for the throne of Egypt; the contest between them is violent but is described as a legal judgment before the Ennead, an assembled group of Egyptian deities, to decide who should inherit the kingship. The judge in this trial may be Geb, who, as the father of Osiris and Set, held the throne before they did, or it may be the creator gods Ra or Atum, the originators of kingship. Other deities take important roles: Thoth acts as a conciliator in the dispute or as an assistant to the divine judge, in "Contendings", Isis uses her cunning and magical power to aid her son; the rivalry of Horus and Set is portrayed in two contrasting ways. Both perspectives appear as early as the earliest source of the myth. In some spells from these texts, Horus is the son of Osiris and nephew of Set, the murder of Osiris is the major impetus for the conflict; the other tradition depicts Set as brothers.
This incongruity persists in many of the subsequent sources, where the two gods may be called brothers or uncle and nephew at different points in the same text. The divine struggle involves many episodes. "Contendings" describes the two gods appealing to various other deities to arbitrate the dispute and competing in different types of contests, such as racing in boats or fighting each other in the form of hippopotami, to determine a victor. In this account, Horus defeats Set and is supported by most of the other deities, yet the dispute drags on for eighty years because the judge, the creator god, favors Set. In late ritual texts, the conflict is characterized as a great battle involving the two deities' assembled followers; the strife in the divine realm extends beyond the two combatants. At one point Isis attempts to harpoon Set as he is locked in combat with her son, but she strikes Horus instead, who cuts off her head in a fit of rage. Thoth replaces Isis's head with that of a cow. In a key episode in the conflict, Set sexually abuses Horus.
Set's violation is meant to degrade his rival, but it involves homosexual desire, in keeping with one of Set's major characteristics, his forceful and indiscriminate sexuality. In the earliest account of this episode, in a fragmentary Middle Kingdom papyrus, the sexual encounter begins when Set asks to have sex with Horus, who agrees on the condition that Set will give Horus some of his strength; the encounter puts Horus in danger, because in Egyptian tradition semen is a potent and dangerous substance, akin to poison. According to some texts, Set's semen enters Horus's body and makes him ill, but in "Contendings", Horus thwarts Set by catching Set's semen in his hands. Isis retaliates by putting Horus's semen on lettuce-leaves. Set's defeat becomes apparent, he has been impregnated as a result "gives birth" to the disk. In "Contendings", Thoth places it on his own head. Another important epis
Numerous peoples throughout the world have at one point in time honored bulls as sacred. In Sumerian mythology, Marduk is the "bull of Utu". In Hinduism, Shiva's steed is the Bull; the sacred bull survives in the constellation Taurus. The bull, whether lunar as in Mesopotamia or solar as in India, is the subject of various other cultural and religious incarnations as well as modern mentions in New Age cultures. Aurochs are depicted in many Paleolithic European cave paintings such as those found at Lascaux and Livernon in France, their life force may have been thought to have magical qualities, for early carvings of the aurochs have been found. The impressive and dangerous aurochs survived into the Iron Age in Anatolia and the Near East and were worshipped throughout that area as sacred animals; the bull was seen in the constellation Taurus by the Chalcolithic and had marked the New Year at springtide by the Bronze Age, for 4000–1700 BCE. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh depicts the killing by Gilgamesh and Enkidu of the Bull of Heaven as an act of defiance of the gods.
From the earliest times, the bull was lunar in Mesopotamia. In Egypt, the bull was worshiped as Apis, the embodiment of Ptah and of Osiris. A long series of ritually perfect bulls were identified by the god's priests, housed in the temple for their lifetime embalmed and encased in a giant sarcophagus. A long sequence of monolithic stone sarcophagi was housed in the Serapeum, was rediscovered by Auguste Mariette at Saqqara in 1851; the bull was worshipped as Mnevis, the embodiment of Atum-Ra, in Heliopolis. Ka in Egyptian is both the word for bull. We cannot recreate a specific context for the bull skulls with horns preserved in an 8th millennium BCE sanctuary at Çatalhöyük in eastern Anatolia; the sacred bull of the Hattians, whose elaborate standards were found at Alaca Höyük alongside those of the sacred stag, survived in Hurrian and Hittite mythology as Seri and Hurri, the bulls who carried the weather god Teshub on their backs or in his chariot and grazed on the ruins of cities. Bulls were a central theme in the Minoan civilization, with bull heads and bull horns used as symbols in the Knossos palace.
Minoan frescos and ceramics depict bull-leaping, in which participants of both sexes vaulted over bulls by grasping their horns. The Iranian language texts and traditions of Zoroastrianism have several different mythological bovine creatures. One of these is Gavaevodata, the Avestan name of a hermaphroditic "uniquely created cow", one of Ahura Mazda's six primordial material creations that becomes the mythological progenitor of all beneficent animal life. Another Zoroastrian mythological bovine is Hadhayans, a gigantic bull so large that it could straddle the mountains and seas that divide the seven regions of the earth, on whose back men could travel from one region to another. In medieval times, Hadhayans came to be known as Srīsōk, which derives from a legend in which three "Great Fires" were collected on the creature's back, yet another mythological bovine is that of the unnamed creature in the Cow's Lament, an allegorical hymn attributed to Zoroaster himself, in which the soul of a bovine despairs over her lack of protection from an adequate herdsman.
In the allegory, the cow represents humanity's lack of moral guidance, but in Zoroastrianism, Geush Urvan became a yazata representing cattle. The 14th day of the month is under her protection. Bulls appear on seals from the Indus Valley Civilisation. Nandi appears in Hindu mythology as the principal gana of Shiva. In Rig Veda, Indra was praised as a Bull, with bull being an icon of power and virile strength not just in Aryan literature but in many IE cultures. In Cyprus, bull masks made from real skulls were worn in rites. Bull-masked terracotta figurines and Neolithic bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus; the Canaanite statue to which sacrifices were burnt, either as a deity or a type of sacrifice – Moloch – was referred to as a horned man, likened to Cronus by the Romans. There may be a connection between sacrifice to the Cretan horned man Minotaur and Cronus' himself. Both Baʿal and El were associated with the bull in Ugaritic texts, as it symbolized both strength and fertility.
Cronus' son Zeus was raised on Crete in hiding from his father. Having consumed all of his own children Cronus is fed a boulder by an emetic, his vomiting of the boulder and subsequently the other gods in the Titanomachy bears comparison with the volcanic eruption that appears to be described in Zeus' battle with Typhon in the Theogony. Cronus may be associated with the eruption of Thera through the myth of his defeat by Zeus; the association between Canaanite religions in which child sacrifice took place Ezek. 20:25-26 and the association of child sacrifice with a horned god may be connected with the Greek myth of sending young men and women to the Minotaur, a bull-headed man. Exodus 32:4 "He took this from their hand, fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf. Nehemiah 9:18 "even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said,'This is your go
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
Hathor was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion who played a wide variety of roles. As a sky deity, she was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra, both of whom were connected with kingship, thus she was the symbolic mother of their earthly representatives, the pharaohs, she was one of several goddesses who acted as the Eye of Ra, Ra's feminine counterpart, in this form she had a vengeful aspect that protected him from his enemies. Her beneficent side represented music, joy, love and maternal care, she acted as the consort of several male deities and the mother of their sons; these two aspects of the goddess exemplified the Egyptian conception of femininity. Hathor crossed boundaries between worlds. Hathor was depicted as a cow, symbolizing her maternal and celestial aspect, although her most common form was a woman wearing a headdress of cow horns and a sun disk, she could be represented as a lioness, cobra, or sycomore tree. Cattle goddesses similar to Hathor were portrayed in Egyptian art in the fourth millennium BC, but she may not have appeared until the Old Kingdom.
With the patronage of Old Kingdom rulers she became one of Egypt's most important deities. More temples were dedicated to her than to any other goddess, of which the most prominent was Dendera Temple in Upper Egypt, she was worshipped in the temples of her male consorts. The Egyptians connected her with foreign lands such as Nubia and Canaan and their valuable goods, such as incense and semiprecious stones, some of the peoples in those lands adopted her worship. In Egypt, she was one of the deities invoked in private prayers and votive offerings by women desiring children. During the New Kingdom, goddesses such as Mut and Isis encroached on Hathor's position in royal ideology, but she remained one of the most worshipped deities. After the end of the New Kingdom, Hathor was overshadowed by Isis, but she continued to be venerated until the extinction of ancient Egyptian religion in the early centuries AD. Images of cattle appear in the artwork of Predynastic Egypt, as do images of women with upraised, curved arms reminiscent of the shape of bovine horns.
Both types of imagery may represent goddesses connected with cattle. Cows are venerated in many cultures, including ancient Egypt, as symbols of motherhood and nourishment, because they care for their calves and supply humans with milk; the Gerzeh Palette, a stone palette from the Naqada II period of prehistory, shows the silhouette of a cow's head with inward-curving horns surrounded by stars. The palette suggests that this cow was linked with the sky, as were several goddesses from times who were represented in this form: Hathor, Mehet-Weret, Nut. Despite these early precedents, Hathor is not unambiguously mentioned or depicted until the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, although several artifacts that refer to her may date to the Early Dynastic Period; when Hathor does appear, her horns curve outward, rather than inward like those in Predynastic art. A bovine deity with inward-curving horns appears on the Narmer Palette from near the start of Egyptian history, both atop the palette and on the belt of the king, Narmer.
The Egyptologist Henry George Fischer suggested this deity may be Bat, a goddess, depicted with a woman's face and inward-curling antennae reflecting the curve of the cow horns. The Egyptologist Lana Troy, identifies a passage in the Pyramid Texts from the late Old Kingdom that connects Hathor with the "apron" of the king, reminiscent of the goddess on Narmer's belt, suggests the goddess on the Narmer Palette is Hathor rather than Bat. In the Fourth Dynasty, Hathor rose to prominence, she supplanted an early crocodile god, worshipped at Dendera in Upper Egypt to become Dendera's patron deity, she absorbed the cult of Bat in the neighboring region of Hu, so that in the Middle Kingdom the two deities fused into one. The theology surrounding the pharaoh in the Old Kingdom, unlike that of earlier times, focused on the sun god Ra as king of the gods and father and patron of the earthly king. Hathor ascended with Ra and became his mythological wife, thus divine mother of the pharaoh. Hathor appeared in a wide variety of roles.
The Egyptologist Robyn Gillam suggests that these diverse forms emerged when the royal goddess promoted by the Old Kingdom court subsumed many local goddesses worshipped by the general populace, who were treated as manifestations of her. Egyptian texts speak of the manifestations of the goddess as "Seven Hathors" or, less of many more Hathors—as many as 362. For these reasons, Gillam calls her "a type of deity rather than a single entity". Hathor's diversity reflects the diversity of traits. More than any other deity, she exemplifies the Egyptian perception of femininity. Hathor was given the epithets "mistress of the sky" and "mistress of the stars", was said to dwell in the sky with Ra and other sun gods. Egyptians thought of the sky as a body of water through which the sun god sailed, connected it with the waters from which, according to their creation myths, the sun emerged at the beginning of time; this cosmic mother goddess was represented as a cow. Hathor and Mehet-Weret were both thought of as the cow who birthed the sun god and placed him between her horns.
Like another celestial goddess, Hathor was said to give birth to the sun god each dawn. Hathor's Egyptian name was ḥwt-ḥr, it is translated