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
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
In Egyptian mythology, the Ogdoad were eight primordial deities worshipped in Hermopolis. References to the Ogdoad date to the Old Kingdom of Egypt, at the time of composition of the Pyramid Texts towards the end of the Old Kingdom, they appear to have been antiquated and forgotten by everyone except religious experts, they are mentioned in the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom. The oldest known pictorial representations of the group do not predate the time of Seti I, when the group appears to be rediscovered by the theologians of Hermopolis for the purposes of a more elaborate creation account. Texts of the Late Period describe them as having the heads of frogs and serpents, they are depicted in this way in reliefs of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. E. A. Wallis Budge compares the concept to a group of four pairs of primeval gods mentioned in the Babylonian Enûma Eliš, viz. Abzu and Tiamat and Lahamu, Anshar and Kishar and Nudimmud. Budge argues that the Ogdoad is the original "company of gods" or pꜣwt nṯrw, represented by nine "axes" or "flagpoles",arrived at by augmenting the original Ogdoad by the local chief deity of Heliopolis, Tem, by the authors of the theological system reflected in the Pyramid Texts.
The eight deities were arranged in four male-female pairs, as follows: The names of Nu and Naunet are written with the determiners for sky and water, it seems clear that they represent the primordial waters. The fourth pair appears with varying names; the common meaning of qerḥ is "night", but the determinative suggests the principle of inactivity or repose. Ḥeḥu and Ḥeḥut have no identifiable determiners. But from the context of a number of passages in which Ḥeḥu is mentioned, Brugsch suggested that he may be a personification of the atmosphere between heaven and earth; the names of Kekui and Kekuit are written with a determiner combining the sky hieroglyph with a staff or scepter used for words related to darkness and obscurity, kkw as a regular word means "darkness", suggesting that these gods represent primordial darkness, comparable to Greek Erebus, but in some aspects they appear to represent day as well as night, or the change from night to day and from day to night. The fourth pair has no consistent attributes.
The common meaning of qerḥ is "night", but the determinative suggests the principle of inactivity or repose. There is no obvious way to allot or attribute four functions to the four pairs of gods, it seems clear that "the ancient Egyptians themselves had no clear idea" regarding such functions. There have been attempts to assign "four ontological concepts" to the four groups. For example, in the context of the New Kingdom, Karenga uses "fluidity", "darkness", "unboundedness" and "invisibility". Ennead Baines, John D.. Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods and Personal Practice, Cornell University Press Budge, E. A; the Gods of the Egyptians: Or, Studies in Egyptian Mythology, 1 Dunand, Françoise. Retrieved 2010-08-21
Osiris is the god of the afterlife, the underworld, rebirth in ancient Egyptian religion. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned deity with a pharaoh's beard mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive atef crown, holding a symbolic crook and flail. Osiris was at times considered the eldest son of the god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son, he was associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, meaning "Foremost of the Westerners", a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead. As ruler of the dead, Osiris was sometimes called "king of the living": ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead "the living ones". Through syncretism with Iah, he is the god of the Moon. Osiris was considered the brother of Isis, Set and Horus the Elder, father of Horus the Younger; the first evidence of the worship of Osiris was found in the middle of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, although it is that he was worshiped much earlier.
Most information available on the myths of Osiris is derived from allusions contained in the Pyramid Texts at the end of the Fifth Dynasty New Kingdom source documents such as the Shabaka Stone and the Contending of Horus and Seth, much in narrative style from the writings of Greek authors including Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus. Osiris was the judge of the dead and the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River, he was described as "He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful" and the "Lord of Silence". The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death – as Osiris rose from the dead so would they in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic. Through the hope of new life after death, Osiris began to be associated with the cycles observed in nature, in particular vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile, through his links with the heliacal rising of Orion and Sirius at the start of the new year.
Osiris was worshipped until the decline of ancient Egyptian religion during the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Osiris is a Latin transliteration of the Ancient Greek Ὄσιρις IPA:, which in turn is the Greek adaptation of the original name in the Egyptian language. In Egyptian hieroglyphs the name appears as wsjr, which some Egyptologists instead choose to transliterate ꜣsjr or jsjrj. Since hieroglyphic writing lacks vowels, Egyptologists have vocalized the name in various ways, such as Asar, Ausir, Usir, or Usire. Several proposals have been made for the meaning of the original name. Most take wsjr as the accepted transliteration, following Adolf Erman: John Gwyn Griffiths, "bearing in mind Erman's emphasis on the fact that the name must begin with an w", proposes a derivation from wsr with an original meaning of "The Mighty One". Moreover, one of the oldest attestations of the god Osiris appears in the mastaba of the deceased Netjer-wser. Kurt Sethe proposes a compound st-jrt, meaning "seat of the eye", in a hypothetical earlier form *wst-jrt.
David Lorton takes up this same compound but explains st-jrt as signifying "product, something made", Osiris representing the product of the ritual mummification process. Wolfhart Westendorf proposes an etymology from wꜣst-jrt "she who bears the eye". Mark J. Smith makes no definitive proposals but asserts that the second element must be a form of jrj; however alternative transliterations have been proposed: Yoshi Muchiki reexamines Erman's evidence that the throne hieroglyph in the word is to be read ws and finds it unconvincing, suggesting instead that the name should be read ꜣsjr on the basis of Aramaic and Old South Arabian transcriptions, readings of the throne sign in other words, comparison with ꜣst. James P. Allen reads the word as jsjrt but revises the reading to jsjrj and derives it from js-jrj, meaning "engendering principle". Osiris is represented in his most developed form of iconography wearing the Atef crown, similar to the White crown of Upper Egypt, but with the addition of two curling ostrich feathers at each side.
He carries the crook and flail. The crook is thought to represent Osiris as a shepherd god; the symbolism of the flail is more uncertain with shepherds whip, fly-whisk, or association with the god Andjety of the ninth nome of Lower Egypt proposed. He was depicted as a pharaoh with a complexion of either green or black in mummiform; the Pyramid Texts describe early conceptions of an afterlife in terms of eternal travelling with the sun god amongst the stars. Amongst these mortuary texts, at the beginning of the 4th dynasty, is found: "An offering the king gives and Anubis". By the end of the 5th dynasty, the formula in all tombs becomes "An offering the king gives and Osiris". Osiris is the mythological father of the god Horus, whose conception is described in the Osiris myth; the myth describes Osiris as having been killed by his brother, Set
Mortuary temples were temples that were erected adjacent to, or in the vicinity of, royal tombs in Ancient Egypt. The temples were designed to commemorate the reign of the Pharaoh under whom they were constructed, as well as for use by the king's cult after death. Mortuary temples were built around pyramids in the Old Middle Kingdom. However, once the New Kingdom pharaohs began constructing tombs in the Valley of the Kings, they built their mortuary temples separately; these New Kingdom temples were called "mansions of millions of years" by the Egyptians. The mortuary temples were used as a resting place for the boat of Amun at the time of the Beautiful Festival of the Valley, during which the cult statue of the deity visited the west bank of Thebes; the first mortuary temple was built for Amenhotep I of the 18th dynasty during the New Kingdom. Several other rulers of this dynasty built temples for the same purpose, the best known being those at Deir el-Bahari, where Hatshepsut built beside the funerary temple of Mentuhotep II, that of Amenhotep III, of which the only major extant remains are the Colossi of Memnon.
Rulers of the 18th Dynasty either failed to build here at all or, in the case of Tutankhamun, Ay and Horemheb, their construction was not completed. The 19th Dynasty ruler Seti I constructed his temple at. Part of his "Glorious temple of Seti Merenptah in the field of Amun which resides at the West of Thebes" was dedicated to his father Ramesses I, whose short reign prevented him from building his own, was completed by his son Ramesses II. Ramesses II constructed his own temple, referred to as the Ramesseum: "Temple of a million years of Usermaatre Setepenre, linked with Thebes-the-Quoted in the Field of Amun, in the West". Much during the 20th Dynasty, Ramesses III constructed his own temple at Medinet Habu
Tefnut is a deity of moisture, moist air and rain in Ancient Egyptian religion. She is the mother of Geb and Nut. Translating as "That Water", the name Tefnut has been linked to the verb'tfn' meaning'to spit' and versions of the creation myth say that Ra spat her out and her name was written as a mouth spitting in late texts. Like most Egyptian deities, including her brother, Tefnut has symbol, her name in hieroglyphics consists of four single phonogram symbols t-f-n-t. Although the n phonogram is a representation of waves on the surface of water, it was never used as an ideogram or determinative for the word water, or for anything associated with water. Tefnut is a daughter of the solar deity Ra-Atum. Married to her twin brother Shu, she is mother of the sky and Geb, the earth. Tefnut's grandchildren were Osiris, Set, and, in some versions, Horus the Elder, she was the great-grandmother of Horus the Younger. Alongside her father, children and great-grandchild, she is a member of the Ennead of Heliopolis.
There are a number of variants to the myth of the creation of the twins Shu. In every version, Tefnut is the product of parthenogenesis, all involve some variety of body fluid. In the Heliopolitan creation myth, Atum sneezed to produce Shu. Pyramid Text 527 says, "Atum was creative in, and brother and sister were born -, Shu and Tefnut."In some versions of this myth, Atum spits out his saliva, which forms the act of procreation. This version contain a play on words, the tef sound which forms the first syllable of the name Tefnut constitutes a word meaning "to spit" or "to expectorate"; the Coffin Texts contain references to Shu being sneezed out by Atum from his nose, Tefnut being spat out like saliva. The Bremner-Rind Papyrus and the Memphite Theology describe Atum as sneezing out saliva to form the twins. Tefnut is a leonine deity, appears as human with a lioness head when depicted as part of the Great Ennead of Heliopolis; the other frequent depiction is as a lioness, but Tefnut can be depicted as human.
In her or semi anthropomorphic form, she is depicted wearing a wig, topped either with a uraeus serpent, or a uraeus and solar disk, she is sometimes depicted as a lion headed serpent. Her face is sometimes used in a double headed form with that of her brother Shu on collar counterpoises. During the 18th and 19th Dynasties during the Amarna period, Tefnut was depicted in human form wearing a low flat headdress, topped with sprouting plants. Akhenaten's mother, Tiye was depicted wearing a similar headdress, identifying with Hathor-Tefnut; the iconic blue crown of Nefertiti is thought by archaeologist Joyce Tyldesley to be derived from Tiye's headdress, may indicate that she was identifying with Tefnut. Heliopolis and Leontopolis were the primary cult centres. At Heliopolis, Tefnut was one of the members of that city's great Ennead, is referred to in relation to the purification of the wabet as part of the temple rite. Here she had a sanctuary called the Lower Menset. I have ascended to youwith the Great One behind me and purity before me: I have passed by Tefnut while Tefnut was purifying me, indeed I am a priest, the son of a priest in this temple."
At Karnak, Tefnut formed part of the Ennead and was invoked in prayers for the health and wellbeing of the Pharaoh. She was worshiped with Shu as a pair of lions in Leontopolis in the Nile Delta. Tefnut was connected with other leonine goddesses as the Eye of Ra; as a lioness she could display a wrathful aspect and is said to escape to Nubia in a rage from where she is brought back by Thoth. In the earlier Pyramid Texts she is said to produce pure waters from her vagina
Heka was the deification of magic and medicine in ancient Egypt. The name is the Egyptian word for "magic". According to Egyptian literature, Heka existed "before duality had yet come into being." The term ḥk3 was used to refer to the practice of magical rituals. The name Heka is identical with the Egyptian word ḥk3w "magic"; this hieroglyphic spelling includes the symbol for the word ka, the ancient Egyptian concept of the vital force. The Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts depict ḥk3w as a supernatural energy; the "cannibal pharaoh" must devour other gods to gain this magical power. Heka was elevated to a deity in his own right and a cult devoted to him developed. By the Coffin Texts, Heka is said to be created at the beginning of time by the creator Atum. Heka is depicted as part of the tableau of the divine solar barge as a protector of Osiris capable of blinding crocodiles. During the Ptolemaic dynasty, Heka's role was to proclaim the pharaoh's enthronement as a son of Isis, holding him in his arms. Heka appears as part of a divine triad in Esna, capital of the Third Nome, where he is the son of ram-headed Khnum and a succession of goddesses.
His mother was alternately said to be Nebetu'u, lion-headed Menhit, the cow goddess Mehetweret, before settling on Neith, a war and mother goddess. Other deities connected with the force of ḥk3w include Hu, Werethekau, whose name means "she who has great magic"; as Egyptologist Ogden Goelet, Jr. explains, magic in The Egyptian Book of the Dead is problematic. The text uses various words corresponding to'magic,' for the Egyptians thought magic was a legitimate belief; as Goelet explains: "Heka magic is many things, above all, it has a close association with speech and the power of the word. In the realm of Egyptian magic, actions did not speak louder than words--they were one and the same thing. Thought, deed and power are theoretically united in the concept of heka