Ancient Egyptian Mythology encompasses the beliefs and rituals of Ancient Egypt.
It was followed in Egypt for over three thousand years until the establishment of Coptic Christianity and Islam.
Throughout the vast and complex history of Egypt, the dominant beliefs of the ancient Egyptians merged and developed as leaders of different groups gained power.
This process continued even after the end of the ancient Egyptian civilization as we know it today.
As an example, during the New Kingdom Ra and Amun became Amun-Ra.
Syncretism should be distinguished from mere groupings, also referred to as "families" such as Amun, Mut, and Khonsu, where no "merging" takes place.
Over time, deities took part in multiple syncretic relationships, for instance, the combination of Ra and Horus into Ra-Herakty. However, even when taking part in such a syncretic relationship, the original deities did not become completely "absorbed" into the combined deity, although the individuality of the one was often greatly weakened.
Also, these syncretic relationships sometimes involved more than just two deities, for instance, Ptah, Seker, and Osiris, becoming Ptah-Seker-Osiris.
Also important to keep in mind is that sometimes the attributes of one deity got closely associated with another, without any "formal" syncretism taking place. For instance, the loose association of Hathor with Isis.
Gods Further information: List of Egyptian gods
Early Egyptian Mythology beliefs can be split into five distinct localized groups:
the Ennead of Heliopolis, whose chief god was Atum or Atum-Ra
the Ogdoad of Hermopolis, where the chief god was Thoth
the Khnum-Satet-Anuket triad of Elephantine, whose chief god was Chnum
the Amun-Mut-Chons triad of Thebes, whose chief god was Amun
the Ptah-Sekhmet-Nefertem triad of Memphis.
One aspect of ancient Egyptian Mythology is that deities sometimes played different, and at times conflicting, roles. As an example, the lioness Sekhmet being sent out by Ra to devour the humans for having rebelled against him, but later on becoming a fierce protectress of the kingdom, life in general, and the sick. Even more complex is the roles of Set. Judging the mythology of Set from a modern perspective, especially the mythology surrounding Set's relationship with Osiris, it is easy to cast Set as the arch villain and source of evil. This is wrong, however, as Set was earlier playing the role of destroyer of Apep, in the service of Ra on his barge, and thus serving to uphold Ma'at (Truth, Justice, and Harmony).
Origin myths in Egyptian Mythology:
The Egyptians believed that in the beginning, the universe was filled with the dark waters of chaos. The first god, Re-Atum, also Ra-Atum appeared from the Water as the land of Egypt appears every year out of the flood waters of the Nile. Re-Atum spat and out of the spittle came out the gods Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture). The world was created when Shu and Tefnut gave birth to two children: Nut (Sky) and Geb (the Earth). Humans were created when Shu and Tefnut went wandering in the dark wastes and got lost. Re-Atum sent his eye to find them. On reuniting, his tears of joy turned into people. Geb and Nut copulated, and upon Shu's learning of his children's fornication, he separated the two, effectively becoming the air between the sky and ground. He also decreed that the pregnant Nut should not give birth any day of the year. Nut pleaded with Thoth, who on her behalf gambled with the moon-god Yah and won five more days to be added onto the then 360-day year. Nut had one child on each of these days: Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus-the-Elder. Osiris, by different accounts, was either the son of Re-Atum or Geb, and king of Egypt. His brother Set represented evil in the universe. He murdered Osiris and himself became the king. After killing Osiris, Set tore his body into pieces, but Isis rescued most of the pieces for burial beneath the temple. Set made himself king, but was challenged by Osiris's son - Horus. Set lost and was sent to the desert. He became the god of terrible storms. Osiris was mummified by Isis and became god of the dead. Horus became the king and from him descended the pharaohs. They were worshiped by all!
The ancient Greeks believed that their gods and goddesses were the origins of the Egyptian deities. According to ancient Greek Mythology, during the period of time when the titan Typhon was free to roam the earth, all of the Greek gods except for Hermes and Zeus fled from Greece to Egypt. While in Egypt many of the gods took on the shape or form of animals as a means to hide themselves from the wrath of Typhon. Thus they related, the Egyptian deities were born.
Death in Egyptian Mythology:
Egypt had a highly developed view of the afterlife with elaborate rituals for preparing the body and soul for an eternal life after death. Beliefs about the soul and afterlife focused heavily on preservation of the body. This meant that embalming and mummification were practiced, in order to preserve the individual's identity in the afterlife. Originally the dead were buried in shallow pits in the searing hot sand, at times wrapped in reed mats, which caused the remains to dry quickly, preventing decomposition. Later, they started constructing subterranean tombs with wood or sun-baked bricks, and a process of mummification was developed around the Fourth Dynasty, mostly for the benefit of the pharaohs and their relatives. Most inner organs were removed through an incision in the abdomen, while the brain was scooped out through a nostril after breaking the thin bone encasing it. The cavities were washed and packed with natron, then the whole body was covered in natron and left to dry. Since it was a atoneable offense to harm the body of the Pharaoh, even after death, the person who made the incision in the abdomen with a rock knife was ceremonially chased away and had rocks thrown at him. The heart was left in place because it was thought to be the home of the soul. The standard length of the mummification process was seventy days. If during the Old Kingdom embalmment was reserved for a selected few, it became available to wider sections of society as time went by. Animals were also mummified, sometimes thought to have been pets of Egyptian families, but more frequently or more likely, they were the representations of deities. The ibis, crocodile, cat, Nile perch, falcon, and baboon can be found in perfect mummified forms. During the Ptolemaic Period, animals were especially bred for the purpose.
The Book of the Dead in Egyptian Mythology was a series of almost two hundred spells represented as sectional texts, songs, and pictures written on papyrus, individually customized for the deceased, which were buried along with the dead in order to ease their passage into the underworld. In some tombs, the Book of the Dead has also been found painted on the walls, although the practice of painting on the tomb walls appears to predate the formalization of the Book of the Dead as a bound text. One of the best examples of the Book of the Dead is The Papyrus of Ani, created around 1240 BC, which, in addition to the texts themselves, also contains many pictures of Ani and his wife on their journey through the land of the dead. After a person dies their soul is led into a hall of judgment in Duat by Anubis (god of mummification) and the deceased's heart, which was the record of the morality of the owner, is weighed against a single feather representing Ma'at (the concept of truth and order). If the outcome is favorable, the deceased is taken to Osiris, god of the afterlife, in Aaru, but the demon Ammit (Eater of Hearts) part crocodile, part lion, and part hippopotamus destroys those hearts whom the verdict is against, leaving the owner to remain in Duat. A heart that weighed less than the feather was considered a pure heart, not weighed down by the guilt or sins of one's actions in life, resulting in a favorable verdict; a heart heavy with guilt and sin from one's life weighed more than the feather, and so the heart would be eaten by Ammit. An individual without a heart in the afterlife in essence, did not exist as Egyptians believed the heart to be the center of reason and emotion as opposed to the brain which was removed and discarded during mummification. Many times a person would be buried with a "surrogate" heart to replace their own for the weighing of the heart ceremony.
The monotheistic period in Egyptian Mythology:
A short interval of monotheism (Atenism) occurred under the reign of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV), focused on the Egyptian sun deity Aten. The Aten is typically shown as a sun disk with rays coming out of all sides. Akhenaten built a new capital at Amarna with temples for the Aten. This was a symbolic act as Akhenaten wanted a place of worship for the Aten that was not tainted by the visage of other deities. The religious change survived only until the death of Akhenaten, and the old religion was quickly restored during the reign of Tutankhamun, Akhenaten's son by his wife, Kiya. Tutankhamun and several other post-restoration pharaohs were erased from the history, because they were regarded as heretics. After the fall of the Amarna dynasty, the original Egyptian pantheon survived more or less as the dominant religion, until the establishment of Coptic Christianity and later Islam, even though the Egyptians continued to have relations with the other monotheistic cultures (e.g. Hebrews). Egyptian mythology put up surprisingly little resistance to the spread of Christianity, sometimes explained by claiming that Jesus was originally a syncretism based predominantly on Horus, with Isis and her worship becoming Mary and veneration (see Jesus as myth).
Part of the Book of the Dead of the scribe Nebqed
Temples in Egyptian Mythology:
Although many temples are still standing today, others are in ruins while some have disappeared entirely. Pharaoh Ramses II was a particularly prolific builder of temples.
Some known Egyptian Mythology temples include:
Abu Simbel : Complex of two massive rock temples in southern Egypt on the western bank of the Nile. Abydos (Great Temple of Abydos) : Adoration of the early kings, whose cemetery, to which it forms a great funerary chapel, lies behind it. Ain el-Muftella (Bahariya Oasis) : Could have served as the city center of El Qasr. It was probably built around the 26th Dynasty. Karnak : Once part of the ancient capital of Egypt, Thebes. Bani Hasan al Shurruq : Located in Middle Egypt near to Al-Minya and survived the reconstruction of the New Kingdom. Edfu : Ptolemaic temple that is located between Aswan and Luxor. Temple of Kom Ombo : Controlled the trade routes from Nubia to the Nile Valley. Luxor : Built largely by Amenhotep III and Ramesses II, it was the centre of the Opet Festival. Medinet Habu (Memorial Temple of Ramesses III): Temple and a complex of temples dating from the New Kingdom. Temple of Hatshepsut : Her mortuary temple complex at Deir el-Bahri with a colonnaded structure of perfect harmony, was built nearly one thousand years before the Parthenon. Philae : Island of Philae with Temple of Hathor which was constructed in the 30th Dynasty and expanded into a complex to include Isis (Aset) and Osiris under Greek and Roman rule. Ramesseum (Memorial Temple of Ramesses II) : The main building, dedicated to the funerary cult, comprised two stone pylons (gateways, some 60 m wide), one after the other, each leading into a courtyard. Beyond the second courtyard, at the centre of the complex, was a covered 48-column hypostyle hall, surrounding the inner sanctuary. Dendera Temple complex : Several temples but the all overshadowing building in the complex is the main temple, the Hathor temple.
Ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife. Death was the stage to the next life which was believed to be lived in a land to the West and was often called the Kingdom of the West. Elaborate sets of burial rituals were followed. There was also a detailed account of the reception to be expected at the final destination. The dead person would need a ferryman to row them across the River of Death. The dead person had to cross the trials of the serpent guarded Twelve Gates and also cross the Lake of Fire. When these were passed, 42 Assessors read a list of the dead person`s sins. The dead person then made a declaration of purity and sinlessness. Judgment then followed in the Hall of Osiris. If one led a sinful life then destruction would follow. However, if one had led a good life, they would be given everlasting life in the Next World.
Cats In Ancient Egypt
Evidence of how the Egyptians carried on their love and adoration of cats can be seen in many things, including the everyday art of the Egyptians. Images of cats began to appear in Egyptian art starting around 2600 B.C., but took on a more prominent role after 1600 B. C. They were see in paintings curled up under their owners' chairs, chewing on bones, playing with one another. They were also seen, in what must be the earliest record of the human effort to confine these independent wanderers, tied to the leg of a chair with a red ribbon. One painting shows the mother of Pharaoh Aknaton at dinner, slipping bits of food to a kitty under her chair. Another depicts a tabby cat eagerly hunting for birds in the company men as part of a hunting party. Egyptian artists painted cats by the hundreds on the walls of tombs and on papyrus. They sculpted cats in bronze, gold, stone, and wood. they molded them out of faience, and carved their images into ivory. Young Egyptian women used cat amulets, called "utchats," as fertility tokens, praying to have as many children as the number of kittens shown on the amulet. The word "utchat" spread through the world along with the cats themselves, eventually becoming the root for the word cat in English, French, Italian, Russian, Hindustani, and many other Indo- European languages.
Burial Practices In Egypt
It was the ancient Egyptians burial practices that give us so much information about their lives. During burial it was important that the dead persons body survived for the afterlife. The soul needed to have it`s body intact. The early pre-dynastic period saw bodies buried in shallow graves in hot sand were the purpose was to dry out the body quickly and were then preserved. Later on chamber burials became popular with the rich. By the time of 1552 B.C. an elaborate set of rituals had grown around the practice.
Bes was the Egyptian God of childbirth, music and art. This scary, dwarf like God was one of the most popular in Egypt. His image was usually hung around the house to ward off evil. He was also a warrior God who ripped out the hearts of the evil in death.
Egyptian Animal Mythology
In ancient Egypt many animals were thought of as being sacred. A life of luxury was given to the lucky animal chosen to live at the Temple. By the last millennium B.C. whole groups of animals were being honored in the hope of pleasing the Gods. Dead animals were buried with full mourning and honors.
A diety in ancient Egypt. He was associated with fertility and the vegetation. He was also the principle of spiritual rebirth. Osiris was the son of Geb and Nut. His brother Set was very jealous of Orisis. One day Set was able to trick Osiris to get into a chest which was then thrown into the Nile. The body was retrieved but when Set found out he tore it into 14 pieces and spread it around all the Kingdom. All the pieces except one where recovered by the wife of Osiris, Isis. Using magic she embalmed Osiris and restored him to life.
The sky Goddess of the ancient Egyptians. Her brother was Geb. Nuit was portrayed often as a women whose elongated body arched across the sky.
Was the Goddess of death in Egyptian mythology. She had magical powers that enabled her to turn people into animals. Nephthys was also able to give life back to the dead. She also protected the dead in the Osirian Judgment Hall.
The Goddess of truth in ancient Egyptian mythology. Her symbol was a feather. In the Osirian Judgment Hall the heart of a deceased was weighed in the scales against a feather. The persons fate would then be decided by the outcome. Those who were then judged to be true of voice were then allowed to enter the Kingdom of Osiris.
Was the Goddess of magic in Egyptian Mythology. She was the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. Isis used her magic powers to put back together the body of Osiris after he was killed be Set. Isis was also a fertility Goddess.
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Was the Goddess of heaven in Egyptology. Her sanctuary was located at Dendera. She was shown as a type of cow with the sun disc between her horns. She also represented love, joy and beauty.
In ancient Egyptology Hekau were sacred words of power. These words were used to remove evil and darkness. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Sun God travels through the dungeons of the Underworld by uttering Hekau which casts aside the bad forces.
In ancient Egyptian mythology the Scarab was the symbol of Khepera. The female Scarab rolls a ball of excrement with her hind legs and encloses her larvae in it. In Egyptian religion the scarab was identified with the Sun because it flew during the hottest parts of the day. The Scarab rolled it`s dung from East to West the same as Khepera rolled the Sun across the sky in much the same fashion.
Thoth, God Of The Moon
Thoth was God of the Moon, Learning, Wisdom, Speech and Time. He was also the inventor and writer of scribes to the Gods. Thoth was also a skilled magician and ruled the underworld. He was the recorder of souls who delivered the final judgment and was said to have written the Book of the Dead. He could also grant longer life.
In ancient Egyptian mythology the Sahu is the highest of the five human bodies. It was believed to be the spiritual body. It is through this Sahu that the priest perceives the transcendental gods and undergoes spiritual transformation. The other four bodies are Aufu, Haidit, Ka and Khu.
In Ancient Egyptian religion Ra was the Sun God. Ra was represented by the Sun at it`s full strength. The Sky Goddess Nut carried Ra on her back to the heavens and he became the Lord and Creature of the world. He was identified as the God of birth and rebirth because he was reborn each day with the new dawn. Heliopolis was the center of worship for Ra. Ra was regarded as the main deity in the Ennead.
The Ancient Egyptians believed that a human soul was made up of five parts: the Ren, the Ba, the Ka, the Sheut, and the Ib. In Egyptian mythology the soul was represented as a bird with the head of a man and caled Ba. The Ba would wing its way towards the Gods after death. It could only return to the body provided it had not been destroyed. The 'Ba' ('b3') is in some regards the closest to the contemporary Western religious notion of a soul, but it also was everything that makes an individual unique, similar to the notion of 'personality'. (In this sense, inanimate objects could also have a 'Ba', a unique character, and indeed Old Kingdom pyramids often were called the 'Ba' of their owner).
During ancient Egypt inscriptions were placed on the sides of coffins to assure the deceased they would receive good food and drink and confirm the immortality of the soul. The texts were the successors of the earlier Pyramid texts. The Pyramid texts included spells and incarnations which guaranteed the safe passage of the Pharaohs to the next world. The coffin texts extended this privilege to the nobility.
An Egyptian Cat headed Goddess. She was the daughter of Isis. Bast was worship at Bubastis in the Nile Delta. She was regarded as a Goddess of Fertility. She was also Ra's protector. Each dawn she would kill the serpent Apep, who continually attacked Ra. Apep represented the forces of chaos, so Bastet's daily bravery ensured that order continued to reign in the world. Bastet was a lunar goddess associated with love, music, dance, and other pleasures. Egyptians honored her by protecting cats and mummifying them after their deaths to ensure their eternal life.
In Egyptian mythology Bennu was a legendary bird believed to be the reincarnated soul of Osiris. The Bennu bird rose to new life amidst the flames and was linked to the Sun. At Heliopolis, Bennu was worshiped as a form of Ra, Bennu was said to fly forth from the Island of Fire in the Underworld announcing the rebirth of the Sun. The Bennu bird serves as the Egyptian correspondence to the phoenix, and is said to be the soul of the Sun-God Ra. Some of the titles of the Bennu bird were He Who Came Into Being by Himself, Ascending One, and Lord of Jubilees The name is related to the verb weben, meaning to rise brilliantly, or to shine. The Bennu bird was the mythological phoenix of Egypt. It was associated with the rising of the Nile, resurrection, and the sun. Because the Bennu represented creation and renewal, it was connected with the Egyptian calendar. Indeed, the Temple of the Bennu was well known for its time-keeping devices.
Egyptian Book of the Dead
Written between 1100 B.C, and 900 b.c. It was a collection of funerary hymns, prayers, formulae and magical words. The Book was written by scribes. It was a Book for all Egyptians, rich or poor. It gave guidance on how to travel the road beyond death. The texts postulate a "Ka", an exact double of the physical body. From this we know that out-of-body experience was well known in ancient Egypt at this time. 'The Book of the Dead' is the common name for the ancient Egyptian funerary text known as 'The Book of Coming '[or 'Going']' Forth By Day'. The book of the dead was a description of the ancient Egyptian conception of the afterlife and a collection of hymns, spells, and instructions to allow the deceased to pass through obstacles in the afterlife. The book of the dead was most commonly written on a papyrus scroll and placed in the coffin or burial chamber of the deceased. The name "Book of the Dead" was the invention of the German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius, who published a selection of the texts in 1842. When it was first discovered, the book of the dead was thought to be an ancient Egyptian Bible. But unlike the Bible, The Book of the Dead does not set forth religious tenets and was not considered by the ancient Egyptians to be the product of divine revelation, which allowed the content of the book of the dead to change over time. The Book of the Dead was thus the product of a long process of evolution from the Pyramid texts of the Old Kingdom to the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom. About one-third of the chapters in The Book of the Dead are derived from the Coffin Texts. The Book of the Dead itself was adapted to The Book of Breathings in the Late Period, but remained popular in its own right until the Roman period. Although during the New Kingdom the book of the dead was not organized or standardized in any meaningful way, versions dating to this period are known as the 'Theban Recension'. In the Third Intermediate Period leading up to the Saite period, the book of the dead became increasingly standardized and organized, and books of this period are known as the 'Saite Recension'. Early versions of the book of the dead were not standardized and were not organized by thematic content; however, this changed by the Saite period : Chapters 1-16 The deceased enters the tomb, descends to the underworld, and the body regains its powers of movement and speech. Chapters 17-63 Explanation of the mythic origin of the gods and places, the deceased are made to live again so that they may arise, reborn, with the morning sun. Chapters 64-129 The deceased travels across the sky in the sun ark as one of the blessed dead. In the evening, the deceased travels to the underworld to appear before Osiris. Chapters 130-189 Having been vindicated, the deceased assumes power in the universe as one of the gods. This section also includes assorted chapters on protective amulets, provision of food, and important places. There are 192 unique chapters known, and no single papyrus contains all known chapters. Depending on the translation the verses are divided into Spell numbers as opposed to Chapter numbers. Books were often prefabricated in funerary workshops, with spaces being left for the name of the deceased to be written in later. They are often the work of several different scribes and artists whose work was literally pasted together. The cost of a typical book might be equivalent to half a year's salary of a laborer, so the purchase would be planned well in advance of the person's death. The blank papyrus used for the scroll often constituted the major cost of the work, so papyrus was often reused. Images, or vignettes to illustrate the text, were considered mandatory. The images were so important that often the text is truncated to fit the space available under the image. Whereas the quality of the miniatures is usually done at a high level, the quality of the text is often very bad. Scribes often misspelled or omitted words and inserted the wrong text under the images.
In Egyptian mythology is the double of the human being. It is very similar to the concept of the astral body. One big difference is that the Ka can separate or rejoin the body as it wishes. The Ka is also able to live with the Gods in heaven. The Ka also requires food, and as such is given funerary gifts of food and wine. Sometimes gifts of food are painted on the wall of the tomb.
An ancient Egyptian winged disk. It was the symbol of a solar deity who accompanied the Sun God Ra on his daily journey across Egypt. The symbol warded off evil. The symbol was placed over gates and doors of temples to protect them from malign influences.
There are more then 90 pyramids in Egypt. These pyramids were in fact built as the huge stone tombs for a Pharaoh. The Pyramids would contain everything the Pharaoh would need in his afterlife. The burial chamber was filled with riches which the Pharaoh would take with him into the afterlife. The Pharaohs were buried with religious writings to guide them in the afterlife. Initially, these writings were written on the walls of the burial chambers, but later were written on the coffins. Then were written on papyrus, rolled up and placed in the coffin. The pyramids were built close to the Nile because many of the huge stones had to be carried from the quarries by boat. The pyramids are also located on the West bank of the Nile due to religious reasons. The Egyptian pyramids are the oldest stone buildings in the world. Ancient maps used the Pyramids as a starting point for drawing and measuring their charts.
Worshippers would come to the Temple gates with offerings where they would ask questions. Scribes would copy down their questions and pass them to the Temple Priests. The general public were almost never allowed inside the Temples. The Priests would interpret Gods response through an Oracle. On feast days the God statue was carried out of the Temple on a sacred Barque.
Set, God Of Darkness
Set was a God of the night sky, storms and earthquakes. He was strongly worshipped in upper Egypt and the Delta. His birthday was celebrated at the end of the year. There are several reasons put forth as to why Set fell out of favor with the Egyptians, most of these are political in nature. Set was portrayed as a man with the head of an indeterminate animal.
Was the supreme creator God of Memphis. Ptah was a God of crafts and patron of the artists. He was the architect of the universe and the creator of everything in it.
Mummifying was done with great care. Magical words and charms were said over each body part as it was wrapped. The purpose was to guarantee whole body protection. Protective Amulets were layered among the bandages. The Mummy was then perfumed and the laying of precious stones followed. The embalmer finished by anointing and wrapping the head. The 36 substances used by the embalmer were placed in the dead body`s left hand. A prayer was said and the body was sent to the coffin.
The Egyptian King claimed descent through the Gods from the God Ra. The King was the intermediary between the people and their deities. He was regarded as the head of the God centres. People prayed to statues of the King in the hope he would influence the Gods on their behalf. In fact the King was thought too Godly to be called by name.
Would appear on the eastern horizon as a Scarab beetle pushing the Sun. Khepri was a creature God.
One of the Gods of Heliopolis. He eventually came to be identified with the ruling Pharaoh. He fought in the form of a sun disk with outstretched wings. Horus was a sky God. He was represented as a man with a Hawl`s head.
Was the God of the Nile. He appeared as a man with womans breasts. He had both strength and nurturing qualities. However, he had a destructive side and represented the Nile`s flooding. His status was that of among the creature Gods. Hapi was depicted as crowned with papyrus plants for the northern Nile and lotus plants for the southern Nile.
Was the God of Earth. Geb was one of the primordial Gods of Heliopolis. Geb was the partner of Nut. Later when they were separated his tears filled the rivers and oceans of the Earth. Geb is often depicted with a Goose on his head.
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The Ehyptian Mythology article on Paralumun New Age Village was written by Egyptologist Nicholas Ryan.
He has studied Egyptian Mythology in detail for more then the last 20 years.
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