Individuals could interact with the gods for their own purposes, appealing for help through prayer or compelling the gods to act through magic. [114] By the Fifth Dynasty, Ra was the most prominent god in Egypt and had developed the close links with kingship and the afterlife that he retained for the rest of Egyptian history. Pharaohs often expanded them as part of their obligation to honor the gods, so that many temples grew to enormous size. Because deities were the upholders of maat, morality was connected with them. The performer of a private rite often took on the role of a god in a myth, or even threatened a deity, to involve the gods in accomplishing the goal. In ancient Egypt, tombs were only built for pharaohs and not the general population, but because the Egyptian dynasties lasted for such a long period there are quite a few tombs still in existence today. [146], Hornung's arguments have greatly influenced other scholars of Egyptian religion, but some still believe that at times the gods were more unified than he allows. "[157] Divine headdresses, which range from the same types of crowns used by human kings to large hieroglyphs worn on gods' heads, are another important indicator. [54], Myths are metaphors for the gods' actions, which humans cannot fully understand. Pharaohs were the god kings of ancient Egypt who ruled between 3150 B.C. As a result, upholding the ideals of maat grew less important than gaining the gods' favor as a way to guarantee a good life. Ancient Egyptian deities are the gods and goddesses worshipped in ancient Egypt. He was identified directly with Horus, who represented kingship itself, and he was seen as the son of Ra, who ruled and regulated nature as the pharaoh ruled and regulated society. Whereas, in earlier times, newly important gods were integrated into existing religious beliefs, Atenism insisted on a single understanding of the divine that excluded the traditional multiplicity of perspectives. Beneath the earth lay a parallel underworld and undersky, and beyond the skies lay the infinite expanse of Nu, the chaos that had existed before creation. [119] The ba was the component of the human or divine soul that affected the world around it. [67] Another prominent theme is the gods' death and revival. [209] Beginning in the Middle Kingdom, several texts connected the issue of evil in the world with a myth in which the creator god fights a human rebellion against his rule and then withdraws from the earth. He points out that in any given period many deities, even minor ones, were described as superior to all others. Some non-royal humans were said to have the favor of the gods and were venerated accordingly. [219] In the Khoiak festival in honor of Osiris, his death and resurrection were ritually reenacted at a time when crops were beginning to sprout. [87], The deities invoked in these situations differed somewhat from those at the center of state cults. [174] Kings' wives and mothers were likened to many goddesses. [191] The city's primary god was envisioned as its lord, employing many of the residents as servants in the divine household that the temple represented. The ancient Egyptian civilization has been blessed with a vast long history so when it comes to archaeological discoveries, very few countries can measure up to the ancient Egyptian artifacts.. For more than 4000 years the ancient Egyptian civilization created some of the most enchanting and beautiful artifacts the world as ever seen that remains … Throughout the linear passage of time, a cyclical pattern recurred, in which Ma'at was renewed by periodic events which echoed the original creation. By the beginning of the New Kingdom even the pharaohs were buried in such tombs, and they continued to be used until the decline of the religion itself. [150] For this reason, the funerary god Anubis is commonly shown in Egyptian art as a dog or jackal, a creature whose scavenging habits threaten the preservation of buried mummies, in an effort to counter this threat and employ it for protection. The beliefs and rituals now referred to as "ancient Egyptian religion" were integral within every aspect of Egyptian culture. [107] The evidence is less clear for gods in human form, and this type of deity may have emerged more slowly than those in animal shape. [66] However, not all gods had temples dedicated to them, as many gods who were important in official theology received only minimal worship, and many household gods were the focus of popular veneration rather than temple ritual. The official ancient Egyptian religion lasted from about 3110 bce to 550 ce. [34] The types of phenomena they represented include physical places and objects as well as abstract concepts and forces. Wooden Boats ... Fun Facts about Egyptian Boats. Instead, the state-run temples served as houses for the gods, in which physical images which served as their intermediaries were cared for and provided with offerings. [85] Similarly, Neith, who was sometimes regarded as a creator goddess, was said to possess masculine traits but was mainly seen as female. [33], Most Egyptian deities represent natural or social phenomena. Under Akhenaten's successors Egypt reverted to its traditional religion, and Akhenaten himself came to be reviled as a heretic. [49], Another important mythic motif was the journey of Ra through the Duat each night. Mortise and tenon joints were also used, showing their understanding and mastery of woodworking. [98] Afterwards, relatives or hired priests gave food offerings to the deceased in a nearby mortuary chapel at regular intervals. Only in the New Kingdom did professional priesthood become widespread, although most lower-ranking priests were still part-time. Different forms of the myth describe the process of creation in various ways: a transformation of the primordial god Atum into the elements that form the world, as the creative speech of the intellectual god Ptah, and as an act of the hidden power of Amun. [93], Language was closely linked with heka, to such a degree that Thoth, the god of writing, was sometimes said to be the inventor of heka. In keeping with this belief, the names of deities often relate to their roles or origins. Their religious practices were efforts to sustain and placate these phenomena and turn them to human advantage. [108] Groups of three are linked with plurality in ancient Egyptian thought, and groups of four connote completeness. One widely accepted definition,[4] suggested by Jan Assmann, says that a deity has a cult, is involved in some aspect of the universe, and is described in mythology or other forms of written tradition. Another point of contention is the appearance of the word "god" in wisdom literature, where the term does not refer to a specific deity or group of deities. [208], Egyptian texts take different views on whether the gods are responsible when humans suffer unjustly. The head of a given divine image is particularly significant. In it, a high-ranking priest, or occasionally the pharaoh, washed, anointed, and elaborately dressed the god's statue before presenting it with offerings. Each pharaoh and his predecessors were considered the successors of the gods who had ruled Egypt in mythic prehistory. In Egyptian tradition, the world includes the earth, the sky, and the underworld. 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. Any visible manifestation of a god's power could be called its ba; thus, the sun was called the ba of Ra. They acted as intermediaries between their people and the gods, and were obligated to sustain the gods through rituals and offerings so that they could maintain Ma'at, the order of the cosmos, and repel Isfet, which was chaos. [64] These and other versions of the events of creation were not seen as contradictory. So using our example, bat would be written using the symbols for b, t and animal. Hornung concludes that the gods were fully unified only in myth, at the time before creation, after which the multitude of gods emerged from a uniform nonexistence. [8], Deities had complex interrelationships, which partly reflected the interaction of the forces they represented. [51] Except for the few deities who disrupted the divine order,[40] the gods' actions maintained maat and created and sustained all living things. Egyptian oracles are known mainly from the New Kingdom and afterward, though they probably appeared much earlier. [114] Isis absorbed the traits of many other goddesses during her rise, and when Amun became the ruler of the pantheon, he was conjoined with Ra to become a solar deity. Eventually rulers from Thebes reunified the Egyptian nation in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC). Some of these groups contain a specific, symbolically important number of deities. However, these associations changed over time, and they did not mean that the god associated with a place had originated there. The protective deities Bes and Taweret originally had minor, demon-like roles, but over time they came to be credited with great influence. [16] Some of these theories are now regarded as too simplistic,[19] and more current ones, such as Siegfried Morenz' hypothesis that deities emerged as humans began to distinguish themselves from and personify their environment, are difficult to prove. Temples were their main means of contact with humanity. He also argues that the unspecified "god" in the wisdom texts is a generic term for whichever deity is relevant to the reader in the situation at hand. These trends undermined the traditional structure of society and contributed to the breakdown of the New Kingdom. The red symbol on the left shoulder, which can easily be mistaken for a swastika, is actually an ancient Greek symbol for holiness, while at the bottom, the boat of Sokar (a form of the Egyptian sun god) is flanked by jackals. [95], Because it was considered necessary for the survival of the soul, preservation of the body was a central part of Egyptian funerary practices. [8] Deceased humans were called nṯr because they were considered to be like the gods,[9] whereas the term was rarely applied to many of Egypt's lesser supernatural beings, which modern scholars often call "demons". [214] These offerings, in addition to maintaining maat for the gods, celebrated deities' life-giving generosity and encouraged them to remain benevolent rather than vengeful. [46] The most feared beings in the Duat were regarded as both disgusting and dangerous to humans. People interacted with them in temples and unofficial shrines, for personal reasons as well as for larger goals of state rites. 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. These practices were distinct from, but closely linked with, the formal rituals and institutions. [76], In Egyptian belief, names express the fundamental nature of the things to which they refer. Millions of mummified cats, birds, and other creatures were buried at temples honoring Egyptian deities. Formal religious practice centered on the pharaohs, the rulers of Egypt, believed to possess divine powers by virtue of their positions. Some of these cult animals retained their positions for the rest of their lives, as with the Apis bull worshipped in Memphis as a manifestation of Ptah. It centered on the Egyptians' interactions with many deities believed to be present in, and in control of the world. [133] On rare occasion, deities of different sexes could be joined in this way, producing combinations such as Osiris-Neith. [111], Nine, the product of three and three, represents a multitude, so the Egyptians called several large groups "Enneads", or sets of nine, even if they had more than nine members. Amun, the supreme god, was increasingly seen as the final arbiter of human destiny, the true ruler of Egypt. These festivals often entailed actions beyond simple offerings to the gods, such as reenactments of particular myths or the symbolic destruction of the forces of disorder. [74] Deities' spheres of influence on earth centered on the towns and regions they presided over. [70] However, as the wealth of the temples grew, the influence of their priesthoods increased, until it rivaled that of the pharaoh. Instead, Greek and Roman gods were adopted as manifestations of Egyptian ones. There is evidence suggesting that the general populace continued to worship other gods in private. [103] Human sacrifices found in early royal tombs were probably meant to serve the pharaoh in his afterlife. [99] However, while the cult lasted, the living sometimes wrote letters asking deceased relatives for help, in the belief that the dead could affect the world of the living as the gods did. [101], Tombs could contain a great variety of other items, including statues of the deceased to serve as substitutes for the body in case it was damaged. [23] Places and concepts could inspire the creation of a deity to represent them,[24] and deities were sometimes created to serve as opposite-sex counterparts to established gods or goddesses. Evidence of personal piety is scant before the New Kingdom. [50], The procedures for religious rituals were frequently written on papyri, which were used as instructions for those performing the ritual. [58] Different versions of a myth could portray different deities playing the same archetypal role, as in the myths of the Eye of Ra, a feminine aspect of the sun god who was represented by many goddesses. [30], In early times the deceased pharaoh was believed to ascend to the sky and dwell among the stars. Occasionally, a person took a particular god as a patron, dedicating his or her property or labor to the god's cult. The Egyptians believed in a pantheon of gods, which were involved in all aspects of nature and human society. This is particularly true of a few gods who, at various points, rose to supreme importance in Egyptian religion. [128] Horus had many forms tied to particular places, including Horus of Nekhen, Horus of Buhen, and Horus of Edfu. [211], Official religious practices, which maintained maat for the benefit of all Egypt, were related to, but distinct from, the religious practices of ordinary people,[212] who sought the gods' help for their personal problems. [46] It tells of the divine ruler Osiris, who was murdered by his jealous brother Set, a god often associated with chaos. [113], Early in the Old Kingdom, Ra grew in influence, and his cult center at Heliopolis became the nation's most important religious site. He was credited with producing the annual Nile flood that fertilized the country's farmland. People of all classes, including the king, asked questions of oracles, and, especially in the late New Kingdom their answers could be used to settle legal disputes or inform royal decisions. It seems most likely that the Egyptians viewed royal authority itself as a divine force. [223] Private rituals invoked the gods' power to accomplish personal goals, from healing sickness to cursing enemies. [60] Most myths lack highly developed characters and plots, because their symbolic meaning was more important than elaborate storytelling. [112] Meanwhile, pyramids, accompanied by large mortuary temple complexes, replaced mastabas as the tombs of pharaohs. [152] Some gods can only be distinguished from others if they are labeled in writing, as with Isis and Hathor. 3) Some women in upper classes worked as doctors, government officials or priestesses. [154], Certain features of divine images are more useful than others in determining a god's identity. Some groups had wide-ranging importance. [5] 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, and the terms' origin remains obscure. They emphasize humans' direct, personal relationships with deities and the gods' power to intervene in human events. Then the mummy was buried and the tomb sealed. [55] In myth, the gods behave much like humans. [156] In a hybrid image, the head represents the original form of the being depicted, so that, as the Egyptologist Henry Fischer put it, "a lion-headed goddess is a lion-goddess in human form, while a royal sphinx, conversely, is a man who has assumed the form of a lion. Their sophisticated theological discussion produced detailed descriptions of Amun's universal power. [204] A deity carried out this punishment using its ba, the force that manifested the god's power in the human world. [116] The texts are an extremely important source for understanding early Egyptian theology. [71] The temple staff also included many people other than priests, such as musicians and chanters in temple ceremonies. Egyptian beliefs also influenced or gave rise to several esoteric belief systems developed by Greeks and Romans, who considered Egypt as a source of mystic wisdom. Each person also had a ba, the set of spiritual characteristics unique to each individual. [145] Although the combinations, manifestations, and iconographies of each god were constantly shifting, they were always restricted to a finite number of forms, never becoming fully interchangeable in a monotheistic or pantheistic way. [192] But many deities—including some important gods as well as those that were minor or hostile—were never given temples of their own, although some were represented in the temples of other gods. [136] Yet Atenism may not have been full monotheism, which totally excludes belief in other deities. Over time, families inevitably neglected offerings to long-dead relatives, so most mortuary cults only lasted one or two generations. The importance of the pharaoh continued to decline, and the emphasis on popular piety continued to increase. The populace may, for example, have mistaken the religion's symbolic statements about the gods and their actions for literal truth. [2] The Egyptologist James P. Allen estimates that more than 1,400 deities are named in Egyptian texts,[3] whereas his colleague Christian Leitz says there are "thousands upon thousands" of gods. [241] Roman emperors, like Ptolemaic kings before them, invoked Isis and Serapis to endorse their authority, inside and outside Egypt. In contrast, the objects held in gods' hands tend to be generic. [85] Atum was primarily male but had a feminine aspect within himself,[88] who was sometimes seen as a goddess, known as Iusaaset or Nebethetepet. [180] These acts were a part of the king's fundamental role: maintaining maat. The importance of names is demonstrated by a myth in which Isis poisons the superior god Ra and refuses to cure him unless he reveals his secret name to her. No surviving statues of deities are known for certain to have been cult images, although a few have the right characteristics to have served that purpose. [60], Family relationships are a common type of connection between gods. According to these stories, the world emerged as a dry space in the primordial ocean of chaos. [226] Scholars disagree about the meaning of this change—whether direct interaction with the gods was a new development or an outgrowth of older traditions. For these reasons, the Egyptologists Dominic Montserrat and John Baines have suggested that Akhenaten may have been monolatrous, worshipping a single deity while acknowledging the existence of others. Akhenaten's changes had reversed this trend, but once the traditional religion was restored, there was a backlash. The pharaohs’ tombs were meant to preserve their bodies and souls. [151], Most deities were depicted in several ways. [199], Thoth, as the overseer of time, was said to allot fixed lifespans to both humans and gods. Deities were also believed to give commands, instructing the king in the governance of his realm and regulating the management of their temples. These cults grew more popular in later times, and many temples began raising stocks of such animals from which to choose a new divine manifestation. [90] Heka was believed to be a natural phenomenon, the force which was used to create the universe and which the gods employed to work their will. The typical boat was long and thin and the ends came to a point that stuck out of the water. They are a loose collection of hundreds of spells inscribed on the walls of royal pyramids during the Old Kingdom, intended to magically provide pharaohs with the means to join the company of the gods in the afterlife. [134] This linking of deities is called syncretism. [88], Sex and gender were closely tied to creation and thus rebirth. [73] There were numerous temple rituals, including rites that took place across the country and rites limited to single temples or to the temples of a single god. [231] In contrast, many temples to the major Egyptian gods and deified pharaohs were built in Nubia. Despite their mundane purpose, many of these texts also originated in temple libraries and later became disseminated among the general populace. They believed that humans possessed a ka, or life-force, which left the body at the point of death. Most events of mythology, set in a time before the gods' withdrawal from the human realm, take place in an earthly setting. [86][87] Some deities were androgynous, but most examples are found in the context of creation myths, in which the androgynous deity represents the undifferentiated state that existed before the world was created. [184], The ba of a god was said to periodically leave the divine realm to dwell in the images of that god. His black coloring alludes to the color of mummified flesh and to the fertile black soil that Egyptians saw as a symbol of resurrection. The most important temple image was the cult statue in the inner sanctuary. Others have argued that the most important predynastic gods were, like other elements of Egyptian culture, present all across the country despite its political divisions. [74] To the Egyptians, a place or object that was ḏsr—"sacred"—was isolated and ritually pure, and thus fit for a god to inhabit. Humans' relations with their gods were a fundamental part of Egyptian society. [170] In many of these cases, the nature of the original object is mysterious. An ancient Egyptian miniature boat from 2000 BC that appears to be an ancient toy but was in fact a representation of crossing the waters to the other side. 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