We explain what the Egyptian gods are and the main beliefs of the Egyptian religion. In addition, its general characteristics and classification.

Egyptian godsEgyptian gods
The Egyptians worshiped their gods through various rituals.

What are the Egyptian gods?

The Egyptian gods are a set of deities belonging to the religion of Ancient Egypt (3150 BC – 31 BC), one of the major ancient civilizations of North Africa. This civilization prospered on the banks of the Nile River, expanding its cultural, economic, and political influence to the Euphrates, the Red Sea, the Sinai Peninsula, and part of the Mediterranean.

The religion of Ancient Egypt was polytheistic (many gods) and involved a diverse and complex set of rituals. Thanks to them, human beings could obtain the favor of the gods, rulers of natural forces.

However, contrary to many other ancient religions, they did not get involved with ephemeral phenomena like rainbows or eclipses, nor in the fundamental elements such as fire and water. In addition, the areas of influence of each god could be difficult to define and were often flexible, changing, according to their mythical accounts.

Where they did have an important presence was in the political organization of society, and the pharaohs were often their representatives on earth. The cult of the deadof importance in Egyptian society, was also a territory dominated by deities.

See also: Egyptian culture

Origin of the Egyptian gods

Egyptian godsEgyptian gods
The imperial organization imposed a pantheon of gods of national importance.

Egyptian religion took its first steps in Egyptian prehistory.

From them not much archaeological record remains.

It is likely that each Egyptian region had its own tutelary god.

However, it is believed that the conquest or absorption of some communities by others was imposing some on others.

Thus, some gods gained importance, but the others were not completely lost.

Around the year 3000 B.C. c. Egyptian cities unify to start the Early Dynastic Period. The imperial organization imposed a pantheon of gods of national importance.

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In addition, the cult of the pharaoh (who embodied the god Horus on Earth) occurred in the terms of his tutelary gods. Simultaneously, the priests had the task of bringing together an enormous number of deities in the same pantheon that would guarantee a unified religion.

Throughout the Old, Middle, and New Egyptian Empire, the worship of the gods was organized according to the ruling elites. Subsequently, periods of Babylonian, Mycenaean and finally Greek and Roman occupation weakened its identity and fostered syncretism.

In the first centuries AD. c. various edicts of the Roman emperors prohibited the worship of the goddess Isis. In this way, what was left of traditional Egyptian religion became extinct.

Main beliefs of the Egyptians

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For the Egyptians, the pharaohs were a manifestation of divine force.

Egyptian religion was not a monolithic and homogeneous set of ritual practices. On the contrary, it encompassed an enormous variety of beliefs and practices, which had in common the link between the world of the sacred and the world of humans.

Its basic precepts can be summarized as:

  • The Ma’at. This term summarizes the fundamental values ​​of Egyptian cosmology, such as truth, justice and order; concepts that created a single fixed and eternal order of the universe, constantly besieged by the forces of chaos and destruction. The Ma’at it implied at the same time the balance of the natural forces of the cosmic order, and the joint tasks of human society.
  • The pharaohs. Royal authority was, for the Egyptians, a manifestation of divine force. Although the kings were human, they were understood to be embodiments of the divine will, intermediary between the gods and humans. And when they died, the pharaohs were deified and assimilated with some tutelary god, who was represented in their majestic tombs.
  • The ka. This is the name given to the vital force of humans, which is released from the body at the time of death, and which is nourished by food and drink. On the contrary, in the body resided the ba of people, a series of unique spiritual characteristics, which had to be released through mortuary preparation. Thus, Egyptian funerals consisted of giving food and drink to the kaand release the ba so that together they would form a ok and assimilate to the gods.
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egyptian pantheon

The Egyptian pantheon was diverse and vast, with thousands of deities and gods organized into two sets:

  • The lesser gods or demons. With local or very limited functions, especially associated with regions of the Empire or with very specific effects.
  • The older gods. Of vital importance in the maintenance of the universe and protagonists of the founding religious stories, whose cult was sustained throughout the Empire.

The total number of deities is difficult to pin down. This is due to the same phenomenon could have different deities associated and polytheistic dynamics were quite complex.

However, the main gods were represented more concretely and recurrently. For this, animals or anthropomorphic figures with animal heads were used.

Ra, god of the sun

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Ra could assume the form of a beetle, a hawk, or a hunched old man.

One of the deities associated with the Sun, he was represented as a falcon-headed human figurealthough depending on its place in the sky it could assume three different forms or appearances:

  • jeper. The scarab represents the rising sun of the morning in the East.
  • ra. The falcon that illuminates the earth during the day.
  • Aton. A stooped old man who warms the dead in the afterlife, when the Sun was disappearing in the west.

Isis, the mother goddess

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Isis wears a throne on her head and sometimes also shows wings.

The “mother of the gods”, who personified the very throne of the Empire, and the most popular of all deities in the pantheon. She embodies the role of mother and wife, being the mother of Horus and wife of Osiris. She is depicted as a human figure with a throne on her head and sometimes with wings as well.

Osiris, the first mummy

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Osiris is represented with the crown that marks his place on the throne.

It is linked to agriculture and the vegetation that grows out of the soil. Furthermore, it is the ruler of the world of the deadto whom he grants eternal life at his side.

According to the religious account, Osiris he married his sister Isis and was heir to the throne of the earth. However, this was not possible because his brother Seth killed him. Furthermore, to prevent his resurrection, he tore him to pieces, scattering him on the earth.

Then his wife Isis, along with her sister Nephthys, picked up each piece. When they managed to unite them all, they embalmed him with the help of Anubis. This is how she became the first Egyptian mummy.

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Horus, the Falcon God

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Horus is the god of the sky and the ruler of the kingdom of human beings.

Son of Isis and Osiris, he is represented with a falcon head on which the throne rests. He is also depicted as a falcon with the double Egyptian crown on his head (for upper and lower Egypt). He is the god of heaven and the ruler of the kingdom of human beings. His eyes are the moon and the sun, and the pharaoh in his incarnation on earth.

Seth, the destruction

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Seth was the murderer of Osiris and was represented with the head of an aardvark.

Seth or Seth personified brute force, death and destruction, especially arid lands, desert and drought. His voice was that of thunder and from time to time he threatened the cosmic order, making it impossible to put an end to it definitively.

According to Egyptian accounts He was the murderer of his brother Osiris, whom he tore apart to keep his throne. However, after being defeated by Horus, he was sentenced to live in the desert. He was usually represented to him as a human figure with the head of an aardvark.

Anubis, guide of souls

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Anubis is depicted as a human with the head of a black jackal.

The guardian of the necropolis and guide of the deceased. Ruled over all types of funeral services and he was credited with having guarded the body of Osiris during his mummification. He represented him as a human with the head of a black jackal or a dog. He joined the cult of Osiris, thus becoming the son of Nephthys.

Nephthys, the lady of the house

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Nephthys bears the emblem of the house-tomb and is associated with the funeral cult.

She was the wife of Seth and lover of Osiris. Also, some traditions point to her as the mother of Anubis. This goddess was represented with the emblem of the house-tomb on her head. In that sense, she was the embodiment of eternal rest and the bandages on the mummies represented her hair.

In addition to being associated with the funeral cult, travelers asked him for help when crossing hostile territorieslike deserts. His magical powers were what allowed the reunification of Osiris’s body.

References:

  • “Egyptian Gods” on Wikipedia.
  • “Religion of Ancient Egypt” on Wikipedia.
  • “Egyptian gods. List of the main Egyptian deities” in Mitologia.info.
  • “The extensive Egyptian pantheon” in La Vanguardia.
  • “Gods of the Egyptian pantheon” in Egypt exposed.
  • “The main gods of Ancient Egypt” on the History Channel.
  • “Egyptian Gods – The Complete List” in Ancient History Encyclopedia.

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