Egyptian Gods and Goddesses
The Nile River plays an important part in Egyptian mythology, in that creatures which appear near or live in the Nile became associated with many of the Egyptian gods and goddesses. The striking fertility of the Nile, in contrast to the barren condition of the surrounding desert, is also a basic theme of a mythology which extends over 3,000 years.
In this system, the pharaoh, himself a god, mediates between humans and the sun god Ra; and hence, the pharaoh is said to be the son of Ra and consequently associated with the God Horus.
The many divinities of ancient Egypt and the myths about them were not just important to the Egyptians but had great influence on the mythologies of many later civilizations. During the 1300’s BC, the pharaoh Amenhotep IV chose Aton as the only god of Egypt. Aton had been a little-known god worshiped in Thebes. Amenhotep was so devoted to the worship of Aton that he changed his own name to Akhenaton. Although the Egyptians stopped worshiping Aton after Akhenaton died, some scholars believe that the worship of this one divinity lingered among the people of Israel, who had settled in Egypt, and became an important part of the religion that was developed by their leader Moses. These scholars have suggested that the Jewish and Christian belief in one God may come from the cult of Aton. Further, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that the Greeks copied a great number of their deities from the Egyptians and that philosophers such as Socrates and Plato had studied in the Egyptian mystery schools. Hence, much of Greco-Roman religion and thought very likely is influenced by Egypt.
Gods and their Association
Chaos, the original ocean from which all plants and animals have been germinated; the abstract Father of the Gods; sometimes represented up to his waist in water, with his arms up, to support all of the other gods, who have come from him
Sometimes associated with Ra, the great sun god; the rising and setting sun; represented with a man’s head, wearing the dual crown of the pharaohs; was said to have fathered the first divine couple, without the aid of a wife
The Sun God; creator of Shu and Tefnet, who later gave birth to Geb and Nut, who in turn parented Osiris and Isis, Set and Nepthys—the eight great gods; generated mankind and all other living creatures from his tears
‘Scarab (beetle)”; he who becomes; god of transformation, by which life renews itself; represented either as a scarab-faced man or a man decapitated by an insect
He who “raises” or “holds up”; supports the sky, like the Greek figure Atlas, who probably is derived from Shu; the god of air; represented as a human wearing an ostrich feather
Possibly associated with memory, and hence representative of the Past; also associated with the creative mind; perhaps the origin of the Greek God Mercury
The Earth god, shown lying under the feet of Shu; assumed to be the father (and
Nut, the mother) of the Osirian gods
At first, a nature god, in command of the vegetation which dies at harvest and is reborn in spring at the time of planting; later, worshiped throughout Egypt as god of the dead; very likely the source of the Greek God of the Dead, Hades or Pluto.
Originally, Osiris’ evil brother; later, the personification of evil, eternally opposed to good; was rough and wild, with white skin and red hair; likely associated with the Greek Prometheus, the fire giver and with the Hebraic Satan
Horus or Hor
Title given to the pharaoh in power; a sun god, often represented as a falcon or a falcon-headed god
The sun in its daily course between the eastern and western horizon
The spiritual rather than physical rising sun; resurrection
Conductor of souls to the Afterlife; fourth son of Ra; invented funeral rites and bound up the mummy of Osiris to protect it from corruption; like Anhur, probably associated with the Greek God Hermes, in his mystical (rather than external) function
‘He Who Opens the Way”; Wolf-headed or jackal-headed god; sometimes worshiped as a god of the dead, but more likely represents the transition between life and death; possibly the origin of the Roman God Janus, who is said to have had several faces
Like Anhur and Anibis, probably associated with the Greek God Hermes, in his capacity as messenger of the Gods; sometimes worshiped as the moon god, or god of the lower or concrete mind; often represented with the head of a bird, frequently an ibis; keeper of the divine archives and patron of history; a divine scribe and god of knowledge and writing
Creator of Ra, hence of everything, including the images or concepts of the gods for people to worship
East or Bastet
Daughter of the sun god Ra often depicted as a cat
Cobra goddess who protected the pharaoh by spitting poison on his enemies or burning them merely by her look; queen of all of the goddesses; symbol of the pharaoh’s total power over the lands; possibly associated with the Greek figure, Medusa, who not only had snakes growing from her head but who could turn men into stone with but a glance
Goddess of joy and love; consort of Horus; the cow, her sacred animal; later identified with Isis; responsible for the souls of humans and has foreknowledge of the destiny of a newly-born baby; because of this foreknowledge, often identified with the Greek Fates
Consort of Osiris; considered the model of the ideal woman, wife, and mother; goddess of medicine and of agriculture
Goddess of truth, justice, unity, and order; often identified with the feather, which is sacred to her; shown as a woman with one feather in her hair; responsible for the belief that when humans die, their heart is weighed against a feather, to determine the individual’s spiritual purity
Wife of Seth (Set?)
Creator of darkness; wife of Geb and mother of Isis, Osiris, Set, and Nepthys
Goddess of children and protector of children at birth; goddess of good fortune and riches
Goddess of war; associated with the lioness, with a heart like the spirit of the
desert; called the mighty one and, like Buto, brings destruction to the enemies of Ra; consort of Ptah; regarded as the eye of Ra; possibly the origin of the Greek Athena
Like Renenet, considered the goddess of childbirth, depicted with the body of a hippopotamus, the legs of a lion, the breasts of a woman, the tail of a crocodile; protector of pregnant women
Goddess of moisture, rain, dew; said to share her soul with Shu; symbol of creation; protector of Ra and the pharaoh; has the head of a lion and wears a solar disk as a headdress
Common Egyptian Myths
1. At the beginning of time, before the earth, sky, gods, or men had been created, the sun god lived alone in the watery mass of Nun which filled the universe. The sun god created by himself two other gods whom he spat out of his mouth, the god Shu who represents air, and the goddess Tefnut, who represents moisture. Shu and Tefnut then had two children, Geb, the earth god and Nut, the goddess of the sky, who had four children. These were Osiris and his consort Isis, and Seth and his consort Nepthys. These nine gods together made up the Great Ennead of Heliopous, the most important group of gods in the Egyptian Pantheon.
2. In the beginning Geb and Nut were one. Then Shu split them apart. Geb became the earth and Nut became the sky. Ra is reborn every morning. Human beings were created differently from gods and goddesses. The gods and goddesses wept, and from their tears human beings sprang.
3. The sun ages over the course of the day. Every morning the sun is a newborn baby. The sun grows older with every passing minute. By noon the sun is a full grown adult. In the afternoon the sun gets older and at sunset, the sun dies to be born again in the new morning. At the death of the sun, as night came, the sun was said to travel in the underworld through the night before rebirth in the morning.
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