Egyptian pantheon

R8 t
r
t
B1
nṯrt "Goddess"
in hieroglyphs
R8 Z1
nṯr "God"
in hieroglyphs

The Egyptian pantheon consisted of the many gods worshipped by the Ancient Egyptians. A number of major deities are addressed as the creator of the cosmos. These include Atum, Ra, Amun (Amen) and Ptah amongst others, as well as composite forms of these gods such as Amun-Ra. This was not seen as contradictory by the Egyptians. The development of Egyptian religion in the New Kingdom lead some early Egyptologists such as E.A. Wallis Budge to speculate that the Egyptians were in reality monotheistic. Others such as Sir Flinders Petrie considered the Egyptians to be polytheists. Erik Hornung[1] argues that the best term to apply to their religion is 'henotheism' which describes 'worship of one god at a time but not a single god.'

The Egyptian term for goddess was neṯeret (nṯrt; netjeret, nečeret) and the term for god was neṯer (nṯr; also transliterated netjer, nečer). The hieroglyph represents a pole or staff wrapped in cloth with the free end of the cloth shown at the top. The use of this sign has been connected to the flag poles at the entrance towers of Egyptian temples. Alternative glyphs for gods include a star, a squatting human figure or a hawk on a perch.[2]

Contents

Background and history

The head of an Egyptian goddess. The gender is suggested by the lack of a beard, and the simple hairstyle points to the divine status of the subject.
Predynastic artifacts: clockwise from top left: a Bat figurine, a Naqada jar, an ivory figurine, a porphyry jar, a flint knife, and a cosmetic palette

The Egyptian religion has a long history. Earliest images include the symbols for the goddess Neith, many fertility figurines and versions of the vulture (Nekhbet) and cobra (Wadjet) goddesses which were borne on Egyptian crowns from predynastic and protodynastic periods through to the Roman period.

The many types of animals that are native to Northern Africa were immensely influential in nearly every significant aspect of the Ancient Egyptian way of life. The people were highly dependent on, and sometimes equally highly cautious of, different animals in many differing ways. The presence of certain animals (or lack thereof) factored with their behavior and sheer numbers, could easily mean the difference between life and death to an individual Egyptian person in one common type of situation; just as easily as they could mean the difference between prosperity and poverty to a person in another type of situation. Perhaps most importantly, however, certain animals could also mean the difference between peace and war for the entire nation. With regard to religion, there was a vast amount of varying forms of symbolism relating to animals embraced by the Ancient Egyptians -- the symbols connoted by various animals were consistently recurring themes in their religious system. For instance, there were many cow goddesses, such as Hathor, reflecting the fact that cattle were domesticated in Egypt by 8,000 B.C.. By 5,500 B.C., stone-roofed subterranean chambers and other subterranean complexes in Nabta Playa were constructed for the express purpose of housing the tombs of ritually sacrificed cattle. Wild, as well as domesticated animals, inspired a truly enormous amount of religious symbolism, take for instance the fierce lioness, personified by Sekhmet as the warrior goddess in the south.

By 4,000 B.C. Gerzean tomb-building was seen to include underground rooms and burial of furniture and amulets, a prelude to the funerary cult of Osiris which appears in the 5th Dynasty.

The pharaoh was deified after death, and bore the title of nṯr nfr "the good god". The title, "servant of god" was used for the priesthood, ḥmt-nṯr 'priestesses' and ḥm-nṯr 'priests'. Over the great period of time covered by Ancient Egyptian culture the importance of certain deities would rise and fall, often because of the religious allegiance of the king. However the worship of some deities was more or less continuous.

Companies of Gods

Ancient Egyptian votive statues of the deities

Animal worship

Many animals were considered sacred to particular deities:

Deity Animal
Ptah Bull
Thoth Ibis/Baboon
Amun Ram
Horus/Ra Falcon/Hawk
Anubis Jackal/Dog
Sobek Crocodile
Hathor Cow
Sekhmet Lion
Nekhbet Vulture
Ejo or Wadjet Egyptian cobra
Khepri Scarab Beetle
Geb Egyptian Goose/Snake

[3]

List of deities of Ancient Egypt

Hathor-Menkaure-Bat triad of the fourth dynasty – the deities flank the pharaoh and provide the authority to rule – Cairo Museum
  • Aken – ferryman to the underworld
  • Aker - deification of the horizon
  • Am-heh - minor underworld god
  • Ammit – crocodile-headed devourer in Duat, not a true deity
  • Amun or Amen – "the hidden one", a local creator deity later married to Mut after rising in importance
  • Amunet – female aspect of the primordial concept of air in the Ogdoad cosmogony; depicted as a cobra snake or a snake-headed woman
  • Andjety - god thought to be a precursor to Osiris
  • Anhur - god of war
  • Ankt - a minor war goddess
  • Anput - female aspect of Anubis
  • Anti - god of ferrymen
  • Anubis or Yinepu – dog or jackal god of embalming and tomb-caretaker who watches over the dead
  • Anuket - gazelle-headed goddess of the Nile River, the child of Satis and among the Elephantine triad of deities
  • Apophis or Apep – evil serpent of the Underworld and enemy of Ra; formed from a length of Neith's spit during her creation of the world
  • Apis – bull deity worshipped in the Memphis region
  • Ash - god of oases and the vineyards of the western Nile Delta
  • The Aten – sun god worshipped primarily during the period of Atenism in the eighteenth dynasty when Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) introduced monotheistic worship
  • Atum – a creator deity, and the setting sun
  • Babi - baboon god associated with death and virility
  • Banebdjedet - ram god of fertility
  • Ba-Pef - minor underworld god
  • Bastet or Bast – protector of the pharaoh and solar goddess, depicted as a lioness, house cat, cat-bodied or cat-headed woman
  • Bat – cow goddess who gave authority to the king; her cult originated in Hu and persisted widely until absorbed as an aspect of Hathor after the eleventh dynasty
  • Bata - bull god
  • Bes – dwarfed demigod associated with protection of the household, particularly childbirth, and entertainment
  • Chenti-cheti - crocodile god
  • Geb – god of the Earth, first ruler of Egypt and husband of Nut
  • Ha - god of the western deserts
  • Hapi or Hapy – deification of the annual flooding of the Nile, associated with fertility
  • Hathor or Hethert – cow or cow-goddess of the sky, fertility, love, beauty and music
  • Hatmehit - fish goddess, originally a deification of the Nile River
  • Hedetet - scorpion goddess, later incorporated into Isis
  • Heka - deification of magic
  • Hemen - falcon god
  • Heqetfrog or a frog-headed goddess of childbirth and fertility
  • Hemsut - goddess of fate and protection
  • Heryshaf - ram god
  • Horus or Herufalcon-headed god of the sky, pharaohs, war and protection
  • The four sons of Horus - personifications of the four canopic jars
  • Hu - deification of the first word
  • Huh - deification of eternity
  • Iabet - goddess of the east, consort of Min and cleanser of Ra
  • Iah - god of the moon
  • Iat - minor goddess of milk and, by association, of nurturing and childbirth
  • Imentet - goddess of the necropoleis west of the Nile
  • Isis or Aset – goddess of magic, motherhood and fertility and consort of Osiris; represented as the throne
  • Iusaaset – a primal goddess described as "the grandmother of all of the deities"
  • Kebechet - deification of embalming liquid
  • Khepri – the scarab beetle or scarab-headed god of rebirth and the sunrise
  • Kneph - a creator deity
  • Khnum – ram-headed creator god of the flooding of the Nile River
  • Khonsu – god of youth and the moon
  • Kuk –frog-headed personification of darkness, whose consort or female form was the snake-headed Kauket
  • Maahes – lion-headed god of war, weather.
  • Ma'at – goddess who personified concept of truth, balance, justice and order
  • Mafdet – goddess who protected against snakes and scorpions
  • Mehen - protective snake god which coils around the sun god Ra during his journey through the night
  • Menhit – goddess of war, associated with Sekhmet
  • Meret - goddess associated with rejoicing, singing and dancing
  • Meretsegercobra-goddess of tomb builders and protector of royal tombs
  • Meskhenet – goddess of childbirth and the creator of each person's Ka, a part of their soul, which she breathed into them at the moment of birth
  • Min – god of fertility and lettuce, often represented as a man with an erect penis
  • Mnevis – the sacred bull of Heliopolis
  • Monthu - falcon god of war
  • Mut – mother goddess, associated with the waters from which everything was born
  • Nefertem - god of healing and beauty
  • Nehebkau - guardian of the entrance to the underworld
  • Neith – goddess of creation, weaving, war and the dead
  • Nekhbetvulture goddess; patron of pharaohs and Upper Egypt
  • Neper - androgynous deification of grain
  • Nephthys or Nebthet – goddess of death, night and lamentation; the nursing mother of Horus and the pharaohs
  • Nu – deification of the primordial watery abyss
  • Nut – goddess of the sky and heavens
  • Osiris or Wesir – merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife and consort of Isis
  • Pakhet – a synthesis of Sekhmet and Bast
  • Petbe - god of revenge
  • Ptah – creator deity, also a god of craft
  • Qebui – god of the north wind
  • Ra – the sun, also a creator deity, whose chief cult centre was based in Heliopolis
  • Rem - fish god who fertilises the land with his tears
  • Renenutet - deification of the act of giving a true name during birth
  • Saa or Sia - deification of perception
  • Satet – goddess of war, hunting, fertility and the flooding of the Nile River
  • Sekhmet – lioness goddess of destruction, pestilence and war; fierce protector of the pharaoh, and later as an aspect of Hathor
  • Seker or Sokar - falcon god of the Memphite necropolis
  • Serketscorpion goddess of healing stings and bites
  • Seshat – goddess of writing, astronomy, astrology, architecture, and mathematics; depicted as a scribe
  • Set or Seth – god of the desert, storms and foreigners; later god of chaos
  • Shai - deification of the concept of fate
  • Shed - savior deity
  • Shezmu - god of execution, slaughter, blood, oil and wine
  • Shu - personification of air
  • Sobekcrocodile god of the Nile; patron of the military
  • Sobkou - messenger god
  • Sopdet - deification of the star Sothis (Sirius)
  • Sopdu - personification of the scorching heat of the sun
  • Ta-Bitjet - scorpion goddess identified as the consort of Horus
  • Tatenen - god of the primordial mound
  • Tawerethippopotamus goddess of pregnant women and protector during childbirth
  • Tefnut – goddess of moisture, moist air, dew and rain.
  • Tenenet - goddess of beer
  • Thoth or Djehutyibis-headed god of the moon, drawing, writing, geometry, wisdom, medicine, music, astronomy and magic
  • Unut - snake goddess
  • Wadjet – snake goddess and protector of Lower Egypt
  • Wadj-wer – fertility god and personification of the Mediterranean Sea or lakes of the Nile Delta
  • Weneg - plant god supporting the heavens
  • Werethekau - personification of supernatural powers
  • Wepwawetjackal god of warfare and hunting
  • Wosret – a localized guardian goddess, protector of the young god Horus; an early consort of Amun, later superseded by Mut

See also

References

  1. ^ Conceptions of god in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many, Hornung
  2. ^ The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Wilkinson, pg. 26/7 ISBN 0-500-05120-8
  3. ^ Armour (1986) Qtd. in Morris 1952, p. 23

External links


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