11 Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Seths appearance poses a problem for Egyptologists. He is often depicted as an animal or as a human with the head of an animal. But they cant figure out what animal hes supposed to be. He usually has a long snout and long ears that are squared at the tips. In his fully animal form, he has a thin doglike body and a straight tail with a tuft on the end. Many scholars now believe that no such animal ever existed and that the Seth animal is some sort of mythical composite.

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Ptahs original association seems to have been with craftsmen and builders. The 4th-dynasty architectImhotepwas deified after his death as a son of Ptah.

Res cult was centered inHeliopolis, now a suburb of Cairo. Over time, Re came to be syncretized with other sun deities, especially Amon.

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Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom, could be depicted in the form of a baboon or a sacred ibis or as a man with the head of an ibis. He was believed to have invented language and thehieroglyphic scriptand to serve as a scribe and adviser for the gods.As the god of wisdom, Thoth was said to possess knowledge of magic and secrets unavailable to the other gods.

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Scholars have suggested that the Greek wordAiguptosthe source of the name Egyptmay have started as a corruption of Hwt-Ka-Ptah, the name of one of Ptahs shrines.

Sethwas the god of chaos, violence, deserts, and storms. In the Osiris myth, he is the murderer of Osiris (in some versions of the myth, he tricks Osiris into laying down in a coffin and then seals it shut.)

Osiris, one of Egypts most important deities, was god of the underworld. He also symbolized death, resurrection, and the cycle of Nile floods that Egypt relied on for agricultural fertility.

The origins ofIsisare obscure. Unlike many gods, she cant be tied to a specific town, and there are no certain mentions of her in the earliest Egyptian literature. Over time she grew in importance, though, eventually becoming the most important goddess in the pantheon. As the devoted wife who resurrected Osiris after his murder and raised their son, Horus, Isis embodied the traditional Egyptian virtues of a wife and mother.

According to the Osiris myth, Horus was the son of Isis and Osiris, magically conceived after the murder of Osiris by his brother Seth. Horus was raised to avenge his fathers murder. One tradition holds that Horus lost his left eye fighting with Seth, but his eye was magically healed by the god Thoth. Because the right and left eyes of Horus were associated, respectively, with the sun and the moon, the loss and restoration of Horuss left eye gave a mythical explanation for the phases of the moon.

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Today the massive temple complex devoted to Amon-Re atKarnakis one of the most visited monuments in Egypt.

The goddessHathorwas usually depicted as a cow, as a woman with the head of a cow, or as a woman with cows ears. Hathor embodied motherhood and fertility, and it was believed that she protected women in childbirth. She also had an important funerary aspect, being known as the lady of the west. (Tombs were generally built on the west bank of the Nile.) In some traditions, she would welcome the setting sun every night; living people hoped to be welcomed into the afterlife in the same way.

In later periods she was often represented as a regal-looking seated cat, sometimes wearing rings in her ears or nose. In the Ptolemaic period she came to be associated with the Greek goddessArtemis, the divine hunter and goddess of the moon.

Ptahwas the head of a triad of gods worshipped at Memphis. The other two members of the triad were Ptahs wife, the lion-headed goddessSekhmet, and the godNefertem, who may have been the couples son.

Anubiswas concerned with funerary practices and the care of the dead. He was usually represented as a jackal or as a man with the head of a jackal. The association of jackals with death and funerals likely arose because Egyptians would have observed jackals scavenging around cemeteries.

Isis was one of the last of the ancient Egyptian gods to still be worshipped. In the Greco-Roman period she was identified with the Greek goddessAphroditeand her cult spread as far west as Great Britain and as far east as Afghanistan. It is believed that depictions of Isis with the infant Horus influenced Christian imagery of Mary with the infant Jesus.

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According to the myth, Osiris was a king of Egypt who was murdered and dismembered by his brother Seth. His wife, Isis, reassembled his body and resurrected him, allowing them to conceive a son, the god Horus. He was represented as a mummified king, wearing wrappings that left only the green skin of his hands and face exposed.

Isis nursing Horus, calcite and bronze sculpture from Egypt,

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Before rising to national importance in the New Kingdom (c. 15391292 BCE), the godAmonwas worshipped locally in the southern city ofThebes. Amon was a god of the air, and the name probably means the Hidden One. He was usually represented as a man wearing a crown with two vertical plumes. His animal symbols were the ram and the goose.

In the Old Kingdom (c. 25752130 BCE), before Osiris rose to prominence as the lord of the underworld, Anubis was considered the principal god of the dead. According to the Osiris myth, Anubis embalmed and wrapped the body of the murdered king, becoming the patron god for embalmers.

In her earliest forms, the cat goddessBastetwas represented as a woman with the head of a lion or a wild cat. She took the less ferocious form of a domestic cat in the first millennium BCE.

Depicted as a falcon or as a man with a falcons head,Horuswas a sky god associated with war and hunting. He was also the embodiment of the divine kingship, and in some eras the reigning king was considered to be a manifestation of Horus.

Photograph by Lisa OHara. Brooklyn Museum, New York, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.400E

As the wife of the god of the underworld, Isis was also one of the main deities concerned with rites for the dead. Along with her sister Nephthys, Isis acted as a divine mourner, and her maternal care was often depicted as extending to the dead in the underworld.

Egypthad one of thelargest and most complex pantheons of godsof any civilization in the ancient world. Over the course of Egyptian history hundreds of gods and goddesses were worshipped. The characteristics of individual gods could be hard to pin down. Most had a principle association (for example, with the sun or the underworld) and form. But these could change over time as gods rose and fell in importance and evolved in ways that corresponded to developments in Egyptian society. Here are a few of the most important deities to know.Osiris, bronze figurine of the Late Period; in the Egyptian Museum, BerlinCourtesy of the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; photograph, Art Resource, New York

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After the rulers of Thebes rebelled against a dynasty of foreign rulers known as theHyksosand reestablished native Egyptian rule throughout Egypt, Amon received credit for their victory. In a form merged with the sun god Re, he became the most powerful deity in Egypt, a position he retained for most of the New Kingdom.

One of several deities associated with the sun, the godRewas usually represented with a human body and the head of a hawk.It was believed that he sailed across the sky in a boat each day and then made a passage through the underworld each night, during which he would have to defeat the snake godApopisin order to rise again.

; in the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

In underworld scenes showing the judgment undergone by the deceased after their deaths, Thoth is depicted as weighing the hearts of the deceased and reporting the verdict to Osiris, the god of the dead.

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