Ancient Egyptian Gods
Journey back through the sands of time, back before the television, back before the bicycle, even back before your great-grandmother was born and you are in the land of Ancient Egypt. Where the Nile river flowed freely through the country and where the sun set over the limestone on the Great Pyramid.
The one thing that brought all Egyptians together was their religion, the Ancient Gods and Goddesses that they worshipped in order to keep Egypt prosperous and happy.
There were several main Gods in the Egyptian pantheon. The main God was Amun, who later joined with Re to become Amun-Re. He was shown wearing a crown of two tall plumes, often with a spear in his hand. Sometimes he was also portrayed as a man with the head of a ram. His main place of worship was in the city of Thebes, near to the magnificent temples at Luxor and Karnak. The treasures in these temples were the oldest, largest and most famous of the Classical World until they were destroyed by the Persians.
The sun God was Re, also known as Ra. He was symbolized by a falcon with the sun on his head surrounded by a cobra. Another manifestation of Re was in the form of a scarab rolling the sun before him like a ball of dung. After he merged with Atum he became the supreme sun God. Mythology says that Re created mankind from his tears, which was somewhat ironic, due to all the problems mankind caused for the Gods. In the end Re ordered Hathor to kill all humankind. This was going as effectively as the attempt by the Vogon to destroying Earth to create a new hyperspace bypass. Finally, once he had seen all the destruction Hathor, in the shape of Sakhmet, he tried to stop her. Hathor-Sakhmet was not having any of it, and ignored Re. He had to resort to trickery to stop her. Re mixed beer with pomegranate juice, Hathor, thinking it was blood began to drink it, and got so drunk she could not continue in her massacre of the human race.
Hathor was not all that bad though, she did have her moments. She was a sky-Goddess, alongside being the Goddess of destiny, healing, childbirth, love, music and dance. Hathor was portrayed as a cow, the benign mother-Goddess.
Sakhmet, on the other hand, was a fierce lion-headed Goddess who was mainly worshipped in Memphis. As a daughter of Re, Sakhmet represented the destructive power of the sun, but she also had a better side, one of protecting and healing. She was married to Ptah, the most creative of all the Gods.
He was part of the Memphis triad, consort of Sakhmet and father of Nefertum. He was the God of architects, artisans, artists and masons; he created the skills of design and sculpture. Ptah was represented as a shaven headed man holding a sceptre.
One of the more popular Gods was Osiris. He was the supreme God of the Egyptian Underworld, which all Egyptians went to when they died, after their heart had been weighed against the feather of truth that was Ma'at. Osiris'jealous brother Set murdered him. Set tricked Osiris into getting into a trunk, where he was locked up and thrown into the Nile. Isis found the body of her husband, but Set stole it again, and chopped it up into several pieces, which he scattered all over Egypt. Isis, helped by her sister, Nephthys, searched over Egypt until they had found most of Osiris' body. Isis had a son, Horus, who, when he was older, engaged Set in many fierce battles.
Isis was the great mother Goddess of Ancient Egypt and the symbolic mother of the Pharaoh. She had fascinating magical powers, and was the only person to discover the true name of Re. She was usually portrayed as a mature yet attractive woman, with cow horns and a sundisk between them.
Her only son, Horus was the hawk-headed sky sun God, who fought his uncle to reclaim his father's inheritance. The unification of Upper and Lower Egypt resulted in Horus merging with other Gods to become a state God at Memphis. The Pharaoh is the living God, the personification of Horus. He was also a symbol of protection; the Eye of Horus was used to ward off evil.
Set was the God of chaos and disorder, as well as thunder and storms, violence and the desert. He was portrayed as an animal with four legs, a tail and a curved snout. From his head rose two horns, his skin was white and his hair red. Every month Set attacked and consumed the moon, where Osiris hid. When Hyksos invaders settled in the Delta they took Set as one of their Gods. This did not help his already bad reputation. Set ended up going to live with Re, becoming his weather controller.
That was a summary of the main Egyptian Gods, but there are one of two that are still quite popular, and some of my personal favorites.
Thoth was a moon God, who invented writing, the calendar, science, music, magic and art, medicine, maths and astronomy. When he was not doing all this, he was also the Divine Recorder, conciliator and arbiter amongst the Gods. As you may guess, he probably did not have a lot of time to himself. He supported Horus in his fight against Set, but healed both their wounds. He was depicted as an ibis or a baboon, in both cases he wore the lunar disc and crescent. He was married to either Ma'at or Seshat, and hailed as a creator God in his own right.
Another personal favorite would have to be Neith. She was mainly worshipped in Sais, which is in the Nile Delta, near Alexandria and Rosetta. She was the Goddess of war and weaving, it was said that she wove the world with her shuttle. She wore a red crown, which was used in the crown worn by the Pharaoh.
Anubis was a jackal, or a man with the head of a jackal. He was the main funerary God before Osiris. He played a significant role in the embalming ritual, he gave the embalmers the fragrant oils to rub into the corpses and he was responsible for wrapping the body in the linen bandages. He was there at the Weighing of the Heart ceremony and guided the dead to the throne of Osiris.
So there you have it, Egyptology 101. It is hard to place the Gods in any sort of family tree, as throughout the millennia information has been lost, and the roles of the Gods and their relationship with other Gods have changed from the earlier dynasties to the later dynasties. :)
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