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Egyptian pantheon

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nṯrt "goddess"
in hieroglyphs
R8t
r
t
B1
nṯr "god"
in hieroglyphs
R8Z1

The Egyptian pantheon is set up as a number of paired opposites given as god with godess consort to represent platonic ideals of a synthesis which allows them to become whatever it is they are going to be.

A number of major deities are addressed as the creator of the cosmos. These include Atum, Ra, Amun and Ptah among others, as well as composite forms of these gods such as Amun-Re.

This was not seen as contradictory by the Egyptians because the synthesis of all the individual paired opposites into one invisible, chaotic, dark, infinite supreme being was seen as having a number of attributes that could be thought of as becoming something else; enlightened, cosmic, solid, and eternal.

In the natural philosophy of the Greeks and Mesopotamia's the first two Egyptian pairs are seen as the elements Air, (Shu) and Fire as (Tefnut) the eye of Ra the sun god; Earth, (Geb) and Water (Nu) are their children. As Earth Geb the son of Shu and Tefnut can range from dust to mud. As the eye of Ra Tefnut can give or withhold the moisture that inundates Geb and make him wet or dry. In her summers rage she can dry him up and harden his soil till it cracks, but during the inundation when she brings moisture to him in the form of Nu, the pair Geb and Nu become fertile.

  • The Ogdoad of Hermopolis, eight deities who were worshiped in four female-male pairs; The females associated with snakes and the males with frogs:
  • Amunvisible and solid and Amaunet ethereal and invisible,
  • Nu a watery cosmos and Naunet, a dark chaos
  • Kuk light and Kauket dark,
  • Huh eternal and Hauhet infinite.

Interacting with the supreme being of the Ogdoad was the elemental existence of the Ennead

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]

Background and history

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 importance of animal symbolism was also a theme of Egyptian religion. For instance the many cow goddesses such as Hathor and Nut reflect the fact that cattle were domesticated in Egypt by 8,000 BCE and by 5,500 BCE stone-roofed subterranean chambers and other subterranean complexes in Nabta Playa are seen to contain the tombs of ritually sacrificed cattle. Wild as well as domesticated animals inspired religious symbolism, for instance the fierce lionesses were represented by Sekhmet as the warrior goddess in the south.

By 4,000 BCE 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

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

(Armour (1986) Qtd. in Morris 1952, p. 23)

List of deities of Ancient Egypt

180px-Anubis standing.svg

A modern depiction of the god Anubis, based on New Kingdom tomb paintings.

  • Aken - Ferryman to the underworld
  • Ammit - crocodile-headed devourer in Duat, not a true deity
  • Amun (also spelled 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; was depicted as a cobra snake or a snake-headed woman
  • Anubis (also spelled Yinepu) - dog or jackal god of embalming and tomb-caretaker who watches over the dead
  • Anuket, goddess of the Nile River, the child of Satis and among the Elephantine triad of deities; temple on the Island of Seheil, giver of life and fertility, gazelle-headed
  • Apep (also spelled Apophis) - evil serpent of the Underworld, enemy of Ra and formed from a length of Neith's spit during her creation of the world
  • Apis - the Apis bull probably was at first a fertility figure concerned with the propagation of grain and herds; but he became associated with Ptah, the paramount deity of the Memphis area and also, with Osiris (as User-Hapi) and Sokaris, later gods of the dead and the underworld. As Apis-Atum he was associated with the solar cult and was often represented with the sun-disk of the cow deity between his horns, being her offspring. The Apis bull often represented a king who became a deity after death, suggesting an earlier ritual in which the king was sacrificed
  • The Aten - the sun disk or globe worshipped primarily during the Amarna Period in the eighteenth dynasty when representing a monotheistic deity advanced by Amenhotep IV, who took the name Akhenaten
  • Atum - a creator deity, and the setting sun
  • Bast - goddess, protector of the pharaoh and a solar deity where the sun could be seen shining in her eyes at night, a lioness, house cat, cat-bodied or cat-headed woman, also known as Bastet when superseded by Sekhmet
  • Bat - represented the cosmos and the essence of the soul (Ba), cow goddess who gave authority to the king, cult originated in Hu and persisted widely until absorbed as an aspect of Hathor after the eleventh dynasty; associated with the sistrum and the ankh
  • Bes - dwarfed demigod - associated with protection of the household, particularly childbirth, and entertainment
  • The four sons of Horus- personifications of the containers for the organs of the deceased pharaohs - Imsety in human form, contained the liver and was protected by Isis; Hapi in baboon form, contained the lungs and was protected by Nephthys; Duamutef in jackal form, contained the stomach and was protected by Neith; Qebehsenuef in hawk form, contained the large intestines and was protected by Serket
  • Geb - god of the Earth and first ruler of Egypt, and husband of Nut
  • Hapy (also spelled Hapi) - god embodied by the Nile, and who represents life and fertility
  • Hathor (also spelled Hethert) - among the oldest of Egyptian deities - often depicted as the cow, a cow-goddess, sky-goddess and tree-goddess who was the mother to the pharaoh and earlier to the universe, the golden calf of the bible, and later goddess of love and music
  • Heget (also spelled Heqet) - goddess of childbirth and fertility, who breathed life into humans at birth, represented as a frog or a frog-headed woman
  • Horus (also spelled Heru) - the falcon-headed god most notably being the god of the Sky, god of War and god of Protection. Includes multiple forms or potentially different gods, including Heru the son of Isis, god of pharaohs and Upper Egypt, and Heru the elder
  • Isis (also spelled Aset) - goddess of magical power and healing, "She of the Throne" who was represented as the throne, also later as the wife of Osiris and as the protector of the dead
  • Iusaaset - the great one who comes forth, the goddess who was called the mother and grandmother of all of the deities and later, the "shadow" of Atum or Atum-Ra
  • Khepri (also spelled Khepra) - the scarab beetle, the embodiment of the dawn
  • Khnum - a creator deity, god of the inundation
  • Khonsu - the son of Amun and Mut, whose name means "wanderer", which probably refers to the passage of the moon across the sky, as he was a lunar deity. In the late period, he was also considered an important god of healing
  • Kuk - the personification of darkness that often took the form of a frog-headed god, whose consort or female form was the snake-headed Kauket
  • Maahes - he who is true beside her, a lion prince, son of Bast in Lower Egypt and of Sekhmet in Upper Egypt and sharing their natures, his father varied—being the current chief male deity of the time and region, a god of war, weather, and protector of matrilineality, his cult arrived during the New Kingdom era perhaps from Nubia and was centred in Taremu and Per-Bast, associated with the high priests of Amon, the knife, lotuses, and devouring captives
  • Ma'at - a goddess who personified concept of truth, balance, justice, and order - represented as a woman, sitting or standing, holding a sceptre in one hand and an ankh in the other - thought to have created order out of the primal chaos and was responsible for maintaining the order of the universe and all of its inhabitants, to prevent a return to chaos
  • Mafdet - she who runs swiftly, early deification of legal justice (execution) as a cheetah, ruling at judgment hall in Duat where enemies of the pharaoh were decapitated with Mafdet's claw; alternately, a cat, a mongoose, or a leopard protecting against vermin, snakes, and scorpions; the bed upon which royal mummies were placed in murals
  • Menhit - goddess of war - depicted as a lioness-goddess and therefore becoming associated with Sekhmet
  • Meretseger - goddess of the valley of the kings, a cobra-goddess, sometimes triple-headed, dweller on the top of or the personification of the pyramid-shaped mountain, Al-Qurn, which overlooked the tombs of the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings
  • Meskhenet - goddess of childbirth, and the creator of each person's Ka, a part of their soul, thereby associated with fate
  • Menthu (also spelled Montu) - an ancient god of war - nomad - represented strength, virility, and victory
  • Min - represented in many different forms, but was often represented in male human form, shown with an erect penis which he holds in his left hand and an upheld right arm holding a flail; by the New Kingdom he was fused with Amen in the deity Min-Amen-kamutef, Min-Amen-bull of his mother (Hathor), and his shrine was crowned with a pair of cow horns
  • Mnevis - was the sacred bull of Heliopolis, later associated with Ra as the offspring of the solar cow deity, and possibly also with Min; when Akhenaten abandoned Amun (Amen) in favour of the Aten he claimed that he would maintain the Mnevis cult, which may have been because of its solar associations
  • Mut (also spelled Mout) - mother, was originally a title of the primordial waters of the cosmos, the mother from which the cosmos emerged, as was Naunet in the Ogdoad cosmogony, however, the distinction between motherhood and cosmic water lead to the separation of these identities and Mut gained aspects of a creator goddess
  • Naunet - a goddess, the primal waters from which all arose, similar to Mut and later closely related to Nu
  • Neith - goddess of war, then great mother goddess - a name of the primal waters, the goddess of creation and weaving, said to weave all of the world on her loom
  • Nekhbet - goddess depicted as an Egyptian vulture - protector of Egypt, royalty, and the pharaoh with her extended wings - referred to as Mother of Mothers, who hath existed from the Beginning, and Creatrix of the World (related to Wadjet); always seen on the front of pharaoh’s double crown with Wadjet
  • Nephthys (also spelled Nebthet) - goddess of death, holder of the rattle, the Sistrum - sister to Isis and the nursing mother of Horus and the pharaohs represented as the mistress of the temple, a woman with falcon wings, usually outstretched as a symbol of protection
  • Nut - goddess of heaven and the sky - mother of many deities as well as the sun, the moon, and the stars
  • Osiris (also spelled Wesir) - god of the underworld after Hathor and Anubis, fertility, and agriculture - the oldest son of the sky goddess, Nut, and the Earth god, Geb, and being brother and later, the husband of Isis - and early deity of Upper Egypt whose cult persisted into the sixth century BCE
  • Pakhet - she who tears, deity of merged aspects of Sekhmet and Bast, cult center at Beni Hasan where north and south met - lioness protector,
  • Ptah - a creator deity, also god of craft
  • Qebui - The "Lord of the North Wind," associated with the lands beyond the third cataract (i.e. Kush and the land of the Modern Sudan.
  • Ra - the sun, also a creator deity - whose chief cult centre was based in Heliopolis meaning "city of the sun"
  • Ra-Horakhty - god of both sky and Sun, a combination of Ra and Horus - thought to be god of the Rising Sun
  • Reshep - war god who was originally from Syria
  • Satis - the goddess who represented the flooding of the Nile River, ancient war, hunting, and fertility goddess, mother of the Nile, Anuket, associated with water, depicted with a bow and arrows, and a gazelle or antelope horned, and sometimes, feathered crown
  • Sekhmet - goddess of destruction and war, the lioness - also personified as an aspect of Ra, fierce protector of the pharaoh, a solar deity, and later as an aspect of Hathor
  • Seker (also spelled Sokar) - god of death
  • Selket (also spelled Serqet) - scorpion goddess, protectress, goddess of magic
  • Sobek - crocodile god of the Nile
  • Set (also spelled Seth) - god of storms, later became god of evil, desert and patron of Upper Egypt - 'Set-animal'-headed- as one of the most prominent deities of chaos he does not have an actual animal to represent him, but is seen as an amalgamation of many different characteristics of other animals.
  • Seshat - goddess of writing, astronomy, astrology, architecture, and mathematics depicted as a scribe
  • Shu - embodiment of wind or air
  • Swenet - goddess of the ancient city on the border of southern Egypt at the Nile River, trade in hieroglyphs
  • Tatenen (also called Tenen or Tatjenen)-Ancient Nature god. Later combined with Ptah as Ptah-tenen
  • Taweret (also spelled Tawret) - goddess of pregnant women and protector at childbirth
  • Tefnut - goddess, embodiment of rain, dew, clouds, and wet weather, depicted as a cat and sometimes as a lioness
  • Thoth (also spelled Djehuty) - god of the moon, drawing, writing, geometry, wisdom, medicine, music, astronomy, magic; usually depicted as ibis-headed, or as a goose; cult centered in Khemennu
  • Wadjet - the goddess, snake goddess of lower Egypt, depicted as a cobra, patron and protector of Egypt and the pharaoh, always shown on crown of the pharaohs; later joined by the image of Nekhbet after north and south united; other symbols: eye, snake on staff
  • Wadj-wer - fertility god and personification of the Mediterranean sea or lakes of the Nile delta
  • Wepwawet - jackal god of upper Egypt
  • Wosret - a localized guardian goddess, protector of the young god Horus, an early consort of Amun, who was later superseded by Mut

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

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Egyptian pantheon. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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