Egyptian mythology and Egyptian gods

Egyptian mythology and Egyptian gods

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The egyptian mythology occupied a central place in the history of ancient Egypt, the egyptian gods exerting a strong influence on society and daily life in the land of the pharaohs. Very sophisticated, the Egyptian pantheon is one of the mythologies comprising the most divinities. For over 3000 years, the Egyptians strove to honor them, erecting temples and making offerings at the feet of statues. These are part of their daily life and can interfere with natural events. Atum also known as Ra is the very first god, the sun god who created the world and humans ...

Egyptian mythology and origin of the world

Originally there was the Noun, liquid chaos: the flood of the Nile mixed with mud. There was neither sun nor air. There are several versions relating to the creation of the world. The priests of Hermopolis believe that she is the product of eight deities: the ogdoade, grouped into four pairs of gods: male and female. These, which symbolize water, infinity, darkness and what is hidden, caused the Nile to recede so that the sun could emerge from a lotus bud.

From the point of view Heliopolitan, life was born in Heliopolis, the city of the sun thanks to the Ennead: the group of nine gods. The sun god Atum (evening sun) which is also called Re (Zenith sun) or Chepri (morning sun), emerges from Noun, creates a human body and dries up the mud to create the earth. He will then give birth to the first couple of god: Shou, the god of air and Tefnut, the goddess of humidity. They discover the world. Believing to have lost them, Atum sheds tears which engender the birth of men. In their turn, Shou and Tefnut, create two other gods: Geb, the god of the earth and Nut, the goddess of Heaven. This couple subsequently generates four other gods: Osiris, underground god wearing the white crown, Isis his wife, Seth : god of Chaos and Nephthys his wife.

As for the priests memphites, they envision the creation of the world with the god Ptah, gods of metallurgists, craftsmen and architects. He would have preceded Atum and would have created the world by his "thought and his creative word". Memphis, another great spiritual center of Egypt, is the rival city of Heliopolis. Ptah can take on several appearances, that of Taurus Apis or that of Osiris.

Humanity in the face of Egyptian deities

At the beginning of the world, Atum gathers the gods in revolt against him, to punish humanity deemed ungrateful. Through the lion-headed goddessSekhmet, he sent his flaming eye to mankind without wanting to eradicate it.Sekhmet is part of the Memphite triad with Ptath of whom she is the wife and their child Nefertum. She is a warrior goddess and protector of the creator. Sekhmet has an insatiable appetite, intoxicated by the smell of blood, she could not stop the carnage ordered by Atum. In order to protect mankind, the gods used cunning by making fake blood: a mixture of red ocher and beer. The goddess’s drunkenness saved humans.

Vexed at being trapped, Sekhmet went into exile in the depths of Nubia. Deprived of his formidable ally (his divine eye), Atum decided to send Thoth, the god of wisdom, in search of her to bring her back. Taking on the aspect of a monkey, he used flattery to persuade the goddess to return. Once back and appeased, it is said that Sekhmet, assumed the form of the goddess Bastet cat-headed, goddess of the home and protector of births.

Seth's jealousy and the ousting of Osiris

Before being an underground god, the god Osiris ruled over the throne of Egypt in order to bring civilization and educate humans on how to fish, cultivate the land and play music. He is the husband of his sister Isis. As for Seth, his younger brother, he is in charge of reigning over the arid deserts populated by animals.

Seth is one of Egypt's oldest and most hated gods. He is the god of storms and thunderstorms. He is represented as an unidentified animal with a long muzzle and long straight ears. Symbol of evil, it can manifest itself in animals with red coats. Despite everything, it is necessary for the balance of the universe by embodying the harmful powers there.

Jealous of his brother and eager to steal the throne from him, Seth implemented a strategy to get rid of Osiris. He invited his brother to a banquet and had a large chest brought to him which he intended to offer to one who could fully lie down in it. The guests tried in vain, Osiris lent himself to the game and fit perfectly into the safe. Seth locked him there and threw the coffin into the Nile.

When she learned of her husband's terrible mishap, Osiris’s wife decided to go in search of the coffin. Isis, located it in the Nile then hid it in the marshes of the Delta. Unfortunately, Seth found the coffin and furious, he cut up the body. in 14 pieces which he scattered across the country. Isis was not discouraged and resumed her investigation. Gradually, she was able to gather all the members, except one: the sex of the god who was eaten by the oxyrhynch fish. You should know that Isis is revered for her cunning and intelligence. With the help ofAnubis, god of the dead represented as a man with the head of a jackal, she tried to revive the body of Osiris. The latter who ends up coming out of his sleep, will now reign over the kingdom of the Dead.

An Angry Son: The Revenge of Horus

Thanks to her powers, Isis restored to Osiris her missing member and was able to conceive with him a new child: Horus. This one will be raised in secret by his mother in the reeds of the swamp of Chemnis to be protected from his uncle. He is the falcon god carrying the solar disk, his name means the one "who is above" because he is the embodiment of the sky and the sun.

As an adult, Horus claimed the inheritance of the throne of Egypt and summoned the court of the gods chaired by Re. This struggle lasted 80 years. At first, the trial does not lead to any agreement because Ré sees Seth as a counterweight to his enemy Apophis. Horus challenged his uncle to a fight of rare violence where he lost an eye and emasculated Seth. Having pity on her brother, Isis asked her son not to kill Seth. Mad with anger, he ended up chopping off his mother's head. Thoth, intervened to separate the two rivals and reconstituted a head for Isis: a cow's head and the eye of Horus which is called: loudjat.

He donated his eye to his father who could recover his sight. Horus won his case in court with the intervention of Osiris and reclaimed the throne of Egypt. He will be the first of the pharaohs.

The Eternal Enemy of Creation: Apophis

Apophis is the god of the night, recognizable by his appearance huge snake, he personifies evil. He would be the son of Neith, the goddess of war and the hunt. According to legend, every morning before sunrise he fights fiercely against Ra to prevent the dawn of day. He wishes to plunge the world into original chaos.

The fight always ends in the failure of Apophis thanks to the defenders of the boat of the solar god sailing on the Nile: Seth and his harpoon, the goddess Bastet and the disorienting powers of Isis. In the event of Eclipse, it is said that the serpent god succeeded in swallowing Ra's boat. However, Apophis cannot truly die because he is part of the universe.

The life of the gods and worship

Like humans, the gods can eat, drink, speak, wear clothes and even have feelings: anger, joy, sadness… They are dressed in the same white linen costume and hold the scepter. Yeah, emblem of power and with the other hand the sign of life: ankh (handle cross). They remain in heaven but are present on earth thanks to their ba . It’s a spirit. The Ka is the life energy that nourishes the offerings. The ba resides in the statue located in the sanctuary but can also find refuge in a sacred animal which differs according to the god.

There are several categories of gods:

  • - Cosmic deities such as air and sky or geographic deities representing rivers, mountains
  • - Zoomorphic deities, bull-headed males, Aries, falcons and women: vulture, cobra, lioness, cow ...
  • - Hybrid deities: the best known remains the sphinx

These categories include the "national" gods adopted by all of Egypt but also local gods such as Neith in Sais, Amon in Thebes, Knoum in Elephantine ... Originally each region of Egypt worshiped its own god, some of them. 'between them were exported more than others. Osiris, local god, will be venerated throughout the country which contains between 38 to 42 constituencies. As is Maat, goddess of the balance of the world and wearing an ostrich feather crown.

In order to maintain the stability of the world, the Egyptians believed that they should honor their gods with ritual offerings and festivals. Unlike Greek gods, Egyptian gods are less accessible and do not mix as easily with humans. The interactions take place in the temples. The statues bearing their likeness were treated with the greatest care because the Egyptians believed that they contained the very spirit of the god. They were given food and wine or water.

The decline of the Egyptian gods

Despite their popular immortality, some Egyptian texts evoke the possible mortality of the gods. This is the case of "Book of the Dead ” in verse 154 explaining that death awaits "every god and every goddess". The work describes the end of the world through a dialogue between Atum and Osiris who fears to find themselves in darkness. The gods would perish with the end of the cosmos itself, only the water of chaos would remain.

The loss of the pagan religion is linked to the advent of Christianity and Islam. From 383, Emperor Theodore closed many pagan temples across the Roman Empire. Egyptian temples are either abandoned or destroyed.

Non-exhaustive bibliography

- Richard H. Wilkinson, Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Infollio, Singapore, 2006

- Nadine Guilhou, Egyptian mythology, Marabout, Paris, 2006

- Guillemette Andreu, The Egyptians at the time of the pharaohs, Pluriel, Evreux, 1997

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