Throughout every aspect of ancient Egyptian life, religion played an extremely important role. The religion that the people first followed was based on a system of polytheism, which meant that they worshipped more than one deity. In this article, you will learn more about the way ancient Egyptians viewed and approached religion and the concept of death and the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptians worshipped as many as 2,000 gods and goddesses, except for during the reign of Akenaton, who abandoned polytheism and adopted worship that surrounded the Aten , the disk of the sun associated with Ra. Depending on the god or goddesses, they had a following that stretched across the entire country or enjoyed local worship. Most times, the deities were part human and part animal. For instance, Horus (the god of the sky) had the body of a human, but the head of a hawk. Overall, ancient Egyptians saw many animals as holy, especially the crocodile, bull, and cat.
Two important gods in ancient Egyptian history are Amon-Ra and Osiris. The first is thought to have served as the sun god and was known as the ‘lord of the universe’. As for Osiris, he held the position of god of the underworld. Tales that involve this god often mention the concept of immortality. It was the job of Osiris to make sure that the dead enjoyed peace while in the afterlife.
An important text associated with ancient Egyptian beliefs was called the “Book of the Dead,” which contained a great deal of prominent ideas and beliefs concerning religion. The afterlife was a significant part of the ancient Egyptian religion that many people spent a sizeable chunk of time preparing for the next world. Their actions on earth were meant to get ready to survive after leaving their physical body.
When it came to worshiping gods and goddesses, the Egyptians established temples for their deities. Constructed all over the country, each city built a temple that was devoted to the god of the region. These temples became known as the center of communication between humans and gods. The priests of the temples were put in place to take care the needs of gods. They also oversaw funeral rites, education, guiding artists and works of art, as well as serving as advisors for people with problems.
Significant goddesses of ancient Egypt include:
Isis , Worshipped as the ideal mother and wife, Isis served as the matron of nature and magic. Representing the ‘underdog’ , she held a special place in her heart for slaves, artisans, sinners, and people down on their luck. She is also the goddess of motherhood and fertility.
Hathor , Personifying the concepts of feminine love, motherhood and joy, Hathor is considered one of the most significant of ancient Egyptian goddesses who was seen as a helper of women during childbirth.
Sekhmet , Usually depicted as a lioness, Sekhmet served as the warrior goddess of Upper Egypt. The Egyptians looked up to her because she was known as the fiercest of hunters. A myth states that her breath was responsible for creating the desert. Pharaohs looked to her for protection.