Chapter 5 – Religion - Harrisburg Academy Blog

Ancient Egyptian Religion
Chapter 5
Things to know…
 Religion provided the Egyptians with a sense of security.
 They had no word for religion
 Religious ideas represented an inseparable part of the
entire world order
 Invented stories to explain the world around them
 They were polytheistic
 Definition – belief in many gods
 Egyptians hoped to gain new life after death.
When we try to make some sense out of the many
Egyptian gods and goddesses, we must keep in
mind that because ancient Egyptian civilization
existed for more than three thousand years, the
deities and myths gradually changed over time as a
result of new ideas, contact with other peoples, and
changing cultural values.
 Egyptian gods were also thought of as characters in
human-like bodies, but often with animal heads.
 Paintings were discovered on caves of priests wearing
animal masks.
 Gods were connected to animals. They believed
that immortal spirits inhabited the bodies of
animals. They hoped that by pleasing the spirit
with their prayers, it would provide them with
plenty of animals for the hunt. They also prayed
to dangerous animals to keep themselves safe.
The Power of the Sun - Ra (Re)
 Ra (Re), the sun god, is pictured with the
falcon-head of Horus and the sun disk
and the sacred serpent
 Ra had been the main sun god of Egypt since as far
back as the Old Kingdom.
 He is the most important deity because he creates life
and death. Egyptians knew this because the sun gave
life and could take it away.
Belief in an Afterlife
 They believed, like crops, people could return to
 Death viewed as a beginning, not an end.
 Everyday Ra was reborn in the morning, traveled
across the sky in his boat, then traveled to the
Land of the Dead when the sun set
 His journey symbolized life,
death, and rebirth.
Myth of Osiris
 Explains the miracle of rebirth
 Osiris’s evil brother, Seth tricked him into getting
into a chest, then threw it into the Nile. Isis and
her sister found it.
 Seth then cut Osiris into 14 pieces and threw
them into the Nile. Isis gathered the pieces and
took them to the Anubis, who wrapped them in
linen and restored Osiris to life.
Anubis – god of mummies
 Jackal-headed god responsible for the processes of
embalming and the protection of cemeteries.
 He guided the deceased through the underworld
which entailed a special judgment ceremony called
"The Weighing of the Heart" which
determined whether or not the person
could go on to Osiris.
 If the heart is heavy with sin, it is
thrown to Ammut!
 Head of a crocodile, mane and front legs of a lion,
and hindquarters of a hippo.
 It was believed that when a person died, the soul
had to pass through a dangerous underworld
known as Duat where it faced all sorts of dangers
like monsters and lakes of fire. If the heart is
heavy with sin, it is thrown to Ammut,
"the devourer of the dead," who
gobbles it up, denying the spirit an
afterlife and causing it to cease to exist!
 Queen of the gods.
 Both sister and wife of Osiris, mother of
Horus and the daughter of Nut and Geb.
 Goddess of fertility and motherhood,
love and gaiety, and she had magical skills.
 Also goddess of the harvest
Who’s who among deities:
 NUT – Goddess of the sky
 GEB – God of the earth
 SETH – God of violence. Evil brother of Osiris
 HORUS – Son of Osiris and Isis; defeated his evil
Uncle Seth and became the king of Egypt
 BASTET – Spirit of the cat, symbolized by this
goddess was called “miu”
 HAPI – God of the Nile’s flooding cycle and provider
of rich, fertile soil. Released the water from a jar
The Power of Ma’at
 State of perfect harmony
 Also the name for the goddess, depicted with
outstretched wings
 When Ma’at was upheld Egypt prospered – the
Nile flooded normally, enough crops were
produced, and invaders stayed out
 If Ma’at was disturbed, there was a return to
SCARAB BEETLE – This insect became
a symbol of regeneration and rebirth.
Placing one of these in a tomb helped the
person achieve an afterlife
Symbol of good health
 ANKH– Egyptian symbol for
eternal life
AMULETS – Small statues of the
gods worn around the neck to
bring luck
APIS – Sacred bull in
the temple of Ptah, said
to have magic and
medicinal powers.
So Many Deities!
 Remember, the Egyptians didn’t eliminate old
beliefs when they added something new.
 Some gods, like Osiris and Ra were worshipped
by everyone
 Others were regional
 Taweret – goddess of childbirth
 Bes – god of pleasure
 Meretseger – worshipped to prevent snakebites
• Had the power to communicate
with the gods and interpret messages for the people.
• Priesthood was passed down from father to son
• Pharaoh was the highest priest
• Greatest legacy was passing down reading and writing
to the next generation
Typical Day of a Priest…
 Awakens the gods by singing and burning incense
 Takes old robes off the statue and puts new ones on
 Offers the god food and wine. The statue receives
three meals a day
 Statue gets a fresh robe at night
 Priest bathes four times and shaves twice during the
 Sweeps floor of sanctuary and backs out to erase
Amonhotep IV
• Pharaoh who tried to change Egypt’s religion from
polytheistic (worshipping many gods) to
monotheistic (worshipping one god)
• The one god was the sun god, Aten, who was the
creative force of the universe
• He changed his name to Akhenaten, which means
“pleasing to Aten”
• Wife was the beautiful Nefertiti