Egypt: The Magic and the Mythology

Just some of the basics of Egyptian mythology.


2. The Gods and Time

Egyptian mythology is very complex. The Egyptians believed in myriad gods. Almost 1,500 are known by name, and fewer are known in detail. These gods are represented with human, animal, hybrid, and composite forms. There are also numerous hieroglyphic representations. The Egyptian deities were worshipped for quite a while: almost three-fifths of recorded human history. Characteristics of the deities were shown through numerous myths. Artifacts such as the Narmer Palette show artistic renditions of many of these magical tales. Anthropomorphic figures are also common representations of the Egyptian deities. Some deities are more commonly known than others. Among these are Re, the “king” of the gods; Geb and Nut, the earth and sky god and goddess; and Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nepthys, the children of Nut and Geb. The common belief among ancient Egyptians was that Re was the creator. There are some however, who have a different perspective. The Memphite view claims that it is the god Ptah who was the first creator, not Re. Ptah was said to have created the world and everything in it through creative speech. Both gods are represented by the sun, along with creatures such as a falcon, a phoenix, or a scarab beetle. All of the gods were viewed as not mortal (I won’t use the word immortal because that was rarely used to describe them). Despite this, their bodies could still die. Osiris was murdered and chopped to pieces by his power-hungry brother, Seth. He later became the king of the Underworld. Re was believed to die every night and be reborn every morning. Thoth, the god of knowledge, gave both humans and gods fixed life spans using a spell from the Book of the Dead. There are various “tombs” spread throughout Egypt for the gods. Egyptians believed that death followed life and life followed death in an endless cycle. They had two views of eternity: djet, which means eternal continuity, and neheh, which means eternal recurrence. Neheh and Djet are occasionally seen personified as gods. Despite the eternal life beliefs, there was a predicted “end of time” in which Re and Osiris would be the only ones remaining until they, too, perished with the cosmos. (The Complete Gods and Godesses)

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