What is an Ancient Egyptian Deity?What is Ancient Egypt?
The God and Goddesses who are worshipped in Ancient Egypt formed the centre of the Religion and had a plethora of rituals that went with them, as do many ancient and more modern religions. Looking back at older cultures always highlights the number of deities who were worshipped in line with what we today call natural phenomena or social phenomena. Rituals were undertaken to appease or beckon a deity to assist in daily life, local life and national life.
The majority of the deities worked to maintain Ma’at although, as with all religions, some worked against this principle to account for the “evil” in the world.
What is Ma’at?
The worldly and afterlife core that was the central guide of Egyptian life and religion.
Ma’at was so important that the concept was brought to life as a Goddess.
Pharaoh had the jurisdiction to perform all necessary religious rituals on behalf of Egypt as a whole which was ennobled on Pharaoh at the Coronation. The Coronation Rituals literally re-enacted God Horus’ accession to the Throne of Egypt in place of his father Osiris. After Coronation, Pharaoh was the Deities living representative within the Land; and would become a Deity on death.
He presided over the Temples, their Priests and Priestesses and ruled to ensure that the concept of Ma’at was maintained throughout.
Domestic Worship: Characters
Deities have a complex character list, and many performed more than one specific function; meaning that not only could they appear in human form but also in animal and object form as seen in the artwork.
Their characteristics, however, did not always stick to their “known” functions and could change and evolve over time.
Where did the Deities Live?
Each Deity, every day made their Journey from their Sky location to their earthly Temples within their Statue inside the Temple. The Deity within the Temple would become the “patron deity” for that area or City and often the surrounding lands. This allowed the Egyptians to physically interact with the Deities in daily and Festival Temple Rituals.
The Deity’s sacred force was shielded in the Temple Sanctuary from the outside with limited access to humans usually only being the Pharaoh and High Priest or High Priestess.
The Deities Families
The deities were inter-related and had very complex family trees and hierarchies. The Ancestors were often thought of as Deities or at least living with, and may be influential to, the Deities thought process. As such, most families would visit their Ancestor’s Tombs on the relevant Festival day and ask them to intervene on their behalf. These visits were usually happy events that were almost in the form of a structured picnic where families would sit with their Ancestor for the day and offer them food and drink as they were consuming.
Most of the more important Deities for intervention purposes were grouped together to form a Triad of 3 members; allowing the People and the Temples to house and worship a trio of Deities in one location.
The first is the creation of the universe
- 8 Gods of the Ogdoad serve to represent the Chaos that goes before the Creation
- They give birth to the Sun God to provide Order in the new World of Egypt
- The God Ptah, the God of Knowledge, brings form to every living thing by thinking about and then naming them
- The God Atum produces all the named things
- The God Amun watches over and ensures everything proceeds correctly
- The World is born, and the Deities work to ensure that Chaos cannot reign
- When this is done, the Deities withdraw to their sky world; away from the human world and they charge the Pharaohs of Egypt to rule in their place
There are a number of different versions of the Creation Divine Act. These do not act against each other but rather form together to all be true. This only proves to the Egyptians that the Chaos before the Creation was so volatile, and the Deities are to be thanked and called on to continue to maintain the Ma’at.
The next Divine Acts tend to involve a small number of Deities who are fighting terrifically violent battles for Ma’at against Chaos. Such as:
God Ra for Ma’at vs. God Apep for Chaos Battle each other each night
God Osiris for Ma’at vs. God Set for Chaos Battle each other for the Throne
It can be considered, as a wide thought that the Female Deities, Goddesses, acted as the Mothers and Wives of Pharaohs and the People of Egypt: nearly every Chief Royal Wife was also the Chief Priestess of the Land. In this role the Goddess was the one more closely connected to the People and embodied the “Mother” role, but do not be fooled into believing that the Goddess could not also be violent and rampage until she was appeased.
In turn, and again, as a wide thought that the Male Deities, Gods, acted as the Creator and was charged with the active role of conceiving the children. In this role the God was the one more closely connected with Creation and the policing of the World, and not the nurturing of the People.