Ancient Egypt,  Summary of Egyptian Gods

Amen

variant spellings: Amon, Amun, Ammon, Amoun

Amen's name means "The Hidden One." Amen was the patron deity of the city of Thebes from earliest times, and was viewed (along with his consort Amenet) as a primordial creation-deity by the priests of Hermopolis. His sacred animals were the goose and the ram.

Up to the Middle Kingdom Amen was merely a local god in Thebes; but when the Thebans had established their sovereignty in Egypt, Amen became a prominent deity, and by Dynasty 18 was termed the King of the Gods. His famous temple, Karnak, is the largest religious structure ever built by man. According to Budge, by Dynasty 19 or 20, Amen was thought of as "an invisible creative power which was the source of all life in heaven, and on the earth, and in the great deep, and in the Underworld, and which made itself manifest under the form of Ra." Additionally, Amen appears to have been the protector of any pious devotee in need.

Amen was self-created, according to later traditions; according to the older Theban traditions, Amen was created by Thoth as one of the eight primordial deities of creation (Amen, Amenet, Heq, Heqet, Nun, Naunet, Kau, Kauket).

During the New Kingdom, Amen's consort was Mut, "Mother," who seems to have been the Egyptian equivalent of the "Great Mother" archetype. Their child was the moon god Khons.


Amen-Ra

variant spelling: Amon-Re

A composite deity, devised to link New Kingdom (Dyn. XVIII-XXI) worship of Amen with the older solar cult of the god Ra. In a union of this sort, the deities are said to indwell one another - so we have the power represented by Amen manifesting through the person of Ra (or vice versa). This sort of relationship is common among Egyptian gods, particularly among cosmic or national deities. It is an example of how the Egyptian gods are viewed, as Morenz puts it, of having "personality but not individuality."


Anubis

Greek version of Egyptian Anpu

Anubis was the son of Nephthys. By some traditions, the father was Set; by others, Osiris. (And by still other traditions his mother was Isis.) Anubis was depicted as a jackal, or as a jackal-headed man; in primitive times he was probably simply the jackal god.

Probably because of the jackal's tendency to prowl around tombs, he became associated with the dead, and by the Old Kingdom, Anubis was worshipped as the inventor of embalming, who had embalmed the dead Osiris, thus helping preserve him in order to live again. His task became to glorify and preserve all the dead.

Anubis was also worshipped under the form Upuaut ("Opener of the Ways"), sometimes with a rabbit's head, who conducted the souls of the dead to their judgement, and who monitored the Scales of Truth to protect the dead from the second death in the underworld.


Anuket

In Upper Egypt, around Elephantine, Anuket was worshipped as the companion (generally the daughter) of Khnum and Sati. Her sacred animal was the gazelle. She was believed to be the dispenser of cool water, and wore a feathered crown on her human head.


Apis

An early deity, probably the best known Egyptian deity represented only as an animal, and never as a human with an animal's head. Apis was most closely linked with Ptah, and his cult center was Memphis. He was primarily a deity of fertility. He was represented as a bull crowned with the solar disk and uraeus-serpent. A sacred Apis bull was kept in Memphis, and there is a great mass burial of Apis bulls, the Serapeum (named for his composite relative Serapis), located there.


Aten

variant spelling: Aton

The sun-disk itself, recognized first in the Middle Kingdom, and later becoming an aspect of the sun god. In the reign of Amenhotep IV during Dynasty 18, Aten was depicted as a disk with rays, each ray terminating in a human hand and bestowing symbols of "life" upon those below. Aten was declared the only true deity during this period, but the worship of Amen and the other deities was restored by Amenhotep IV's successor Tutankhamen. Morenz believes the name "Aten" was pronounced something like "Yati" during the height of its cult.


Atum

A primordial creator god, worshipped as the head of the Heliopolitan family of gods. Father of Shu and Tefnut, and in later times believed to be one with the sun god Ra.


Bast

variant spelling: Bastet

A cat-goddess, worshiped in the Delta city of Bubastis. A protectress of cats and those who cared for cats. As a result, an important deity in the home (since cats were prized pets) and also important in the iconography (since papyri usually show the serpents which attack the sun being killed by cats).

She was viewed as the beneficient side of the lioness-goddess Sekhmet.


Bes

A deity of either African or Semitic origin; came to Egypt by Dynasty 12. Depicted as a bearded, savage-looking yet comical dwarf, shown full-face in images (highly unusual by Egyptian artistic conventions). Revered as a deity of household pleasures such as music, good food, and relaxation. Also a protector and entertainer of children.


Duamutef

variant spelling: Tuamutef

One of the Four Sons of Horus, Duamutef was represented as a mummified man with the head of a jackal. He was the protector of the stomach of the deceased, and was protected by the goddess Neith.


Edjo

A serpent goddess of the Delta, a symbol and protrectress of Lower Egypt, the counterpart of Nekhbet in Upper Egypt, worn as part of the king's crown.


Four Sons of Horus

The four sons of Horus were the protectors of the parts of the body of Osiris, and from this, became the protectors of the body of the deceased. They were: Imsety, Hapi, Duamutef, and Qebhsenuef. They were protected in turn by the goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Selket.


Geb

variant spelling: Seb

The god of the earth; son of Shu and Tefnut; brother and husband of Nut; and father of Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. His sacred animal and symbol was the goose. He is generally represented as a man with green or black skin - the color of living things, and the color of the fertile Nile mud, respectively. Several New Kingdom funerary texts say that Geb would hold imprisoned the souls of the wicked, that they might not ascend to heaven. Note that Geb is masculine, contrasting with many other traditions of Earth being female.


Hadit


Hapi

The English version of the name of two different deities:

  1. One of the Four Sons of Horus, Hapi was represented as a mummified man with the head of a baboon. He was the protector of the lungs of the deceased, and was protected by the goddess Nephthys.

     

  2. Spelled with different hieroglyphs, Hapi is also the name of the god who was the personification of the River Nile, depicted as a corpulent man (fat signifying abundance) with a crown of lilies (Upper Nile) or papyrus plants (Lower Nile).

     


Hathor

variant spellings: Hathoor, Het-heru, Het-Hert

A very old goddess of Egypt, worshiped as a cow-deity from earliest times. The name "Hathor" is the Greek corruption of the Egyptian variants Het-Hert ("the House Above") and Het-Heru ("the House of Horus"). Both terms refer to her as a sky goddess, and the latter shows her as the consort of Horus. In later times she is often connected with, or even equated with, Isis.

She was usually shown with a solar disk flanked by cow horns on her head. At Thebes, she was considered a goddess of the dead, and wore the hieroglyph for "West" (amenta) on her head. She was also the patron of love, dance, alcohol, and foreign lands.


Harpocrates

Greek version of Egyptian Hor-pa-kraat

"Horus the Child", the son of Isis and Osiris as a little suckling child, distinguished from Horus the Elder, who was the patron deity of Upper Egypt. Represented as a young boy with a child's sidelock of hair, sucking his finger.

The old English occult group, the Golden Dawn, connected him with silence, presumably because the sucking of the finger is suggestive of the common "shhh" gesture.


Heqet

A primordial goddess with the head of a frog, worshipped as one of the Eight Gods at Hermopolis, and seen as the consort of Khnum at AntinoŽ.


Horus

Greek version of Egyptian Heru

One of the most important deities of Egypt. As the Child, Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis, who, upon reaching adulthood, avenges his father's death, by defeating and castrating his evil uncle Set. He then became the divine prototype of the Pharaoh.

As Heru-Ur, "Horus the Elder", he was the patron deity of Upper (Southern) Egypt from the earliest times; initially, viewed as the twin brother of Set (the patron of Lower Egypt), but he became the conqueror of Set c. 3000 BC. when Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and formed the unified kingdom of Egypt.


Horus of Behdet

variant spelling: Hadit

A form of Horus worshipped in the city of Behdet, shown in the well-known form of a solar disk with a great pair of wings, usually seen hovering above important scenes in Egyptian religious art. Made popular by Aleister Crowley under the poorly transliterated name "Hadit", the god appears to have been a way of depicting the omnipresence of Horus.


Imhotep

Imhotep was a historical figure. He was the architect, physician, scribe, and vizier of the 3rd Dynasty pharaoh Zoser. It was Imhotep who conceived and built the Step Pyramid at Sakkara. In the Late Period, Imhotep was worshipped as the son of Ptah and a god of medicine, as well as the patron (with Thoth) of scribes. The Greeks considered him to be Asklepios, the god of medicine.


Imsety

variant spellings: Amset, Mestha

One of the Four Sons of Horus, Amset was represented as a mummified man. He was the protector of the liver of the deceased, and was protected by the goddess Isis.

 


Isis

Greek version of Egyptian Aset (variants: Iset, Auset)

Perhaps the most important goddess (or god, for that matter) of all Egyptian mythology, Isis assumed, during the course of Egyptian history, the attributes and functions of virtually every other important goddess in the land.

Her most important functions, however, were those of motherhood, marital devotion, healing the sick, and the working of magical spells and charms. She was believed to be the most powerful magician in the universe, owing to the fact that she had learned the Secret Name of Ra from the god himself.

She was the sister and wife of Osiris, sister of Set, and twin sister of Nephthys. She was the mother of Horus the Child (Harpocrates), and was the protective goddess of Horus's son Imsety, protector of the liver of the deceased.

 

Isis was responsible for protecting Horus from Set during his infancy; for helping Osiris to return to life; and for assisting her husband to rule in the land of the Dead.

Her cult seems to have originally centered, like her husband's, at Abydos near the Delta in the North (Lower Egypt); she was adopted into the family of Ra early in Egyptian history by the priests of Heliopolis, but from the New Kingdom onwards (c. 1500 BC) her worship no longer had any particular identifiable center, and she became more or less universally worshiped, as her husband was.


Khepri

The creator-god, according to early Heliopolitan cosmology; assimilated with Atum and Ra. The Egyptian root kheper signifies several things, according to context, most notably the verb "to create" or "to transform", and also the word for "scarab beetle". The scarab, or dung beetle, was considered symbolic of the sun since it rolled a ball of dung in which it laid its eggs around with it - this was considered symbolic of the sun god propelling the sphere of the sun through the sky.


Khnum

Appearing as a ram-headed human, Khnum was worshipped most at Antinoe and Elephantine. He was another creator-god, represented as fashioning human beings on his pottery wheel. His consort was variously Heqet, Neith, or Sati.


Khons

The third member (with his parents Amen and Mut) of the great triad of Thebes. Khons was the god of the moon. The best-known story about him tells of him playing the ancient game senet ("passage") against Thoth, and wagering a portion of his light. Thoth won, and because of losing some of his light, Khons cannot show his whole glory for the entire month, but must wax and wane. The main temple in the enclosure at Karnak is dedicated to him.


Maat

Considered the wife of Thoth and the daughter of Ra by various traditions, Maat's name implies "truth" and "justice" and even "cosmic order", but there is no clear English equivalent. She is an anthropomorphic personification of the concept maat and as such has little mythology. Maat was represented as a tall woman with an ostrich feather (the glyph for her name) in her hair. She was present at the judgement of the dead; her feather was balanced against the heart of the deceased to determine whether he had led a pure and honest life.

 


Mentu

variant spellings: Month, Men Thu

The principal god of Thebes before the rise of the Amen cult; appeared as a falcon-headed man and often united with Horus. Primarily a war god.


Min

variant spellings: Menu, Amsu

A form of Amen depicted holding a flail (thought to represent a thunderbolt in Egyptian art) and with an erect penis; his full name was often given as Menu-ka-mut-f ("Min, Bull of his Mother"). Min was worshiped as the god of virility; lettuces were offered as sacrifice to him and then eaten in hopes of procuring manhood; and he was later worshiped as the husband of the goddess Qetesh, goddess of love and femininity.


Mut

The wife of Amen in Theban tradition; the word mut in Egyptian means "mother", and she was the mother of Khonsu, the moon god.


Nefertum

The youthful son of Ptah and Sekhmet, connected with the rising sun; depicted as a youth crowned with or seated upon a lotus blossom.


Neith

variant spellings: Net, Neit

A very ancient goddess of war, worshiped in the Delta; revered as a goddess of wisdom, identified with Athena by the Greeks; in later traditions, the sister of Isis, Nephthys, and Selket, and protectress of Duamutef, the god of the stomach of the deceased. Mother of the crocodile god Sobek.


Nekhbet

Upper Egyptian patron goddess, represented as a vulture in iconography, and often part of the crown of the pharaoh, along with her Lower Egyptian counterpart Edjo.


Nephthys

Greek version of Egyptian Nebt-het

"Lady of the House", the youngest child of Geb and Nut. The sister and wife of Set, and sister of Isis and Osiris; also the mother (variantly by Set or by Osiris) of Anubis.

She abandoned Set when he killed Osiris, and assisted Isis in the care of Horus and the resurrection of Osiris. She was, along with her sister, considered the special protectress of the dead, and she was the guardian of Hapi, the protector of the lungs of the deceased.


Nut

variant spelling: Nuit

The goddess of the sky, daughter of Shu and Tefnut, sister and wife of Geb, mother of Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.

Nut was generally depicted as a woman with blue skin, and her body covered with stars, standing on all fours, leaning over her husband, representing the sky arched over the earth.

Aleister Crowley, the English occultist, connected her with Hadit. This has no basis in Egyptology, save only that Hadit was often depicted underneath Nut - one finds Nut forming the upper frame of a scene, and the winged disk Hadit floating beneath, silently as always. This is an artistic convention, and there was no marriage between the two in Egyptian myth.


Osiris

Greek version of Egyptian Asar (variant: Ausar)

The god of the dead, and the god of the resurrection into eternal life; ruler, protector, and judge of the deceased, and his prototype (where in English we use the euphemism "the deceased" or "the late", Egyptians referred to "the Osiris"). His cult originated in Abydos, where his actual tomb was said to be located.

Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, thus the brother of Set, Nephthys, and Isis, who was also his wife. By Isis he fathered Horus, and according to some stories, Nephthys assumed the form of Isis, seduced him thus, and from their union was born Anubis.

Osiris ruled the world of men in the beginning, after Ra had abandoned the world to rule the skies, but he was murdered by his brother Set. Through the magic of Isis, he was made to live again. Being the first person to die, he subsequently became lord of the dead. His death was avenged by his son Horus, who defeated Set and cast him out into the desert to the West of Egypt (the Sahara).

Prayers and spells were addressed to Osiris throughout Egyptian history, in hopes of securing his blessing and entering the afterlife which he ruled; but his popularity steadily increased through the Middle Kingdom. By Dynasty 18 he was probably the most widely worshipped god in Egypt. His popularity endured until the latest phases of Egyptian history; reliefs still exist of Roman emperors, conquerors of Egypt, dressed in the traditional garb of the Pharaohs, making offerings to him in the temples.


Pharaohs as deities

From earliest times in Egypt the pharaohs were worshipped as gods: the son of Ra, the son of Horus, the son of Amen, etc. depending upon what period of Egyptian history and what part of the country is being considered. It should be noted that prayers, sacrifices, etc. to the pharaohs were extremely rare, if they occured at all - there seems to be little or no evidence to support an actual cult of the pharaoh. The pharaoh was looked upon as being chosen by and favored by the gods, his fathers.


Ptah

Worshipped in Memphis from the earliest dynastic times (c.3000 BC), Ptah was seen as the creator of the universe in the Memphite cosmology. He fashioned the bodies in which dwelt the souls of men in the afterlife. Other versions of the myths state that he worked under Thoth's orders, creating the heavens and the earth according to Thoth's specifications.

Ptah is depicted as a bearded man wearing a skullcap, shrouded much like a mummy, with his hands emerging from the wrappings in front and holding the Uas (phoenix-headed) scepter, an Ankh, and a Djed (sign of stability). He was often worshipped in conjunction with the gods Seker and Osiris, and worshipped under the name Ptah-seker-ausar.

He was said to be the husband of Sekhmet and the father of Nefertum (and later, Imhotep).


Qebehsenuef

variant spelling: Qebsnewef

One of the Four Sons of Horus, Qebhsenuef was represented as a mummified man with the head of a falcon. He was the protector of the intestines of the deceased, and was protected by the goddess Selket.


Qetesh

Originally believed to be a Syrian deity, Qetesh was a goddess of love and beauty. Qetesh was depicted as a beautiful nude woman, standing or riding upon a lion, holding flowers, a mirror, or serpents. She is generally shown full-face (unusual in Egyptian artistic convention). She was also considered the consort of the god Min, the god of virility.


Ra

variant spelling: Re

Ra was the god of the sun during dynastic Egypt; the name is thought to have meant "creative power", and as a proper name "Creator", similar to English Christian usage of the term "Creator" to signify the "almighty God." Very early in Egyptian history, Ra was identified with Horus, who as a hawk or falon-god represented the loftiness of the skies. Ra is represented either as a hawk-headed man or as a hawk. In order to travel through the waters of Heaven and the Underworld, Ra was depicted as traveling in a boat.

In dynastic Egypt, Ra's cult center was Annu (Hebrew "On", Greek "Heliopolis", modern-day "Cairo"). In Dynasty 5, the first king, Userkaf, was also Ra's high priest, and he added the term Sa-Ra ("Son of Ra") to the titles of the pharaohs.

Ra was father of Shu and Tefnut, grandfather of Nut and Geb, great-grandfather of Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys, and great-great-grandfather to Horus.

In later periods (about Dynasty 18 on) Osiris and Isis superceded him in popularity, but he remained Ra netjer-aa neb-pet ("Ra, the great God, Lord of Heaven") whether worshiped in his own right or, in later times, as one aspect of the Lord of the Universe, Amen-Ra.


Ra-Horakhty

variant spelling: Ra-Hoor-Khuit

"Ra, who is Horus of the Horizons." An appelation of Ra, identifying him with Horus, showing the two as manifestations of the singular Solar Force. The spelling "Ra-Hoor-Khuit" was popularized by the English occultist Aleister Crowley.


Sati

The goddess of Elephantine, and the consort of Khnum. Together with their companion Anuket, dispenser of cool water. Represented with human head, the crown of Upper Egypt, and the horns of gazelles.


Seker

A god of light, protector of the spirits of the dead passing through the Underworld en route to the afterlife. Seker was worshiped in Memphis as a form of Ptah or as part of the compound deities Ptah-seker or Ptah-seker-ausar. Seker was usually depicted as having the head of a hawk, and shrouded as a mummy, similar to Ptah.


Sekhmet

A lioness goddess, worshiped in Memphis as the wife of Ptah; created by Ra from the fire of his eyes as a creature of vengeance to punish mankind for his sins; later, was transformed into a peaceful goddess of pleasure and happiness, Bast.


Selket

variant spellings: Serqet, Serket

A scorpion-goddess, shown as a beautiful woman with a scorpion poised on her head; her creature struck death to the wicked, but she was also petitioned to save the lives of innocent people stung by scorpions; she was also viewed as a helper of women in childbirth. She is depicted as binding up demons that would otherwise threaten Ra, and she sent seven of her scorpions to protect Isis from Set.

She protected Qebehsenuef, the son of Horus who guarded the intestines of the deceased. She was made famous by her statue from Tutankhamen's tomb, which was part of the collection which toured America in the 1970's.


Serapis

A Ptolemaic period god, devised by the Greeks from Osiris and Apis. Supposedly the consort of Isis, god of the afterlife and fertility. Also physician and helper of distressed worshippers. He never obtained much following from the native Egyptian population, who worshipped the original Apis. His cult center was Alexandria.


Set

variant spellings: Seth, Sutekh

In earliest times, Set was the patron deity of Lower (Northern) Egypt, and represented the fierce storms of the desert whom the Lower Egyptians sought to appease. However, when Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and ushered in the 1st Dynasty, Set became known as the evil enemy of Horus (Upper Egypt's dynastic god).

Set was the brother of Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys, and husband of the latter; according to some versions of the myths he is also father of Anubis.

Set is best known for murdering his brother and attempting to kill his nephew Horus; Horus, however, managed to survive and grew up to avenge his father's death by establishing his rule over all Egypt, castrating Set, and casting him out into the lonely desert for all time.

In the 19th Dynasty there began a resurgence of respect for Set, and he was seen as a great god once more, the god who benevolently restrained the forces of the desert and protected Egypt from foreigners. This resurgence was probably due to the fact that the ruling family had red hair, long associated with Set himself.


Shu

The god of the atmosphere and of dry winds, son of Ra, brother and husband of Tefnut, father of Geb and Nut. Represented in hieroglyphs by an ostrich feather (similar to Maat's), which he is usually shown wearing on his head. He is generally shown standing on the recumbent Geb, holding aloft his daughter Nut, separating the two.

The name "Shu" is probably related to the root shu meaning "dry, empty." Shu also seems to be a personification of the sun's light. Shu and Tefnut were also said to be but two halves of one soul, perhaps the earliest recorded example of "soulmates."


Sobek

The crocodile god, worshipped at the city of ArsinoŽ, called Crocodilopolis by the Greeks. Sobek was worshipped to appease him and his animals. According to some evidence, Sobek was considered a fourfold deity who represented the four elemental gods (Ra of fire, Shu of air, Geb of earth, and Osiris of water). In the Book of the Dead, Sobek assists in the birth of Horus; he fetches Isis and Nephthys to protect the deceased; and he aids in the destruction of Set.


Sothis

Feminine Greek name for the star Sirius, which very early meshed with Isis (being the consort of Sahu-Osiris, which was Orion). Also associated with Hathor.


Tefnut

The goddess of moisture and clouds, daughter of Ra, sister and wife of Shu, mother of Geb and Nut. Depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness, which was her sacred animal. The name "Tefnut" probably derives from the root teftef, signifying "to spit, to moisten" and the root nu meaning "waters, sky."


Thoth

Greek version of Egyptian Tahuti

The god of wisdom, Thoth was said to be self-created at the beginning of time, along with his consort Ma'at (truth), or perhaps created by Ra. At Hermopolis it was said that from Thoth were produced eight children, of which the most important was Amen, "the hidden one", who was worshiped in Thebes as the Lord of the Universe.

Thoth was depicted as a man with the head of an ibis bird, and carried a pen and scrolls upon which he recorded all things. He was shown as attendant in almost all major scenes involving the gods, but especially at the judgement of the deceased. He served as the messenger of the gods, and was thus equated by the Greeks with Hermes.

Thoth served in Osirian myths as the vizier (chief advisor and minister) of Osiris. He, like Khons, is a god of the moon, and is also the god of time, magic, and writing. He was considered the inventor of the hieroglyphs, which the Egyptians called medju-netjer, "words of the gods".


Thoueris

Greek version of Egyptian Ta-urt

A hippopotamus goddess, responsible for fertility and protecting women in childbirth. Partner of Bes.


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This document is copyright © 1994 - 2000 by Shawn C. Knight. Reproduction in any form, electronic or otherwise, for profit without the consent of the author is expressly prohibited. Readers are free to quote from this document, with attributions, as reference material for research papers, USENET posts, etc.

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