Sunday, June 12, 2011

Deities of the Desert - the Egyptian Pantheon

Egypt is the land of sand, the Nile, the pyramids, and a large pantheon of gods. There are many gods within the ancient Egyptian belief system. Some have fallen into being unknown while there are many that have remained in the forefront of people’s minds.

The many gods of Egyptian mythology were grouped into what are known as Pesedjets. Pesedjets were then divided into the Great Pesedjet, Lesser Pesedjet, and Dual Pesedjet. The most common known deities in Egypt are also referred to as ‘the nine’ or The Ennead and the Great Pesedjet. The Ennead consists of Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys. Here is more about ‘the nine’.

Atum – He is the most ancient of deities after Nun. He is said to have rose out Nun as a mound of earth of his own creation.

Shu – Created by Atum by either spatting him on to the ground or by masturbation. He is the god of light. He is the twin brother and husband of Tefnut. He is the god who separated the goddess Nut from her mate Geb there by creating the sky.

Tefnut- Also created by Atum by either spatting her on to the ground or by masturbation. She is the goddess of moisture. She is the twin sister and wife of Shu. There are many tales of this goddess in ancient texts.

Geb – Also known as Seb or Qeb in the Book of the Dead. He is the son child of Shu and Tefnut. He is the Earth and the bother-husband of Nut, the sky.

Nut – She is the goddess of the Sky and the sister-wife of Geb. In some stories she is said to give birth to Ra each day so that he can journey across the sky to be swallowed by Nut to be born again the next day.

Osiris – Son of Nut and Geb and bother-husband of Isis. Osiris is one of the most popular gods in the Egyptian pantheon. He is the father of Horus the younger. The story of his death and dismemberment at the hands of his brother, Set, is epic; as is the story of his rebirth at the hands of Isis, Nephthys, Thoth, and Ra. Osiris is the god of the Underworld where he presides over the weighing of a person’s heart against the feather or Ma’at. Osiris is also seen as the god of agriculture since he is the god of re-birth.

Isis – Daughter of Nut and Geb and sister-wife of Osiris. Her commonest names are "the great goddess, the divine mother, the mistress of charms or enchantments"; in later times she is called the "mother of the gods," and the "living one." She found her husband after Set had encased him in a chest. She also helped her sister Nephthys and the god Thoth reassembles Osiris after Set had dismembered him. Isis and Osiris are the parents of Horus the younger. Isis is a very popular goddess figure from the Egyptian pantheon. Her popularity even surpassed the worship of Egypt into the Greco-Roman temples. She is known as the goddess of Motherhood, Magic, and Fertility.

Set – Also known as Sutekh in the Book of the Dead. Set is most commonly known as the god of chaos, which might come from his association with events in ancient Egypt that were terrifying, such as eclipses, thunderstorms, and earthquakes. Set has the distinction of being the only god to not have a common animal head on a human body. The head most seen as Set is referred to as the set animal since no animal know to humankind is like it. Other animals have been used as the head of Set but the unknown animal is the most common. Set is the god who became jealous of his brother Osiris and eventually destroyed him. Set is the twin brother and husband of Nephthys. All fish are sacred to Set.

Nephthys – Also known as Nebt-het in the Book of the Dead. She is the sister-wife of Set. She is seen as a nature goddess and represents the twilight time before sunrise and after sunset. She was very close to her sister Isis and helped her sister with the reconstruction of Osiris. She is one of the lesser known of the nine but she also has many stories.

Horus the Elder – Horus the Elder is not included in the Ennead. It is commonly believed that Nut and Geb actually gave birth to five children; Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. Horus the Elder was also known as the Sun God before Ra. He was also confounded with the son of Osiris and Isis, Horus the Younger, with whom many attributes were shared. Horus the Elder is associated with the Hawk or Falcon in some texts. Horus the Elder is also known as Heru-ur and the son or husband of Hathor. The symbol, “Eye of Horus”, is a powerful protective talisman.

After ‘the nine’ there are many other deities that were worshiped by the Egyptian people. Here are few of the most common known.

Anubis – the name is actually Greek; his name in ancient Egypt is Anpu. He is the jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife. He was second to Osiris in the underworld and the Guardian of the Scales that weighted the heart of a deceased person against Ma’at.

Bast – Also known as Bastet the cat goddess. She personified the playfulness, grace, affection, and cunning of a cat as well as the fierce power of a lioness.

Hathor – She is the goddess of love, music, beauty, motherhood, and joy. She is sometimes shown and a cow with the sun crown. Myth is she is also the pacified form of Sekhmet.

Ma’at - also known as Maat was the Ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice. Ma’at was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. The feather of Ma’at was used to balance against the heart of person after death, in the Duat.

These are just a few of the deities of the Egyptian pantheon. A good list of deities can be here and here.

Before you begin working with any deities it is always a good idea to do as much research as possible. Most people feel is best to represent their affinity for a particular deity by wearing jewelry that represents images of said deity. Having a statue of your deity is great way to show honor to that deity.

This is by no means a complete representation of the Egyptian deities.

Resources used include.


Wikipedia – Egyptian Pantheon 

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