Egyptian Mythology. While the best-known myths of Eros depict the son of Aphrodite as a fertility god — the version that proved inspirational to the popularized Roman god Cupid — later Greek. Generally Babylonian mythology lacks the transcendental quality of the myth of Osiris. It is more earth-bound and more materialistic. Death puts an end to the sensual pleasures of life, and the underworld of the dead is the most dismal place imaginable. Learning about the Greek myths and legends used to be an integral part of a classical education. Schools boys had these stories hammered into them from a young age, so it is no surprise that the characters and themes showed up again and again in the work that they later produced.
The ancient Egyptians really seemed to have it all. They built the astonishing pyramids, crafted volumes of myths, and lived along the gorgeous, if not tempestuous, banks of the River Nile. As with any ancient culture, the Egyptians used mythology to try to explain the world around them.
- This article is about Egyptian mythology, for Egyptians in Greek mythology, see Egyptians. Nun, the embodiment of the primordial waters, lifts the barque of the sun god Ra into the sky at the moment of creation. Egyptian mythology is the collection of myths from ancient Egypt, which describe the actions of the Egyptian gods as a means of understanding the world.
- Myths of ancient Egypt were not just mere stories but they were the observation of a very intellectual and imaginative group who saw meaning and reason in every aspect of their life. Ancient Egyptians saw god’s divinity in everything like the setting and rising of the sun, the flooding of the Nile River, the desert, the changing climate.
While some Eyptian myths explained nature's phenomena, others were told to make sense of the human condition - death and dying, love, deceit, and treachery. Regardless of their aim, myths are full of beautiful symbolism, often touting some virtue or human quality to aspire to.
8 Examples of Egyptian Mythology Stories
Students across the globe continue to pore through volumes of ancient mythological tales, and with good reason. They tell us so much about our ancestors. Let's take a look at some examples of popular myths told by the Egyptians.
The Story of Ra: Creation Myth
Not only is Ra credited with creating all the gods of the earth, he also traveled across the sky every day as the sun. At night, Ra would journey to the underworld, defeating the allies of chaos. Ra also ruled on Earth as the first Pharoah. Egyptian kings claimed they were descended from Ra, thus giving credence to their seat on the throne. They called themselves 'The Son of Ra'.
Isis and Osiris: Murder and Revenge
Isis and Osiris were two of the four children of Nut, the earth goddess. Isis and Osiris were married. As the eldest child, Osiris ascended the throne and the people loved him, but his brother, Set, was jealous of this and sought revenge. Set killed Osiris, cut him into pieces, and disperse the pieces all over Egypt.
Isis, however, had great magical powers. She traveled across the land, collected all the pieces of Osiris, breathed life back into them, and resurrected him. Soon, they conceived a child together, Horus, but Osiris could not return to the land of the living and went on to rule the underworld.
Horus and Set: A Mythical Murder Plot Continues
When Horus grew to be a man, he challenged Set to the throne. A series of battles ensued but, to no surprise, Set didn't play fair and kept coming out the victor.
Eventually, Isis stepped in to help Horus. She set a trap for Set, but he begged her for his life and she let him go. This infuriated Horus. His rage was so strong that it even upset the other gods. In a final match, a boat race, it looked like Horus was going to be the victor. Infuriated, Set turned into a hippopotamus and attacked Horus' boat. Yet another fight ensued and their fellow gods declared the match a tie.
In the end, Osiris was consulted to see who should be king. Osiris declared that no man should take the throne through murderous ways, as Set had. In the end, Horus took his rightful place, while his father continued to rule the underworld.
Ma'at: The Goddess of Morality
Ma'at was the goddess of truth, justice, and morality. She was the daughter of Ra and wife of the moon god, Thoth. She weighed the hearts of the dead to decide who should have eternal joy in the afterlife.
Her Feather of Truth was the determining factor. Once placed on a scale, if the deceased's heart was heavier than her feather, they would not be permitted to journey to paradise. If the heart was deemed too heavy, a demon would devour it, causing the deceased to die a second time.
Anubis: A Death Myth
Anubis was an ancient Egyptian god who had many roles around death. He was initially the lord of the dead but as Osiris became more popular he took over that role. Anubis' story was then changed and he came Osiris' son and helper in the afterlife.
Anubis was the protector of tombs and inventor of mummification. He was also tasked with taking the dead souls to the underworld and overseeing the weighing of the heart.
The Book of Thoth
The Book of Thoth contained all the knowledge of the gods. It was nestled in the bottom of the Nile and locked in a series of boxes guarded by serpents. Many pharaohs tried to gain access to it during their reign, but it was never opened.
It's said that the knowledge in there was never meant to be possessed by mere mortals. Perhaps this helped the Egyptians make sense of the things they still couldn't quite understand. Somewhere - out there in the bottom of the Nile - lay all the answers.
The Girl With the Rose-Red Slippers: A Myth About Love
Ever wonder where Cinderella originated? Well, this is the tale of a Greek girl named Rhodopis who was sold into slavery in Egypt. A very kind man bought her and, in turn, provided her with a home and showered her with beautiful gifts. One day, an eagle swooped down and stole one of her rose-red slippers. It was delivered to the pharaoh Amasis. Amasis asked to meet the owner of that slipper and the rest, shall we say, is history. The two fell so deeply in love they even died on the same day.
The Princess of Bekhten: A God who Saved a Princess
Pharaoh was visiting Nehern, collecting his annual tributes, when the prince of Bekhten presented him with his eldest daughter. Pharaoh accepted the princess and took her back to Egypt, making her the chief royal wife. She was named Ra-neferu.
Years later, her sister Bent-Reshet became ill. The prince of Bekhten asked Pharaoh for help. He sent a physician but her illness was the work of an evil spirit. Pharaoh then went to the temple of Khonsu Nefer-hetep and asked the god to heal her. The god confronted the evil spirit, immediately causing it to leave Bent-Reshet.
The prince tried to keep the powerful Khonsu in Bekhten but after three years he returned home. The prince felt ashamed for trying to keep the god there and thanked him by sending many gifts and offerings. When the tribute arrived in Egypt the pharaoh placed it at the foot of the statue of Khonsu in the Great Temple.
Myths and the Human Condition
Perhaps the human condition will continue to confound us. Even with experts in psychology, there's much we just can't figure out. The shock of a vengeful murder plot will continue to do just that: shock. Happily-ever-afters will continue to elate hearts.
We humans tend to want to put things into their proper 'boxes' in an attempt to understand the world and people around us. It's amazing to think that we have this in common with the same great men who built the pyramids centuries ago.
Egyptian Gods Myths
Cults and Deities
Religion and religious cults played a central role in all aspects of ancient Egyptian society. The king, or pharaoh, was the most important figure in religion as well as in the state. His responsibilities included ensuring the prosperity and security of the state through his relationship with the gods.
Role of the King. The ancient Egyptians believed that the king was a divine link between humans and the gods. As a living god, he was responsible for supporting religious cults and for building and maintaining temples to the gods. Through such activities, he helped maintain order and harmony.
The idea of order, or ma'at, was a basic concept in Egyptian belief, reflecting such notions as truth, cooperation, and justice. Egyptians imagined their world as being surrounded by chaos that constantly threatened to overwhelm ma'at. By pleasing the gods through his religious obligations, the king could maintain order and protect society from disorder.
cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god
chaos great disorder or confusion
Egyptian Mythology Gods
Because of his critical role in promoting the welfare of Egyptian society, the pharaoh was in some ways more important than any individual god. His official names and titles reflected his special relationship to the gods, particularly to the sun god Ra and the sky god Horus. Some kings sought to gain full status as gods during their lifetimes. Others achieved that position after their deaths.
The Egyptian Pantheon. Ancient Egypt had a remarkably large and diverse pantheon of deities, with many national, regional, and local gods and goddesses. Unlike the gods of some cultures, who lived in a special place in the heavens, Egyptian deities were thought to inhabit the temples of their cults. Daily temple rituals involved caring for the gods and providing them with food, clothing, and other necessities.
Egyptian gods tended to have shifting identities. Many did not have clearly defined characters, and their personalities might vary from one myth to another. Although most deities were known by certain basic associations—such as the connection of the god Ra with the sun—these associations often overlapped with those of other gods. Some deities possessed a collection of names to go with the different sides of their personality. For example, the goddess Hathor, who helped the sun god, was also called the Eye of Ra. Sometimes the names and characters of two or more gods were combined to form one deity, such as the combination of the sky god Amun and Ra (Re) into Amun-Ra. The creator god Atum merged with Ra to become Ra-Atum. Nevertheless, such deities might continue to exist separately as well as in their combined forms.
Egyptian gods also could assume different forms, often combining both human and animal features. If a deity was closely associated with a particular animal or bird, he or she might be shown in art with a human body and the head of that animal or entirely in animal form. Thus, Horus appears with the head of a falcon, Sekhmet with the head of a cat, and Set is portrayed as a donkey or huge dog. Sometimes a god was linked to several animals, each reflecting a different side of his character.
The gods were powerful and for the most part immortal, but their influence and knowledge had limits. Still, they had the ability to be in several places at the same time and could affect humans in many ways. Although generally benevolent, gods could bring misfortune and harm if humans failed to please them or care for them properly.
Egyptian deities were often grouped together in various ways. The earliest grouping was the ennead, which consisted of nine gods and goddesses. The most important of these, the Great Ennead of the city of Heliopolis in northern Egypt, contained the deities associated with creation, death, and rebirth. Another major grouping was the ogdoad —four pairs of male and female deities. Triads, found mainly in local centers, generally consisted of a god, a goddess, and a young deity (often male).
Most Egyptian religious cults centered on a temple and the daily rituals performed there. Each temple contained images of the cult's god, generally kept in the innermost part of the building. Daily ceremonies involved clothing, feeding, and praising the god's image. The pharaoh had overall responsibility for all cults, but the temple priests supervised the daily rituals. Although temple rituals affected the welfare of all the people, common Egyptians rarely took part in them. They attended only special festivals, which often included processions of the god's images and reenactments of popular myths.
immortal able to live forever
benevolent desiring good for others
Major Deities. Although Egypt had thousands of gods and goddesses, only a few were regarded as major deities. The sun god Ra (Re) was a deity of immense power, considered to be one of the creators of the universe. The combined god Amun-Ra, a mysterious creator spirit, was the source of all life. Ra-Atum represented the evening sun that disappeared each night below the horizon and rose again at dawn. Another sun god, Aten, became the focus of religious reform in the 1300s B . C ., when the pharaoh Akhenaten tried to make him the principal god of Egypt.
Egyptian Mythology All About Myths Aliens
Osiris, Isis, and Horus, who made up the best-known Egyptian triad of deities, played leading roles in some of the major Egyptian myths. Osiris, the lord of the underworld and god of death and resurrection, was the brother and husband of Isis, a mother goddess of Egypt. Horus was their son. Osiris and Isis were the children of the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut. Set, another child of Geb and Nut, changed from a benevolent god to an evil one and murdered his brother Osiris.
One of the oldest goddesses of Egypt was the sky goddess Hathor, a mother goddess sometimes known as a deity of fertility, love, and beauty. Ptah, another ancient deity, was credited in some myths with creating the world and other gods. Thoth, a patron of wisdom and arts, was the scribe of the gods. He was said to have invented hieroglyphics, astronomy, mathematics, and medicine, as well as to have written the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Anubis, a god of the dead, presided over funerals and guided dead souls through the underworld.