[an error occurred while processing this directive] Egyptian Religion [an error occurred while processing this directive]
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  • Egyptian Religion

  • Religious Beliefs

    1. Creation Myth

      - The Egyptians created myths to try to explain their place in the cosmos
    2. Ancient gods

      - The Pantheon consisted of More than 2000 gods. Most had only a local cult center
    3. Mummification

      - Preservation of body was paramount, for without it the soul would be lost forever
    4. The Soul

      - Egyptians believed that the human soul was composed of two parts the Ba and the Ka
    5. Afterlife

      - Tombs were often visited by the family with new offerings.
    6. Magic and Symbols

      - An integral part of the religion, spells were mainly used for protection purposes

    Egyptian Sacred Texts

    1. Pyramid Texts

      - used in the Old Kingdom, and written in hieroglyphics, these texts were carved inside pyramid walls from the 5th and 6th Dynasties.
    2. Coffin Texts

      - used in the Middle Kingdom and written in hieratic, more Spells were added with time, and the texts were carved in wooden coffins
    3. Book of The Dead

      - New Kingdom spells, written on sheets of papyrus covered with magical texts, and accompanying illustrations called vignettes

    Comparison Between Egyptian Religion and Islam

    CriteriaEgyptian Religion Islam
    Images god Ra Mecca
    Gods polytheism - the worship of many deities Monotheism - Allah is the only Lord, other figures are prophets and angels
    Depiction of gods gods are male and female, sacred animals, humans with heads of animals and fully human Depiction of Allah and prophets is strictly forbidden
    Role in daily life No close personal tie between the individual Egyptian and the gods - flexible social life,
    The relationship of gods to humans was indirect, communicated by means of the Pharaoh.
    Religion guides every detail and activity in daily life - social life strictly ruled and daily worship rituals like praying are required
    Religious buildings Temples were considered dwelling places for the gods. - no ordinary people allowed inside Mosques are the used for worship by all people - people are required to attend to mosques
    Priests The High Priest and local priests duties was to care for the gods and attend to their needs, and had little contact with the common population imams duty is to preach the word of Allah
    historical developments Changes in the political power of various localities also changed the power status of the gods, with the dominance of local gods - historical developments are continuous Religion never changes over time - cult and details are constant over 1400 years
    Sacred texts There was no established book or set of teachings, book of dead deals with afterlife Quran teachings are the pillar or religion
    Teachings Humans were guided essentially by human wisdom of Justice - the concept of Maat, and only few prescribed conditions of behavior or conduct. Strict laws cover all aspects of human conduct
    Tombs Immortality assured by tomb building and mummification - Egyptians devoted much time and wealth preparing for survival in the next world. Tombs have no importance - paradise only assured by praying and following teachings

    Historical Developments of the Egyptian Religion

    Dynastic Period Cults Religious Developments
    Pre-Dynastic Period- Local animal gods and cults for every region Probably the oldest form of religious worship in Egypt was animal worship. Early Pre-Dynastic Period tribes venerated their own particular gods, who were usually embodied in a particular animal. Sometimes a whole species of animal was sacred, as cats at Bubastis. The wolf Ophois became a god of war, and the ibis Thoth became a patron of learning and the arts.

    We do not know precisely how or why certain animals became associated with certain gods. Moreover, the relationship between a god and his animal varied greatly. Thoth was not only identified with the ibis, but also with the baboon and with the moon.

    Just as a god could represent various natural phenomena, so could a single phenomenon be given different explanations. The Egyptian conceived of the earth as a disk, with the flat plains of Egypt as the center and the mountainous foreign lands as the rim surrounding and supporting the disk. Below were the deep waters of the underworld, and above was the plain of the sky. Several systems of cosmic deities arose to explain this natural phenomenon. Some attributed the creation of the world to the ram god Khnum, who styled the universe on his potter's wheel. Others said that creation was a spiritual and not a physical act, and that the divine thought of Ptah shaped the universe.

    Early Dynastic Period- Development of a National Religion c.3200 BC

    As Egyptian civilization advanced, deities were gradually humanized. Many were represented with human bodies (although they retained animal heads) and other human characteristics and attributes. Occasionally a god was a composite of various animals, such as Taurt, who had the head of a hippopotamus, the back and tail of a crocodile, and the claws of a lion. Only few animals of certain types were still worshiped, as the Apis bull at Memphis At the end of the Pre-Dynastic Period, when a combined state was created, a national religion apparently grew out of the various primitive tribal and local religions, but still there were great inconsistencies and variations as various priesthoods attempted to systematize the gods and their myths.

    Old Kingdom- Ra sun god
    - Pyramid Texts in Unas pyramid - 5th Dynasty
    5th Dynasty - The sun cult is promoted. A sun temple is built at Abu Ghorub as well as a small pyramid at Saqqara.

    The worship of Ra, the great sun god, chief of the cosmic deities, was perhaps more closely related to the fate of the royal house than to that of the people, but his cult was nevertheless one of the most important in ancient Egypt. His symbol the pyramid became the design of the monumental tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Ra was said, in fact, to be the direct ancestor of the Pharaohs of Egypt, and in certain hymns was even addressed as a dead Pharaoh. But he was more specifically thought of as a living power, whose daily cycle of birth, journey, and death was a fundamental theme in Egyptian life.

    Middle Kingdom- 11th Dynasty Mentu - Ra cult
    - 12th Dynasty Sobek in Fayum
    - Coffin Texts

    A new religious literature appeared when Coffin Texts replaced Pyramid Texts.
    These texts were painted on coffins rather than pyramid walls. They were non-royal texts used by many classes of society, and reflect the increasing spread of Egyptian funerary beliefs between all classes

    2nd Intermediate Seth cult Hyksos invaders adopt Seth cult - Seth will be later demonized as a revenge
    New Kingdom Amun combined with Ra became major cult
    - Earliest examples of the Book of The Dead in 1500 BC
    - monotheism of Aten but quickly reverted
    By the 18th Dynasty Amun the local god of Thebes, became Egypt's greatest god, united with Ra as Amun - Ra. The high priests of Amun gain power and challenge Pharaonic authority by the late 20th Dynasty.

    During the reign of Akhenaten, who based his theology on the solar god Aten and denied recognition to all but that god, a monotheistic cult was established. That unique cult apparently proved unsatisfactory to the Egyptians, after Akhenaten death, polytheism was restored.

    Ptolemaic Period Serapis new cult Ptolemy 1 Soter invents the new cult of Serapis a composite of several Egyptian and Hellenistic deities, this cult spread in the Hellenistic world, and Alexandria in Egypt, but ancient Egyptian gods remained to be worshipped in the rest of the country

    The Ptolemies respected the Egyptian religion, offered sacrifices to the Egyptian gods and raised temples such as Edfu, Philae and Denderah. Furthermore, they appeared in the official festivals dressed up like the Pharaohs.

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