Egyptian mythology

Ab: The grain god. The name probably means "father", exactly the same as the Yehudit Av (אב).

Amenti: The goddess of the underworld and of fertility.

Amun: sometimes written in English as Amon, the Egyptian god of wind, fertility, and secrets. Like Greek Ouranos, he had thousands of children, including Bast, Neith, Hapi, and Khons. Amun is often shown with the large, curving horns of a ram unique to the Nile Valley; also as the Sphinx. He is sometimes referred to as Amun-Ra, a combination of Amun and Ra (this was normal in the ancient world, as cults developed: so we see Apollo and Dionysus merge in the Greek world, and names like Eli-Yahu in that of the Beney Yisra-El). The  name probably means "The Invisible One".

Anhur: The god of the power of the sun. He was depicted as a warrior wearing a headdress with four tall, straight plumes. He represents the elements of air and fire.

Anubis: Primarily the god of embalming and of cemeteries, and as such, obviously, connected with the dead and the underworld and the Afterlife. However, the Jackal does not generally come in the colour black, and his coat not only symbolises the discolouration of the body after death, but also the fertility of the Nile, as the rich silt that floods the banks every year is also black in colour. Therefore, he is not only a symbol of death, but a symbol of rebirth, of the cycles of life, of Karma. Some scholars identify Set with Anubis, but others say no.

Apep: The serpent in Egyptian lore that tries to destroy the sun every day; an element of the moon goddess in their eternal spousal battle, equivalent to Shimshon (Samson) and Delilah, Adam and Lilit.

Atchet: The Egyptian goddess who nurses children.

Aten: In Egyptian lore, the disk of the sun. A unique cult arose around ATEN for a very brief period under Pharaoh 
Amenhotep IV, the father of Tutankhamun (pictured at the top of the page)and is generally regarded as an early precursor of monotheism. Aten should not be counted in the regular pantheon of the Egyptian gods, but rather as a passing anomaly; nonetheless, his central shrine was at On, called Heliopolis by the Greeks, where the Pharaoh had his palace and Yoseph (Joseph) served as Vizier and High Priest. 

Athor: The Egyptian goddess of light. One of the daughters of Ra.

Atum: The sun god. In some creation myths he is the creator of the universe. The father of Shu and Tefnut, he is astrologically related to the Leo sign of the zodiac.

Atum: The city of On (Heliopolis) had a creator-deity who was also a sun-god. Atum fathered the twins Shu and Tefnut, who married and fathered the twins Geb and Nut, who married and fathered the twins Osher (Osiris) and Eshet (Isis), Set and Nephthys; the eternal recurrence of incest and of twins - cf the equivalet tales in the Tanach! Given Atum's role in Creation, is he a variant of Adam?

Bastet: cats were sacred to her.

Bes: A dwarf-god. In contrast to the other Egyptian deities, who were usually depicted in profile, Bes was depicted full face. He was originally the protective deity of the royal house of Egypt, but came to be a popular household deity throughout Egypt. He was believed to guard against evil spirits, protect children, kill snakes, and ward off misfortune. He assisted Tawert in childbirth and was associated with fertility and human pleasures.

Buto: The main Egyptian Delta goddess, commonly associated with serpents and snakes, especially the cobra. She would protect those she favored by spitting poison in their face or burning them with her glare. She is the Queen of the goddesses and a symbol of the Pharaoh's reign over the land.

Chons: 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, Chons cannot show his whole glory for the entire month, but must wax and wane.

Duamutef: O
ne of the sons of Horus, he protected the stomach of the deceased.

Emutet: The cobra-headed goddess of the harvest and agriculture.

Geb: The god of the earth, symbolising the element of fire. Known as 
"The Green Man", and always depicted as such, with a goose on his head, often shown lying down beneath the feet of Shu with his phallus pointing straight up. He was said to imprison the souls of the dead, disallowing them to move on to the afterlife. His laughter caused the earth to shake. Many shrines in Kena'an (Canaan) bore his name, including important ones like Givon and Giv-Yah; these were probably the result, early on, of Egyptian conquest and colonisation; later, in Solomonic times, of political marriage; then after Solomon of further conquests - as with Set, there is much evidence that post-Mosaic Hebrewism still included much that was Egyptian. (Other scholars identify Geb as female - see the essay on Goddesses).

Gengenver: The Egyptian fowl god, depicted in the form of the goose who laid the Cosmic Egg.

Hapi: The deification of the blessed river Nile. Eventually she came to be thought of as the creator of everything, presumably because, for the Egyptians, without the waters of Hapi, all life would perish. Also known as Hapy, she was the goddess of the annual Nile-flood.

Hat-Hor: "The Beautiful Face In The Boat For Thousands Of Years". The Egyptian goddess of joy and love and beauty and happiness; she also represented the element of Air and was identified with the moon, specifically, the horns of the moon which are the waxing and waning crescents, and through that image with the cow.

Hiqait: the frog-headed midwife who was present at the birth of the world. 

Horus: "The Mighty One of Transformations". The son of Eshet (Isis) and Osher (Osiris), he was the god with the all-seeing eye (compare his eye in this illustration with the Eye of Ra in the cat portrait above). His animal is the falcon. To understand the cycles of Horus' life, you should know his manifestations. The father of the gods; the falcon was sacred to him.

Imhotep: The god of healing who was raised from mortality to god status.

Imseti: The god who protected the liver of the dead.

Isis (this is the Greek name, the Egyptians knew her as Eshet = "mother"): mother goddess of the day and of moisture. It was Eshet who retrieved and reassembled the body of Osher (Osiris) after his murder and dismemberment by Set. Because of this she took on the role of a goddess of the dead and of funeral rites. She impregnated herself from the corpse and gave birth to Horus in secret, hiding the child from Set in the papyrus swamps. Horus later defeated Set and became the first ruler of a united Egypt. Eshet, as the mother of Horus, was revered as the mother and protectress of the Pharaohs. The relationship between Horus and Eshet may have been an influence on the Christian relationship between Jesus and Mary. Icons of Eshet holding the infant Horus as he suckled are quite remininscent of such images of Jesus in Mary's arms. Statues of Eshet and Horus were gradually disallowed by the Christian churches.

        "Oh Isis, Great Goddess, Mother of God, and Creator of Life You reign over

         Philae and all other lands. Oh Mighty Goddess, Queen of Philae You rule
         over the celestial bodies And give the stars their place." 
                                                                                         A Hymn to Isis
Khepera: "The Self-Created". Another god of the sun, his symbol was the scarab beetle. He symbolised the element of Air and was also known as Kherpi.

Khnum: The god of childbirth. Sometimes shown as a ram-headed human, often at a potter's wheel forming the child in the womb with his clay.

Ma'at: The goddess of truth, justice and the order of the universe. Her symbol was the feather. She sat in the Underworld, judging the souls that passed through.

Mary the Egyptian: A rather belated figure in Egyptian mythology, representing the abstract ideal of Love.

Maskhonuit: the goddess of birth and the cradle. 

Mertseger: the goddess of flowers and death. Usually depicted with the head of a snake.

Meshkent: The goddess of birth. It is said that she will be present on Judgement Day.

Min: "The Firm One". Yet another god of fertility, on this occasion specifically connected with the rain, with agriculture, and honoured as the protector of roads and travellers. His epithet suggests that he symbolised sexual prowess as well as fertility.

Montu: "Nomad". The god of war.

Mut: The original Egyptian mother goddess. The wife of Amun, she had thousands of children, among them Bast, Neith, Hapi, and Chons. She lost importance once Eshet (Isis) became the primary mother goddess. She too symbolises the element air.

Neith: "Our Lady Of The Sails". The goddess of war and weaving, a symbol of strength, love, the moon and courage.

Nepthys: The goddess of death and mystery, she is said to have guarded the corpse of Osher (Osiris) along with Eshet (Isis). Also called Nebt Het, Nebet Het, Nebthet, or Neb-hut, Nephthys is the Greek version of her name.

Nut: The goddess of the sky. 

Osher (Osiris): Originally the god of the the corn - or really of all vegetation - he became the god of life, death, the after-life and the underworld. Osher 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 (in some versions his uncle) Set. Through the magic of Eshet (Isis), he was restored to life. Being the first living thing to die, he subsequently became Lord of the Dead. 

                          Homage to thee, Osiris, Lord of eternity, King of the Gods, whose names are 
                          manifold, whose forms are holy, thou being of hidden form in the temples, 
                          whose Ka is holy. 
                                                            "Hymn to Osiris", The Papyrus of Ani, 240 BCE.

Ptah: The creator-god of Moph (Memphis), he made the cosmos and the bodies in which Humankind's souls dwell. Some legends say he created things as Thoth directed him to. It is also said that he created the elder deities. He is shown as a bald man, a scarab beetle, or a hawk. He can be invoked for stability, and served as the god of craftsmanship. The Apis-bull (Hapi-Ankh) was scared to him, the 
equivalent of Nandi to ShivaPtah's consort was the lion-goddess Sekhmet; Shiva's was called Shakti - just one more instance of Jones' "common source". The son of Ptah and Sekhmet was the Sphinx-Pharaoh. The priests of Ptah were responsible for Egypt's art and architecture. A Memphis text of the mummy-god Ptah has Creation as "every divine word came into existence by the thought of the heart and the commandment of the tongue", which parallels the Divine Creation through Naming in Genesis and the Greco-Christian concept of the Logos. In Hebrew lev (לב) = "heart" and was the seat of thought (cf John Donne's "naked, thinking heart". The idea is that the heart conceives, the tongue realises - and this 2000 years before Genesis! The Greeks identified this mummy-god with Hephaestus - his priests bore the title "master of the master craftsman" (cf Tuval Kayin).

Qebehsenuf: The god who protected the intestines of the deceased. One of the four sons of Horus.

Qetesh: Another of the many Egyptian deities, this one a goddess, associated with love, nature and beauty. She was depicted as a beautiful nude woman, standing or riding upon a lion, holding flowers, a mirror, or snakes. She was generally shown full-face, which is unusual in Egyptian artwork. She can be invoked for matters of the heart, fertility, beauty, and self-esteem.

Ra: The Egyptian sun god, comparable with the Christian God, as a supreme deity and creator. He created the eight great gods, and the human race came from his tears. He was usually depicted as a human, with a falcon's or ram's head. The sun was either his eye or his body. He traveled the sky every day, passing over the lands and then going down into the Underworld. Because of this legend, he is considered to be the god of the Underworld as well, though generally this role was identified elsewhere. Ra also stopped wars between humans because he was too decent to let them perish. He may be invoked for cat magic. Ra was also known as Re; as the sun-god he crossed the sky by day in a heavenly boat bearing the souls of the dead to Osher (Osiris) in the Underworld. In 2450-2350 the sun-god Re appears as the father of Pharaoh, rather than as his son, the role of Horus was previously. He is identified with Atum, but is actually different, a fact which may reflect a multitude of different god-lists amongst different Egyptian people, later amalgamated, or merged, and the reason why there are so many gods, and so many repetitions of functions, associations, elements and symbols. The first three Pharaohs all claimed virgin birth (as opposed to being born from "the mouth of Hat-Hor"); in this a masculinisation appears to be taking place, as it did throughout the Middle East: can we date the end of the matriarchy here as well?

Renenutet: The goddess who took care of children. Also known as Renenet.

Renpet: The goddess of the year, youth, and spring. Portrayed as a woman wearing a palm shoot on her head.

Sati: The goddess of the elephantine; she too was understood to symbolise the element of Fire.

Sebek: The crocodile god, he assisted in the birth of Horus, according to the Egyptian "Book of the Dead". Also known as Sobek.

Seker: The god of light and the protector of souls passing to the Underworld. He was usually depicted with the head of a hawk, and wrapped like a mummy.

Sekhmet: The goddess of the sunset, destruction, death and wisdom. Originally created by Ra from his fire to be a creature of vengeance who would punish humans for their wrongdoings, she became a loving goddess of peace and compassion, and a protectress of the righteous. Her symbols were the lion and the desert. She symbolised health, rebirth, fire and wisdom. 

                  O Lady, Mightier than the Gods, Adoration rises unto Thee!
                  All beings hail Thee! O Lady, Mightier than the Gods! 
                  Preserved beyond Death That Secret Name, 
                  O Being Called Sekhmet. 
                  At the Throne of Silence even, 
                  shall no more be spoken than Encircling One! 
                  I lose myself in Thee! 
                                                        "Hymn to Sekhmet".

Selket: Scorpion-goddess and helper of women in labour, often depicted as a beautiful woman with a scorpion on her head. Her scorpions would strike death to the wicked, but she saved the lives of the innocent people who were stung by scorpions. She was also viewed as a helper of women in childbirth.

Set: The god of darkness and evil, best known for murdering his brother, but also revered as a protector of Egypt. Set was one of the earliest Egyptian deities, a god of the night often identified with the northern stars. He was variously hailed as a source of strength, and a protector, especially from the serpent Apep. Within Egyptian theology, there are conflicting opinions regarding Set's strength, and his warlike resolution. At first, pictures of a god with two heads appeared - that of Set, as the god of darkness, and that of his brother Horus, god of light, a pre-Zoroastrianism we might say, or a pre-Gnosticism, reflected in the Dualism of Christianity. At first this was a symbol of harmony, the union of polarities. However, later, it came to be regarded as a symbol of the conflict between dark and light. Set is depicted as being untamed and wild looking with white skin and fiery red hair. He is symbolized by barren wastelands and deserts. Also known as Seth and Seti.

Shai: The god of destiny and fate. Also known as Shait.

Shu: "The Dry One". The god of the air, he p
ersonifies the sun's light rather than the sun itself. He was usually represented in human form, sometimes as a warrior, or else as a lion, or a lion-headed man with a feather.

Sothis: The Egyptian feminine name for the dog-star Sirius.

Tefnut: Goddess of precipitation and clouds. Her sacred animal is the lion.

Tauret: "The Great One". Yet another goddess of childbirth, once again suggesting that this list is really an amalgamation of many different pantheons. She was depicted as having the head of a hippopotamus, the arms and legs of a lion, the breasts of a woman, the tail of a crocodile, and a great swollen belly like a pregnant woman. Her fierce and strange appearance was supposed to frighten away any spirits that were a threat to the safety of the baby. She is often in the company of Bes, the dwarf god. Pregnant women in Egypt used to wear amulets bearing the goddess' head. Also known as Taweret, Taurt, Apet and Opet.

Thoueris: The hippopotamus goddess of fertility, women and childbirth, which means she could very well be yet another name for Tauret.

Thoth: The god of wisdom, considered to be a messenger or intermediary between the gods and the god of the Underworld, a Vizier to Osher (Osiris) we might say, thinking of how Yoseph in the Bible story ruled the land of the dead (a pit first, then a prison), but was "restored to life" by Pharaoh. His animal symbols are the ibis and the baboon. He is a god of the moon, and is associated with magic, communication, time, mathematics, scholarship, music, medicine, astronomy, drawing and writing - just like Yoseph! He was also known as Tahuti and Djeheuty, both of which sound like names from further south in the African continent, and add to the conviction of amalgamated deity-lists, perhaps reflecting the difference between Lower and Upper Egypt. Thoth was also held to be the god of the moon, which makes for yet another double; the ibis was his sacred bird. Note that the moon gods to the Egyptians were always male. His shrine was at Khmunu, "the city of the Eight {principal deities]", known by the Greeks as Hermopolis, because they identified him with Hermes.

Upuat: "He Who Opens the Way", the jackal or wolf-headed god of the dead.

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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The Argaman Press

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