Ancient Egyptian Religion
Religion in ancient Egypt was a complex set of polytheistic beliefs with their own intricately formed rituals. There was also a very intricate relationship between the ruling class, religion and the deities who were thought to be in control of the forces of the nature. Just like most other ancient societies, the rituals were centred on appeasing the gods with sacrifices and other practises. The personality of the pharaoh had central importance in this hierarchy of religious personalities as he was considered to be a direct descendant from the gods. Due to this reason, other than being the king of the land, he was also considered the supreme priest of the kingdom.
Like every religion, the religion of ancient Egypt had certain practises as rituals and worship. The detailed procedure for these rituals was recorded on papyri (Type of ancient paper) and was used by those performing rituals. Temple libraries were used to store these sacred texts. Other than specific rituals, various spells were also used in everyday life to seek guidance and help from the gods. Pharaohs and priests had large temples reserved for them where they worshipped the gods. Some of the most important gods of Egypt were Amun, Bastet, and Horus. Ordinary people, on the other hand, usually worshipped at their homes and their rituals were mostly intended to seek protection of gods from the troubles of daily life.
Egyptian Religious Prayers
A variety of prayers and hymns were part of Egyptian religion, most of which were written in the form of poetry. Hymns were devoted for praising different deities while prayers served specific purposes. Papyri and temple walls were mainly used to record these hymns and prayers. Ancient Egypt religion prayers were also devised depending on specific functions that were associated with different gods. Prayers and hymns became particularly important in the New Kingdom, which was an era of intense theological activity. While hymns were mostly a general set of praises, ancient Egypt religious prayers were devised to directly address the gods in a more personal manner. It is interesting to note that the function of prayers was lolot important before the New Kingdom because it was believed before that time that direct connection with gods was not possible.
Ancient Egypt Religious Beliefs
The most important elements of ancient Egypt religious beliefs revolved around the concepts of death, afterlife, and the functions of the deities. There were different levels of gods that formed a hierarchy of sorts, with some gods being superior to the others. Gods were also grouped together into families and specific functions were associated with each family. It is also believed that behind the facade of polytheism, there was a tendency to move towards a more monotheistic system since at the top of the hierarchy of gods, there was always the one all-powerful god. The personality of pharaoh was important in ancient Egypt religious beliefs as he was considered to possess divine powers.
Egyptians also had a peculiar concept of death in which a dead person continued to receive possessions such as food whose spiritual essence could still be consumed after death.
Just like any polytheistic religious system, the religion of ancient Egypt had scores of gods who were arranged into a hierarchy, at the top of which was the most powerful god. Some of the most important and powerful religious gods included the royal patron called Horus, the sun god Ra, and the mother goddess Isis. During the Middle Kingdom, Amun assumed the status of the royal patron. It was also common for ancient Egypt religious gods to be depicted in the form of animals indicating the particular nature of gods. For instance Anubis, who was the god of funerals, was portrayed in the form of a jackal which depicted its nature of corrupting the body.
Various ancient Egypt religious facts were similar to other ancient polytheistic systems such as found in Greece and India. For instance, some of the most important elements were specific functions associated with gods and mythologies that traced the lineage of gods with Pharaohs. Mythologies were generally symbolical stories that explained the roles of gods and their powers over nature.
Important texts of ancient Egypt religion can be classified into ritual texts, prayer and hymn texts, and funerary texts. Grand templates were built in every major town of the kingdom and significant resources were reserved for these places of worship. The Egyptians also had various religious festivals and ceremonies such as Sed festival and Opet festival. These festivals celebrated the powers of the gods and Pharaohs, and allowed the citizen of Egypt to show their respect.
The History of Religion in Ancient Egypt
It is hard to trace the beginnings of ancient Egypt religion’s history as the geological evidence is scanty. The history extends well into the Pre-dynastic period during which people had beliefs in the afterlife. Before the dynastic era, each region had its own set of deities. When one region defeated the other, the gods of the former assumed more importance and the gods of the latter were generally relegated to oblivion or were given secondary importance. At the earlier stages of ancient Egypt religion, templates were small and temporary. However, with the passage of time, more elaborate templates with grand structures began to be built. The cult of divine Pharaoh assumed its godly powers after the unification of Egypt around 3000BC.
The Religion of Ancient Egypt in Summary
The history of ancient Egyptian religion began with scattered record of prayers and haphazard practises. But with the passage of time it became a more organised whole with elaborate rituals and practises. Various official festivals became an integral part of ancient Egypt religion and oracles also assumed an important status because they were thought to act as an intermediary between humans and gods. Other than the concept of gods performing specific functions and the divine personality of pharaoh, the concept of the underworld which was later found in Greek mythology as well. According to this concept, dead people were sent to underworld where they continued to live spiritually but not physically. The temples and tombs produced during the timeline of ancient Egypt are considered among the most magnificent structures enacted by human beings on earth.