Ancient Egyptians were polytheistic, with around 2000 gods at the time, people were allowed to choose their own gods in accordance to their work, life style and family values. Though some gods were highly followed like Osiris (the god of afterlife), there were gods which were hated as well like Set or Seth (the god of confusion and war). Animals were considered to be house of spirits as well and there were many Gods associated with animals.
Demons played an important role as well, considered to be stronger than humans but weaker than gods, possessing supernatural powers. Pharaohs were supposed to be the mediators between the common and the gods and were likely to keep good relations with gods and become gods themselves after their deaths. Just like modern day religions, ancient Egyptians also had different schools of religious beliefs trying to overpower their gods with each others. Temples were built as the residences for gods on their visit to the Earth and contained statues to establish spiritual contact. These temples were not meant for public worship and common people were forbidden to enter these temples. Only pharaohs and important priests could enter these temples and conduct ceremonies.
There were courtyards for ordinary people to watch the ceremonial events. Male priests were linked to male gods and female priestesses were linked to female goddesses and were considered to be subordinates known mainly for their dancing, sexual skills and music. Gods, on the other hand required a lot of attention as if they were living people. Daily, a ritual called “opening of the mouth” was to be performed in which the statues in the temple were given the offerings of food in the morning and evening, clothed in clean linen and new jewellery and had new makeup applied.
Here are some of the famous gods and goddesses which were massively followed or hated – 1. Osiris, the god of afterlife – Also identified as the god of transition, resurrection and regeneration. Osiris was considered to be a merciful judge of the dead in afterlife where he would weigh the dead’s heart with a feather of Ma’at (goddess of truth, order and righteousness). If the heart weighed more than the feather, meaning that the person was more wicked than good and the heart would be fed to a demon called Ammit completely annihilating existence. Osiris was killed by his own brother Set (god of disorder, violence and war). 2. Isis, the goddess of health, marriage and wisdom – Worshipped as the ideal mother and wife and patroness of nature and magic.
She was sister and wife to Osiris and mother to Horus (god of sky and kingship). She was so devoted to her husband Osiris, that when he was assassinated by his brother Set, she resurrected Osiris by casting spells, just to be impregnated and give birth to Horus. She is considered to be the reason of the annual flooding of the river Nile, when she sheds tears for Osiris. 3. Set, the god of disorder, violence and war – Originally called the god of desert and storm, Set was started to be hated after he conspired and assassinated his own brother, Osiris.
4. Bastet, the goddess of warfare – This goddess has a head of a cat and body of a woman. She was also depicted as the goddess of protection against diseases and evil spirits and is known to have fought an evil snake named Apep. 5. Sobek, the god of Nile – Also called the god of army, military, fertility and of crocodiles. The god has a head of crocodile and body of a man. 6. Thoth, the god of knowledge – Also called the god of the moon, measurement, wisdom, alphabet, records, intelligence, meditation, mind, logic, reason, reading, hieroglyphs, magic, secrets, scribes and writing. Depicted as a man with a head of an ibis.
7. Aten, the disk of the sun – Originally an aspect of Ra(god of the sun), Atenism was established by pharaoh Akhenaten. Aten is considered to be creator and giver of life. Aten does not have a creation myth or family but is mentioned in the funerary text, The Book of the Dead. There are thousand more gods described in ancient hieroglyphs which were praised and worshiped by the ancient Egyptians, these were just a few.