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An Intro to Gods of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt was a civilization that thrived thousands of years ago, and lasted a huge span of time. As a result, its mythology is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Spirituality was a big part of ancient Egyptian society, and we see that in the beautiful monuments that still exist today.


Ancient Egyptians believed that a pantheon of gods influenced every aspect of life, and these deities were called Neteru (sounds like "netcher-ooh"). Etymologically, there's been speculation that the neteru were connected to "nature." And indeed, every neteru, or deity in Ancient Egypt, served some function in the interconnected experience of life. There were hundreds of deities representing all of the forces of nature, thought, and existence both on this planet and in the afterlife.


Beautiful temples were built to honor the Egyptian gods and were located in the cities where they were believed to reside. These temples were designed with sacred geometry to reflect the power and grandeur of the unseen world. They were filled with intricate carvings, paintings, and sculptures of the Egyptian deities and their stories.



DEVOTIONAL WORK WITH EGYPTIAN GODS AND GODDESSES


The Ancient Egyptians offered food, drink, and other gifts to the gods every day as a way to nourish them and to strengthen the positive influence of these deities in waking life. Priests would present the gifts to the gods during elaborate holiday ceremonies--and the Ancient Egyptian Calendar had over 300 holidays or feast days in any given year.


Offerings included animals, prepared foods, incense, flowers, and other fragrant materials to the gods. It is said that the essences of beautiful scents are actually the energy of the neteru themselves. If a place smells good, it is a sign that god is present. In this context, you can imagine the importance of incense and perfume in Ancient Egypt.


In an after-ceremony called the reversion of offerings, most of what had been offered would then be given to the priests and people of the community to consume. In this way, no food was wasted, and everyone was able to enjoy the blessings of the gods.


Festivals and holidays were an opportunity for people to come together, honor their gods through song, dance, and other rituals, and to feast and enjoy themselves. The Egyptians believed that the gods would bless them with good health and prosperity in return, and these festivals lifted the spirits of the people.


Private offerings and prayers were also made by common people in their homes, and it was common for a home to have a house altar or even specific neteru that were sacred to the neighborhood, or nome. Nomes were 36 territories that spanned Ancient Egypt. Each had a protective guardian.


Because Ancient Egyptian history spans several generations with dozens of multicultural conquests, there are several different creation stories and essential pantheons. Here are some of the most popular well known Ancient Egyptian Deities that are still honored by modern priestesses and pagan practitioners today:


Ra: The Sun God




Ra was the sun god, and a god of creation who was believed to bring light and warmth to the world every day. He was depicted as a man with a falcon head, who rode across the sky in his solar boat. As he rode through each day, he would grow older until becoming an old man and passing through the darkest hour of night with a boat of deities to support and protect him. Ra was considered the king of all gods, and his daily journey across the sky symbolized the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Notably, even though Ra held this role of leadership among the neteru, all of the gods were required to pass through the darkest hours of night and initiate a new morning. In this way, the Egyptian pantheon is a display of balanced power, and a reminder that we as people are strongest when we work equitably together.


Ma'at: The Goddess of Truth and Justice




Ma'at was the goddess of truth and justice, and was associated with the balance and order of the universe. She was depicted as a woman with an ostrich feather on her head, and also represented the concept of foundational truth. One of her symbols was the plinth, upon which all of creation rested.


Ma'at was also worshipped as the patroness of scribes, and was often depicted holding a papyrus scroll, symbolizing her association with writing and knowledge. The Laws of Maat are a series of 42 ideals or guidelines that Ancient Egyptians took to heart and followed for aligned, honest living.


If the world was "in Ma'at," that meant that everything was balanced and flowing correctly, even if challenging at times. When situations are said to be not "in Ma'at," this speaks to imbalances that, when left over time, destroy the nature of life, humanity, and reality.


Djehuti (Thoth): The God of Wisdom and Writing




Djehuti, also known as Thoth, was the god of wisdom and writing. He was depicted as a man with the head of an ibis, and was considered the patron of scribes and the keeper of knowledge. The study of complex math, alchemy (meaning al-chemi or of kemet the black land of egypt) the heart wisdom of the Emerald Tablets, the philosopher's stone, and many other esoteric teaches flow through the hand of Djehuti. He was often depicted holding a writing palette and reed pen, symbolizing his association with writing and knowledge. Djehuti was also associated with magic and the sacred cycles of the moon. He's quite unique in that of all Ancient Egyptian Deities, he doesn't have a creation story, he simply exists and is always there.


Isis: The Goddess of Rulership, Sovereignty, Motherhood




Isis was depicted as a woman wearing a headdress in the form of a throne, symbolizing her role as the mother of the pharaoh and the maker of kings. Also a goddess of motherhood, Isis was revered as the protectress of children and the dead. Unlike many neteru who have animistic features, Isis is a deity who is most often depicted as a human, for her most popular creation stories depict her being a human woman, shapeshifter, and magical practitioner who worked magic in order to become a God in her own right. She was so powerful, she became known in Ancient Egypt as "one more august (or wise) than the gods."


Isis was considered the ultimate nurturer, and so beloved that she took on several roles and identities in human consciousness, ultimately being given the epithet, "Isis, Goddess of 10,000 Names." She crossed out of Egypt before the fall of the old religion, syncretizing with Roman deities like Athena, and even finding her way into the roots of Christianity as the Black Madonna. In fact, several old french altar icons and statues were created in the likeness of images of Isis holding her son, the future king, Horus.


Nephthys: The Goddess of Creativity & Sisterhood




Nephthys (Nepthys, or Nebt het, or mistress of the house) was the goddess of protection, and was associated with the afterlife. She was depicted as a woman with the hieroglyph for "house" on her head. Nephthys was the twin sister of Isis, and was often depicted as her companion in times when Isis was in deep mourning. If Isis holds the energy of sovereignty as a queen, Nephthys is the reminder that we also need times of surrender, quiet, inner reflection, deep feeling, unmanifest creative potential, and unnameable desire. Light and shadow go hand in hand as important sister.


Osiris: The God of the Afterlife




Osiris was the god of the afterlife, and the judge of the dead in the underworld. During his life, he was believed to have brought agriculture to Egypt, and was worshipped as the god of fertility. He was the husband of Isis, and together they reigned as royalty, showing humanity how to live in balance with the land, and in kindness.


Osiris was brutally murdered by his brother who craved his power and esteem. In fact, he was placed inside of a treasure chest and sent down a river to die, but his luck was so good, that a tree grew around him to protect him. The tree was later cut down to become a pillar in a great palace of a neighboring country. Isis, who never stopped looking for her husband, found Osiris inside of this wooden pillar and spent months getting close enough to rescue him. Each turn of the story includes details and parables that teach about overcoming adversity.


Once Isis was able to free Osiris she brought him back to life, only for him to be massacred and chopped into body parts--again, by his brother. When Isis tried to re-member him, putting him together again, she found all but one piece.


As a result, she could not fully resurrect him, but she was able to carry and birth his child. Osiris then became a king of the underworld, there to support from the unseen realms. He is often depicted as a man with a green complexion, who holds the crook and flail, symbols of his power and authority over all of Egypt.


Horus: The God of the Sky




Horus was the god of the sky, and was associated with the pharaohs who ruled Egypt. He was depicted as a man with a falcon head, and was considered the son of Ra. Horus was also a symbol of protection, and was often depicted as a falcon guarding the pharaohs. Interestingly, is more than one Horus in Egyptian myth. There is Horus the Elder (Heru-ur) who rules as a wise king, and the wife of Hathor. There is also Horus the son of Isis (Heru-sa-aset) who is the protected future king, and must find his personal power in his journey to guide Egypt. Sometimes Horus and Ra are also blended as Ra-Horakhty, the rising sun, "Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons."



Anubis: Opener of the Ways




Anubis is a jackal headed god often associated with the fringe areas and the quiet of the desert. He is the "opener of the ways," and stands as the guardian for esoteric mysteries and the truth of life. Also a god of mummification, and he was associated with the process of embalming the dead, and the guardian to the underworld and afterlife. Anubis was also the protector of the dead who are in the graves, and was often depicted guarding the tombs of the pharaohs. In the afterlife, he was considered the judge of the dead, and was responsible for weighing the hearts of the deceased against the feather of Ma'at to determine their fate. Djehuti would stand by him at this critical end of life, recording the results in his book.


Anubis is also the son of Nephthys, but he is taken in by Isis who acts as a sort of surrogate mother, a reminder that the mysteries of life and death are twined with self-sovereignty and personal power, which Isis represents.



Hathor: The Goddess of Love and Pleasure




Hathor was the goddess of love and pleasure, and was associated with fertility, motherhood, and the afterlife. She was depicted as a woman with cow's horns, big doey eyes, and a sun disk, and was the embodiment of all forms of love and compassion. Hathor was also worshipped as the goddess of beauty, and is one of the few goddesses who is often depicted fully face-forward and perfectly symmetrical in Egyptian art. A goddess of fertility, prosperity, and positivity, it is Hathor who heals the eyes of Horus when he is in pain, and becoming his wife, balances all forms of conquest, power, and rulership with love.


Sekhmet: The Goddess of War and Healing



Sekhmet is the goddess of war and healing, and is in fact the shapeshifting form that the Goddess of love, Hathor, takes, when she is called upon for justice and protection. Sekhmet was depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness. She was associated with the sun, and was worshipped as the bringer of light and warmth. She is highly knowledgable about medicine and surgery, and is also considered the protectress of pharaohs in battle, but she also goes to battle herself.


When Sekhmet goes to war, she is ruthless and bloodthirsty, and nothing will stop her.

Bastet: The Goddess of Cats, Joy, & Protection




Bastet (also called Bast) was the goddess of cats, and was associated with the protection of the royal home, cosmetics, beauty, perfumes. and childbirth. She was depicted as a woman with the head of a cat, and was worshipped as a protectress of women and children. Bastet was also considered the goddess of dance and music, and was often depicted playing musical instruments.


The power of Bastet's stories often point to the importance of music, dance, and moments of beauty in bringing us back to a place of joy after severe war, trauma, heartbreak, betrayal, or mortal danger. Bastet is a powerful protectress that not only alerts us to when there is physical danger, but when we are also in emotional or spiritual danger in our lives.


DEVOTIONAL WORK

As a modern priestess devoted to the gods of Ancient Egypt, I have a deep connection to these timeless spiritual deities and archetypes. They continue to be relevant and meaningful in our world today and the more they are honored, worshipped, and invoked, the more healing results from their stories.

In my spiritual practice, I combine ritual, meditation, offerings, and devotional practices to connect with the gods, and I invite you to do the same. You can do it as a believer, or as a creative experiment.

Meditation and visualization are powerful tools of devotion. You can meditate on the images or symbols of the neteru, even using the images above. Visualize the gods themselves to deepen your connection with the energetic transmission of their stories. Through reflection and meditation, you can receive guidance and experience inner transformation.

The myths, stories, and beliefs of ancient Egypt are fascinating. I wish I had more time to explore them with you, but I'll endeavor to do so in the coming months!

 

DAILEY LITTLE is a healing practitioner, transformational life coach, ordained Priestess, and teacher who founded Healing Heart Reiki to help others navigate life with joy. She offers private sessions, and teaches classes in healing and mindset from a magical peaceful corner of the world in Northern California. For more info see: www.SantaRosaReiki.com

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