In ancient time, much of what happened to be experienced by people was unknowable and thus scary. The world was full of mysteries. People lacked knowledge and understanding. Therefore, they created stories to provide meaning of worldly as well as natural cycles. Egyptian mythology, for instance, shade light on people’s belief, understanding of the world and even ways of living in the past. They passed on stories about gods and goddesses through oral tradition. Despite there being arrays of deities but all of them epitomized the same thing; each of them had one principle association and form, i.e. sky, heaven, weather, or earth.
Greece isn’t the only country in the world that has the large quantity of pantheons of divine beings. Egyptian mythology also comprises the collection of deities of civilization which are just as massive and complex. That being said, it’s also important to remember that Egypt, much like Greece, did not have a unified, standardized state religion (‘did not’ being the operative word!). Hundreds of gods and goddesses were worshipped over the course of Egyptian history. It might be hard to pin down the characteristics of individual gods but some deities were deemed more important than the others. But worry not, we have put together the most prevalently worshipped ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses for you. Scroll down to find out!
Let’s start off with one of the most recorded gods in Egyptian mythology. However, we should probably settle the potential confusion that would arise when reading about Egyptian gods. One should never confuse Amun-Ra with Ra. The latter was the Egyptian God of the Sun while the former was considered as “King of the God”. Amun means “The Hidden One”, more or less while “Ra” means “sun”. Amun-Ra, therefore, is the result of the amalgamation of the two deities. The exact time of the merging is vague though but it’s vastly understood that it occurred during the New Kingdom (circa 1550 – 1077 B.C.E). Bottom line, the merging of Amun and Ra led to a creator Sun God who was worshipped primarily in Thebes. The deity was also frequently called as “King of the God”. Most of the Egyptian gods and goddesses were born into the world at various points in the history of Egyptian civilization. Many also floated in and out of popularity. Amun-Ra, however, was the supreme creator-god, among all the multitude of Egyptian divine beings, and he appears to have been present in the culture and mythology of the Egyptian people virtually from the very inception of this nation.
Amun-Ra symbolized life and fertility. Nevertheless, he served several roles in Egyptian mythology. His first role had him being the patron saint of Thebes, an ancient Egyptian city. It was also the place where the ruling pharaoh, as well as his royal family, resided in. it was also in this place that Amun joined with the Sun God, Ra, and both eventually assimilated and became Amun-Ra in the 18th dynasty. He was only second to Osiris as being the most important gods in ancient Egyptian time. To paint a picture of his supremacy, Amnu-Ra was the one with the role of creative power which was responsible for all life on earth, in heaven as well as in the Tuat (underworld). Lastly, Amun was also considered as the father of the pharaoh.
He was depicted wearing a double-plumed headdress with the plumes alternating in colors of either red and blue or red and green. His clothing was either a tunic or a kilt with decorated shoulder straps. He also had many names, such as Am, Amon, Amen, Ammon, Amoun, and Hammon. If we were to equate him with the Greek version of gods, then Zeus would be the most fitting comparison.
Wife (as Amun): Amunet (Goddess of motherhood)
Wife (as Amun-Ra): Mut (female counterpart of Amun-Ra, Goddess of Thebes)
Son: Khonsu (Moon God of healing and regeneration)
Temples: Dier el-Medina on the western bank of the Nile, Luxor and temple complex at Karnak
Symbols: The goose, the ram (a sphix with a ram head or criosphinx), or occasionally his frescos show him as a lion or an ape
In ancient Egyptian language, Mut meant ‘mother’. Alternative spellings include Mout and Maut. Being the Mother Goddess, Mut was considered a primal divine being, associated with waters from which, through parthenogenesis, everything was born. This made her outrank Isis, making Mut the grandmother figure while Isis was seen as the mother figure for the world. She was portrayed wearing a headdress of a royal vulture.
Mut was either portrayed as a woman with wings or a vulture. However, she was often shown wearing the Vulture headdress of the New Kingdom queens or double crown of Egypt. Later though, she was portrayed as a woman with a lion head, as a cobra or as a crow as Mut took on the attributes of the other goddesses of Egypt. The link between cultures and motherhood in Ancient Egyptian resulted in her name is the ancient Egyptian word “mwt”, or mother.
Interestingly, she was sometimes depicted as male, in part due to the fact this goddess was “Mut, Who Gives Birth, But Was Herself Not Born of Any”, and in another because the superstitious belief that there were no male griffon vultures (male and female are almost similar in appearance). Mut replaced Amanuet, Amun’s earlier wife during the Middle Kingdom. Mut was also initially revered as a local deity until Amun reigned over the New Kingdom. When Amun finally merged with Ra, she inherited the title “Eye of Ra”. The “Eye of Ra” was the child of Ra who was portrayed in a lion form. At the same time, she was also the Mother of the Sun in Whom He Rises, consequently making her both the daughter and mother of the Sun God.
Son: Khonsu (Moon God of healing and regeneration)
Symbols: the Vulture
Not only is Osiris one of the prevalently worshipped ancient Egyptian gods, but he also held quite a significant role in Egyptian mythology. He was, after all, the God of the Underworld. He was the epitome of death, and resurrection. He also symbolized the cycle of Nile floods which Egyptians relied on for agricultural fertility. Consequently, people regarded him highly and as one of the most important divine beings. Osiris is actually a Latin word. The traditional rendering of his name in Egyptian hieroglyphs is Wsjr. Some Egyptologists sometimes refer to this god as Ausar, Aser, Asar, Asari, Usire, Ausir, User, User or Wesir. Meanwhile, the closest translation in English would be The Powerful or Almighty. Osiris didn’t come into presence until Egypt’s 5th dynasty, even though he is said to have been revered since the first dynasty.
In terms of appearance, he was depicted with green skin and a beard associated with the pharaoh, donning a crown with two large ostrich feathers with his legs partially wrapped like a mummy. He also held a flail in his hands and a symbolic crook. Ancient Egyptians worshipped him a great deal. His name was celebrated with ritual activities and many prayers for thousands of years. On top of that, people also considered him as the Shepherd God.
Osiris is believed to have been one of the 5 children born to the Goddess of the Skies, Nut, and God of the Earth, Geb. This made him one of the great-grandson of Ra. Being the firstborn of Geb and Nut, Osiris inevitably inherited the throne of Egypt. Legend has it, Osiris had been a king of Egypt before he was eventually murdered by Seth, his brother, and being torn limb from limb. Isis, his wife, reassembled his body and later resurrected him so that they could conceive a son who was the god Horus. Osiris was portrayed as a mummified king who wore wrappings which left only the green skin of his hands with his face exposed.
Temples: one at Abydos
Symbols: ostrich feathers, crook and flail, fish, Atef crown and a died
If we had to decide which one is the jackal-headed Egyptian divine being of an embalmer, then it would be Anubis. The association of jackals with funerals and death most likely came into existence due to Egyptian observing jackals scavenging around cemeteries. Anubis was believed to be the son of Osiris by Nephthys. However, another legend also has it that he was the son of Set. Anubis was responsible for weighing the souls of the dead and determine whether or not they were worthy of admittance to the underworld. Therefore, his other role included being the Guardian of the Scales. In other words, he has concerned with funerary practices as well as the care of the dead. On top of that, he was also the patron of orphans and lost souls, as part of his duties. Ancient Egyptians believed that Anubis had tremendous power over both people’s spiritual and physical selves when they died, so they worshipped him highly.
In the Old Kingdom (circa 2575 – 2130 B.C.E), prior to Osiris’ reign over the underworld, Anubis was regarded as the principal god of the dead. His fame eventually ceased to exist during the Middle Kingdom for Osiris took over his role and Anubis ended up being his assistant. The Osiris myth also has it that Anubis embalmed and wrapped the body of Osiris, becoming the patron god for embalmers. His jackal appearance had black skin, as opposed to the usual brown-skinned jackals. This may stem from the fact that the color black symbolizes death while simultaneously symbolizing Neil’s fertile and black soil. He was also the protector of tombs as Egyptians believed he was responsible for protecting the deceased.
Wife: Anput (a female with a jackal head)
Daughter: Kebechet (Goddess of purification)
Cult: Cynopolis, in the 17th province of Upper Egypt
Symbols: flail and fetish
Ra was the god who created everything, most likely stemmed from the fact he represented sunlight. Ergo, it’s only right that he was considered as one of the prevalently worshipped ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. Being the central god of the Egyptian pantheon, he was a powerful deity. Ancient Egyptians revered Ra more than any other divine beings. Pharaohs even often associated themselves with The Sun God in their efforts to be regarded as the earthly embodiment of Ra. He was usually portrayed in human form with a falcon head that was crowned with a sun disc. The sun disc was encircled by Uraeus, a scared cobra. On the other hand, he was also depicted as a man with a betlee head or a ram. Ancient Egyptians also portrayed him in arrays of full species such as bull, lion, heron, serpent, beetle, hawk, ram, cat, or Phoenix.
As the Sun God, ancient Egyptians believed his role was to sail across the heavens during the day in a boat called “Barque of Millions of Years”. The boat was called Madjet when Ra emerged from the east in the morning, meaning “becoming strong”. His boat would be called “Semektet”, meaning “becoming weak”, by the end of the day. He traveled to the underworld at night and his head turned into a ram. It was believed that Ra died due to being swallowed by Nut and sailed to the underworld.
Legend has it the god created himself from the primordial chaos. Despite the fact, he was highly worshipped but one story suggests that he eventually grew weak. According to the Legend of Ra, Isis and the Snake, Isis managed to create a snake out of Ra’s saliva. As the snake bit Ra, Isis managed to get Ra to tell her his secret of power. Because he was in pain, he relented and allowed her to “search through him”. In doing so, Isis healed Ra and transferred his power to her. His glory eventually came to an end when the Roman’s conquered Egypt in 30 BC.
Offspring: Shu (The God of Dry Air) and Tefnut (Goddess of Wetness and Moisture)
Temples: Solar temples
Symbols: sun disk
This sky god was depicted as a man with a falcon’s head or just a falcon. He was often associated with hunting and war along with being the embodiment of the divine kingship. Add to that, the reigning king was also regarded as the manifestation of Horus as well in some eras. Ancient Egyptians worshipped him for more than 5,000 years. Legend has it that he was the son of Osiris and Isis who was magically conceived after Osiris was mutilated by his own brother, Seth. Horus was raised to avenged Osiris’ death, hence the god of vengeance representation.
Depicted as the royal man with a falcon or hawk head, he was also portrayed holding an ankh and scepter. He wore the red and white crown that represented the unity between the Lower and Upper Egypt. His name means “the one far above”, which perfectly indicated his significance above all other Egyptian gods. Aside from being God of Vengeance, he was also known as Son of Truth, God of Kingship, War God, Sun God, God of the Dawn, Horus Lord of the Two Lands and Keeper of Secret Wisdom. Despite these variations, he was always considered as the ruler of the gods (signified by a falcon).
One tradition also passed on the story in which he lost his left eye during a fight with Seth but was then magically healed thanks to Thoth, the god of knowledge. It is due to the fact that both right and left eyes of Horus were associated with the sun and the moon, respectively, that the loss and repair of his left eye provide mythical justification for the phases of the moon. The wedjat eye represented The Eye of Horus and it was considered as the watchful eye. The eye was so famous that it became a symbol of protection against evil and for a king in the afterlife.
Parents: Isis and Osiris
Offspring: Duamutef, Imset,
Cult: Nekhen, Edfu
Symbols: Eye of Horus
Being the god of wisdom and knowledge, Thoth could be portrayed in the form of a sacred ibis or a baboon or even a man with the head of an ibis. Thoth was believed to be responsible for inventing a language as well as the hieroglyphic script. He, therefore, was known as the scribe and advised for the other gods. Add to that, he was said to possess knowledge of secrets and magic unavailable to the other deities, perks of being the god of wisdom. He was one of the most significant ancient Egyptian gods alternately said to be born of the seed of Horus from Seth’s forehead or self-created. As the son of these two gods, Thoth signified order and chaos, respectively. Additionally, he was also known as the God of Balance and Equilibrium, being associated with both the principle of divine balance (Ma’at) and the Goddess Ma’at who embodied this principle (other times are seen as his wife).
Worship of this deity began in Lower Egypt during Pre-Dynasty period (circa 6000 – 3150 B.C.E). Thoth was responsible for maintaining the universe and standing on either side of Ra’s solar barge. He resided in the Hall of the Truth and presided over the judgment of the dead with Osiris. When the deceased was undergoing judgment phase in the underworld after their deaths, the god of wisdom and knowledge was portrayed weighing the hearts of the deceased and reporting the verdict to the king of the underworld, Osiris.
Symbols: Ibis, papyrus scroll, moon disk, writing palette, and red pens
Hathor was the Goddess of foreign lands, dance, and music along with being the patron Goddess of Miners. She was the Fertility Goddess who assisted women in childbirth. Ancient Egyptians associated her with the Milky Way which they named “The Nile of the Sky”. She was sometimes called “mistress of the west” and was believed to have welcomed the dead into the Tuat. Her family tree differs depending on different legends. However, she was often referred to as Ra’s mother, his wife, and his daughter. Some legends also say that her son was Horus, not Isis.
She was depicted as a woman who wore a headdress which also served as her main symbol. This headdress had two horns that had a sun disc encircled by a divine cobra, Uraeus. This made her being associated with Isis who also happened to wear this headdress. In some myths, she was depicted with a cow head, hence the Cow Goddess title. As the divine cow, she gave birth to some gods and basically the world. Some legends also say that she was Ra’s eye. These stories believe that she became enraged because Ra mistreated the Egyptians. She morphed into Sekhmet and destroyed the Egyptians. All people from every level of society revered her.
Son : Horus
Parent : Ra
Temples : Dendera
Cult : Memphis
Her name was derived from an old Egyptian word “Sekhem” which meant “might” or “power”. Therefore, her name was often translated as “The Powerful one”. Sekhmet was portrayed as a woman with a lion head, sometimes with a sun disc on her head. This goddess was known to be fierce wearing a red dress that symbolized blood. She was often depicted while seating and carrying the ankh of life. But when she was standing or striding, she usually held a scepter shaped from papyrus (which was the symbol of Lower Egypt or northern). This suggested that Sekhmet was associated with the north. Among the many names associated with Sekhmet, she was also known as the solar deity.
This goddess was often closely associated with Hathor, though, for she was considered as the harsh aspect of an otherwise friendly Hathor. That being said, she was seen as a terrifying goddess. It surely only added to her reputation because she also symbolized the searing heat of the midday sun. Nevertheless, she was able to cure diseases and avert plague, for her friends’ sake. Hathor was the patron of Healers and Physicians. Her priests even became known as skilled doctors. Consequently, the fearsome goddess sometimes, who was sometimes called “lady of terror”, was also referred to as “lady of life”. Her name was mentioned many times in the famous Book of the Dead as both a vicious and creative force. But above all, she was the protector of Ma’at (justice or balance). Alternatively, she was also known as “The Red Lady” or “Lady of Pestilence” which indicated her alignment with the scorching desert. It was believed that she could send a plague to those who enraged her.
Parent : Ra
Son : Nefertem
Cult : Leontopolis and Memphis
Symbols : red linen, sun disc, and a lioness
Reverence of Geb was widespread and various legends came about regarding him. That’s why he is often depicted in wall arts in Egypt. Several versions of his name included Qeb, Keb, and Seb. Two other titles also included “Father of the Gods” and “Chief of the Gods”. His role in the Egyptian mythology pertained to his position as the father of Gods of Osirians. Because of this position, the Greeks equated him with Cronus. As the God of the Earth, he was the third divine ruler of the gods and was portrayed as the tribal chieftain. The pharaohs even boasted being the descendants of Geb. That’s probably why Egypt was also known as “the house of Geb”.
Another role pertaining to his position included having an imperative function in the part of the Egyptian soul to the afterlife. After the burial of the deceased, Geb was believed to play the part in the soul’s journey. He was also present at the judgment ceremony in which the gods weighed the heart of the deceased. Geb would release the soul from the earth if the soul was righteous and allow him/her to continue his/her journey. Because he carried out the title “Great Cackler”, he became associated with the goose. It’s most likely due to the fact that Geb laid the egg which contained the sun. However, he was also sometimes portrayed as a man standing/sitting with an ankh and a staff in his hands.
Wife: Nut (also his sister)
Father: Shu (God of Air)
Children: Osiris, Seth, and Isis
Symbols: the goose
This list of prevalently worshipped ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses and their roles definitely gives us a clear idea that the magical world of ancient Egypt also possessed human-like quality and they could be rewarded and punished for their actions. They could get angry, they could be pleasant and they could get in love!
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