Numerous facets of ancient Egyptian life were impacted by religion. Before written history, during the Predynastic period (c. 6000-3150 BCE), there is the oldest evidence of religious practices in ancient Egypt. Without written chronicles, historians relied on archaeological evidence (figurines, tombs, and temples) to comprehend the crucial role that religion played in the lives of ancient Egyptians.
Egyptians started creating a writing system known as hieroglyphics around 3150 BCE. From that point forward, Egyptian history is split into the Old, Middle, and New “Kingdoms.” Each period of Egyptian history can be shown through the hieroglyphics and artifacts that religion had a significant role in daily life and society. The three kingdoms in Egyptian history are enumerated in the list that follows.
Old Kingdom (2700–2200 BCE)
During this era, pyramids were built, serving as the pharaohs’ ultimate resting places and as the bridge between the gods and the populace, according to Egyptian kings. Elaborate temples and tombs were built to commemorate the gods and the dead and showcase ancient Egypt’s belief in the afterlife.
Middle Kingdom (2050–1800 BCE)
During this time, religion remained the source of authority for Egyptians. Temples and tombs were still being constructed, and pharaohs remained essential members of society who were in charge of upholding maat, the cosmic order that ensured the world’s continuing survival. Overall, religion at this time was comparable to the Old Kingdom, focusing on god worship, upkeep of maat, and prepping for the hereafter.
New Kingdom (c. 1550–1100 BCE)
The rise in stature of the god Amun during the New Kingdom was a notable development. New religious customs and rites also emerged throughout the New Kingdom. As the prominence of the afterlife increased, ornate tombs and funerary temples were also built more frequently.
Source: World History Encyclopedia
What Was The Ancient Egyptian Religion?
The religion of the ancient Egyptians was polytheistic, which meant that many gods were worshipped. Ancient Egyptian religion was generally based on the conviction that many deities were responsible for nature’s powers and the afterlife. In ancient Egypt, religion was significant for many reasons.
Upkeep Of Maat: The ancient Egyptians thought the gods were in charge of nature and the afterlife. As a result, they believed that to keep maat, they needed to please the gods.
Political And Social Structure: Ancient Egypt’s political and social framework was deeply entwined with the religious system. The pharaoh was regarded as a divine monarch and played a significant part in the religion. To preserve maat and guarantee the continuous prosperity of the Kingdom, the pharaoh’s position as the go-between between the gods and the populace was essential.
Preparation For The Afterlife: The ancient Egyptians held the importance of good funerary customs and the belief in an afterlife. Therefore, building elaborate tombs and carrying out funerary rituals were crucial aspects of ancient Egyptian civilization.
Ancient Egyptian Religious Convictions
Numerous deities were worshipped as the foundation of ancient Egyptian religion. These gods were called netjer, an old Egyptian word for “god.” Gods, goddesses, young gods, and devils are called netjer. The netjer was regarded by the ancient Egyptians as generous and incredibly powerful but not all-knowing or all-powerful. Additionally, they were thought to be immortal and able to exist in numerous places simultaneously.
The core of ancient Egyptian religion was devotion to gods. According to another aspect of faith, the pharaoh was regarded as the go-between between the gods and the people.
- The conviction that each person has a soul, or ka, that lives on into the afterlife.
- The significance of upholding maat is the cosmic order that ensured the universe kept working.
- The importance of appropriate burial, funerary customs, and the belief in the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptian Religious Customs
According to ancient Egyptians, the gods might intervene in their lives and influence how things turned out. To win the gods’ favor, they performed several rituals and ceremonies. The religion of the ancient Egyptians was fundamentally based on these activities. Construction of glorious temples and tombs to honor the gods and the dead were everyday religious rituals.
- Pharaohs, nobles, and religious leaders were mummified after death to ensure their safe afterlife passage.
- The celebration of rituals and festivals to please the gods and preserve the world’s survival.
- The practice of consulting oracles was thought to be able to connect with the gods to gain insight and support decision-making (deciding on new rulers).
- Carrying out funeral rites and rituals to ensure the departed made it safely to the hereafter.
- Animal sacrifice involves killing animals and giving them to the gods as presents.
In ancient Egypt, festivals were a crucial component of religious life. Numerous festivals were conducted year-round to honor the gods and goddesses and remember significant occasions in their lives.
The festival of Opet, conducted yearly to honor the god Amun or commemorate a new king’s rule, was one of the most significant celebrations. At this event, people would worship the gods and present them with gifts as statues of them were taken in procession from their temples to the temple of Amun.
Source: Get Archives
Mythology Related To The Religion Of Ancient Egypt
The religion of the ancient Egyptians was deeply rooted in mythology. The afterlife myth was among the most significant in ancient Egyptian religion.
According to ancient Egyptian belief, the soul of a departed person would travel to the underworld, where the deity Osiris would judge it. The afterlife would reward the person with everlasting life if they lived a virtuous life. However, if they had committed any sins, the monster Ammit would devour their soul and measure their heart against a feather to determine if it was heavy with sin.
Many myths served as justifications for divine behavior and natural occurrences.
- The universe was created, so the tale goes, by the god Atum, who emerged from the primordial waters of chaos and started the creation process. The sun, moon, stars, earth, and all the other elements of the world were constructed by him after he created the first gods and goddesses.
- The tale of the sun god Ra, the most potent deity in the Egyptian pantheon, was another significant one. According to this belief, Ra was thought to sail across the sky in a boat daily, illuminating and warming the world. He would journey through the underworld at night and combat with the serpent Apep, who desired to end the world. The daily cycle of light and shade, as well as the varying seasons, were explained by this myth.
- The offspring of Osiris and the goddess Isis was the god Horus. According to this legend, Osiris was assassinated by his envious brother Set. But Isis could revive Osiris for long enough for him to get pregnant with Horus. Afterward, Horus matured and killed Set in a crucial conflict to avenge his father’s passing. This significant tale clarified the gods’ battle and the victory of good over evil.
Overall, religion was an integral part of ancient Egyptian life and culture, shaping its people’s beliefs, values, and practices for thousands of years.