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Qebhet (also known as Kebehwet, Kabechet or Kebechet) is a benevolent goddess of ancient Egypt. She is the daughter of the god Anubis, granddaughter of the goddess Nephthys and god Osiris, and is the personification of cool, refreshing water as she brings drink to the souls of the dead in the afterlife Hall of Truth.
Qebhet never had her own cult or area of specialization beyond a comforter of the souls of the dead. She is mentioned frequently in the Egyptian Book of the Dead as she brings water to the souls as they stand awaiting judgment by Osiris and the Forty-Two Judges in the afterlife. Like Nephthys, she was regarded as a friend of the dead who uplifted the hearts of those who had passed on from life to eternity but had not yet been justified by Osiris and allowed to move on to the paradise of the Field of Reeds.
She was originally a serpent deity, known as "the celestial serpent" in the Pyramid Texts (c. 2400-2300 BCE) but was re-imagined as a goddess associated with the land of the dead, daughter of Anubis and "the king's sister", though who the `king' is remains unclear. Anubis was conceived from an affair between Nephthys (who was married to Set) and Osiris (married to Isis). Nephthys was drawn to the beauty of Osiris and transformed herself into an image of Isis, tricking Osiris into sleeping with her.
As Nephthys and Osiris were brother and sister is is possible that this story became mirrored in the conception of Qebhet. Anubis was an ancient god and judge of the dead before Osiris rose in popularity and replaced him. Possibly the story of Qebhet formed an earlier tale involving Anubis in the role of Osiris and some other goddess in the part of Nephthys. Osiris was considered the "first king" and often references to "the king" indicate this god but, in this case, it does not seem to make sense. Qebhet is never linked to Osiris as a daughter and the reference to "the king's sister" remains a mystery.
Qebhet's Service to the Dead
The Egyptians believed that the afterlife was a mirror image of life on earth in Egypt. One of the reasons Egyptians preferred not to campaign far from their land was the concern in dying and being buried somewhere beyond the boundaries of their native land and so not being able to pass on to the Hall of Truth and, from there, to the Field of Reeds. If someone died in Egypt, however great or humble, they were buried in the earth of their mother and so passed on to the afterlife with relative ease; passage to the afterlife from somewhere outside of Egypt, it was thought, would present problems. The soul might become confused as to where it was and where it should go and could become lost.
This same paradigm held for all other aspects of the soul which was understood to behave just as one did while inhabiting a body on earth. Since the Egyptians held that the immortal soul had all the needs and desires it did in the body, it might well become thirsty standing in line in the Hall of Truth, and Qebhet would have tended to this need. Although it does not seem she ever had a cult following, she may have played a part or made some kind of appearance in religious events such as the Festival of the Wadi which was a celebration of the lives of the dead and of the living. The Egyptologist Lynn Meskell writes:
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Religious festivals actualized belief; they were not simply social celebrations. They acted in a multiplicity of related spheres. There were festivals of the gods, of the king, and of the dead...The Beautiful Festival of the Wadi was a key example of a festival of the dead, which took place between the harvest and the Nile flood. In it, the divine boat of Amun traveled from the Karnak temple to the necropolis of Western Thebes. A large procession followed, and living and dead were thought to commune near the graves which became houses of the joy of the heart on that occasion. (Nardo, 100)
Qebhet played an important role in the rituals of death in that she assured the still-living that their loved one was cared for.
One of the most important aspects in honoring the dead in ancient Egypt (as well as Greece and elsewhere) was their remembrance and no one wished to think of their departed loved one thirsting while awaiting trial before the great god Osiris in the afterlife. Qebhet, therefore, played an important role in the rituals of death in that she assured the still-living that their loved one was cared for and, furthermore, that they themselves would also be when it came their own time to stand in the hall of judgement. Further, the ritual cleansing of the body of the corpse by clean water was a vital element in the burial of the dead and Qebhet symbolized this purification.
She was also thought to play an especially vital role in the revival of the soul after death. Egyptologist Richard H. Wilkinson writes how Qebhet personally tended the soul of the dead king and "refreshed and purified the heart of the deceased monarch with pure water from four nemset jars [ritual funerary vessels] and that the goddess helped open the `windows of the sky' to assist the king's resurrection" (223). To `open the windows of the sky' meant to liberate the soul from the body and Qebhet seems to have come to perform this service for all the dead, not just the royalty. Her grandmother, Nephthys, was known as "Friend of the Dead" and Qebhet came to be associated with this same kind of care and concern for the departed souls.
Association with Harmony and Balance
Qebhet is often pictured as a serpent or an ostrich bringing water. She was never worshipped to the degree of Isis or Hathor - or even much lesser deities - but was revered and respected and, at certain times, became associated with the Nile and cults which grew up in worship of the river. This is hardly surprising as she was always closely associated with pure, clean water.
As the Nile was associated with Milky Way and the courses of the gods, Qebhet also became linked with the sky in both daylight and darkness. In her role as a purifier, she would also have been linked with the concept of Ma'at, eternal harmony and truth, which was the central guiding principle in ancient Egyptian culture.
Her earlier image as a celestial serpent was probably never completely forgotten even after she was imagined in human form in the land of the dead. Qebhet's association with the Milky Way and the divine Nile probably come from this early understanding of the goddess. The earthly plane of existence was thought to be a reflection of the eternal realm of the gods and so balance was struck through Qebhet as a goddess of the ever-changing night sky and also of the river of life which flowed through the Nile Valley to the sea.
Her place among the dead would have further illustrated the Egyptian value of harmony in that a celestial goddess would humble herself to provide water to the souls of mortals. She would then have been a role model for the living to care for others in life just as Qebhet did in the land of the dead.
Lecture: The history of wigs in Ancient Egypt
Beauty in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptian hairstyles varied with social status, gender, and age. A slave could never have the same hairstyle as a free person, and the lower class could never have the same style of hair as the upper class. However, there were some similarities between them. Like nowadays, most people tried to follow the same fashion.
Generally, the hairstyle of children, be they boys or girls, was the same. Their hair was shaved off, with only a long lock of hair left on the side of the head. This style was related to the hieroglyphic symbol of a child or youth.
When the children grew older boys kept their shaved heads and girls wore their hair in plaits or something similar to a ponytail. Men usually wore their hair short, with their ears visible. But sometimes they preferred to have short curls covering their ears.
In the case of women, hairstyles were more advanced and unique. They often liked to have their hair smooth or with a natural wave. Women in ancient Egypt also liked to have long curls, but in the Old Kingdom period, they preferred short or chin length bobs.
A group of researchers based at the University of Manchester in the UK examined the hair from 18 mummies, most of them from during the early Ptolemaic Period. They took a close look at the hairs they found using microscopes. During analysis, the researchers discovered that the hair of nine mummies had an unknown substance on it. Chemical analysis revealed that it was made of fatty acids of animal and plant origin. The researchers were convinced that it was a sort of hair gel which was used by the Egyptians to hold their hair in a specific position. After death, the hair mummified naturally.
Wigs appeared for a few reasons. First of all, Egyptians didn't like to have gray or white hair. They used henna to avoid this problem, but in the dry Egyptian climate, wigs appeared as a better solution. Secondly, many saw this idea as more comfortable than having their own long hair. The examination of the aforementioned mummies suggests that the hair of ancient Egyptians, especially when they were older, was in bad condition.
The Popularity of Wigs
Wigs were very popular not only in Ancient Egypt, but also in Mesopotamia, Crete, Greece and Persia. Nonetheless, Egyptians improved the technique of making them to perfection. The most expensive royal wigs look like real hair. They were made of vegetable fiber such as linen, sheep’s wool, other types of animal hair, and human hair stiffened with beeswax. The cheapest ones were made of vegetable fiber, but royals only used the ones made of human hair. For both real hair and wigs, ancient Egyptians used fragrant oils like fir oil, almond oil, rosemary oil, and castor oil. They believed that the oils stimulated hair growth. Popular in ancient times, the seeds of fenugreek are still in use as a remedy for hair growth.
Wigs were used during daily life of the royals, but also at major festivals and events. Egyptian wigs usually were made in a structure similar to the helmet. Some of them were brightened blue, red or green, and decorated with precious stones and jewelry. People who belonged to the upper class liked to possess many wigs. The more wigs they owned, the higher their status was. Decorated with hair bands ending in tassels, with added braids and curls, over time the wigs gradually became bigger and bigger.
During the period of the Old and Middle Kingdom, two kinds of the wigs appeared as the most popular: the ones made of short and long hair. The hair was formed to make the forehead partly visible, with the ears and back of the neck fully covered.
The most classical style of wigs is a Nubian wig, a headdress worn in many periods in history, but especially popular during the 18th Dynasty and all the New Kingdom Period. In those times, wigs with luxurious decorations were a powerful symbol of fertility related to the one wore by the goddess Hathor. The wigs, known from tombs, reliefs and statues of Kiya, Nefertiti, Tiye and other women of this period, partly resemble the modern Afro hairstyle.
During the Third Intermediate Period, wigs were quite massive and heavy. Queen Isimkheb in 900 BC wore a wig which weighed so much that the queen needed help from her attendants to stand up. Nowadays, the wig is a part of the Cairo Museum collection. It was made of brown human hair held together by beeswax.
Wigs were mostly made by women. The human hair used by the wigmakers came from the clients of barbers or was brought by clients. Quite often the hair came from the client who ordered the wig. Sometimes it came from people who sold their hair or from slaves.
Wigs in the afterlife.
After death, people were often buried with their best wigs. They wanted to appear as wealthy and with beautiful hair in the afterlife. Because of this practice, many wigs have survived until now and they are parts of exhibitions around the world.
|Women entertainers perform at a celebration in Ancient Egypt the dancers are naked and the musician wears a typical pleated garment as well as the cone of perfumed fat on top of her wig that melts slowly to emit its precious odors both groups wear extensive jewelry, wigs, and cosmetics neither wear shoes - Thebes tomb c. 1400 BC. ( Public Domain )|
Legendary queens like Nefertiti, Cleopatra, and Nefertari were proud of their wigs and were regarded as great beauties. Many of them had shaved heads and their famous looks were partly made by the people who created the most impressive wigs of their kingdom.
Upper-class Egyptian men and women considered wigs an essential part of their wardrobe. Wearing a wig signaled a person's rank in Egyptian society. Although a shaved head was a sign of nobility during most of the Egyptian kingdoms, the majority of Egyptians kept their heads covered. Wigs were worn in place of headdresses or, for special occasions, with elaborate headdresses. Egyptian law prohibited slaves and servants from shaving their heads or wearing wigs.
The base of an Egyptian wig was a fiber-netting skullcap, with strands of human hair, wool, flax, palm fibers, felt, or other materials attached. The wig hair often stuck straight out from the skullcap, creating large, full wigs that offered wearers protection from the heat of the sun. Most often black, wigs were also other colors. Queen Nefertiti, who lived during the fourteenth century b.c.e., was known for wearing dark blue wigs, and festive wigs were sometimes gilded, or thinly coated in gold.
The hot climate of Egypt made it uncomfortable for men to wear beards. However, Egyptians believed that the beard was manly, so they developed artificial beards, or beard wigs. Men of royal rank tied stubby beards on their chins for official or festive occasions.
The nicest wigs were made from human hair. These were also the most expensive. An accounts list from the town of Kahun put hair’s value in the same category as gold.
For the middle class, particularly those who couldn’t afford wigs made completely out of human hair, they would purchase a blended wig, which was constructed of part human hair, part vegetable fibers.
Wigs could also be made of sheep’s wool.
The absolute cheapest wigs were made out of 100% vegetable fibers.
2. Who could wear wigs, and who couldn’t?
Wigs were part of daily life in ancient Egypt. Both men and women could wear wigs. Men’s wigs were often shorter than women’s wigs.
Children did not wear wigs. Instead, girls either braided their hair or wore pigtails, and boys often sported shaved heads. Some kids wore what's called a side-lock, which was a braid on one side.
Priests, also, did not generally wear wigs and preferred to shave their heads instead.
Slaves and servants were prohibited by law from wearing wigs. They weren’t even allowed to shave their heads.
3. Why did Egyptians wear wigs?
- Decoration. People liked the way wigs looked.
- Shade. Given that wigs could often be quite large and thick, the hairpieces could have acted as sun hats. They would have offered a degree of shade.
- Special occasions and religious ceremonies. People would pull out their most expensive wigs for these occasions, rather than wear the simpler wigs they wore for everyday use.
- To cover thinning hair. Even back then, people were concerned about hair loss. We know this because archaeologists have found instructions and recipes for hair growth remedies
Most wigs were colored deep black. Less popular, but equally impressive, were blond wigs.
Queen Nefertiti, however, bucked both of these trends and had a fondness for dark blue wigs, which she made famous. What a fashion-forward rebel!
5. How were wigs decorated?
- golden tubes
- jewelry chains
- glittery pins and clips
- ribbons woven through braids
- colored strands
6. How were wigs made from human hair?
Hair first had to be collected. It was extremely valuable, and people probably bartered or sold their hair to wig-makers in exchange for goods. Once a wig maker had the required amount, they first cleaned the hair of any lice eggs. Combs have been found with traces of the eggs still in the teeth!
After cleaning the hair, it was separated into various lengths. A wigmaker would coat the hair with a mix of resin and beeswax to make it easier to work with.
Hairdressers would then weave the hair through a cap made of fine netting (which itself was often made of hair) and affix the strands using more wax.
After creating the basic wig, styles would be applied such as braids and curls. The wax and resin would help keep the styles in place through endless wearings, even in the Egyptian heat.
Fun fact: One particularly impressive wig artifact contains 120,000 individual hairs!
7. Who made wigs?
Ready made wigs were made in factories, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of wig factories. Wig boxes have been found in tombs, and may have come from the factories with the wigs inside.
Barbers also made wigs, and so did women. It was considered a very respectable profession.
8. How were wigs cared for?
Because they were so expensive, Egyptians spent effort caring for them.
Since they couldn’t be washed, wigs would be perfumed instead using scented petals, essential oils, and wood chips such as cinnamon bark.
Oils and emollients made from animal or vegetable fats could be applied to keep the wigs shiny and supple.
9. What the heck is a beard wig?
Beard wigs were false beards made of human hair or wool that were worn using hooks that fastened behind each ear.
Beard wigs were braided and knotted into a tight, solid rectangle or tube shape that hung straight down from the chin. They became so popular that even the gods were depicted wearing beard wigs.
Beard wigs became a symbol of pharaonic power, worn to show that they were living gods on earth. Even some of Egypt’s queens, such as Pharaoh Hatshepsut, wore beard wigs during certain ceremonies for this purpose.
10. How did wig styles change?
Middle Kingdom Wigs: Most people wore one of two styles: a short wig with bangs made of small curls that overlapped one another like shingles. The bangs were short enough to show some forehead, while the side and back covered the ears and neck. The alternative during this time was a long, bulky wig with bangs that framed the face, while the longer back section was formed into waves or spirals that were draped over each shoulder.
New Kingdom Wigs: Many people wore wigs with groupings of long, tassel-ended tails. Women’s wigs became even larger and bulkier, and decorations became hugely popular, including beads and ribbons, and fancy caps. Men preferred less bulky wigs, and ones that were longer in the front than in the back.
|An Ancient Egyptian wig worn in the New Kingdom,|
this is known because of the gold detailing on the braids.
Amarna Period Wigs: During this time, styles became short and simple.
20 Facts About The Great Sphinx Of Egypt
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It is the largest and most famous Sphinx, situated at the Giza Plateau adjacent to the Great Pyramids of Giza on the west bank of the Nile River, it has puzzled Egyptologists and researchers for centuries. Here we bring you some facts about this mysterious construction in Egypt:
- The Sphinx was carved from the bedrock of the Giza plateau, a single ridge of limestone that is 73 meters long and 20 meters high.
- The Sphinx is considered to be one of the largest single-stone statues in the world.
- Researchers believe that blocks of stone weighing approximately 200 tons were quarried in the construction phase to build the adjoining Sphinx Temple.
- It was only in 1905 when the sand was cleared away to expose the full body of the Sphinx, before that, the Sphinx was covered in sand.
- It is believed that the Sphinx was constructed in the 4th Dynasty by Pharaoh Khafre, but archaeological and geological research suggests that the Sphinx is far older than the 4th Dynasty.
- It is one of the few constructions of ancient Egypt that have no inscriptions on its surface, until today not a single symbol has been found on the Sphinx.
- The Great Sphinx has become an emblem of Egypt, frequently appearing on its stamps, coins, and official documents.
- In Greek mythology, a Sphinx is represented as a monster with a head of a woman, the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, and a serpent-headed tail.
- The Sphinx became a symbol of kingship in the New Kingdom, and several pharaohs of built temples in the area surrounding the Sphinx. Pharaoh Amenhotep II built a mud-brick temple to the north-east of the Sphinx while Rameses II who is considered one of the ancient kingdom’s most prolific builders, constructed an altar of granite between its paws.
- The missing nose It was first believe that the Sphinx lost its nose to Napoleons men, but 18th century drawings reveal that the nose of the Sphinx was missing before Napoleon’s arrival, it is believed that the nose of the Sphinx was shot off by the Turks.
- Geologists and scholars agree that in the distant past Egypt was subjected to severe flooding, thus water erosion is present on the construction of the Sphinx. Wind erosion cannot take place when the body of the Sphinx is covered by sand.
- No texts, writings, inscriptions or symbols of any kind have been discovered indicating as to who built the Great Sphinx of Egypt. Several archaeologists and Egyptologists theorize about its construction but no evidence has been brought forward so true origin and purpose of the Sphinx remains a mystery.
- The Sphinx is oriented due east facing the rising sun near the 30th parallel.
- The Sphinx has a tail which wraps around the right hind paw.
- The Great Sphinx originally had a beard, several pieces of the beard of the Sphinx are located in the British Museum in London and the Cairo Museum.
- There are three passages into or under the Sphinx, the “Tomb of Osiris” is one of the most incredible discoveries linked to the Sphinx, located 95 feet below the surface behind the back of the Sphinx. It is believed to be the resting place of Egyptian God Osiris.
- It is considered an astronomical monument, geological findings indicate that the Sphinx may have been sculpted sometime before 10,000 BC, a period that coincides with the Age of Leo, or the Lion, which lasted from 10,970 to 8810 BC.
- According to Graham Hancock, computer simulations show that in 10,500 BC the constellation of Leo housed the sun on the spring equinox – i.e. an hour before dawn in that epoch Leo would have reclined due east along the horizon in the place where the sun would soon rise. This means that the lion-bodied Sphinx, with its due-east orientation, would have gazed directly on that morning at the one constellation in the sky that might reasonably be regarded as its own celestial counterpart.
- According to some texts, ancient Egyptians referred to the Sphinx as balhib and bilhaw.
- Circa1500 B.C.E. it was referred to as Hor-em-akht – Horus in the Horizon, Bw-How Place of Horus and also as Ra-horakhty Ra of Two Horizons.
Editors note: We strive for accuracy and fairness, if you would like to add something to this article please contact us.
Before Atlantis: 20 Million Years of Human and Pre-Human Cultures by Frank Joseph
Role of the King
When the king made public appearances he was surrounded by images of foreigners which emphasized his role as protector of Ma'at and the enemy of isfet which were foreign enemies of Ancient Egypt. As such, the king is mainly shown 'smiting' foreigners to maintain Ma'at.
The king also maintained the Temple Cult to prevent isfet from spreading by ensuring the cults were performed at defined intervals which were necessary in preserving the balance of Ma'at against the threatening forces of isfet.
Bible Blender’s complete list of Egyptian gods (and how they relate to the Bible).
Ancient Egyptians worshipped more than 2,000 gods, deities they believed granted favor to their nation. They appeared in virtually every aspect of ancient Egyptian culture. Here is a complete list of Egyptian gods worshipped by the ancient Egyptians.
A&rsquoah &ndash An early moon god who evolved into Iah (also known as Yah) and, eventually, Khonsu.
Aken &ndash Ferried souls across Lily Lake to the Field of Reeds in the afterlife. Slept until needed by Hraf-Hef, the Divine Ferryman. His name only appears in the Book of the Dead .
Aker &ndash The guardian of the eastern and western horizons of the afterlife. Protected the sun barge of Ra as it entered and left the underworld.
Am-Heh &ndash God in the underworld who lived in a lake of fire.
Amenet (Amentet) &ndash Goddess who welcomed the dead to the afterlife. Was the consort of the Divine Ferryman. She lived in a tree near the gates of the underworld. Daughter of Hathor and Horus.
Ammit (Ammut) &ndash Goddess depicted with the head of a crocodile, torso of a leopard, and hindquarters of a hippo. She sat beneath the scales of justice in the Hall of Truth in the afterlife and devoured the hearts of those souls which were not justified by Osiris.
Amun (Amon or Amun-Ra) &ndash God of the sun and air. Was considered the most powerful god in Egypt.
Amunhotep (Amenhotep), Son of Hapu &ndash God of healing and wisdom. Along with Hardedef and Imhotep, one of the few human beings deified by the Egyptians. He was the royal architect of Amunhotep III (1386-1353 BCE). Considered so wise that, after death, he became deified.
Amunet &ndash Female counterpart of Amun, member of the Ogdoad.
Anat &ndash Goddess of fertility, sexuality, love, and war. Often equated with Aphrodite of Greece, Astarte of Phoenicia , Inanna of Mesopotamia , and Sauska of the Hittites .
Anta &ndash An aspect of the Mother Goddess Mut.
Andjety &ndash God of fertility. Was eventually was absorbed by Osiris.
Anhur (Han-her) &ndash Known as Onuris by the Greeks. God of war and patron of the Egyptian army. See Onuris.
Anqet (Anukit or Anuket) &ndash Goddess of fertility and the cataract of the Nile River at Aswan.
Anti &ndash Hawk god of Upper Egypt sometimes associated with Anat.
Anubis &ndash God of the dead associated with embalming. Son of Nephthys and Osiris, father of Qebhet. Depicted as a man with the head of a dog or jackal carrying a staff. Guided the souls of the dead to the Hall of Truth and was part of the ritual of the Weighing of the Heart of the Soul in the afterlife.
Anuke &ndash War goddess, sometimes consort of Anhur, god of war. Depicted in battle dress with bow and arrow.
Apedemak &ndash War god depicted as a lion, originally thought to be from Nubia.
Apep (Apophis) &ndash Celestial serpent that assaulted the sun barge of Ra every night as it made its way through the underworld toward the dawn. Gods and the justified dead would help Ra fend the serpent off.
Apis &ndash Divine Bull worshipped as an incarnation of the god Ptah. The Apis Cult was one of the most important and long-lived in the history of Egyptian culture.
Arensnuphis &ndash Companion to the goddess Isis and worshipped primarily at at Philae. Depicted as a lion with a feathered headdress. Originally from Nubia.
Asclepius (Aesculapius) &ndash God of healing. Symbol was a staff with a serpent entwined about it, associated in the modern day with healing and the medical profession, known as the Rod of Asclepius.
Ash (As) &ndash God of the Libyan desert, a kindly deity who provided the oasis for travelers.
Astarte &ndash Phoenician goddess of fertility and sexuality.
Aten &ndash Sun deity who was elevated by pharaoh Akhenaten to the position of sole god, creator of the universe.
Atum (Ra) &ndash The sun god, supreme lord of the gods, creator of the universe and human beings.
Auf (Efu-Ra) &ndash An aspect of Atum (Ra).
Ba&rsquoalat Gebal &ndash Goddess of the city of Byblos, a protector deity, incorporated into Egyptian worship through her association with papyrus.
Babi (Baba) &ndash Virility god depicted as a baboon and symbolizing male sexuality.
Banebdjedet &ndash Fertility/virility god depicted as a man with a ram&rsquos head.
Ba-Pef &ndash God of terror. Lived in the House of Woe in the afterlife. Was never worshipped but a Cult of Ba-Pef existed to help appease the god and protect the king.
Bastet (Bast) &ndash Beautiful goddess of cats, women&rsquos secrets, childbirth, fertility, and protector of the home from evil or misfortune. She was the daughter of Ra and closely associated with Hathor. Bastet was one of the most popular deities of ancient Egypt. Depicted as a cat or a woman with a cat&rsquos head.
Bat &ndash Early cow goddess associated with fertility and success. She is one of the oldest Egyptian goddesses dating from the early Predynastic Period (c. 6000-3150 BCE). Depicted as a cow or a woman with cow ears and horns.
Bennu &ndash Divine bird of creation and inspiration for the Greek Phoenix. Present at the dawn of creation as an aspect of Atum (Ra) which flew over the primordial waters and woke creation with its cry.
Bes (Aha or Bisu) &ndash God of childbirth, fertility, sexuality, humor, and war, popularly known as the Dwarf god. One of the most popular gods in Egyptian history. Protected women and children, fended off evil, and fought for divine order and justice.
Beset &ndash Female aspect of Bes invoked in ceremonial magic. Bes also fended off dark magic, ghosts, spirits, and demons. His feminine aspect was called on to combat these forces.
Buchis &ndash Aspect of the Ka of the god Montu. Depicted as a bull running.
Cavern Deities &ndash Group of nameless gods who lived in caverns in the underworld and punished the wicked. Depicted as serpents. People of Egypt would leave bowls of offerings by caves for them.
Celestial Ferryman (Hraf-haf) &ndash Boatman who ferried the souls of the justified dead across Lily Lake to the shores of paradise. Was rude and unpleasant but had to be respected in order to reach paradise. Depicted as a man in a boat with his head facing behind him.
Dedun &ndash Protector god of resources.
Denwen &ndash Serpent deity that held power over fire. Was strong enough to destroy the gods.
Duamutef &ndash One of the Four Sons of Horus. Presided over the east. Depicted as a jackal.
Ennead &ndash The nine gods worshipped at Heliopolis: Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, and Set. Together they were known as The Great Ennead.
Fetket &ndash Butler of the sun god Ra who served him his drinks, patron god of bartenders.
Field of Offerings &ndash A region of the afterlife devoted to Osiris, located to the west.
Field of Reeds &ndash Egyptian paradise in the afterlife which the soul was admitted to after passing successfully through judgment and being justified by Osiris.
Forty-Two Judges &ndash The Forty-two deities who presided with Osiris, Thoth, and Anubis over the judgment of the soul in the afterlife. The Forty-Two Judges advised Osiris on whether a deceased&rsquos confession should be accepted.
Four Sons of Horus &ndash Four deities, Duamutef, Hapy, Imset, and Qebehsenuef, who watched over the viscera or the dead. Each had his own cardinal point to guard, his own internal organ to protect, and was watched over by a specific goddess.
Geb &ndash God of the earth and growing things.Son of Shu and Tefnut, husband of Nut, the sky.
Gengen Wer &ndash Present at the dawn of creation and guarded (or laid) the celestial egg containing the life force.
Ha &ndash Protector God of the desert to the west of Egypt. Son of the god Iaaw. Depicted as a strong young man with the sign of the desert over his head.
Hapi &ndash Fertility god, god of the Nile silt and associated with the inundation which caused the river to overflow its banks and deposit the rich earth which the farmers relied on for their crops. Depicted as a man with large breasts and belly signifying fertility and success.
Hapy &ndash Also known as Hapi, a protector god, one of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the canopic jar holding the lungs. Presided over the north. Depicted as a baboon.
Hardedef &ndash Son of King Khufu who wrote a book known as Instruction in Wisdom. The work was so brilliant it was considered the work of a god and he was deified after death.
Haroeris &ndash Greek name for the sky aspect of Horus the Elder.
Harpocrates &ndash Greek and Roman name for Horus the Child, son of Osiris and Isis. Depicted as a young winged boy with his finger to his lips.
Hathor &ndash One of the best known, most popular, and most important deities of ancient Egypt. She was the daughter of Ra and, in some stories, wife of Horus the Elder. Goddess of joy, inspiration, celebration, love, women, women&rsquos health, childbirth, and drunkenness. In the afterlife she helped guide the souls of the dead toward paradise and was one of the deities aboard the sun barge of Ra. Depicted as a cow or a woman with a cow&rsquos head.
Hathor-Nebet-Hetepet &ndash Mother Goddess aspect of Hathor. Represented the hand, the active part, of the supreme god Atum (Ra).
Hatmehit (Hatmehyt) &ndash Fish goddess worshipped in the Delta region of Mendes.
Haurun &ndash Protector god associated with the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Hedetet &ndash Goddess of scorpions and protectress against their venom.
Heh and Hauhet &ndash God and goddess of infinity and eternity. Heh was depicted as a frog and Hauhet as a serpent.
Heqet (Heket) &ndash Goddess of fertility and childbirth. Depicted as a frog or a woman with the head of a frog.
Heret-Kau &ndash Protective goddess worshipped as a life-giving spirit who also protected the souls of the dead in the afterlife.
Heka &ndash One of the oldest and most important gods in ancient Egypt. Patron god of magic and medicine but was also the primordial source of power in the universe. He existed before the gods and was present in the act of creation. Depicted as a man carrying a staff and knife. Magic was an integral part of medical practice in ancient Egypt, and so Heka became an important deity for doctors.
Heryshaf &ndash Fertility god. Depicted as a man with the head of a ram.
Heset &ndash Goddess of food and drink associated with beer and enjoyment. Depicted as a cow with a tray of food on her horns and milk flowing freely from her udders.
Hetepes-Sekhus &ndash Personification of the Eye or Ra, a cobra goddess in the afterlife that destroys the enemies of Osiris.
Horus &ndash Avian god who became one of the most important deities in ancient Egypt. Associated with the sun, sky, and power, Horus became linked with the king of Egypt as early as the First Dynasty .
Hu &ndash God of the spoken word. Related to Sia and Heka. Sia represented the heart, Hu the tongue, and Heka their underlying force which gave them their power.
Iabet &ndash Goddess of fertility and rebirth. Also known as &ldquoCleanser of Ra&rdquo who bathed the sun before it appeared in the dawn sky.
Ihy &ndash God of music and joy. Son of Hathor and Horus the Elder. Depicted as a child with a sistrum.
Imhotep &ndash Vizier of king Djoser (c. 2670 BCE) who designed and built the Step Pyramid. Was a polymath expert in many fields of study. After his death, he was deified as a god of wisdom and medicine.
Imsety &ndash Protector god who protected the canopic jar holding the liver. He presided over the south.
Ipy &ndash Mother Goddess. Depicted as a hippopotamus or a combination of hippo, crocodile, human female, and lion, most often with a lion&rsquos head, hippo&rsquos body, human arms, lion feet.Referenced in Pyramid Texts as protecting and nourishing the king.
Ishtar &ndash Goddess of love, sexuality, and war.
/>Isis &ndash Most powerful and popular goddess in Egyptian history. Was associated with virtually every aspect of human life and, in time, became elevated to the position of supreme deity, &ldquoMother of the Gods&rdquo, who cared for her fellow deities as she did for human beings. She is the second-born of the First Five Gods (Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus the Elder), sister-wife of Osiris, mother of Horus the Younger, and symbolically understood as the mother of every king. She cared for people in life and appeared to them after death to help guide them safely to paradise. The Cult of Isis was the strongest opponent of the new religion of Christianity between the 4th-6th centuries.
Isis-Eutheria &ndash Greek version of Isis.
Iusaaset &ndash Mother Goddess referred to as &ldquoGrandmother of the Gods&rdquo Depicted as a woman with the uraeus and solar disc on her head holding a scepter and the ankh , symbol of life
Judgement Deities &ndash See Forty-Two Judges
Jupiter-Amun &ndash Roman version of Zeus-Amun, king of the gods.
Kabechet (Kebehwet or Qebhet) &ndash A celestial serpent deity that provides pure, cool water to the souls of the deceased as they awaited judgment in the Hall of Truth.
Kagemni &ndash A vizier to the king Sneferu (c. 2613-2589 BCE) who wrote the wisdom text known as Instructions of Kagemni. He was deified after death and worshipped as a god of wisdom.
Kek and Kauket &ndash Gods of obscurity and night, the god of the hours before dawn. Kauket, his feminine balance, was depicted as a woman with the head of a serpent.
Khentekhtai (Khente-Khtai) &ndash Crocodile protective god.
Khentiamenti (Khentiamentiu) &ndash Fertility god of Abydos.
Khenmu (Khnum) &ndash God of Upper Egypt. Fashioned human beings from the clay of the Nile River and then held them high so the light of Ra could shine upon them and give them life. Depicted as a ram-headed god symbolizing virility and fertility. Formed a triad with the gods Anuket and Satis at Elephantine on the Egyptian border of Nubia.
Khepri &ndash Aspect of Ra the sun god in his morning form. Depicted as a scarab beetle.
Kherty (Cherti) &ndash Ram-headed god of the underworld who ferried the dead on their last journey into the afterlife.
Khonsu (Kons, Chonsu, Khensu, or Chons) &ndash God of the moon. Depicted as a mummy holding the crook and flail with a uraeus and moon disc on his head.
Lady of the Acacia &ndash Known as the goddess Iusaaset, &ldquoGrandmother of the Gods&rdquo.
Lady of the Sycamore &ndash Known as Hathor.
Lake of Flowers (Lily Lake) &ndash Body of water in the afterlife which the souls of the justified dead crossed to reach paradise in the Field of Reeds.
Lates-Fish &ndash Nile perch sacred to the goddess Neith.
Maahes (Mahes, Mihos, or Mysis) &ndash Solar god and protector of the innocent. Depicted as a lion-headed man carrying a long knife or a lion.
Ma&rsquoat &ndash Goddess of truth, justice, and harmony. One of the most important deities in the Egyptian pantheon. Sets the stars in the sky and regulates the seasons. Depicted as a woman wearing a crown with an ostrich feather.
Mafdet (Mefdet) &ndash Goddess of justice. Depicted as a woman with the head of a cat, cheetah, leopard, or lynx holding the rope and executioner&rsquos blade.
Mandulis (Marul or Merwel) &ndash Solar god. Depicted as a falcon wearing a horned headdress.
Mau &ndash Divine cat, Ra personified.
Mehen &ndash Serpent god who wrapped himself around Ra in the sun barge to protect him from Apep&rsquos attacks.
Mehet-Weret &ndash Sky goddess, the celestial cow goddess who rose from the primordial waters of chaos to give birth to the sun god Ra at the beginning of time.
Mehit (Meyht) &ndash Moon goddess. Depicted as a reclining lioness.
Mekhit &ndash Goddess of war. Depicted as a roaring lioness.
Menhit (Menhyt) &ndash Solar god who represented the brow of the sun god Ra. Depicted as a reclining lioness.
Meretseger &ndash Protector goddess in the form of a cobra.
Meskhenet &ndash Goddess of childbirth. Depicted as a birthing brick with the head of a woman.
Mestjet &ndash An aspect of the Eye of Ra.
Min &ndash Fertility god who watched over travelers. Associated with the black fertile mud of the Egyptian Delta.
Mnevis (Mer-Wer or Nem-Wer) &ndash The sacred bull of Heliopolis, an aspect of the sun god Ra.
Mut &ndash Mother goddess that guarded over people in life and the savior of souls trapped by demons in the afterlife.
Nebethetpet &ndash Goddess personified as the hand of Atum.
Nefertum (Nefertem) &ndash God of perfume and sweet aromas. In Egyptian medicine he was called upon for healing aromas to cure disease.
Nehebkau (Nehebu-Kau) &ndash Protector god who joined the soul (ka) to the body at birth and united the ka with the ba (winged aspect of the soul) after death. Depicted as a serpent.
Nehmetawy &ndash Protector goddess, the consort of the god of wisdom and writing, Thoth.
Neith &ndash War goddess, creator goddess, mother goddess, and funerary goddess. The most important goddess of Lower Egypt in early history. Called &ldquoGrandmother of the Gods&rdquo or &ldquoMother of the Gods&rdquo. She was thought to have invented birth and was closely associated with living and growing things. Mediator of the gods&rsquo disputes.
Nekhbet &ndash Protector goddess. Depicted as a vulture.
Nekheny &ndash Protector god. Depicted as a falcon.
Nephthys &ndash Funerary goddess. Depicted as a woman with a house on her head. Considered the dark goddess balancing the light of Isis.
Nu (Nun) and Naunet &ndash The personification of the primordial chaos from which the world arose.
Nut &ndash Primordial sky goddess who personified the canopy of the heavens.
Ogdoad &ndash Eight gods representing primordial elements of creation: Nu and Naunet (water) Heh and Hauhet (infinity) Kek and Kauket (darkness) Amun and Amaunet (hiddenness, obscurity).
Onuris (Anhur) &ndash God of war and hunting.
Osiris &ndash Lord and judge of the dead. One of the most popular and enduring gods of Egypt. Depicted as a mummy with green or black skin. Husband of Isis.
Pakhet &ndash Hunting goddess. Depicted as a lioness.
Panebtawy &ndash Child god. Depicted as a young boy with his finger to his lips.
Pataikos &ndash Minor amuletic deities who represented the power Ptah. Depicted as dwarf-gods.
Peak &ndash Personification of the highest peak of the cliffs which overshadowed the Valley of the Kings.
Peteese and Pihor &ndash Brothers known as &ldquothe sons of Kuper&rdquo who drowned in the Nile River near Dendur. They were deified for their association with Osiris, stemming from their death in the river.
Ptah &ndash The great god of Memphis, creator of the world, lord of truth. Depicted as a mummified man wearing a skull cap holding a scepter.
/>Ptah-hotep &ndash Author of Wisdom Texts. Deified after his death.
Ptah-Sokar-Osiris &ndash Hybrid god associated with creation, death, and rebirth.
Qebehsenuef &ndash Protector god, one of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the canopic jar of the intestines. Depicted as a hawk.
Qudshu (Qadesh) &ndash Goddess of love. Depicted as a slim naked woman holding the symbols of eroticism and fertility lotus blossoms in her right hand and snakes or papyrus stems in her left.
Ra (Atum or Re) &ndash Great sun god of Heliopolis. Tpyramids of Giza are associated with Ra.
Raettawy (Raet or Raet-Tawy) &ndash Female aspect of Ra. Depicted with the uraeus on her head holding the solar disk.
Ra-Harakhte (Raharakty or Ra-Harakhty) &ndash Personification of the sun at the two horizons, sunrise and sunset. Depicted as a man with a hawk&rsquos head wearing a solar disk crown.
Renpet &ndash Personification of the year or passing of time.
Renenutet (Renenet or Ernutet) &ndash Goddess of nursing and motherhood. Depicted as a cobra or a rearing cobra with the head of a woman.
Reret &ndash Protector deity. Protectress of the sun barge as it made its way through the underworld.
Reshep &ndash War god . Consort of the goddess of sexual pleasure and sacred ecstasy Qudshu (Qadesh). Depicted as a strong warrior holding a raised war club and wearing a skirt and long Mesopotamian-styled beard.
Ruty &ndash Twin lion gods who represented the eastern and western horizons.
Sah &ndash Personification of the constellation Orion. Depicted as a man holding the ankh and sceptre standing in a boat surrounded by stars.
Satis (Satet or Satit) &ndash Goddess of the southern border of Egypt with Nubia. Depicted as a woman wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt with antelope horns.
Sebiumeker &ndash Guardian god of procreation and fertility.
Sed &ndash Protector of kingship and the king.
Sefkhet-Abwy (Safekh-Aubi) &ndash See Seshat.
Sekhmet &ndash Goddess of destruction and healing. Depicted as a woman with the head of a lion.
Sepa &ndash Protector god from snakebites. Depicted in the form of a centipede with the head of a donkey or horns.
Serapis &ndash Hybrid god created by Ptolemy I Soter of Egypt (r. 323-283 BCE), a blend of Osiris and Apis but his character and attributes were a blending of these two Egyptian deities with the Greek gods Zeus, Helios, Dionysius, Hades , and Asklepius.
Seret &ndash Protective goddess .
Serket (Selket, Serqet or Serkis) &ndash Protective and funerary goddess. Depicted as a woman with a scorpion on her head and arms outstretched in a protective pose.
Seshat (Sefkhet-Abwy or Safekh-Aubi) &ndash Goddess of writing, books, notations, and measurements. Depicted as a woman wearing a leopard skin holding a a writing implement in her right hand and the notched palm stalk in her left.
Set (Seth) &ndash God of war, chaos, storms, and pestilence. Depicted as a red beast with cloven hooves and a forked tale.
Shay (Shai) &ndash Personification of fate.
Shed &ndash Protective god who guarded against personal harm from wild animals or mortal enemies. Depicted as a young man with shaved head carrying a quiver of arrows.
Shentayet &ndash Protective goddess.
Shepet &ndash Protective goddess. An aspect of Reret or Taweret.
Shesmetet &ndash Protective leonine goddess known as &ldquoLady of Punt&rdquo. Depicted as a woman with the head of a lion.
Shezmu &ndash God of wine and perfume.
Sia &ndash Personification of perception and thoughtfulness. Depicted as a man standing at the right side of Ptah.
Sky Bull &ndash Presided over the heavens and the afterlife as a protector, also known as &ldquoBull of the West&rdquo.
Sobek &ndash Protective deity. God of water and medicine. Depicted as a man with a crocodile&rsquos head.
Sokar (Seker) &ndash Protective falcon god of Memphis. Depicted as a funerary mound surrounded by falcon heads.
Sons of Horus &ndash See Four Sons of Horus.
Sopdu (Soped or Sopedu) &ndash Protective god who guarded over the outposts and soldiers on the eastern border of Egypt. Depicted as a falcon with a flail over the right wing.
Sothis &ndash Personification of the star Sirius. Depicted as a woman with feathers with a five-pointed star above her..
Souls of Nekhen and Pe &ndash Protective spirits who served the king in life and death. Depicted as men with falcon heads.
Star Deities &ndash Gods and goddesses associated with the planets and stars.
Sutekh &ndash Semitic name for the god Set (Seth).
Ta-Bitjet &ndash Protective goddess that guards against poisonous bites and stings..
Tasenetnofret &ndash Protective goddess.
Tatenen &ndash Personification of the primordial mound at creation and the land of Egypt..
Taweret (Tauret) &ndash Protective goddess of childbirth and fertility. Depicted as a female hippopotamus.
Tayet (Tait) &ndash Goddess of weaving.
Tefnut &ndash Goddess of moisture. Depicted as a woman seated with a lion&rsquos head.
Tenenit (Tenenet or Tjenenet) &ndash Goddess of beer, brewing and childbirth.
Tetrads &ndash Personification of completeness or the four cardinal points of the compass.
Thoth &ndash God of writing and wisdom, truth and integrity. Depicted as a man with the head of an ibis holding a writing implement.
Tjenenyet &ndash Protective goddess.
Tree Goddesses &ndash Goddesses that were associated with trees, most notably Isis, Hathor, and Nut.
Triads &ndash Grouping of three deities, usually a father-god, mother-god, and child-god.
Tutu &ndash Protective god. Depicted as a striding lion with the head of a man, large wings, and a snake for a tail.
Uat-Ur &ndash Personification of the Mediterranean Sea. See Wadj-Wer.
Uajyt (Wadjet or Uto) &ndash Protective goddess of Lower Egypt. Depicted as a serpent with a woman&rsquos head.
Unut (Wenet or Wenut) &ndash Protective goddess. Depicted as a woman with a rabbit&rsquos head.
Wadjet &ndash Protective goddess against demons, bad omens, and ghosts. Depicted as a rearing cobra.
Wadj-Wer (Uat-Ur) &ndash Personification of the Mediterranean Sea.
Waset (Wosret) &ndash Protective goddess. Depicted as a woman holding the Was sceptre and ankh and a staff adorned with ribbons.
Weneg &ndash Protective god who held up the sky and maintained order between the heavens and the earth.
Wenenu &ndash Protective god. Depicted as a rabbitt-headed man.
Wepset &ndash Protective goddess. Depicted as a woman wearing the uraeus with horns and the sun disk overhead.
Wepwawet (Wepiu or Wepuaut) &ndash God that opens ways for battles, the afterlife, and birth. Depicted as a jackal wearing a scarf with a falcon in front of him.
1 Matshishkapeu, The God Of The Anus Who Communicates Through The Farts Of Humans
One of the biggest misconceptions about religion is that it's perpetually dour, existing only to make you feel judgment and shame. But laughter is as much of a part of life as sorrow and sin, and so the Bible told dirty jokes, the Prophet Muhammad liked goofy zingers, and the Innu, the indigenous inhabitants of Quebec, have Matshishkapeu, the omnipresent spirit of the anus. And when you fart, he is literally speaking through you.
Matshishkapeu isn't very good at talking through people's buttholes, so the Innu have to try to interpret what he's saying as best they can, with some folks being considered better fart whisperers than others. He often tries to predict the future, but it's not considered a big deal if his prophesies are wrong. He also inserts himself into debates, although whether it's considered a good sign that the fart god is on your side is itself debatable.
If all of this sounds very silly, that's because it's supposed to be. Matshishkapeu is a reminder of the humorous side of life and the spirit world, and his, uh, communications are often associated with breaking up the tedium of hunting and foraging, or defusing tense moments during important public discussions. He encourages spontaneity and amusement, and interpretations of his messages should be witty.
He can get serious, kind of. In one legend, Kanipinikassikueu, the Master of the Caribou, wouldn't provide caribou for the Innu to eat, so the starving people asked Matshishkapeu for help. Matshishkapeu told Kanipinikassikueu to stop being a caribou hog, Kanipinikassikueu refused because he was being a stingy jerk, and so Matshishkapeu cursed him with constipation so intense that he would have died if he hadn't given in and let the people eat. And now, to this day, Matshishkapeu will inflict severe constipation on those who don't share their food. So if we can get the Innu's permission, we'd like to repurpose him as the god of vengeful roommates who have been stuck with 90% of the grocery bill.
Also, we'd love to know more about you and your interesting lives, dear readers. If you spend your days doing cool stuff, drop us a line at iDoCoolStuff at Cracked dot com, and maybe we can share your story with the entire internet.
Thou shalt follow us on Facebook.
Related: 5 Animals That Can Do Amazing Things (With Their Butts)
The Field Of Reeds and Egyptian Love of Life
It is a popular misconception that the ancient Egyptians were obsessed with death when, in reality, they were in love with life and so, naturally, wished it to continue on after bodily death. The Egyptians enjoyed singing, dancing, boating, hunting, fishing and family gatherings just as people enjoy them today.
The most popular drink in ancient Egypt was beer which, although considered a food consumed for nutritional purposes, was also enjoyed at the many celebrations Egyptians observed throughout the year. Drunkenness was not considered a sin as long as one consumed alcohol at an appropriate time for an appropriate reason. Sex, whether in marriage or out, was also viewed liberally as a natural and enjoyable activity.A wall-painting from the tomb of Sennedjem, an Egyptian craftsman, depicting the deceased and his wife Iyneferti blissfully harvesting their fields in the afterlife. Deir el-Medina, near Thebes, c. 1200 BCE. / Wikimedia Commons
The elaborate funerary rites, mummification, and the placement of Shabti dolls were not meant as tributes to the finality of life but to its continuance and the hope that the soul would win admittance to the Field of Reeds when the time came to stand before the scales of Osiris. The funerary rites and mummification preserved the body so the soul would have a vessel to emerge from after death and return to in the future if it chose to visit earth.
One’s tomb, and statuary depicting the deceased, served as an eternal home for the same reason – so the soul could return to earth to visit – and shabti dolls were placed in a tomb to do one’s work in the afterlife so that one could relax whenever one wished. When the funeral was over, and all the prayers had been said for the safe travel of the departed, survivors could return to their homes consoled by the thought that their loved one was justified and would find joy in paradise. Even so, not all the prayers nor all the hopes nor the most elaborate rites could help that soul whose heart was heavier than the white feather of truth.
Funerary Rituals and the Soul
Funerary rituals developed from primitive rites and modest preparation of the body to the elaborate tombs and mummification practices synonymous with ancient Egypt. At its most sophisticated (during the New Kingdom), the corpse of the newly deceased would be brought to the embalmers, who would prepare the body for burial. The body needed to be preserved because it was thought the soul would require it for sustenance in the afterlife. The soul was thought to consist of nine separate parts:
- Khat was the physical body
- Ka was one’s double-form
- Ba was a human-headed bird aspect which could speed between earth and the heavens
- Shuyet was the shadow self
- Akh was the immortal, transformed self
- Sahu and Sechem were aspects of the Akh
- Ab was the heart, the source of good and evil
- Ren was one’s secret name
The Khat needed to exist in order for the Ka and Ba to recognize itself and the Akh to proceed to paradise so the body had to be preserved as intact as possible. Once the body was prepared for burial, mourners would follow it to the tomb. Nobility and wealthy people began building their tombs while they were still alive so it would be ready when they needed it. Portions of the texts noted above would be inscribed on the walls and these were tailored to the individual tomb owner.
As the funeral procession moved along, professional mourners, known as The Kites of Nephthys (who were always women emulating the grief of Isis and Nephthys as they mourned Osiris), would wail and cry to encourage others to express their grief. This outpouring of emotion was thought to be heard and appreciated by the deceased who would be gratified they would be missed on earth, and this would enliven the soul. Once at the tomb, a priest would perform the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony in which he would touch the mummy’s mouth (so it could speak) and arms and legs (so it could move) and then the tomb was sealed.
Anubis is one of the most prominent and mystical gods of ancient Egypt. He was known since the earliest periods in the history of the civilization that was based near the Nile River.
Anubis (/əˈnuːbɪs/ or /əˈnjuːbɪs/ Ancient Greek: Ἄνουβις, Egyptian: jnpw, Coptic: ⲁⲛⲟⲩⲡ Anoup) is the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists identified the sacred animal of Anubis as an Egyptian canid, that at the time was called the golden jackal, but recent genetic testing has caused the Egyptian animal to be reclassified as the African golden wolf.
A scene from a wooden Egyptian sarcophagus depicting Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife.
Anubis is the Egyptian god of mummification and the afterlife as well as the patron god of lost souls and the helpless. He is one of the oldest gods of Egypt, who most likely developed from the earlier (and much older) jackal god Wepwawet with whom he is often confused. Anubis’ image is seen on royal tombs from the First Dynasty of Egypt (c. 3150-2890 BCE) but it is certain he had already developed a cult following prior to this period in order to be invoked on the tomb’s walls for protection. He is thought to have developed in response to wild dogs and jackals digging up newly buried corpses at some point in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) as the Egyptians believed a powerful canine god was the best protection against wild canines.
Depiction and Associations
He is depicted as a black canine, a jackal-dog hybrid with pointed ears, or as a muscular man with the head of a jackal. The color black was chosen for its symbolism, not because Egyptian dogs or jackals were black. Black symbolized the decay of the body as well as the fertile soil of the Nile River Valley which represented regeneration and life. The powerful black canine, then, was the protector of the dead who made sure they received their due rights in burial and stood by them in the afterlife to assist their resurrection. He was known as “First of the Westerners” prior to the rise of Osiris in the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) which meant he was king of the dead (as “westerners” was the Egyptian term for departed souls in the afterlife which lay westward, in the direction of sunset). In this role, he was associated with eternal justice and maintained this association later, even after he was replaced by Osiris who was then given the honorary title ‘First of the Westerners’.
In earlier times, Anubis was considered the son of Ra and Hesat (associated with Hathor), but after his assimilation into the Osiris myth he was held to be the son of Osiris and his sister-in-law Nephthys. He is the earliest god depicted on tomb walls and invoked for protection of the dead and is usually shown tending to the corpse of the king, presiding over mummification and funerals, or standing with Osiris, Thoth, or other gods at the Weighing of the Heart of the Soul in the Hall of Truth in the afterlife. A popular image of Anubis is the standing or kneeling man with the jackal’s head holding the golden scales on which the heart of the soul was weighed against the white feather of truth. His daughter is Qebhet (also known as Kabechet) who brings cool water to the souls of the dead in the Hall of Truth and comforts the newly deceased. Anubis’ association with Nephthys (known as “Friend to the Dead”) and Qebhet emphasizes his long-standing role as protector of the dead and a guide for the souls in the afterlife.
Weighing of the heart scene, with en:Ammit sitting, from the book of the dead of Hunefer.
Name & Role in Religion
The name “Anubis” is the Greek form of the Egyptian Anpu (or Inpu) which meant “to decay” signifying his early association with death. He had many epithets besides “First of the Westerners” and was also known as “Lord of the Sacred Land” (referencing the area of the desert where necropoleis were located), “He Who is Upon his Sacred Mountain” (referencing the cliffs around a given necropolis where wild dogs and jackals would congregate), “Ruler of the Nine Bows” (a reference to the phrase used for traditional enemies of Egypt who were represented as nine captives bowing before the king), “The Dog who Swallows Millions” (simply referring to his role as a god of death), “Master of Secrets” (since he knew what waited beyond death), “He Who is in the Place of Embalming” (indicating his role in the mummification process), and “Foremost of the Divine Booth” referencing his presence in the embalming booth and burial chamber.
As his various epithets make clear, Anubis was central to every aspect of an individual’s death experience in the role of protector and even stood with the soul after death as a just judge and guide. Scholar Geraldine Pinch comments on this, writing, “Anubis helped to judge the dead and he and his army of messengers were charged with punishing those who violated tombs or offended the gods” (104). He was especially concerned with controlling the impulses of those who sought to sow disorder or aligned themselves with chaos. Pinch writes:
“A story recorded in the first millenium BCE tells how the wicked god Set disguised himself as a leopard to approach the body of Osiris. He was seized by Anubis and branded all over with a hot iron. This, according to Egyptian myth, is how the leopard got its spots. Anubis then flayed Set and wore his bloody skin as a warning to evildoers. By this era, Anubis was said to command an army of demon messengers who inflicted suffering and death.”
Wooden figures of the Egyptian gods Anubis (jackal), Thoth (ibis), and Horus (falcon). Holes in their bases suggest they were carried on poles as standards for use during funeral processions. Ptolemaic Period, 3rd-2nd century BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)
In the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE) and Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE) Anubis was the sole Lord of the Dead and righteous judge of the soul, but as the Osiris myth became more popular, the latter god took on more and more of Anubis’ attributes. Anubis remained a very popular god, however, and so was assimilated into the Osiris myth by discarding his earlier parentage and history and making him the son of Osiris and Nephthys born of their affair. According to this story, Nephthys (Set’s wife) was attracted by the beauty of Osiris (Set’s brother) and transformed herself to appear to him as Isis (Osiris’ wife). Osiris slept with Nephthys and she became pregnant with Anubis but abandoned him shortly after his birth in fear that the affair would be discovered by Set. Isis found out about the affair and went searching for the infant and, when she found him, adopted him as her own. Set also found out about the affair, and this is given as part of the reason for his murder of Osiris.
After his assimilation into the Osiris myth, Anubis was regularly seen as Osiris’ protector and “right-hand man” who guarded the god’s body after death, oversaw the mummification, and assisted Osiris in the judgment of the souls of the dead. Anubis was regularly called upon (as attested to from amulets, tomb paintings, and in written works) for protection and vengeance especially as a powerful ally in enforcing curses placed on others or defending one’s self from such curses.
Although Anubis is very well represented in artwork throughout Egypt’s history he does not play a major role in many myths. His early role as Lord of the Dead, prior to assimilation into the Osiris myth, was static as he only performed a single solemn function which did not lend itself to elaboration. As the protector of the dead, who invented mummification and so the preservation of the body, he seems to have been considered too busy to have involved himself in the kinds of stories told about the other Egyptian gods. Stories about Anubis are all along the lines of the one Geraldine Pinch relates above.
Worship of God
The priests of Anubis were male and often wore masks of the god made of wood in performing rituals. The god’s cult center was in Upper Egypt at Cynopolis (“the city of the dog”), but there were shrines to him throughout the land and he was universally venerated in every part of the country.Scholar Richard H. Wilkinson writes:
“The chapel of Anubis in the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri may have given continuity to an earlier shrine of the god in that area and provides an excellent example of the continuing importance of the god long after his assimilation into the cult of Osiris. Because he was said to have prepared the mummy of Osiris, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers and in the Memphite necropolis an area associated with the embalmers seems to have become something of a focal point for the cult of Anubis in the Late Period and Ptolemaic times and has been termed ‘the Anubeion’ by modern Egyptologists. Masks of the god are known, and priests representing Anumbis at the preparation of the mummy and the burial rites may have worn these jackal-headed masks in order to impersonate the god they were certainly utilized for processional use as this is depicted representationally and is mentioned in late texts. The many two- and three-dimensional representations of Anubis which have survived from funerary contexts indicate the god’s great importance in this aspect of Egyptian religion and amulets of the god were also common. “
Although he does not play a major role in many myths, his popularity was immense, and as with many Egyptian deities, he survived on into other periods through association with the gods of other lands. The Greeks associated him with their god Hermes who guided the dead to the afterlife and, according to Egyptologist Salima Ikram,
[Anubis] became associated with Charon in the Graeco-Roman period and St. Christopher in the early Christian period…It is probable that Anubis is represented as a super-canid, combining the most salient attributes of serveral types of canids, rather than being just a jackal or a dog.
This “super-canid” offered people the assurance that their body would be respected at death, that their soul would be protected in the afterlife, and that they would receive fair judgment for their life’s work. These are the same assurances sought by people in the present day, and it is easy to understand why Anubis was such a popular and enduring god. His image is still among the most recognizable of all the Egyptian gods, and replicas of his statuary and tomb paintings remain popular, especially among dog owners, in the modern day.
As with many cultural advancements and inventions, the "cradle of civilization" Mesopotamia has been cited as the birthplace of religion. When religion developed in Mesopotamia is unknown but the first written records of religious practice date to c. 3500 BCE from Sumer. Mesopotamian religious beliefs held that human beings were co-workers with the gods and labored with them and for them to hold back the forces of chaos which had been checked by the supreme deities at the beginning of time. Order was created out of chaos by the gods and one of the most popular myths illustrating this principle told of the great god Marduk who defeated Tiamat and the forces of chaos to create the world. Historian D. Brendan Nagle writes:
Despite the gods' apparent victory, there was no guarantee that the forces of chaos might not recover their strength and overturn the orderly creation of the gods. Gods and humans alike were involved in the perpetual struggle to restrain the powers of chaos, and they each had their won role to play in this dramatic battle. The responsibility of the dwellers of Mesopotamian cities was to provide the gods with everything they needed to run the world.
Humans were created, in fact, for this very purpose: to work with and for the gods toward a mutually beneficial end. The claim of some historians that the Mesopotamians were slaves to their gods is untenable because it is quite clear that the people understood their position as co-workers. The gods repaid humans for their service by taking care of their daily needs in life (such as supplying them with beer, the drink of the gods) and maintaining the world in which they lived. These gods intimately knew the needs of the people because they were not distant entities who lived in the heavens but dwelt in homes on earth built for them by their people these homes were the temples which were raised in every Mesopotamian city.
The first written records of religious practice in Egypt come from around 3400 BCE in the Predynastic Period of Egypt (6000-3150 BCE). Deities such as Isis, Osiris, Ptah, Hathor, Atum, Set, Nephthys, and Horus were already established as potent forces to be recognized fairly early on. The Egyptian Creation Myth is similar to the beginning of the Mesopotamian story in that, originally, there was only chaotic, slow-swirling waters. This ocean was without bounds, depthless, and silent until, upon its surface, there rose a hill of earth (known as the ben-ben, the primordial mound, which, it is thought, the pyramids symbolize) and the great god Atum (the sun) stood upon the ben-ben and spoke, giving birth to the god Shu (of the air) the goddess Tefnut (of moisture) the god Geb (of earth) and the goddess Nut (of sky). Atum had intended Nut as his bride but she fell in love with Geb. Angry with the lovers, Atum separated them by stretching Nut across the sky high away from Geb on the earth. Although the lovers were separated during the day, they came together at night and Nut bore three sons, Osiris, Set and Horus, and two daughters, Isis and Nephthys. Osiris, as eldest, was announced as 'Lord of all the Earth’ when he was born and was given his sister Isis as a wife. Set, consumed by jealousy, hated his brother and killed him to assume the throne. Isis then embalmed her husband's body and, with powerful charms, resurrected Osiris who returned from the dead to bring life to the people of Egypt. Osiris later served as the Supreme Judge of the souls of the dead in the Hall of Truth and, by weighing the heart of the soul in the balances, decided who was granted eternal life.
The Egyptian afterlife was known as the Field of Reeds and was a mirror-image of life on earth down to one's favorite tree and stream and dog. Those one loved in life would either be waiting when one arrived or would follow after. The Egyptians viewed earthly existence as simply one part of an eternal journey and were so concerned about passing easily to the next phase that they created their elaborate tombs (the pyramids), temples, and funerary inscriptions (the Pyramid Texts, the Book of the Dead) to help the soul's passage from this world to the next. The gods cared for one after death just as they had in life from the beginning of time. The goddess Qebhet brought water to the thirsty souls in the land of the dead and other goddesses such as Selket and Nephthys cared for and protected the souls as they journeyed to the Field of Reeds. An ancient Egyptian understood that, from birth to death and even after death, the universe had been ordered by the gods and everyone had a place in that order.
Religion in India & China
This principle of order is also paramount in the world's oldest religion still being practiced today: Hinduism (known to adherents as Sanatan Dharma, Eternal Order). Although often viewed as a polytheistic faith, Hinduism is actually henotheistic. There is only one supreme god in Hinduism, Brahma, and all other deities are his aspects and reflections. Since Brahma is too immense a concept for the human mind to comprehend, he presents himself in the many different versions of himself which people recognize as deities such as Vishnu, Shiva, and the many others. The Hindu scriptures number the gods at 330 million and these range from those who were known at a national level (such as Krishna) to lesser known local deities.