Egyptian mythology

Ancient Egyptian mythology has a long and rich history that dates back to the prehistoric period of Egypt, around 4000 BCE.

Origins and Early Development

Egyptian mythology likely emerged from the beliefs and oral traditions of predynastic Egyptian cultures. The earliest evidence comes from burial practices and tomb paintings from around 4000 BCE, which suggest beliefs in an afterlife and veneration of deities. As Egyptian society became more centralized during the Predynastic Period (c. 6000-3100 BCE), local patron deities gained national importance and were integrated into a unified mythological tradition. The myths may have arisen from relationships formed between these local gods as Egypt was unified under the first pharaohs around 3100 BCE.

Major Mythological Cycles

Some of the most significant mythological cycles that developed include:

  • Creation myths explaining how the world and gods arose out of the primordial chaos, often involving deities like Atum, Ra, and the Ogdoad.
  • The myth of Osiris, Isis, Set and Horus, dealing with kingship, death, and the afterlife. This became increasingly important in the 1st millennium BCE.
  • The daily journey of the sun god Ra, representing the cyclical nature of time and the need to uphold order (maat) against chaos.

Role in Egyptian Culture

Mythology was deeply intertwined with all aspects of ancient Egyptian culture and religion. Myths provided an understanding of the world, legitimized kingship, inspired rituals and temple cults, and offered guidance on maintaining maat.  Mythological scenes and symbols adorned tomb and temple walls. While myths were rarely written down in full narratives, they were constantly alluded to and adapted for various purposes like literature, hymns, and funerary texts. The details often varied, reflecting the metaphorical nature of Egyptian myths. So in essence, Egyptian mythology developed over millennia as a rich tapestry explaining the origins of the world, the relationships between deities, and the importance of maintaining cosmic order – forming the core of this ancient civilization’s beliefs and cultural identity.

Egyptian gods and goddesses
  • Anhur – God of war and hunting
  • Anubis – God of the dead and the afterlife
  • Apep – God of chaos, darkness, and destruction. Eternal enemy of Ra.
  • Atum – Ancestor of the gods, judge of souls in the afterlife
  • Bastet – Goddess of home, fertility, and childbirth
  • Bes – God of humor, dance, and music
  • Geb – God of the earth and the sky, fertility, and the dead.
  • Hapi – God of abundance
  • Hathor – Goddess of love, beauty, motherhood, and fertility
  • Heqet – Goddess of childbirth, renewal, regeneration, health, and the afterlife
  • Horus – God of the sky, kingship, and protection. Chief deity of the Egyptian pantheon.
  • Isis – Goddess of motherhood, fertility, magic, and healing
  • Khepri – God of the sunrise and regeneration
  • Khnum – God of the Nile, fertility and flooding
  • Menhit – Goddess of war, hunting, and the Nile.
  • Neith – Goddess of creation, wisdom, and war.
  • Nekhbet – Goddess of healing, well-being, protector of women and children
  • Nephthys – Goddess of death, mourning, and protection of the dead
  • Nut – Goddess of the sky and stars
  • Osiris – God of the afterlife, the underworld, rebirth, and judgement
  • Ptah – God of creation and craftsmanship
  • Thoth – God of wisdom
  • Ra – God of the sun and of creation
  • Sekhmet – Goddess of war, hunting, and the sun
  • Seth – God of chaos, violence, and the desert
  • Shu – God of the air, light, and dryness
  • Sobek – gurdian of the Nile, god of strength, fertility, and the afterlife
  • Taweret – Goddess of childbirth, protector of women and children
  • Tefnut – Goddess of moisture, rain, and fertility
  • Wadjet – Goddess of health, fertility, and new beginnings
Egyptian supernatural creatures
  • Ammit – Devourer of souls
  • Apis bull
  • Bennu bird
  • Serpopard
Important Egyptian mortals
Significant locations in Egyptian mythology
  • Bakhu – the mountain where Ra is believed to be reborn each day
  • Duat – the Egyptian realm of the dead
  • Field of Reeds – Egyptian heaven