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Selected Glossary of Egyptian Deities


Amon-Re – A syncretic formulation that depicts a relationship between the primeval creator god and wind god Amun and the sun god Re.  Amun was honored in Thebes by the temples of Karnak and Luxor and was associated with the ram.  The priesthood of Amon-Re was politically powerful in the 18th Dynasty.


Aten – Not a sun god per se, but a representation of the sun disk and its rays, this god became the focus of Akhenaten’s move toward monotheism in the fourteenth century.  Aten is a cosmic power that manifests itself in the form of the sun, of light, of time, of radiance and motion.  The worship of Aten was antimythical and antianthropomorphic.  Other gods were demoted and cults eliminated or disenfranchised.


Atum – the divine patron of Heliopolis, honored as the creator and ruler who accompanied them, their pharaoh, and their land from birth to death to rebirth.  Beetles lay their eggs in balls of manure and roll them from place to place while the eggs gestate.  Egyptians described Atum as a beetle rolling the sun from dusk to dawn.  Every living thing emerged from the sun, just as the newly hatched beetles emerged from the ball of manure.


Khnum – one of the earliest Egyptian deities, originally the god of the source of the Nile River.


Horus – Horus is most closely connected with the pharaoh, who was considered an incarnation of the deity.  He is portrayed as a bird of prey (falcon), which befits his identity as a sky god.


IsisThis goddess of magic is the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus.  In the latter role she is portrayed as suckling the child Horus and becomes the picture of motherly nurture and protection.  By the New Kingdom she is joined to Hathor and connected to the inundation of the Nile.


Osiris – Portrayed in mummified, anthropomorphic form, Osiris is the judge and king in the realm of the dead.  His main cult center is in Abydos.  In the mythology he was murdered by his brother, Seth.  His rebirth and resurrection in the western land of Duat is the promise for the hope of afterlife in Egyptian religion.  In the Book of the Dead he receives the vindicated individuals into the next afterlife as he is portrayed sitting on his throne and flanked by his wife/sister, Isis, and her sister, Nephthys.


Ptah –  the Egyptian god of creation, the arts, and fertility of Memphis and was typically represented in human form. His primary role was a primordial creator deity, where he was patron deity in Memphis. It was said that Ptah called the world into being after having dreamt creation in his heart and speaking it. His name means opener, in the sense of opener of the mouth.  In contrast with the divine patron of Heliopolis, Atum, Ptah simply called creation into existence, whereas Atum was like an artist who physically worked creation into existence. He created by spoken word, an act that eventuated the creation of the hieroglyph for that which was created.


Seth – The antithesis of Horus, Seth is the villain among the Egyptian gods.  He represents disorder and darkness, and is the murderer of Osiris in the mythology.  He was considered the lord of foreign lands.  His emblem animal is zoologically unidentifiable.


Thoth – The ibis-headed deity is the scribe among the gods and the patron of scribes.  He is depicted as the record keeper in the judgment scene from the Book of the Dead.  His principal cult center was Hermopolis.  He is also a moon god and in addition to the ibis was from the second millennium associated with a baboon.





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