Ancient Egyptian Lives (AEL)

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Below is a listing of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, and Different systems of belief during Ancient Egyptian times. To see if there are more pictures of that god/goddess, simply click on the picture.

Those names listed in Yellow, are the nine gods of The Great Ennead.
(Check Religions area for more on The Great Ennead)

Also if you find anything spelled wrong, or have information or stories to add to the gods list here, please email them in. Also any new gods of Ancient Egypt not listed here are welcomed as well.

Gods & Goddesses

Total Gods & Goddess Listed: 133

Quick Index:

A B D F G H I K M N O P Q R S T U W Y Beliefs & Religions

New Gods & Goddess Added To The List

Here are the newest additions & updates to the list: Aken, Aker, Amaunet, Am-Heh, Anta(Updated), Andjety, Anti, Apedemak(Updated), Arensnuphis, Ash, Astarte(Updated), Aten(Updated, Pic added), Baal, Baalat, Babi, Ba Neb Tetet(Updated), Ba-Pef, Bastet(Updated), Bat, Benu(Pic added, Bes(Updated), Dedwen, Denwen, Fetket, Gengen Wer, Ha, Hatmehyt, Haurun, Heret-Kau, Heryshaf, Hesat, Hetepes-Sekhus, Ihy, Imhotep(Updated), Ipy, Ishtar, Iusaas, Khepri(Updated, Pic added), Kherty, Maat(Updated), Mafdet, Mahaf, Mandulis, Mehen(Updated), Mehet-Weret, Mertseger(Updated), Meskhenet(Updated), Mihos, Mnevis, Mont(Pic added), Nebethetepet(Pid added), Nehebkau(Updated), Neheh(Updated), Nekehbet(Updated), Neper, Orion, Pakhet, Panebtawy, Pelican, Peteese and Pihor, Qetesh(Updated), Renenutet(Updated), Resheph(Updated), Sekhmet(Updated, New pic), Sebiumeker, Sefkhet-Abwy, Sepa, Serqet(Updated), Set(Updated, New pic), Shait(Updated), Shesmetet, Shezmu, Saa(Updated), Sothis, Souls of Pe and Nekhen, Ta-Bitjet, Tasenetnofret, Tatenen(Updated, Pic added), Tayet, Tefnet(New pic), Thoth(Updated), Wadj Wer, Weneg, Wepwawet(Updated, Pic added), Wosret, Yah, and Yamm.


One of several names for the god of the moon. He was described as a man wearing the moon symbol, which was a combination of the full moon and the crescent.


The custodian of the ferryboat in the Underworld. He had to be awoken from slumber by the ferryman Mahaf in order to provide travel in the boat upon the celestial waters.


An earth-god also presiding over the juncture of the western and eastern horizons in the Underworld. The motif of Aker consists of the foreparts of two lions, or two human heads, juxtaposed so that they face away from each other. Aker opens the earth's gate for the king to pass into the Underworld. He absorbs the poison from the body of anyone bitten by a snake and neutralises the venom in the belly of a person who has swallowed an obnoxious fly. More importantly he imprisons the coils of the snake Apophis after being hacked to pieces bby Isis. This idea of enclosure accounts for the socket holding the mast of the Underworld ferryboat being identified with Aker.

In the Egyptian notion of the Underworld Akerr could provide along his back a secure passage for the sun-god's boat travelling from west to east during the hours of night. From the tomb of Ramesses VI in the Valley of the Kings, the massive tomb of Pedamenopet. (Dynasty XXVI) in el-Asasif necropolis at Thebes, and mythological papyri of the priesthood of Amun in Dynasty XXI, it is possible to reconstruct a 'Book of Aker', concerned with the solar journey from sunset to sunrise. A more threatening side to Aker can be detected when he pluralises into the Akeru or earth-gods. In apotropaic passages in the Pyramid Texts the Akeru are said not to seize the monarch; later there is a general hope for everyone to escape the grasp of the earth-gods. The Akeru appear to be primeval deities more ancient than Geb, earth-god of the cosmogony of Heliopolis.


A goddess whose name means 'hidden one' and whose shadow, among the primeval gods, is a symbol of protection. A deity at Karnak temple at least since the reign of Sesostris I (Dynasty XII), she is predominantly the consort of Amun playing, however, a less prolific role than his other wife Mut. A statue datable to Tutankhamun's reugn which was set uup in the Record Hall of Tuthmosis III at Karnak shows the goddess in human form wearing the Red Crown of the Delta. Reliefs at Karnak clearly mark her as prominent in rituals closely associated with the monarch's accession and jubilee festival. For instance, in the momument of Tuthmosis III, known as the Akh-menu, Amaunet and Min lead a row of deities to watch the king and sacred bull in the jubilee celebration. Much later in the Greek domination of Egypt she is carved on the exterior wall of the sanctuary suckling the pharaoh Philip Arrhidaeus who is playing the role of the divine child immediately following the scene depicting his enthronement.A late equation at Karnak identifies her with Neith of the Delta- comparable to the analogy made between Mut and Sakhmet- but she retains her own identity well into the Ptolemaic period.


Of the 18th Dynasty, he was a renowned architectural genius and sage. Dued to his extraordinary talents and achievements he was raised to the rank of god. Very few commoners were granted this distinction, for normally only Pharaohs were considered suitable human material for deification.

Ament (Amenti)

Goddess of the land of the west.

A native of Libya, Ament became goddess of the Underworld; for the west was another way of saying death. It is an idea still current in our phrase 'gone west'. She is depicted as an attractive young princess seated beside Ra-Harakhty. Her emblems are the hawk and the feather. The feather means 'Libya' and therefore 'west'. Ament lived in a tree near the World Gates and offered approaching souls refreshment of bread and water. Whoever accepted this hospitality became an associate of the gods and was obliged to follow them, never to return. Ament is occasionally replaced in this task by other goddesses: Nut, Hathor, Neith, and Maat.


A threating Underworld god whose name means 'Devourer of Millions'. He dwells in a Lake of Fire. His ferocity is heightened by having the face of a hunting dog and an appetite for sacrifices. Only Atum can fend off Am-Heh.


A demonic goddess who attended the Judging of the Dead; she was given the condemned souls to devour. She was a horrible looking concoction, a cross between a crocodile, lioness and hippopotamus.

Called the 'Great of Death' in some papyri, her task is to swallow the heart of anyone judged unfit to survive in the realm of Osiris.

Amun (Amen, Amon, Ammon)

One of chief Theban deities; united with sun god under form of Amen-Ra.

Originally the local god of the city of Thebes (Nut Amun).
As the city grew from a village to a powerful metropolis so Amun, whose name signifies 'hidden', grew in importance. He ousted the Theban god of war, Mont, and went on to be regarded as chief god Egypt, 'King of the Gods'. Originally he might have been a wind or air god; later he was given several powers and attributes. As an ithyphallic god, either standing or enthroned carrying a whip, Amun was god of fertility. At Karnak he was considered to be incarnate in a sacred ram which was kept in that temple. Another symbol of sexual power, the goose, was also sacred to him. From being worshipped as a god of generative power to being worshipped as an agricultural deity responsible for the growth of crops was but a short step for Amun. He then rose to be the patron of the Pharaohs, and because of the inevitable connections between royalty and the sun, became linked to the great god Ra. As Amun-Ra he became supreme amoung the gods and ruler of the Great Ennead. During the reign of Akhenaten, the worship of Amun, like that of all the other great gods, was severely curtailed. On the death of Akhenaten the new king, the boy Tut-ankh-aten, changed his name to declare his allegiance to the neglected but now ascendant Amun; the youthful monarch is known to us as Tut-ankh-amun. Thebes, home of the god Amun, developed into a state within a state, a rich and powerful inner kingdom ruled by the high priestess of Amun and staffed by men of nobility and genius. The god's fame extended well beyond the boundaries of Egypt; Ethiopia was virtually a vassal state to the city of Thebes. To the west, in Libya, his cult was the centre of public religion, lasting well into Classical times as the cult of Jupiter Ammon. Even Alexander the Great thought it worthwhile consulting the oracle of Amun. He received a favourable reply and assumed the title, Son of Amun. Apart from Thebes, which grew so important that it was simply known as 'the city', Amun was worshipped all over Egypt, and his magnificent temples at Luxor and Karnak are among the finest remains of antiquity. Amun formed a triad with his wife Mut and his son Khons.

Anhur (Anhert, Onouris, Onuris)

A sky god associated with Shu.
Anhur is shown as a man with one or both arms raised. He wears four straight feathers on his head and sometimes holds a spear. His name is interpreted as 'skybearer', or 'he who leads that which has gone away'. He was a warrior, and was invoked against both human and animal enemies whom he chased in his chariot. Apart from being a personification of war, he was also regarded as the creative power of the sun. Sometimes he is shown holding a string by which he leads the sun; this to recall the story that when Ra's eye eandered away it was Anhut who went to fetch it back. He was a popular god in the New Empire with cult centres at Sebennytus and This. Married to the goddess Mehit, Anhur was a generally benign god, warlike in order to be helpful. His festival included a playful mock combat between the priests and people, who hit each other with sticks in honour of their saviour god.

Anta (Anat)

Considered by the Egyptians to be a daughter of Ra, Anta is an aspect of Ishtar.

She was that of a warrior goddess of Ugarit on the Syrian coast and attested in Egypt from the end of the Middle Kingdom. The Hyksos rulers seem to have promoted her cult and in the Ramesside era Anat was a crown flanked with plumes, her martial nature is emphasised by the shield, lance and battle ace. The fact that Anat can be shown under the iconography of Hathor is not surprising since Hathor can closely relate to foreign deities (ex: Baalat at Byblos or in the Sinai peninsula) as well as possessing a bloodthirsty, albeit usually subdued, side to her nature. Anat is called 'mistress of the sky' and mother of all the gods' but it is her warlike character that predominates in both Egyptian and Near Eastern references to her. Anat's introduction into the Egyptian pantheon was on account of her protecting the monarch in combat.


God in anthropomorphic form originally worshipped in the mid-Delta in Lower Egyptian nome 9. Andjety (meaning 'he of Andjet', i.e. the town of Busiris) was the precursor of Osiris at the cult centre of Busiris. The iconography of this god persuasively argues for his being the forerunner of Osiris. Andjety holds the two sceptres in the shape of a 'crook' and a 'flail', insignia which are Osiris's symbols of dominion. Also his high conical crown decorated with two feathers is clearly related to the 'atef' crown of Osiris. As early as the beginning of Dynasty IV King Seneferu, the builder of the first true pyramid tomb, is carved wearing this crown of Andjety. The close relationship of the god to the monarch is is also evident from the earliest references in the Pyramid Texts, where the king's power as a universal ruler is enhanced by his being equated to Andjety 'presiding over the eastern districts'. Perhaps Andjety is an embodiment of sovereignty and its attendant regalia. As such he would readily be absorbed into the nature of Osiris and by extension into the pharaoh himself. The most likely explanation of his epithet, 'bull of vultures', found in the Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts, is that it emphasises his role as a procreative consort of major goddesses.

Andjety figures in a funerary context as well. The notion that he is responsible for rebirth in the Afterlife is probably the reason for the substitution for the two feathers of a bicornate uterus in early writings of his name in the Pyramid Texts. In the Underworld too there is an obvious identification between Andjety and Osiris, as ruler. Hence in the Temple of Sety I at Abydos, the king is depicted buring incense to the god Osiris-Andjety who holds a 'crook' sceptre, wears two feathers in his headband and is accompanied by Isis.


Hawk-god of particular importance in nomes 12 and 18 of Upper Egypt. Anti is represented standing on a crescent-shaped boat and in the Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts is described as supervising the sailing of the 'henu' boat of another falcon deity Sokar. A natural assimilation is made as early as Dynasty VI between Anti and Horus in his form of a falcon of gold. Both are called Lords of the East, protecting the region where the sun-god rises, and soaring with him at dawn into the firmament. In the Pyramid Texts there are two hawk-gods who equate with Anti:

  • Dunawy 'He who extends the arms (i.e. wings)'
  • Dunanwy 'He who extends the claws'.

  • A complicated late Egyptian document (known as the Papyrus Jumilhac) relates an interesting myth involving Anti in which provincial theologians localise gods of universal import for the 'home market'. The essence of this legend consists of an explanation for three ritual images: a bovine statue worshipped in the nothernmost nome 22 of Upper Egypt, whose most prominent deity was Hathor, the fetish of an animal carcass on a pole (the 'Imyut' symbol); and a statue of Anti made of silver belonging to his temple in nome 12 of Upper Egypt.

    Anubis (Anpu)

    A jackal-headed god who conducted the dead to judgement.

    Funerary god of embalming and of tombs.
    Anubis is shown as a jackal-headed man, or as a jackal. With the god Thoth, his duty was to weigh the heart of each dead soul against a feather, the symbol of truth. The apparatus was a sort of lie-detector for the dead man to protest his innocence of various crimes; if he lied then the balance would respond, his heavy heart would sink on the scales. Anubis was responsible for the evisceration of the dead body, which during the embalming was assumed to have the ritual identity of the god Osiris. Anubis 'the faithful' had assisted Isis in the original embalming which became the pattern for all subsequent ones. Jackals were frequent grave-robbers, so on the principle that like can defeat like, Anubis was honoured as a protector of the dead. His cult centre was Cynopolis or modern El Kes. His father was Osiris and his mother Nephythys.

    Anuket (Anqet, Anukis)

    Divine wife of the god Khnum.
    Anuket can be recoginzed by her feathered head-dress. She was associated with the Nile Cataracts, especially Aswan. Her farvoured places were Seheil and Elephantine Island. Her name indicates 'hugging' or clasping', as if she were pressing the river between its banks, squeezing it between rocks and islands.


    Lion-headed Nubian warrior god.

    He was indigenous to the Sudanese culture of Meroe. The Meroitic civilisation displays many Egyptian influences and incorporates gods from the pharaonic panntheon but Apedemak is likely to be a totally African deity. He is represented as anthropomorphic to the shoulders with leonine head and holding a sceptre surmounted by a seated lion. his association with battles is admirably captured in the lion imagery- in pharonic Egypt too the lion-motif can represent a killer-deity in a southern enviroment. Mention of Apedemak is rare in Lower Nubia although in a chapel dedicated to Isis at Dabod, just above the first cataract of the Nile, Meroitic ruler Adikhalamani (around 200BC) calls himself 'beloved of Apedemak'. The main sanctuary of Apedemak was at Musawwarat es-Sufra in the sands of the Butana, north of the sixth Nule Cataract. For about 800 years from 300BC this vast temple complex, which included a major temple to Apedemak (as well as chapels to him and another Meroitic deity Sebiumeker), was the destination of sacred pilgrimages. From reliefs in his monuments Apedemak's cult involves specially bred temple cattle and an important regard for the African elephant.

    Apep (Apophis)

    Demon enemy of the sun.
    Apep was a huge snake, symbolizing darkness, storm, night, the underworld and of course, death. He did nightly battle with the sun god Ra, and every night was defeated in order that the sun could shine again upon the earth. Apep, who lived in the depths of the celestial Nile, had the occasional near-success during eclipses when he swallowed the boat of the sun god, sometimes wholly, sometimes partially; but he always regurgitated it. Ra was protected by another serpent, Mehen, who is shown defending the sun god by coiling itself round the deck-house of the boat. Apep was often bracketed with the dark god Set as evil a pair of villains as anyone could wish to meet. The children of Apep attacked the god Shu, causing his illness and eventual abdication.

    Apis (Hap)

    A bull god who wears the solar disc and royal uraeus (coiled cobra).
    Apis was the sacred animal of Ptah, who in the form of celestial fire mated with a heifer. At Memphis a real was kept and was regarded as the incarnation of both Ptah and Osiris. When each bull died his successor was recognized by certain marks on his body. The bull at Memphis was popular and much-visited, for he was considered a powerful oracle and visitors drew various conclusions from his behaviour. Honoured in death as in life, the bulls of Memphis were embalmed and mummified and kept in a vast subterranean complex at Zaqqara. As Osiris-Apis he was the original of the new god Serapis, worshipped in Ptolemaic times.


    Anthropomorphic Nubian deity wearing a plumed crown who occurs in southern temples during the Graeco-Roman period, coeval with the Meroitic civilisation based around the mid-fifth-sixth cataract region. The Egyptian rendering of his name 'Ari-hes-nefer' gives little clue to his nature, other than being a benign deity. A small kiosk-style temple was built in his honour. on the island of Philae during the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopator (about 220BC), the blocks from the southern enclosure wall showing that it was a joint enterprise with the Meroitic King Arqamani (Ergamenes II). However, only the fact that he is a 'companion' of the goddess Isis, pre-eminent deity of Philae, can be elucidated from the inscriptions. He is also represented on a wall of Dendur templee (originally sited above the first cataract of te Nile, now re-erected at tthe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) where he accompanies the local deified heroes Peteese and Pihor being worshiped by the Roman emperor Augustus.


    God of the Western Desert (Sahara) including the fertile oases, and of 'Tehenu' or Libya, first attested on sealings from the Early Dynastic Period. Although his territory is in what the Ancient Egyptians called the Red Land (Deshret) as opposed to the crop-bearing silt of the Black Land (Kemet) bordering the Nile itself, Ash is not an outsider or a god of alien origins. He controls the produce of the oases in favour of the pharaoh- recent archaeology in the Western Desert has shown how the Egyptian monarch enjoyed the prosperity of its major fertile depressions. His shape is normally anthropomorphic as attested, for example, in a relief from a temple of King Sahure who lived around 2500 BC. He can also be shown with the head of a hawk. As lord of the desert an obvious identification wass made between Ash and Seth as early as Dynasty II. This connexion was intensified because Ash, it would seem, was the original god of Ombos in Upper Egypt (not too far from modern Qena) before the arrival of Seth as its major deity- hence an epithet of Ash being 'nebuty' or 'he of Nebut(Ombos)'.


    This Canaanite warrior-goddess, though an importation, was considered to be a daughter of Ra. Numbers of foreign gods and goddesses joined the existing crowds of native Egyptian deities. All were made welcome and given a home; even gods of enemies were honoured.

    In the Egyptian pantheon to which she was officially admitted in Dynasty XVIII her prime association is with horses and chariots. On the stela set up near the sphinx by Amenhotep II celebrating his prowess, Astarte is described as delighting in the impressive equestrian skill of the monarch when he was still only crown-prince. In her iconography her aggression can be seen in the bull horns she sometimes wears as a symbol of domination. Similarly, in her Levantine homelands, Astarte is a battlefield-goddess; for example, when the Peleset (Philistines) killed Saul and his three sons on Mount Gilboa, they deposited the enemy armour as spoils in the temple of 'Ashtoreth' (Astarte).


    Sun-god who in his zenith under the pharaoh Akhenaten (1379-1362 BC), who became the universal and almost exclusive deity.
    If you had asked any Ancient Egyptian priest about the god Aten you would have fortunate to get a coherent answer. Even if the priest could have overcome his rage, wounded pride and bitterness, it would still have been difficult to understand his description. In fact there is really only one man who would have been able to give you even an approximate idea of Aten: the eccentric king Akhenaten, originally known as Amenhetep IV. By the 18th Dynasty, circa 1400 B.C., the power base of the Egyptian state had already moved from Heliopolis, home of Ra the Sun god, to Thebes, home of the god Amun. To satisfy the need of the Egyptian kinds to be identified with the solar deity, he was now called Amun-Ra. There had been some move to get back to the pure solar idea of Ra when all of a sudden Amenhetep IV, a physically and emotionally odd sort of character, created a religious cataclysm by declaring that all the many Egyptian gods were false; including the all-powerful Amun-Ra. Henceforth the only god to be worshipped, solely and supremely, was to be Aten. The stunned priesthood watched amazing scenes of official revolution. Temples were closed down, priest and priestesses turned out, all references on monuments, tombs and civic buildings to 'gods', especially the name of Amun-Ra, were brutally obliterated by hammer and chisel. Lightning had struck at the heart of Egypt, leaving it paralysed. The idea of monotheism, of one god eternal, transcendent and uncreated, was alien to a people who saw gods in every natural phenomenon about them. Their minds were simply not on that wavelength. But that is what the king ordered them to believe. He called his abstract god after the shining solar disc of Ra, the aten. To this god he composed hymns, rituals and new ceremonies. The dissident king changed his name from Amen-hetep ('Amun is content') to Akhenaten ('it is well with Aten'). He deserted Thebes for a brand-new capital city, Akhetaten ('the horizon of Aten'); for which he departed lock, stock and sarcophagus as soon as it was finished. The new god was depicted as the sun from which descended many rays, each ending in a hand which caressed the royal family. The changed attitude even affected sculpture; Akhenaten was carved as he really was, not as an ideal. And he really was a strange looking manl a bony equine face with sensitive features, a thin body with a bulging paunch. The king neglected state affairs for the constant rituals and ceremonies of his god; as a result things went badly on the frontiers, the north-eastern boundary especially was prone to pressure as Hittites, Habiru and dynasts took advantage of Egypt's internal troubles. The worship of Aten lasted exactly as long as the life of the king; and not a mintute longer. Aten's priest had all been sycophantic time-servers, and were swift to drop the new and disturbing worship. The truth is that Akhenaten was a man out of his time who, because of an accident of birth that made him king, had the power and authority to express and publicize his personal beliefs on a scale never before or since achieved by a mere mortal. On the road-map of religions, the worship of Aten was a cul-de-sac.

    Atum (Tum, Tem)

    Evening aspect of the sun god Ra
    It was common trait of ancient thought to see the same thing, in this case the sun, take on different personalities according to its outward appearance. Thus the crescent moon has a different personality from the full moon, and the planet Venus in the morning is not the same as in the evening. Atum was the sun, Ra, but in his evening aspect. Worshipped at Heliopolis, he was shown wearing the pshkhent or double crown of Egypt. This was composed of the squat red crown of Lower Egypt and the tall white crown of Upper Egypt. Progenitor of the human race, Atum was considered to have lain dormant in the primeval waters of Nun long before creation. He fought with the Apep-serpent in the form of a male cat. His sacred animal was the bull. He is shown carrying the symbol of life, the crux ansata.

    Auf (Efu Ra)

    An aspect of the sun god Ra
    Auf was a ram-headed god who wore the solar disc and travelled at night through the Underworld waterways in order to reach the east in time for the new day; however, he still had to fight off the creatures of the Underworld. Demons and gods towed his boat along while Auf stood in a deck-house, over which was coiled the serpent Mehen who warded off the dangerous Apep. The boat of night was crewed by the gods Hu, Saa and Wepwawet.

    Ba Neb Tetet (Banebdjedet, Baneb Djedet, Banaded)

    Ram god whose name means 'ba (or 'soul') lord of Mendes', his cult centred in the north-east Delta.

    When the two gods Horus and Set were making the heavens ring with their wranglings over precedent, it was the ram-god Ba Neb Tetet who sensibly suggested to the gods in council that they should write a letter to the goddess Neith and ask for her opinion. His suggestion opened the way for discussion and arbitration which finally settled the dispute. His character, one of peace and level-headedness, has been sadly perverted in sennsational 'occult' fiction, for Ba Neb Tetet is the benign original for a travesty called the 'goat of Mendes', who is supposed to be some sort of diabolic spirit. At Mendes was kept a sacred ram, worshipped as the incarnation of Ra and Osiris. Originally a local god, Ba Neb Tetet was given the solar disc and uraeus (coiled cobra) and brought into the main-stream of religious life.


    Prominent god of the sky and storms whose cult spread from Ugarit in Syria into Egypt, where he possessed a priesthood by Dynasty XVIII. Aliyan Baal, son of a less well-attested god Dagan, dwelt on Mount Sapan (hence Ball-Zaphon) in North Syria but also became associated as a local deity of other sites such as Baal-Hazor in Palestine, and Baal-Sidon and Baal of Tyre(Melkart) in the Lebanon. Although the anme Baal can mean 'lord' or 'owner' it was being used as a proper name for a specific god by the sixteenth century BC. Baal has a pointed beard, a horned helmet and wields a cedar tree, club, or spear. His epithet in the cuneiform texts, 'he who rides on the clouds', is admirable for a god of tempests and thunder- relating thereby to the Mesopotamian thunder- god Adad and in Egypt to the god Seth. Ramesses II in his almost fatal struggle against the Hittite confederation at the battle of Kadesh is called 'Seth great of strength and Baal himself'. The war cry of Ramesses III is like Baal in the sky, i.e. Baal's voice (the thunder) which makes the mountains shake. His relationship to the warrior-pharaoh image may account for the popularity of his cult at Memphis, capital of Egypt, and the theophorous name Baal-Khepeshef or 'Baal-is-upon-his-sword'.

    In the Middle East Baal's dominion was greatly enhanced when he became the vanquisher of Yamm god of the sea. But Baal was killed in a struggle with Mot (possibly a personification of death) and descended into the Underworld. He returns to life by the intervention of his sister-lover Anat, who also slays his murderer. It is curious that the Egyptians did not, in extant texts at any ratem relate this myth symbolising the continual cycle of vegetation to their own Osiris legend.


    A Canaanite goddess connected probably via her responsibility for products valued by the Egyptians with Hathor. Her name means 'mistress' and she is clearly the feminine counterpart to Baal. In her role as Baalat Gebal 'mistress of Byblos' she protects the cedar-wood trade between the Lebanon an dEgypt which goes back to the reign of King Seneferu. Her significance parallels that of Hathor of Dendera who is described as dwelling at Byblos. In the Sinai peninsula the turquoise mines at Serabit el-Khadim were protected by Hathor. In Hathor's temple there is a small sandstone sphinx inscribed by the dedicator both with the name of the Egyptian deity, in hieroglyphs, and with the name of Baalat, in an early alphabetic script.


    A fierce, bloodthirsty baboon-god.
    As early as the old Kingdom Babi 'bull(i.e. dominant male) of the baboons' represents supernatural aggression to which the monarch aspires. He controls the darkness and will open up the sky for the king since his phallus is the bolt on the doors of heaven. This virility sumbol is carried over into a later spell where in order to ensure successful sexual intercourse in the Afterlife a man identifies his phallus with Babi. Perhaps it is not entirely fortuitous that the Underworld ferryboat uses Babi's phallus as its mast. This dangerous god lives on human entrails and murders on sight. Hence spells are needed to protect oneself against him, particularly during the weighing the heart ceremony in the Hall of the Two Thruths where a person's fitness for paradise is determined. Naturally this hostile aspect of Babi leads to an identification with Seth. Conversely Babi can use his immense power to ward off dangers like snakes and control turbulent waters. Understandably in the Book of the Dead the deceased makes the magical progression to become Babi who in turn transforms into the 'eldest son of Osiris'.


    The name of this god means 'That Soul' with an implication of dread or hostility contained in the demonstrative adjective 'pef'. In a reference in the Pyramid Text the monarch passes by the House of Ba-Pef where there is pain or woe. From the mastaba-tomb of Meresankh III at Giza there is evidence that in the Old Kingdom at any rate Ba-Pef possessed a priesthood.

    Bastet (Bast)

    Cat-headed sun goddess.

    The town of Bubastis was the cult centre of this solar goddess represented as a woman with a cat's head, or simply as a cat. The goddess holds a sistrum or rattle. She was identified and confused with both Mut and Sekhmet, the lion-headed goddess. Bastet wore an aegis or shield in the form of a semi-circular plate, embellished with a lion's head. She was goddess of pleasure and inevitably became one of the most popular deities. In her temple were kept sacred cats, who were supposed to be incarnations of the goddess. When they died they were carefully mummified. The Egyptians found something to worship in just about every animal they had: dogs, cats, lions, crocodiles, snakes, dung-beetles, hippos, hawks, cows and ibises.

    As the daughter of Re she is associated with the rage inherent in the sun-god's eye, his instrument of vengeance. It was probably this ferocity that made the analogy so plausible between Bastet and lioness. Her development into the cat-goddess par excellence, of the Late Period of Egyptian civilization, retains the link with the sun-god but in some ways softens the vicious side of her nature. She becomes a peaceful creature, destroying only vermin, and unlike her leonine form she can be approached fearlessly and stroked. It has been suggested that in one myth the Egyptians saw Bastet's return from Nubia, where she had been sent by Re as a lioness and had raged in isolation, to Egypt in the form of the more placid cat as an explanation of the period of unapproachability in the cycle of menstruation. A tangential evidence that advocates of this theory cite the scenes in New Kingdom tomb paintings at Thebes where a cat is depicted under the lady's chair as a deliberate ploy to indicate that she will always be available for sexual intercourse with the tomb owner in the Afterlife. In her earlies appearances in the Pyramid Era Bastet is a goddess closely linked to the king. A magnificent example of precise engineering in the Old Kingdom, namely the valley temple of King Khafre at Giza, carries on its facade the names of two goddess only- Hathor of Southern Egypt and Bastet of the north. The latter is invoked as a benign royal protectress in the Pyramid Texts where, in a spell to enable him to reach the sky, the king proclaims that his mother and nurse is Bastet. Besides the king, Bastet has a son in the form of the lion-headed god Mihos and is also the mother of a more artifical offspring combining the natures of Nefertum and the child Horus, personifying her connection with perfume and royalty. With the dramatic extension of the roles of deities to assist Egyptian courtiers as well as the pharaoh that we find in the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom, Bastet gives immense protection as first-born daughter of Atum. The aggressive side of Bastet can be seen in historial texts describing the pharaoh in battle. For example, Amenhotep II's enemies are slaughtered like the victims of Bastet along the road cut by the god Amun. From her epithet 'lady of Asheru', the precinct of the goddess Mut at Karnak, it is clear that Bastet had a place on Theban soil where she could be equated with the consort of Amun- especially since the lioness and the cat were also claimed as sacred animals by Mut. Reliefs in the temple of Karnak show the pharaoh celebrating ritual races carrying either four sceptres and a bird or an oar in front of Bastet who is called ruler of 'Sekhet-neter' or the 'Divine Field'- i.e. Egypt.


    Cow-goddess of Upper Egypt.

    Bat is rarely depicted in Egyptian art, although as a jewellery-amulet she is more common. Her head is human but the ears are bovine and horns grow from her temples. Her body is in the shape of a necklace counterpoise. In fact the whole iconography suggests the sacred rattle of sistrum- fittingly, since her cult centre is in the district of Upper Egypt known as the 'Mansion of the sistrum'. Without inscriptional evidence there must always be an element of caution but it does seem likely, on stylistic grounds, that the cow-goddess represented at the top corners of the Narmer Palette, a slate carving in Cairo Museum commemorating the unification of north and south Egypt into one state about 3000 BC, is more likely to be Bat than Hathor. Our earliest written evidence for the goddess, in the Pyramid Texts, would support this view: the king is Bat 'with her two faces', i.e. front and back of her sistrum emblem and similarly carved on each side of the palerre. Even earlier, she might be the goddess on a palette on which stars are represented at the tips of her horns, indicating that, like most Egyptian cow-deities, she has celestial connections. It is possible that Bat has a presence that maintains the unity of Egypt, both north with south and Nile Valley with deserts. In addition to her pre-eminent positioning on the Narmer Palette, she is represented in the centre of a pectoral of Dynasty XII flanked by the two protagonists in the struggle for the Egyptian throne, Horus and Seth, in a state of reconciliation. However, her simiolarity to Hathor, the cow-goddess worshipped in the neighbouring southern district, was so close that Bat's personal identity was not strong enough to survive being totally assimilated to her by the New Kingdom.


    Primeval bird sacred to the sun-god at Heliopolis.

    The name Benu appears to be connected with the verb 'weben' meaning to 'rise in brilliance' or 'shine'. The bird itself in the Pyramid Age is the yellow wagtail, but later becomes represented as a heron with two long feathers growing from the back of its head. The earliest mention of the Benu is the Pyramid Texts where it is described as one of the forms of the Heliopolitan sun-god Atum. This link with the creator sun-god is maintained in the Middle Kingdom where the Benu of Re is said to be the means by which Atum came into being in the primeval water. Like that of the sun-god, the Benu's own birth is attributed to self-generation. Mythological papyri of Dynasty XXI provide a vignette of a heart-amulet and scarab beetle near to which stands the Benu descrubed as 'the one who came into being by himself'. The Benu is also found as a symbol of anticipated rebirth in the Underworld, carved on the backs of heart-scarabs buried with the corpse to ensure the heart does not fail in the examination of past deeds in the Hall of the Two Truths. As the living manifestation of Re (called his 'Ba' or 'soul') the Benu has a close association with the sun-god's temple at Heliopolis. On the sarcophagus of the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, Ankhnesneferibre, in the British Museum the Benu is imagined as perched on a sacred willow tree in the temple.


    A guardian god.

    Dwarf-god, grotesque in appearance, benign in nature.

    A god of a far different order from the serene and poised figures of the official pantheon. He was a plump, bandy-legged, hairy, rude dwarf with a wicked gleam in his pop-eyes. his tongue resolutely stuck out at the follies of mankind. Bes was a foreign god, an import from the land of Punt (Libya). He was a swaggering, jolly, mock-gallant pigmy, fond of music and clumsy, inelegant dancing. He was a popular proletarian god who was adopted by the middle classes; he was considered a tutelary god of childbirth and, strangely enough, of cosmetics and female adornments. Bes chased away demons of the night and guarded men from dangerous animals. His image was carved on bedpost, bringing a touch of coarses geniality into the boudoir. He eventually became a protector of the dead and, amazingly, competed with even the refined and magnificemt god Osiris for the attentions of men. Bes' only clothing appears to have been a leopard skin tied round his shoulders and an ostrich feather stuck in his uncombed hair.


    Anthropomorphic god presiding over Nubia and its access to resources such as incense. In the Pyramid Texts the king is honoured as Dedwen lord of Nubia. The royal aroma is that of the incense brought by Dedwen for the gods. The connection with the monarch is also seen in the fact that Dedwen burns incense at royal births. Temples in Nubia were built for Dedwen by Tuthmosis III at el-Lessiya and Uronarti but there is no evidence for a cult centre of this god north of Aswan.


    Fiery serpent-god attested in the Pyramid Era who would have caused a conflagration destroying other deities but was thwarted by the king.

    Duamutef (Tuamutef)

    A funerary god, son of Horus.

    Like Anubis he was jackal-headed and concerned with the dead. The stomach was Duamutef's sphere of influence, the preserved viscera in question being removed from the body, preserved in spices and placed in a jar on which was a mode of Duamutef's head. The viscera were preserved as being essential parts of the mummified human.


    Butler of the sun-god Re who provides the king with his drink supply.

    Geb (Keb, Seb)

    Earth god; father of Osiris; represented with goose on head.

    After Ra had created Shu and Tefnut, the two new deities mated and produced Geb ('earth') and his sister Nut ('sky'). Despite their relationship Geb and Nut soon became locked in a firm embraced. They had four children, Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephythys, then returned immediately to their embrace. Ra thought it was about time they desisted but they quite naturally paid him no attention. Ra then ordered Shu ('air') to slip between them and forcibly separate the enraptured pair. Nut was pushed up into an arch, restting on her toes and fingers while Geb was thrown down, his sprawling limbs becoming the uneven, hilly earth. This scene is depicted in many paintings: Nut is a slim, elongated maiden, the half-kneeling Shu holds her up with both arms, while the dark skinned, ithyphallic Geb lies beneath them both. Geb was a god without a cult; he was given the world to rule. One day he and a group of friends rashly opened a box in which was kept Ra's uraeus, the divine cobra. The snake's poisonous breath killed Geb's companions and severely burned Geb. The god was healed by the application of a magic lock of hair belonging to Ra, and ever after that was careful to mind his own business. After a long and uneventful reign he handed his power over to his son Osiris and retired to heaven. There he occasionally assisted the god Thoth, sometimes as a magistrate, sometimes as an envoy. Geb's generative power is shown not only in representations of him as an ithyphallic man, but also in the story that he once had the shape of a gander. He mated with a goose to produce an egg, the sun. Many cultures regard the earth as female; Geb is an interesting exception.

    Gengen Wer (Negeg)

    A primeval goose whose onomatopoeic name means Great Honker and who is a force of creative energy. The imagery is that of the goose carrying the egg from which life emerges. In order to be part of this creation, a continuing cycle in the Egyptian mind, a person in the Underworld might be described as closely guarding or actually being the egg within the Great Honker. This goose, also called the cackler, is a form under which Amun can appear as a creator-god.


    God of the desert, particularly the regions of the west including the oases. Ha is anthropomorphic and wears the symbol for desert hills on his head. As lord of the desert he wards off enemies from the west, probably referring to invading tribes from Libya.


    God of the Nile.

    Hapi was in male form with a large paunch and well-developed, almost female, breasts. He wore a crown of papyrus or lotus, and was shown carrying a tray of food or pouring water from urns. He lived near the First Cataract and was a personification of the waters of the Nile. Hapi was invoked according to need; he was a localized, animistic deity and never attained the superhuman stature of the great gods. He was responsible for food production, but as a passive rather than an active element. He may have been the waters of the Nile, but the all-important flooding was controlled by other forces.


    A funerary god.

    One of the divine sons of Horus whose duty was to look after various parts of the human viscera after embalming. The apeheaded Hapy was guardian of the lungs and was assisted by the goddess Nephythys. The viscera were removed during the embalming process and sealed with preservatives in four jars, the lids of which were in the shape of the head of the appropriate god. These jars are often called Canopic jars.

    Hathor (Athor)

    Goddess of love, music and mirth; cow-headed.

    Goddess of tombs and the sky.

    Hathor is shown as a cow, or as a woman with cow's horns between which are the solar disc and two feathers. Daughter of Ra, she is considered an aspect of Isis, sometimes mother, sometimes wife of Horus. Every evening the sun god is enclosed in her bosom, from which comes the idea that she is a goddess of love. It is claimed that she brought forth the whole world including the sun, and that she was fond of assuming the form of the sistrum or rattle. The rattle drives away evil spirits and is used to accompany the dance; so Hathor is protectress of women and mistress of song, dance, leaping and flower garlands. She is also queen of the West, protectress of the necropolis of Thebes. Those who knew the right spells could ride on her back to the Underworld. As lady of the Sycamore she waited in the Libyan mountains, in the land of the west, the furthest limit of the living; there she hid in a tree and would emerge to offer bread and water to passing souls. Alternatively she would hold the ladder tp enable the good souls to clamber up it in safety to the heavens. Hathor was a mother-figure; it was said that she nursed the infant Pharaohs who, along with her nourishing milk, imbibed divinity. Thus they became her children and reached the status of gods. Hathor's creative motherliness had another, darker side to it; for it was Hathor to whom Ra turned when he wanted to slay mankind. Hathor performed such terrible slaughter on earth that Ra was shocked into changing his mind. He tricked her by preparing vast quantities of beer which he coloured red with pomegranate juice. Hathor thought it was blood and eagerly drank it; she became intoxicated and was unable to continue the carnage. Hathor's main temples were at Dendera, Edfu and Ombos.


    Fish-goddess worshipped in the Delta, particularly in the north-east at Mendes. The fish as a divinity is comparatively rare in the Egyptian pantheon, but Hatmehyt's name means 'she who is in front of the fishes' referring to her pre-eminence in relation to the few rival fish cults. However, it could also be interpreted in a temporal sense to stress the goddess as the 'beginning' i.e. earliest fish-goddess to exist when Egypt emerged from the primeval waters. She can be represented completely as a fish, the shape of which led to former suggestions that it was a dolphin. This has now been discarded in favour of an identification with the lepidotus fish, common in the Nile. At Mendes, in a district for which the ancient standard was the fish symbol indicating that Hatmehyt was the senior deity in terms of residence there, her cult becomes subordinated to that of the ram-god Banebdjedet- interpreted after his arrival as her consort.


    An earth-god of Canaan identified most importantly in Egypt with the great sphinx at Giza. Haurun is attested as a name in Egypt for over 1200 years from 1900 BC when he occurs in the New Kingdom made the initial analogy between the guardian-figure of Khephren carved over a thousand years earlier, and Haurun. Possibly from its position on the western desert looking towards the rising sun, reinterpreted by this time as the sun-god Harmachis the sphinx suggested to the foreign artisans the god Haurun viewing the 'City of the East' which Canaanite legend has him founding. A temple to this god, the 'House of Haurun' as it was called, was constructed in front of the sphinx. Haurun also figures in a magical spell against the dangers of wild animals such as lions or ferocious dogs; he provides the protection under his epithet 'the victorious herdsman'. There is an inherent contradiction (or dualism) in his character since his role as a healing god in Egypt must be balanced against his action as a god of doom in the Canaanite myth where Haurun is responsible for planting a 'tree of death'.

    Heket (Heqet)

    Goddess of creation, birth and the germination of corn.

    Heket was pictured as a frog, or a frog-headed woman. She is a midwife, assisting at the daily birth of the sun. An earlier theogony made greater claims for her, saying that with Shu as husband she gave birth to the gods. A goddess of very antiquity, her cult never really got off the ground.


    In the Old Kingdom there is a reference to a priest of this goddess whose name means 'she who is above the spirits' clearly emphasising her role as a dominating force in the Afterlife. She figures in temple-foundation rituals in the Delta alongside Neith and Isis.

    Heryshaf (Herakles)

    Ram-god prominent in Middle Egypt at Ihnasya el-Medina on the west bank of the Nile near Beni Suef. His cult is mentioned as existing on this site as early as the first dynasty in the Old Kingdom annals inscribed on the Palermo Stone. In reliefs and statuary Heryshaf is represented as having an anthropomorphic body in a pharaonic stance and wearing the royal kilt, while his head is that of a long-horned ram. His association with Osiris leads to his wearing the 'Atef' crown of that god, and his connection with Re results in the adoption of the sun disk surmounting his horns. The name of Hershaf means 'he who is upon his lake'm referring to a topographical feature at his cult centre, probably the sacred lake in his temple, which in Egyptian religious concepts is an architectural attempt to recreate the primeval waters. So Heryshaf is envisaged as emerging from the primal matter at the beginning of time. Regrettably, inscriptional evidence about Heryshaf is scant, so it is not possible to accept without reservations the attractive theory that 'he who is upon his lake' is the lotus plant arising out of the waters to open up and reveal the young sun-god.


    Cow-goddess who gave birth to the king in the form of a golden calf. In general she is a milk goddess quenching the thirst of mankind with divine liquid described as the 'beer of Hesat'.


    Underworld cobra-goddess who by virtue of her power as the eye of Re annihilates the souls of Osiris's enemies. Her invincibility is enhanced by her entourage of crocodiles.


    The ancient Egyptian god of the sun, son of Osiris and Isis, represented as having the head of a hawk.

    Sky god, god of light and goodness. The son of OSIRIS and ISIS, he avenged his father's murder by defeating Set, the god of evil and darkness.

    Sun god. Falcon-god 'lord of the sky' and symbol of divine kingship.

    When Osiris was treacherously done to death by Set his body was finally discovered by Isis. Assuming the form of a hawk, she settled on his belly where her warmth revived Osiris' sexual powers long enough to make her pregnant. The child that was born was Horus, the hawk-headed solar god of Memphis. Horus is often indistinguishable from the great Ra and is god of the sky as well as the sun; hawk being synonymous with sky. He was widely and faithfully worshipped; his images are universal and he has many names and aspects. Horus was secretly brought up in the Delta swamps about Buto until he was old enough to challenge Set, his uncle and father's murderer. The battles with Set were long, fierce and inconclusive. They were verbal as well as physical. At last judgement was given in a formal trial in Horus' favour. Some of the major aspects of Horus are given below:

  • Haroeris (Har Wer) 'Horus the elder' or 'Horus the great'. This aspect has several different names attached to it. Horkhenti Irti ('Horus who rules the two eyes') was his name in Letopolis. The two eyes where of course the sun and the moon. In Pharboethos he was called Hor Merti ('Two-eyed Horus'). Horus in this aspect is described as being in constant battle with Set. Even while struggling with his enemy Horus is called Hor Nubti ('Horus conqueror of Set').
  • Hor Behdetite This was the title of Horus at Edfu (Behtet); he is shown as a winged solar disc, a design placed over the porches of temples. This design also hovers over battlesfields, more like a hawk about to stoop than a vulture, and the prey is always the god Set.
  • Harakhty (Herakhty, Heraktes) 'Horus of the horizon'. At Heliopolis, centre of the sun cult, he was linked with Ra in the form Ra-Harakhty, whose symbol was the rising and setting sun.
  • Heru-Em-Akhet (Harmachis, Harmakis) 'Horus who is on the horizon'. This is the name of the great sphinx of King Kephren at Giza, symbol of resurrection. Thothmes IV justified his claim to the kingship by saying that the god Horus had promised him the throne in return for clearing away the sand which had piled up about the sphinx. Many and strange are the tall stories told to justify the seizing of supreme power, and you would have to go a long way to find a better, more imaginative one than this. It has the additional strength of being impossible to verify or disprove. Thothmes deserved the throne for his wit if nothing else.
  • Hor-Sa-Iset (Harsiesis) 'Horus, son of Isis'. This minor aspect of the god was to become the supreme Horus, avenger of Osiris. The cult began as one of falcon-worship near Buto.
  • Heru-Pa-Khret (Harpakhrad, Harpocrates) 'Horus the child'. Depicted as a baby at the breast, or as a naked and dimpled godling on his mother's knee, or as an infant boy with big, innocent eyes, engaged in sucking his finger. When the Greeks, who were sometimes too clever by half, saw this particular image they jumped to the unfounded conclusion that the infant was making a gesture of silence. Impressed by such a cleverness in one so young, they forthwith claimed him as the god of secrecy and discretion, if only stones could speak.
  • Har-End-Yotef (Harendotes) 'Horus father-protector'. This Horus grew up to be a skillful warrior called Hartomes ('Horus the spearman') and engaged in long and arduous war with the evil Set; until the gods judged he should regain his inheritance, after which he was known as:
  • Har-Pa-Neb-Taui 'Horus of two lands' and Heru-sam-taui (Harsomtus) 'Horus, uniter of the two lands'. In this aspect he is a youthful god who wears the double crown (pshkhent) if the two lands of Egypt, thus representing the claim of Horus to rule over his father's kingdom. The Pharaohs used the title 'living Horus' to strengthen their own personal claim ro both kingship and divinity.

  • Hu

    'Authoritative utterance'; a personified abtract and one of the sun god Ra's attendants.

    Hu travelled on the night-voyage with Ra and he had a place in the Hall of Two Truths, the judgement hall. Here there gathered forty or so of the more important gods to hear the cases of the dead, and to give judgement. It was an awesome scene, for the soul, in the presence of the gods, had to declare a long list of protestations of innocence while his heart was being balanced against the feather of Maat ('truth'). Hu had no independent sphere of influence as a god; he was a mere helper, in constant attendance on Ra.


    Young god personifying the jubilation emanating from the sacred rattle. The name of Ihy was interpreted by the Egyptians as 'sistrum-player' which was the raison d'etre of this god. The sistrum was a cultic musical instrument used primarily (but not exclusively) in the worship of Hathor, mother of Ihy. At Dendera temple Ihy is the child of the union of Hathor and Horus and is depicted as a naked young boy wearing the sidelock of youth and with his finger to his mouth. He can hold the sacred rattle and necklace (menat). In the temple complex the birth house or 'mammisi' was a sanctuary where the mystery of the conception and birth of the divine child Ihy was celebrated. His name is rarely found outside the confines of Dendera temple- e.g. occasionally in spells in the Coffin Texts or Book of the Dead where he is called 'lord of charge of beer', a possible reference to the celebrations at Dendera deliberately requiring a state of intoxication on the part of the acolyte in order to communicate with Hathor.

    Imhotep (Imouthes)

    God of learning and medicine.

    A rare example of a commoner who reached the rank of god by sheer merit. Like the later Amenhotep of the 18th Dynasty, Imhotep was an architect and polymath. He was made god of learning and medicine and given Ptah, the artificer-god, as a father. Imhotep, whose name means 'he who comes in peace', was an adviser of King Zoser (Jeser, Djoser) of the 3rd Dynasty. It is thought that he was responsible for the design of the Step Pyramid of Zaqqara, and he is also credited with introducing the stone column. Imhotep's cult was centred on Memphis. He is shown seated with an open manuscript roll on his knees and with the shaven head of a priest.

    Statue fragments attest that Imhotep was given the extreme privilege of his name being carved alongside that of Djoser Netjerykhet himself. He held the offices of chief executive (vizier) and master sculptor- the Egyptian priest Manetho, who wrote in Greek a history of Egypt in the third century BC, credits 'Imouthes' (i.e. Imhotep) with the invention of the technique of building with cut stone. It is likely he was the architect who planned Egypt's first large-scale stone monument: the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. After his death Imhotep is remembered in Middle and New Kingdom scribal compositions as the author of a book of instruction- a well known genre of Egyptian literature although the one credited to Imhotep has not survived. In the Late Period bronzes of Imhotep show him seated in scribal posture with a papyrus-roll open across his knees. This veneration for him leads to his deification- an extremely rare phenomenon in ancient Egypt. In the Ptolemaic period Imhotep as a god is found in cult centres and temples throughout Egypt:

  • Objects dedicated in his name are found in north Saqqara.
  • At Thebes where he was worshipped in conjunction with Amenhotep-Son-of-Hapu he has a sanctuary on the Upper Terrace of the temple at Deir el-Bahari and is represented in the temple at Deir el-Medina.
  • At Philae there is a chapel of Imhotep immediately before the eastern pylonof the temple of Isis.
  • An inscription, dated to the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, in the temple of Ptah at Karnak, gives some information on Imhotep's priesthood. It also emphasises Imhotep's ability as a healer, which had already produced identification in the Greek mind with Aesculapius, their own god of medicine. His connection with Ptah- whose son he is considered to be by an Egyptian lady called Khreduankh- causes him to be seen as an agent capable of renewing his father's creative force in response to prayers. Taimhotep, a lady who died in the reign of Cleopatra VII, left a poignant stela (now in British Museum) on which is mentioned how she and her husband, high priest of Ptah, prayed to Imhotep for a son. In a vision or dream Imhotep requests the embellishment of his sanctuary in north Saqqara. The high priest commissions a monument for him involving 'sculptors of the house of gold'. Imhotep responds by causing Taimhotep to conceive a son who is born on his festival-day and named 'Imhotep-Pedibast'.

    Ipy (Ipet)

    Benign hippopotamus-goddess first attested in the Pyramid Age where the monarch calls her his mother and requests her to suckle him with her divine milk. In another royal connection Ipy is carved as an amuletic force on the back of a statue of a Theban ruler of Dynasty XVII. Funerary paptri described Ipy as 'Lady of magical protection' and show her lighting a bowl of incense cones. At Karnak to the west of the temple of Khonsu is the temple of a goddess called the Great Ipet who is none other than Ipy. In Theban theology this goddess rested on this spot when she was pregnant and gave birth to Osiris.


    An astral goddess (although possibly androgynous in origin) worshipped in Mesopotamia as 'lady of battle' and as an embodiment of sexuality and fertility. She is the Eastern Semitic counterpart of Astarte (who figures far more prominently in Egyptian theology) and the Akkadian equivalent of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. One of the most important Assyriam goddesses, her fame extends into the realm of the Hurrians and Hittites to the north. Her emblem, as on her gate in Babylon, is the eight-pointed star and her eminence is emphasised by her identification with the brightest planet Venus. Further, she is the daughter of the moon-god Sin. Ishtar of Nineveh accompanies the Assyrian king into battle breaking the bows of his enemies, armed with her own quiver, bow and sword. Her animal, the lioness, symbolises her martial prowess. It has been suggested that the voluptuous side of Ishtar- her pleasure in love, her 'beautiful figure' and 'sweet lips' as the texts tell us- is an inheritance from the Sumerian Inanna. Certainly, when lamenting the death of her consort Tammuz (Sumerian Dumuzi), Ishtar decends into the Underworld, all sexual activity ceased on earth. It would be tempting to make an analogy between Ishtar and Isis or Hathor but evidence from the Egyptian sources is lacking. The role of Ishtar as a goddess of healing traverses frontiers in the Middle East. The best example comes from Egypt, preserved in one of the cuneiform letters from the diplomatic archive discovered at el-Amarna. Towards the end of his reign Amenhotep III suffered a sickness or pain- if the mummy revuried under his name by priest living generations later is definitely that of this king, then the agony of his severe dental abscesses must have made him desperate for relief. To alleviate Amenhotep's illness his father-in-law Tushratta of Mitanni sent- on loan only- a statue of Ishtar of Nineveh to Egypt in the hope that the goddess's curing-power might operate through the divine effigy.

    Isis (Aset, Eset)

    An ancient Egyptian goddess of fertility, the sister and wife of Osiris.

    The nature goddess whose worship, originating in ancient Egypt, gradually extended throughout the lands of the Mediterranean world and became one of the chief religions of the Roman Empire. The worship of Isis, together with that of her brother and husband, OSIRIS, and their son, HORUS, resisted the rise of Christianity and lasted until the 6th cent. A.D.

    The greatest of Egyptian divinities, the embodiment of ideal motherhood and womanhood.

    Sister-wife of Osiris and mother of Horus, Isis was the daughter of Geb ('earth') and Nut ('sky'). When her husband succeeded Geb as king of Egypt she became a tutelary figure to her subjects, teaching them to grind flour, spin and weave, cure disease. She regularized the affairs of men and women by introducing the custom of marriage. When Osiris was away on his journeys to civilize other nations Isis was regent, governing wisely and well. The murder of her husband plunged her into grief; she set off to search for his body. She recovered the coffin but Set got hold of the corpse and cut it into fourteen parts, which he scattered far and wide. Isis diligently searched for the fragments, found them and reassembled them. Then she embalmed the body, founding the rites of many later embalmings. Osiris was restored to eternal life. Before Osiris had been dismembered Isis had managed to bring enough warmth to his body to make herself pregnant. With her son Horus she fled into the swamps about Buto, warding off dangers by use of her magical powers until Horus was old enough ro regain his patrimony. The cult of Isis originated in the Delta town of Perehbet and spread all over Egypt. It reached Rome and lasted at Philae well into the sixth century A.D. Her images show her as an attractive, mature women. On her head is a miniature throne (the ideogram of her name) and the solar disc between the cow's horns of Hathor. In some cases vestigial cow's ears are all that remain to show her connection with that goddess. Sacred to her were the sistrum, the rattle, to ward off evil spirits, and a magic knot called Tat. She is shown in many attitudes: suckling the infant Horus, enthronged alongside Osiris, protecting her husband and the souls of the dead with her winged arms. Her magical powers were considerable; Isis was the only divinity ever to discover the secret name of Ra. She used a magic snake to torment him with its poison until he revealed his true name to her. Possession of the name would have given her power of life and death over Ra, and there is in the this story a hint of an inner cult. The outer cult has been described in The Golden Ass by Apuleius. Isis is a splendid example of the prieval mother goddess developed into a regal lady. She is positive and attractive, modest yet active, loving, faithful and humane, civilzed and sensitive. Her name, linked to Ishtar, had charmingly been described as an onomatopoeic derivation of the sound of weeping, and indeed Isis is often shown with tears. Josephus relates a story about the Roman priesthood of Isis during the time of the emperor Tiberius. A rich young nobleman named Mundus had fallen in love with a handsome woman called Paulina, a devotee of Isis. He offered her huge sums of money for her favours, but she refused. A woman servant of his bribed the priests of Isis who went to Paulina with the story that the god Anubis wished to lie with her. She was flattered and agreed. She was taken to the temple of Isis at night and left there alone. The young nobleman appeared, pretended to be the god Anubis and achieved through her devotion what his money had failed to purchase. A few days later he boasted to her of what had happened. Paulina went to the emperor, who banished Mundus and had the servant woman and all the priests crucified. Isis' temple was destroyed and her statue thrown into the Tiber.


    A goddess of Heliopolis whose name means 'she comes who is great'. Wearing a scarab beetle on her head she can easily be seen as a counterpart to the sun-god Atum and like Nebethetepet plays a crucial role as the feminine principle in the creation of the world.

    Khepra (Khepri, Khepera)

    God of morning sun. Sun-god creator in the form of a scarab beetle.

    One of the many images of the sun god Ra was the scarab beetle. The Egyptians saw in its tireless mocing of a ball of dung a parallel to the movement of the sun across the sky. They also noticed that small beetles emerged from similar balls and assumed that, like the sun the scarab was a self-created entity. Heliopolis was the cult centre of Khepra worship; the name Khepra means 'scarab' or 'he who becomes', with the added idea of continuinnng and eternal life. The god was shown as a scarab bettle, or as a man with a complete beetle instead of his human head.

    Inscriptional evidence for Khepri occurs in the pyramids of the Old Kingdom: a wish is expressed for the sun to come into being in its name of Khepri. The priesthood of the sun-god combined his different forms to assert that Atum-Khepri arises on the primeval mound in the mansion of the Benu in Heliopolis. Referring to the myth of the sun-god's journey through the hours of night. Khepri is said to raise his beauty into the body of Nut the sky-goddess. From noticing the somewhat slimy sonsistency of the scarab beetle's dirt-ball, the earth is made from the spittle coming from Khepri. From about the Middle Kingdom representations of Khepri as the ovoid scarab regularly occur in three-dimensional form carved as the amuletic backing of seals. These scarabs, by implication, connect the wearer with the sun-god. The underside could be incised, not just with the titles and name of an official, but also with good luck designs, deities and the names of royalty used for their protective power. Kings would use the undersides of large scarabs to commemorate specific events- Amenhotep III has left a number of these news bulletins which inter alia give information on his prowess at lion hunting and celebrate the arrival of a Syrian princess into his harem. The scarab could form the bezel of a ring or be part of a necklace or bracelet- the tomb of Tutankhamun has provided us with splendid examples of scarabs made of semi-precious stones like lapis lazuli set in gold. One of the young king's pectorals in particular stresses the dominance of Khepri the sun-god as well as being a masterpiece of the jeweller's craft: in the centre of the design is a scarab carved from chalcedony combined with the wings and talons of the solar hawk, representing Khepri whom as controller of celestial motion, is shown here pushing the boat of the moon-eye. Paintings in funerary papyri show Khepri on a boat being lifted up by the god Nun, the primeval watery chaos. In some depictions Khepri coalesces with other conceptions of the sun-god to present the appearance of a ram-headed beetle. On a wall of the interior chamber in the tomb of Petosiris (fourth century BC) at Tuna el-Gebel, Khepri was carved quite naturalistically in low relief, painted lapis lazuli blue, wearing the 'atef' crown of Osiris. Less frequently Khepri could be shown as an anthropomorphic god to the shoulders with a full scarab beetle for a head. Bizarre as it might seem, the Egyptian artist has left some magnificent depictions of Khepri in this form- e.g. in the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens. Although relatively few examples are extant in museums or in situ, it seems likely that the major temples each possessed a colossal hard-stone statue of Khepri. Raised on a plinth, the scarab symbolised architecturally the concept that the temple was the site where the sun-god first emerged to begin the creation of the cosmos.


    A ram-god with a dual nature of hostility and protection. From Kherty the king has to be protected by no less a deity than Re. However, Kherty, as his name which means 'Lower One' indicates, is an earth-god and so can act as the guardian of the royal tomb. The king's power over the winds is likened to the grasp of Kherty's hand. In the Old Kingdom Kherty is eminent enough to figure as a partner of Osiris and his ram form leads naturally to a relationship with Khnum. Kherty's major cult centre appears to have been at Letopolis, north-west of Memphis.

    Khnum (Khnemu, Chnuphis, Chnemu, Chnum)

    Ram-headed god.

    God of fecundity and creation from the Cataract area.

    Originally a local ram-god, his sanctuary was on Elephantine Island; he was visualized as a man with a ram's head and wavy horns. He guarded the source of the Nile, which to the Egyptians was the same as guarding the source of life. From a guardian god he developed into a demiurge (creator), and it was said that he shaped the world on his potter's wheel. As a potter shapes clay so does Khnum shape man's flesh; it is he who is responsible for the formation of the foetus in the womb. In Nubia there was a ram-god called Doudoun with whom Khnum may be associated. The Egpytians married Khnum off to the goddess Heket, who was a frog.

    Khons (Khonsu, Khensu, Khuns)

    Son of Amen and Mut.

    God of the moon.

    Khons was the son of Amun and Mut and with them formed the Theban triad of gods. He is represented as a royal child, wearing the side-plait and carrying the crook and flail. he is also shown as a falcon-headed youth whose head is surmounted by the lunar disc and crescent combined. In time he was regarded as a god of healing. Khons was thought of as the placenta of the king; a ghostly twin, a sort of royal guardian angel as distinct from the king's normal ka, or etheric double. To the Theban triad were raised the biggest and most imposing of Egyptian temples. Every new year was celebrated in a festival which included a ritual river voyage between the two great temples of Karnak and Luxor.


    Son of Ra and Bastet the cat-headed goddess. He was shown as a lion, or as a lion-headed man. He must originated from Upper Egypt, for he is shown wearing the atef, the tall white crown of that area.


    Goddess personifying all the elements of cosmic harmony as established by the creator-god at the beginning of time- including Truth, Justice and Moral Integrity.

    Maat's symbol and the ideogram of her name, is the ostrich feather. Daughter of Ra and wife of Thoth, she was goddess of law and say in the Hall of Two Truths to give judgement. There the hearts of men were weighed against her feather of truth. Such was Maat's power that people were naturally interested in how they could please her. There was a healthy amount of fear behind this desire. It was said that a small image of Maat was more pleasing to the gods than piles of rich offerings; a little truth was more welcome than huge bribes. One has to wonder if the priests thought in the same way. Maat was certainly the embodiment of the main moral force of Ra, for he loved truth above all else. He required an exact account of all a soul's earthly acts before admitting it to heaven.

    The goddess's origins can be traced back at least as far as the Old Kingdom where she is already an integral part of the existence of Re and Osiris. Maat stands behind the sun-god or, in the Middle Kingdom, is described as being at the nostrils of Re. It is not, however, until Dynasty XVIII that Maat is given the epithet 'daughter of Re'. In the Pyramid Texts Osiris is called 'lord of Maat' and later frequently appears with her plinth symbol as the base of the Underworld throne on which he sits as judge of the dead. Similarly the deities of the Ennead in their role of tribunal judges are described as the 'council of Maat'. Pharaohs see Maat as their authority to govern and stress how their reigns uphold the laws of the universe which she embodies. Amenhotep II on his stela near the Sphinx at Giza claims that Maat was placed on his brest by Amun himself. Numerous examples exist of the kings being called 'beloved of Maat', and they are depicted in temples proffering the effigy of the goddess in the palm of their hands before major deities. The ruler who forcibly emphasises his adherence to Maat on his monuments is Akhenaten- the very pharaoh whom succeeding kings considered to have deviated immensely from her laws. Akhenaten 'lives by Maat' who can be seen next to him in a scene carved early in his reign in the tomb of his vizier Ramose at western Thebes. The funerary papyri of the New Kingdom and later give many representations of Maat as the goddess crucial to the deceased reaching paradise. In the Hall of the Two Truths (Maaty) the dead person's heart is placed in a pair of scales to balance aginst the image of the goddess Maat symbolising the truthful assertions of a blameless life given before the Assessor gods. A hymn to Osiris praises that god for setting Maat throughout the 'Two Banks', i.e. Egypt. In this aspect Maat is justice administered by magistrates in the law courts. Possibly the title 'priest of Maat' relates to this part of an official's career as in the case of the 'royal secretary' Neseramun living under Osorkon II (Dynasty XXII). According to a classical source Egyptian law-officals wore an effigy of Maat when giving judgements- the British Museum possesses a small golden Maat on a gold chain that could be just such an ensign of authority. A small ruined temple to Maat is in the southern sector of the precinct of Montu at Karnak.


    A panther-goddess whose ferocity prevails over snakes and scorpions. The scratch of her claws is lethal to snakes, hence symbolically the barbs of the king's harpoon become Mafdet's claws for decapitating his enemies in the Underworld. When Mafdet is described as leaping at the necks of snakes, the imagery seems to suggest her form takes on that of a mongoose. In one epithet Mafdet wears braided locls, probably a reference to her displaying the jointed bodies of the scorpions which she has killed.


    The ferryman who navigates the boat, provided by Aken, along the winding waters of the Underworld. He also acts as a herald announcing the arrival of the king into the presence of the sun-god Re.


    Sun-god of Lower Nubia.

    Mandulis wears a crown of ram-horns surmounted by high plumes, sun disks and cobras. His name in Egyptian inscriptions is 'Merwel' but the Greek vision, as found in the text known as the 'Vision of Mandulis' is used almost universally. A chapel to Mandulis existed on the island of Philae off the eastern colonnade approaching the temple of Isis, a goddess who seems to be regarded at least at his close companion. But it is in the temple of Kalabsha (now resited just above the High Dam at Aswan), the most impressive monument in Lower Nubia from the Graeco-Roman period, that the best evidence of the cult of Mandulis can be found. Constructed on the site of an earlier New Kingdom sanctuary Kalabsha (ancient Talmis) took its present form during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus. Mandulis, as represented on its walls, does not seem at all out of place among the other members of the Egyptian pantheon placed in his company. From the 'Vision of Mandulis' we find the enforced equation of this Nubian solar deity to Egyptian Horus and to Greek Apollo.


    The divine snake whose coils protected Ra as he journeyed on his boat through the waterways of the kingdom of night. Mehen is usually seen draped in protective coils about the deck-house in which Ra stands.

    The earliest mention of the god occurs in a Coffin Text of the Middle Kingdom. Detailed representation of the 'coiled one' can be found in vignettes of funerary papyri and on the walls of tombs in the Valley of the Kings especially Sety I and Ramesses VI.


    Cow-goddess of the sky.

    Her name means 'great flood'. In the Pyramid Era Mehet-Weret represents the waterway in the heavens, sailed upon by both the sun-god and the king. She is also a manifestation of the primeval waters- consequently being sometimes considered as the 'mother of Re'. (Compare Neith with whom Mehet-Weret identifies.) From vignettes in the New Kingdom funerary papyri the goddess is pictured as a cow lying on a reed mat with a sun disk between her horns.

    Mertseger (Meretseger)

    Funerary cobra-goddess of the Theban necropolis, which dwelled on the mountain which overlooks the Valley of the Kings.

    Friend of 'silence' or 'beloved of the silent one', Mertseger was identified with the highest mountain of the Theban necropolis, Ta-dehnetstela to Mertseger, describing the event. The stela was as much a warning to others as a thanksoffering to the goddess, one suspects. Like many Egyptian deities, Mertseger was originally a local goddess who rose to prominence with the increased importance of her particular locality.

    Meskhenet (Meskhent)

    Goddess of childbirth.

    Meskhenet was sometimes represented as a woman with a headdress of palm-shoots and sometimes as a brick with a woman's head. She appeared to women at the moment of childbirth and would predict the future of the newly-delivered infant. It was the custom in ancient Egypt for the expectant mother to sit, supported by two bricks, in order to give birth hence the strange image of the goddess.

    In her form of a tile terminating in a female head (called in the Book of the Dead 'cubit-with-head') she represents one of the bricks upon which women in Ancient Egypt took a squatting position to give birth. Her presence near the scales in the Hall of the Two Truths, where the dead person's heart is examined and weighed to ascertain suitability for the Egyptian paradise, is there to assist at a symbolic rebirth in the Afterlife. Her symbol of two loops at the top of a vertical stroke has been shown to be the bicornuate uterus of a heifer. In addition to ensuring the safe delivery of a child from the womb, Meskhenet takes a decision on its destiny at the time of birth. In the Papyrus Westcar the goddess helps at the birth of the future first three kings of Dynasty V. On the arrival of Userkaf, Sahure and Neferirkare into the arms of Isis, she approaches each child and assures it of kingship. Similarly she is the force of destiny that assigns to a scribe promotion among the administrators of Egypt. A hymn in the temple of Esna refers to four 'Meskhenets' at the side of the creator-god Khnum, whose purpose is to repel evil by their incantations.

    Mesta (Imseti)

    One of the sons of Horus who guarded the human viscrea after mummification. Mesta, shown as a bearded, mummiform man, was the protector of the liver. He was helped in this task by the goddess Isis.


    Lion-god, son of Bastet, called Miysis by the Greeks. His local roots were at Leontopolis (modern Tell el-Muqdam) in nome 11 of Lower Egypt in the Eastern Delta. Osorkon III (Dynasty XXII) erected a temple to him at Bubastis, the town sacred to the god's mother. Mihos's name is also found in amuletic papyri of the late New Kingdom.

    Min (Minu, Menu)

    Ithyphallic god of sex.

    Min is another form of Amun and was chiefly worshipped at Coptos and Panoplis. He wears the plumed head-dress of Amun and holds a whip-like sceptre. He is also shown holding his erect phallus in his left hand. Though the Greeks identified him with Pan there is nothing Pan-like about him. Min is a proud, regal figure. His ancient symbol was the thunderbolt and he was sometimes considered to have been the creator of the world. or even as another form of Horus. Coptos became an important entrepot for desert trading expeditions and so Min became the god of roads and travellers. As god of fecundity he was also god of crops, and the first sheaf of wheat was offered to him by the Pharaoh at harvest time. His sacred animal was a white bull while the games of Panoplis were held in his honour during the period of Greek influence.

    Mnevis (Mer-Wer)

    Sacred bull of the sun-god of Heliopolis.

    Mnevis is an originally-autonomous bull-god who becomes subordinated to the cult of Re-Atum. The bull's hide is totally black and he wears the sun disk and Uraeus between his horns. At Heliopolis the cow-goddess Hesat plays the role of the mother of Mnevis. The sacred bull is the earthly representative of the sun-god, acting as a herald ('wehemu') for the divine communications to the priests of Heliopolis. Mnevis is also the intermediary for the interpretation of oracles, a phenonmenon of Egyptian religion particularly in the later dynasties. The bull of the Heliopolitan solar theology is one of the few state-recognised survivors among the gods duiring the reign of Akhenaten (Dynasty XVIII). That pharaoh, as explicitly stated on his Boundary stelae, prepared a burial place, as yet undiscovered, for the sacred bull in the eastern cliffs behind his new capital at Akhetaten. The temple of Heliopolis has all but disappeared but some burials of the Mnevis-bull under the Ramesside kings have been discovered to its north-east at Arab el-Tawil. Although the names Mnevis-Osiris and Mnevis-Wenen-Nofer are attested, there is no close link between the bull of the solar cult of Heliopolis and the god of the Underworld. According to the Greek writer Plutarch, Mnevis was runner-up to Apis in being awarded official honours. While not stated, this must be on account of the importance of Memphis, residence of the Apis, as capital of Egypt.

    Mont (Month, Menthu, Mentu, Montu)

    A falcon-headed god of war whose cult was at Hermonthis (Armant).

    Mont was favoured by the kings of the 11th Dynasty, who used his name as part of theirs. Sometimes pictured as a bull-headed man, he was reputed to incarnate himself in the bull called Buchis, kept in the shrine at Hermonthis. Mont also had solar characteristics (a bull often represents the heat and power of the sun) and for a while was supreme god in the south, until he was included in the Theban triad and demoted by the god Amun of Thebes. As war against the Hittites, Rameses II found himself losing; he called upon Amun and rallied his forces to the counterattack. He successfully routed the Hittites and then declared that he was like the god Mont. The Greeks and Celts might have had gods who intervened in battles, but the Egyptians had a god on the battlefieldl their king. For all his qualities Mont was later dropped from the Theban triad in favour of Khons, the lunar god.

    Mut (Maut)

    Sky goddess and wife of Amun-Ra.

    Mut's name means 'mother' and she wore either a vulture head-dress or the pshkhent (the double crown of Egpyt). She is linked with the cow (indicative of the sky), the cat and the lioness. Mut was a colourless sort of personality, her main claim to fame being her husband. The divine couple had no children; first they adopted Mont, then Khons. With Khons and Amun, Mut formed the Theban triad.


    A goddess of Heliopolis whose name 'mistress of the offereing' conceals a more intellectual concept. Like Iusaas she is a feminine counterpart to the male creative principle embodied in the sun-god Atum. She is therefore transformed from merely a manifestation of Hathor at Heliopolis into an integral element of the creator-god, namely the hand with which he grips his phallus prior to bringing the Egyptian cosmos into being.

    Nefertem (Nefertum, Iphtimis)

    A young god of Memphis who was shown wearing the lotus flower on his head and bearing the khepesh, curved sabre. He was the son of Ptah and Sekhmet.

    Nehebkau (Nehebu-Kau)

    A snake-god, 'He who harnesses the spirits', whose invincibility is a source of protection both in Egypt and in the Underworld.

    Looking like a serpent but with human arms and legs, Nehebkau lurked in the Underworld as a constant menace to gods and men. He was however a subject of Ra and would often give food to the dead. He is sometimes shown with two heads at one end of his body and another head at the other end.

    In the Pyramid Texts Nehebu-Kau is called 'son of Selkis', the scorpion-goddess, emphasising his role in later spells of restoring the health of victims of venomous bites. Protective of royalty, Nehebu-Kau receives the monarch in the Afterlife and provides a meal. A Middle Kingdom spell identifies the deceased with this snake-god who is not subject to any magic, nor vulnerable to fire and water. One source of his power lies in the magical force of the number 'seven' in the 'seven' cobras which he swallowed. In a spell concerning the welfare of his heart in the Afterlife, the deceased requests other deities to give him a good recommendation to Nehebu-Kau. There is a hint in the Old Kingdom that Nehebu-Kau's power needs to be controlled by the sun-god Atum pressing a fingernail on the snake's spine. Another tradition makes Nehenu-Kau the son of the earth-god Geb and the harvest-goddess Renenutet. Consequently his chthonic and fecund power provides other deities with their vital strength.

    Neheh (Heh)

    Personification of eternity, used as a common decorative design on furniture. He is shown as a squatting man wearing on his head a curved reed and carrying symbols of life, like the crux ansata. Heh is represented on temple walls, vases and jewellery with the force of an amuletic wish for untold millions of years of life.

    Neith (Neit)

    Goddess of war and domestic arts, especially weaving.

    A very ancient goddess and patroness of Sais, capital of Egypt in the 26th Dynasty (seventh century B.C.). Called Tehenut, 'the Libyan', her sign was two crossed arrows on a shield or animal skin. She wore the net, the red crown of Lower Egypt. Because the ideogram of her name was the shuttle, she was elevated to being goddess of the sky; it being claimed that she wove the world with her shuttle. It was also claimed that Ra was her son. Thus we see a local goddess acquiring the attributes of a member of the Great Ennead; in this case those of the goddess Nut. Later Neith was identified with Athene and Isis, had the alias Mehueret, and was thought to perform the duty of offering transient souls refreshment of bread and water. With Duamutef, a son of Horus, she protected the embalmed stomach of the mummy. In impossible cases the gods would turn to Neith for advice. Such a situation arose over the dispute and savage conflict between Horus amd Set over the vacany left by the murdered Osiris. Neith acted as arbitrator in the hearing, telling the gods that they should give Horus his rightful inheritance and also give Set compensation of an amount equal to all his possessions. In addition he was to be given Anta and Astarte as his wives. It should be noted that both these goddesses were foreigners. No local interests would be offended by their alliance to the evil murderer of the great god Osiris.

    Nekhebet (Nekhbet)

    A guardian goddess of Upper Egypt who looked after children and mothers.

    Nekhebet was worshipped at Nekheb (El Kab; Greek:Eileithyiaspolis). She was shown hovering over the Pharaoh in vulture-form, holding a fly-whisk and a seal. She protected and suckled the royal children. The Greeks identified her with their goddess of childbirth, Ilythia or Eileithyia.

    Also in the Pyramid Texts she is called 'White Crown', symbolic headdress of the king as ruler of Upper Egypt, and 'mistress of the Per-wer', i.e. the shrine par excellence of the southern kingdom. In this respect she is the counterpart to Wadjet of the north whom she occasionally accompanies on the front of the royal headdress. She can even take the serpent-form of the northern goddess- normally to form an heraldic device around the sun disk or royal name. Her cult-sanctuary at el-Kab is impressive in size but davastated. The presence of a Middle Kingdom shrine is attested as are constructions from Dynasty XVIII bit the present ruins date to the last native rulers of Egypt (Dynasties XXIX-XXX).


    God of grain.

    In a procession of deities carved in the reign of Sahure (Dynasty V) Neper's body is dotted to represent grains of corn. The hieroglyphs that write his name similarly include the symbols of grain. He represents the prosperity of the barley and emmer wheat crops which the Egyptians cultivated. The pharaoh Amenemhat I {Dynasty XII) is described as responsible for the ripening of the grain and called 'beloved of Neper'. Being dependent, however, on the silt brought by the Nile flood he is subordinated to Hapy who is proclaimed 'lord of Neper'. His association with agriculture is as early as, if not predating, that aspect of Osiris. He also resembles that god in as much as the Coffin Texts characterise Neper as a god 'living after he has died'. Accordingly the latter has no problem assimilating Neper into his own nature.

    Nephythys (Nebthet)

    Goddess of the dead; sister and wife of Set.

    'Mistress of the palace', she wears on her head the ideogram of her name, Neb ('a basket') and Het ('a palace'). Daughter of Geb and Nut, Nephythys was married to her brother Set. They had no children. Nephythys seduced her other brother Osiris by making him drunk; their child was Anubis. When Set killed Osiris she deserted him in horror and helped Isis to embalm the murdered god. She and Isis are the protectresses of the dead; they are shown with winged arms, for in order to mourn Osiris they changed themselves into kites. Nephythys helped Hapy to guard the embalmed lungs of mummified people.


    Goddess of heavens & sky; consort of Geb.

    Nut united with her brotherm the earth god Geb, in a tight and passionate embrace until separated by Shu ('air') on the orders of Ra. Ra was annoyed because Geb and Nut had come together without his knowledge or agreement. Expecting that there would be a natural result of their affection, he declared that Nut could not give birth to children on any day of any month of any year. The god Thoth came to Nut's help. He had been playing draughts with the moon and he had won enough of the moon's light to make up five new days. Since these days were not on the offical calendar, Nut was able to bear a child on each. She gave life to Osurus, Isis, Set, Nephythys, and Horus the Elder. Nut is represented as a slim-limbed girl; supported only on the tips of her fingers and toes, she arches over the fallen body of Geb, who sprawls with limbs awry and phallus erect. Nut is supported by the god Shu in some representations, and her star-spangled belly forms a canopy for the earth. When Ra decuded to go away and have nothing to do with men, he rose to the heavens on the back of Nut who had taken on the form of a cow. Nut grew rapidly to such an enormous height that it was feared her legs would snap, so to each leg was appointed a god whose duty was to stiffen and strengthen it. Nut arches over the earth morning from between her thighs.

    Orion (Sah)

    The constellation of Orion has close affinities with Osiris and the king. Orion is imagined as being swallowed at dawn by the Underworld but having the power to emerge again into the sky. In the Afterlife the king reaches the firmament as Orion who bestows on him the authority of a 'great force'. In the identification of Osiris with Orion the underlying motif appears to be the link that the constellation has with the star Sirius (Sothis): the renewal of life via the Nile flood, announced by the heliacal rising of the Dog-star, emphasises the concomitant factor between the two gods is that Orion has freedom of movement striding across the sky in the same way that Osiris, according to the Coffin Texts, will not be hindered in his rule over Upper Egypt. In the New Kingdom funerary texts Orion reaches his land by rowing towards the stars, an image which is depicted ib tge ceukubgs if some tombs and temples (e.g. Esna) by a god in the pharaonic White Crown standing on a papyriform boat sailing across the sky.

    Osiris (Marduk, Berber, Woser)

    God of underworld and judge of dead; son of Geb and Nut.

    The ancient Egyptian god whose annual death and resurrection personified the self-renewing vitality and fertility of nature.

    God whose domain is Duat- the Egyptian Underworld.

    Legendary ruler of predynastic Egypt and god of the underworld. Osiris symbolized the creative forces of nature and the imperishability of life. Called the great benefactor of humanity, he brought to the people knowledge of agriculture and civilization. In a famous myth he was slain by his evil brother Set, but his death was avenged by his son HORUS. The worship of Osiris, one of the great cults of ancient Egypt, gradually spread throughout the Mediterranean world and, with that of ISIS and Horus, was especially vital during the Roman Empire.

    Originally a vegetation god closely linked to corn; later god of the dead, the supreme funerary deity.

    Osiris was born at Thebes of Geb and Nut and succeeded to the throne on his father's abdication. He took Isis as his queen and set about teaching the Egyptians the arts and crafts of civilizations. He showed them how to use grain for bread and grapes for wine. He started relgion, built temples, composed rituals, and carved statues. He taught them weaving and music, founded towns, and introduced codes of law. Having brought the Egyptians up to a reasonable standard of personal and social behaviour, Osiris set off to do the same for other nations. He was accompanied in these journeys by Thoth, Anubis, and Wepwawet. In his absence his kingdom was successfully governed by Isis. After the return of Osiris, Set whoo had been growing more and more jealous of his brother's successes and popularity, invited him to a great banquet. During the feast a huge and beautifully decirated coffer was brought into the hall. Set jokingly declared that the coffer would become the property of whomsoever it fitted. Osiris was invited to be the first to try it. Amidst general mirth he clambered inside and lay down. Immediately the lid was slammed on and nailed down tight. The banquet guests, who were all in the conspiracy, sealed the coffer with molten lead. Secretly, in the darkness, the coffer was carried to the Nile and dropped into the swift waters. The coffer floated out to sea and eventually came to land at Byblos in Phoenicia. It beached near the roots of a tamarisk tree. The tree, as if sensing the presence of something divine, spread around the coffer magically, protectively. The tree grew rapidly to a huge size, so that the great box was entirely closed in its magic trunk. The local king, Malcandre, heard of the wonderful giant tree and had it cut down to be used as a column in his palace. The column gave off a sweet perfume. News of this wonder reached Isis, who understood what had happened and set off for Byblos in disguise. There she was given the royal baby to look after by the queen, Astarte. Isis wanted to give the gift of immortality to the child and began tto burn off its mortal being with magic fire. Astarte saw the flames, misunderstood what was happening and spoiled the spell with her anxious intervention. Isis then confessed her true identity and told them the reason for her visit. King Malcandre gave her the column and the goddess retrieved the coffer containing her dead husband. Returning to Egypt, she hid in the swamplands of Buto and managed to revive the body long enough for it to make her pregnant. But Set, out hunting in the swamps, came across the hiding place and found the body. Furiously he dismembered the corpse into fourteen parts and dispersed them about the land. Isis searched for the pieces and patiently reassembled her husband. One part, the phallus, was missing, for it had been consumed by a Nile crab. With the assistance of other gods and goddesses Isis embalmed the body, and Osiris was revived into eternal life. He retired to the Underworld. Osiris, chief god of Busiris, had many incarnations and aliases. He was the corn and the vine, born every year and slain every year; he was the Nile which rises and falls, the rising and setting sun, the fertile land about the Nile threatened by the desert, Set. Shown as a mummy with a man's head crowned with the tall white cap of Upper Egypt, his crossed arms hold the flail and hook of royalty. His skin is shown with a greenish tinge. He is also the bull Onuphis, the ram of Mendes, the Bennu bird. One of his symbols is the djed pillar, a tree-trunk. It was considered to represent his spine and indicated stability; the stability of eternal life.


    A lioness-goddess worshipped particularly at the entrance of a wadi in the eastern desert near Beni Hasan. Her name is very evocative of her nature, meaning 'she who snatches' or the 'tearer'. In the Coffin Texts Pakhet the Great is described as a night-huntress with sharp claws. It is easy to see Greek settlers seeing in Pakhet characteristics of Artemis, goddess of the chase. Speos Artemidos (cave of Artemis) became the common designation of Pakhet's rock-chapel near Beni Hasan. carved out of the limestone in Dynasty XVIII under Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III.


    A youthful god who is the divine child of Haroeris, and Tasenetnofret in the western sanctuary of Kom-Ombo temple. As 'the lord of the Two Lands' he represents the idea of the pharaoh as son of the god Haroeris, hence the legitimate ruler of Egypt.

    Pelican (Henet)

    The Pelican found in livestock scenes on the walls of courtiers' tombs, figures in royal funerary texts frmo the Pyramid Age as a protective symbol against snakes. The description of the Pelican falling into the Nile seems connected with the idea of scooping up in its prominent beak hostile elements under the guise of fish- a concept comparable to the dragnets and bird nets used for trapping sinners in the Underworld. That the Pelican is a divinty must be assumed from the reference to it in the Pyramid Texts as the 'mother of the king', a role which in religious documents can only be ascribed to a goddess. In non-royal funerary papyri the Pelican has the power of prophesying a safe passage for a dead person in the Underworld. The open beak of the Pelican is also associated with the ability of the deceased to leave the burial chamber and go out into the rays of the sun, possibly an analogy made between the long cavernous beak of the pelican and the tomb shaft.

    Peteese and Pihor

    Two deified brothers, sons of Kuperm who seem to have lived in the vicinity of Dendur in Lower Nubia about Dynasty XXVI. The reason for their elevation to minor gods is not stated, but quite possibly they met their death in the Nile, a fate having connotations with Osiris. Establishing 'laissez-faire' guide lines for Roman policy towards Egyptian religion, Augustus built a modest temple in honour of the brothers on the west bank at Dendur. In some instances the reliefs show Peteese and Pihor as 'upstart' deities making offerings to their superior, the goddess Isis. (Dendur temple, dismantled to avoid being permanently covered by the lake created by the completion of the High Dam at Aswan in 1971, is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.)

    Ptah (Phtha)

    Chief deity of Memphis.

    God of artisans and artist, designers, builders, metal workers, architects and masons.

    Sovereign god of Memphis, ancient capital of Egypt, Ptah is shown as a shaven-headed, mummified man. He was popular with the kings of the 19th Dynasty (Set I, Rameses II) and became the third most important god in Egypt. His priests claimed that it was Ptah who had made the world. He became famous for defeating the Assyrians; he ordered hundreds of rats to creep into the enemy camp and eat all their bowstrings. Married to Sekhmet, their son was Nefertem, and Imhotep was adopted as their earthly child after his deification. Ptah is linked with Apis, the sacred bull. It was said that Ptah, in the form of celestial fire, mated with a virgin cow who gave birth to Ptah himself in the shape of a bull. Ptah is sometimes shown as a dwarf with misshapen legs, linking him with other lame smith-gods. He is also allied to Tanen, an ancient earth god, and to Seker.


    A composite funerary god made up of the three gods who apear in his name. Sometimes he was a dwarf, sometimes a mummified man.

    Qebhsnuf (Qebehsenuf)

    One of the sons of Horus and visceral guardian. He looked after the intestines with the help of the goddess Selket.

    Qetesh (Qadesh)

    Goddess of love.
    This minor deity was probably an Asiatic import. The Egyptians regarded her as an aspect of Hathor. Pictured as a nude woman holding flowers and standing on the back of a lion, she is reminiscent of the Persian Anahita, or the Phoenician Anat who is also called Qadesh.

    Middle-Eastern goddess of sacred ecstasy and sexual pleasure, adopted in the New Kingdom by the Egyptians into a triad with the gods Min and Reshep. Her name, probably meaning the 'holy', gives no clue to her origins but she seems to be a manifestation of the sensuousness inherent in the goddesses Astarte and Anat. Qadesh rides naked on the back of a lion and holds out symbols of eroticism and fertility to her companions- lotuses for Min and snakes or papyrus plants for Reshep. In the Levant the cult of Qadesh, like that of Astarte, involved her acolytes simulating the sacred marriage of the goddess with Reshep. This sexuality displayed by Qadesh naturally led to an identification between her and Hathor the Egyptian goddess of Love.

    Ra (Re)

    God of the Sun, the supreme god; son of Nut; Pharaohs claimed descent from him; represented as lion, cat, or falcon.

    The sun god, the supreme deity of the ancient Egyptians, represented as a man with the head of a hawk crowned with a solar disk and uraeus.

    Sun god, one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt. Called the creator and father of all things, he was chief of the cosmic deities. Early Egyptian kings alleged descent from him. Various other Egyptian gods, e.g., AMON, were identified with him. His symbol is the PYRAMID.

    Finding himself alone in the watery mists of Nun, the sun god Ra achieved the remarkable feat of making himself pregnant. He then have birth to air, Shu, and moisture, Tefnut, by spitting them out of his mouth. Shu and Tefnut mated to produce the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut. These grandchildren followed their parents' incestuous example with such enthusiasm that they engendered four great-grandchildren for Ra. There were two of each sex, which was convenient, for Osiris mated with Isis and Set with Nephythys. They are known collectively as the Great Ennead of Heliopolis, the nine major gods of Ancient Egypt. Ra had several aspects. As Atum he is a man wearing the double crown of Egypt; as Khepra he is a dung beetle tirelessly rolling its ball to hide in the sand - as tirelessly as the sun is moved across the sky. As Ra he is a falcon-headed man wearing the uraeus, the coiled cobra, and sun disc. Every day Ra travelled from Manu, the hill of sunrise, across the sky in a boat called Manjet. As he travelled, he aged from boy to old man. At night he assumed a ram's head and transferred to the boat called Mesektet for his night journey through the waterways of the Underworld. The reliability of his sailings, the eternal validity of his season-ticket, were constant facts in Egyptian life. Ra is said to have created man from his tears; a problem to the gods. And sure enough there was trouble. Men were wicked unruly and treacherous. Eventually Ra had had enough; he ordered Hathor to kill mankind. The goddess went about the work so efficiently and enthusiastically that Ra changed his mind. Aghast at the slaughter, he ordered her to stop. Hathor ignored him, and he had to resort to trickery to cease the carnage. Ra found men so distasteful that he took to sailing, assuming what is now known as a low profilel if that is possible for the sun. Ra had trouble with his eye, the sun. Not only did it stay out at night, but it actually began to wander off on its own. The god had to send Anhur (some say Thoth) to bring it back. When the sun realized that its place in the sky had been taken by a rival, the moon, there were angry scenes. Ra had to play the diplomat and find places and suitable times for both of them. There was a close interdependence between Ra and the Egyptian kings. The kings claimed not only relationship with the sun but also identity. Thus a Pharaoh was the son of the sun, and also the incarnation of it. Ra was the sun and the kinf was Ra. This identification was strengthenned by royal titles in which the name Ra predominatedm by the wearing of the golden cobra or uraeus, and by the pratice of incest in the royal family. All this ensured stability for the king and for the priesthood of Ra. Many lesser, local or foreign gods were solarized by assuming that they were the children of Ra; or by actual identification, as in the case of Amun. Such is the effectiveness of a strong and ruthless priesthood with a vested interest in political power. Ra was king of gods, and god of kings.

    Renenutet (Ernutet, Renenet)

    Goddess of harvest and the suckling of babies.

    Cobra-goddess, guardian of the pharaoh.

    For the second function Renenutet was called 'Lady of the double granary'. While nourishing a baby she gave it its name, personality and future fate. She is variously depicted as a woman, or a woman with a serpent's head, or as a serpent wearing the solar disc between the horns of Hathor. She attended the weighing of men's hearts in the Hall of Two Truths along with Shait.


    Goddess of youth and springtime.
    Mistress of eternity, she was linked with the general idea of time. She wore a palm shoot on her head.

    Resheph (Reshpu, Reshep, Reshep-Shulman)

    The Egyptian version of the Semitic Aleyin/Amurru. Though originally a vegetation god (Canaanite Osiris), the Egyptians reguarded him as a warrior and showed him weaponed and crowned with gazelle's horns.

    A war-god whose origins are Syrian, brought into the Egyptian pantheon in Dynasty XVIII. Reshep's characteristic stance is brandishing a mace or axe over his head. His beard is Syrian in style and he normally wears the Upper Egyptian corwn adorned with a gazelle head in front and a ribbon behind. The gazelle connects Reshep iconographically with the god Seth but it is the Theban war-god Montu with whom Reshep has the greatest affinity. His martial temperament makes him an ideal royal deity, especially in an era boasting of the military and sporting prowess of its monarchs. A good example of this comes from the stela of Amenhotep II (Dynasty XVIII) set up near the Sphinx at Giza where Reshep and the goddess Astarte are described as rejoicing at the crown prince's diligence in looking after his horses. Perhaps not too much stress should be placed on some of the Egyptian epithets which he receives, such as 'Lord of the Sky' or 'Lord of Eternity', but his status in the New Kingdom was high- a region on the east bank of the Nile even being named the 'Valley of Reshep'. He appears on Theban stelae alongside the Egyptian god Min and the Syrian goddess Qadesh. Reshep becomes (possibly because of Syrian enclaves amoung the Egyptian population) an approachable deity who can grant success to those praying to him. Also his force for destruction of royal enemies in battle can be turned against diseases affecting ordinary people. For instance, Reshep and his wife Itum are called upon in a magical spell to overpower the 'akha'- demon causing abdominal pains. As a deity combining the polarities of life and death, he is known both in Egypt and the Near East as Reshep-Shulman.

    Saa (Sia)

    The personification of intelligence. He is mostly known for the help he gave the sun god Ra on his boat during the night journey through the Underworld.

    The god personifying the perceptive mind. Sia was created from blood dripping from the phallus of Re, the sun-god. In the Old Kingdom Sia is visualised at the right side of Re and responsible for carrying the sacred papyrus whose contents embody intellectial achievement. On the walls of tombs in the Valley of the Kings Sia travels in the boat of the sun-god. Probably Sia is equatable with the intellectual energies of the heart of Ptah in Memphite theology, resulting in the creative command of Ptah's tongue.

    Satet (Satis, Satjit)

    Satet was the principal female counterpart of Khnemu and was worshipped with him at Elephantine (Abu). She was the sister of the goddess, Anqet. Her name comes from the root, sat (to shoot, to eject, to pour out, to throw). Satet was the goddess of the inundation (yearly flooding of the Nile) and of fertility. She was also connected with the star "Sept" (Polaris?) whose return to the night sky marked the beginning of the flood season. Satet's temple in Elephantine was one of the principal holy places in Egypt. The center of her worship was in the island of Sahal, two miles south of Elephantine.

    Sebek (Sobk, Suchos, Sobek)

    Crocodile god of Faiyum Oasis(Crocodilopolis).

    Sebek's worshippers thought of him as a creator god, emerging from the waters of chaos to lay his eggs of life on the bank. He was linked with the evil god Set. Sebek was guardian of royalty in the 13th Dynasty. In a lake near his temple a real crocodile was kept and regarded as the god incarnate. This animal's name was Petesuchos. He was much fussed over, and had golden rings in his ears and gold bracelets on his legs. He became a renowned tourist attraction and visitors would save food and wine to feed to him.


    Anthropomorphic god of pro-creation in the Meroitic pantheon. His main centre of worship is in the temple complex at Musawwarat el-Sufra in the desert east of the sixth cataract of the Nile.


    Goddess of writing and temple libraries. Her name means the seven-horned and she wears on her head the symbol of a seven-pointed star below an indented arc which could represent a bow. She first appears during the reign of Tuthmosis III (Dynasty XVIII) and seems little more than a vresion of Seshat. Her role is to be present at the temple foundation ceremony of 'stretching the cord' where the monarch measures out the extent of the precinct. The goddess also figures among the deities responsible for writing the name of the pharaoh on the leaves of the sacred tree.

    Seker (Sokar, Socharis)

    God of the Memphis necropolis (Sakkara), one of many funerary gods.
    Seker was often shown with a falcon's head. He was linked to Osiris and Ptah in the composite deity Ptah-Seker-Osiris. He was a guardian of the access door to the Underworld.

    Sekhmet (Sakhmet)

    Lion-headed goddess of war and battle of Memphis. Although she was the malignant sun, Sekhmet attracted osteopaths to her cult. She was happily married to Ptah, the most creative of gods.

    Her name simply means the 'powerful' and is extremely apt in view of the destructive aspect of her character. She is shown with the body of a lady and the head of a lioness. Sometimes the linen dress she wears exhibits a rosetta pattern over each nipple, an ancient leonine motif that can be traced to observation of the shoulder-knot hairs on lions. She is daughter of the sun-god Re and became regarded as the consort of Ptah of Memphis, where she subsumed (certianly by the New Kingdom) local cults as 'mistress of Ankhtawy' (= 'life of the Two Lands', a name for Memphis). One of these cults seems to have led to her title, found on a stela in the Serapeum at Saqqara, 'lady of the Acacia'. Since there was a degree of correspondence between Sakhmet and Bastet, her son was taken to be the same as that of the cat-goddess, namely Nefertum the lotus-god. A superbly carved limestone fragment from the valley of Sneferu (Dynasty IV) at Dahshur shows the monarch's head closely juxtaposed to the muzzle of a lioness-deity (presumably Sakhmet) as if to symbolise Sneferu breathing in the divine life-force emanating from the goddess's mouth. This would be in line with a statement in the Pyramid Texts to the effect that Sakhmet conceived the king. Certainly, under Sahure of Dynasty V the goddess received a shrine at Abusir. A corresponding relationship was made between Sakhmet of Memphis and the goddess Mut, wife of Amun at Thebes, a fusion facilitated by the fact that both goddesses could manifest themselves under leonine forms. Hundreds of statues of Sakhmet were set up in the reign of Amenhotep III (Dynasty XVIII) in the precinct of Mut's temple (known as 'Isheru') south of the Great Temple of Amun of Karnak. Their quantity is attributable to their ritual purpose in receiving offerings, each statue being so honoured on one particular day of the year. Sakhmet's black granite statues either show her seated holding the sign of life ('ankh') in her hand or standing with a sceptre in the shape of the papyrus, heraldic plant of north Egypt. Inscriptions on these statues emphasise her warlike aspect, e.g., 'smiter of the Nubians'.


    The goddess is adopted by the pharaohs as a symbol of their own unvanquishable heroism in battle. She breathes fire against the king's enemies, such as in the Battle of Kadesh when she is visualised on the horses of Ramesses II, her flames scorching the bodies of enemy soldiers. The wrath of the pharaoh towards those who rebel against his rule is compared by a Middle Kingdom treatise on kingship to the rage of Sakhmet. In a passage intended to flatter the pharaoh in the story of Sinuhe, it is said that the fear of the king pervades foreign countries like Sakhmet in a year of pestilence. Her title 'lady of bright red linen', which on the surface is a reference to the colour of her homeland of Lower Egypt, carries, from her warlike nature, the secondary force of meaning the blood-soaked garments of her enemies. One myth in particular reveals the bloodthirsty side of Sakhmet. it is found in a number of cersions in royal tombs at Thebes. It involves also the goddess Hathor in her vengeful aspect. The two goddesses are both 'Eyes of Re', agents of his punishment. There was a temple to Sakhmet-Hathor at Kom el-Hisn in the western Delta, and in his temple at Abydos Sety I (Dynasty XIX) is suckled by Hathor whose title is 'mistress of the mansion of Sakhmet'. In this legend the sun-god Re fears that mankind plots against him. The gods urge him to call down retribution on men by sending his avenging Eye down to Egypt as Hathor. As the goddess slays men, leaving them in pools of blood in the deserts where they fled, she transforms into the 'powerful'. During the night the god Re, trying to avert a total massacre of the human race by the goddess who clearly has become unstoppable in her bloodlust, orders his high priest at Heliopolis to obtain red ochre from Elephantine and grind it with beer mash. Secen thousand jars of red beer are spread over the land of Egypt. in the morning Sakhmet returns to finish her task of destroying the human race, drinks what she assumes is blood and goes away intoxicated, unable to complete her slaughter.


    Spells exist that regard plagues as brought by the 'messengers' of Sakhmet. On the assumption that the goddess could ward off pestilence as well as bring it, the Egyptians adopted Sakhmet 'lady of life' as a beneficial force in their attempts to counteract illness. her priesthood seems to have had a prophylactic role in medicine. The priest ('waeb Sakhmet') being present to recite prayers to the goddess was as integral a part of the treatment as the practicalities performed by the physician (the 'sunu'). In the Old Kingdom the priest of Sakhmet are an organised phyle and from a slightly later date in its extant copy the Ebers Papyrus attributes to these priest a detailed knowledge of the heart.

    Selket (Selchis, Selquet)

    Guardian goddess of conjugal union.

    Selket and Neith watched over the sky, the bedroom where Amun and his wife were busily engaged. Their duty was to ensure that the couple were not interrupted by anyone bursting in. Selket is pictured either as a woman with a scorpion on her head or as a scorpion with a woman's head. She helped Qebhsnuf guard the embalmed intestines in their funerary jar. Selket is another daughter of Ra.


    Centipede-god from Heliopolis with powers to prevent snake bites. He can also be represented with the head of a donkey or as a mummiform deity sporting two short horns.

    Septu (Sopd, Sopdu)

    War god.

    'Smither of the Asiatics', he was shown as a man with foreign features wearing two tail feathers on his head. He was also shown as a falcon wearing the same two plumes. Septu is a reminder that there was a constant intercommunication, constant movement among the nations, tribes and citiesof the ancient world. Our regrettably inadequate methods of teaching history have resulted in many people regarding the past as a series of insulated corridors, receding each in its own direction into the darkness of ignorance.

    Serapis (Sarapis)

    God uniting attributes of Osiris and Apis.

    An ancient Egyptian god of the lower world, also worshiped in ancient Greece and Rome.

    The national god of Ptolemaic Egypt.

    Serapis was invented by Ptolemy I (Soter) by combining Osiris, god of vegetation and death, with Apis the bull-god. A very fine head of Serapis, bearded and with curly hair, was found in London in the temple of Mithras. Serapis wore on his head a calathus or modius, a corn-measure looking uncannily like a modern flowerpot. At first sight it seems strange to find such a sculpture in such a place. The combinedd culy of Isis and Serapis was accepted in Rome where both Caligula and Caracalla were adherents; Serapis-worship was therefore most likely brought to Britain by the Romans. His worship is also tenuously linked to Mithraism, for both include the idea of the Underworld and have the bull as a central image.

    Serqet (Serket, Selkis)

    A scorpion goddess associated with the dead. With her arms outstretched in a protective gesture it was believed that Serqet had special powers over the entrails of the deceased.

    Her name - also rendered as Selkis - is an abbreviation of the phrase 'Serket hetyt' meaning 'she who causes the throat to breathe', clearly euphemistic in as much as the scorpion cab ve a threat to life. For magical reasons her name until the New Kingdom si not followed by the hieroglyphic determinative of a full scorpion. Serket is usually represented as a lady whose head is surmounted by a scorpion with its tail raised ready to sting. The earliest reference to her entry into the Egyptian pantheon occurs in the first dynasty on the stela of Merika from Saqqara. In the Pyramid Age she has a protective role around the throne of the king. Contemporaneously she is called the mother of Nehebu-Kau. However, her most important role seems to be connected with the funerary cult. Her epithet, 'lady of the beautiful house' refers to her association with the embalmer's tent. She is oneo f the tutelary goddesses on each side of the canopic chest containing the mummified viscera of the deceased, in four jars. Her responsibility is to protect Qebehsenuef, god guarding the intestines. Serket's help is required in the Underworld where, according to the Middle Kingdom coffin composition known as the Book of the Two Ways, she watches over a dangerous twist in the pathway. She is also credited with binding the hostile snake Apophis. It was possible (although rarely found) for the destructive power of Serket to be visualised in a form other than the scorpion: in a Dynasty XXI Mythological Papyrus the goddess called 'Serket the great, the divine mother' is represented as female-bodied, armed with knives, having a lioness-head plus a crocodile-head projecting from her back. Similarly, in royal tomb Underworld scenes she can be shown as a rearing serpent. Serket has powers that can be used among the living for healing venomous bites although she is strangely absent from the majority of spells concerned with scorpion stings. From the titles 'kherep Serket' (first found in Dynasty I) which means 'sceptre of Serket' and 'sa Serket' (first occurrence Dynasty V) meanings 'protection of Serket'm there is evidence that Serket was patronness of 'magician-medics' dealing with poisonous bites.

    Seshat (Sesheta)

    Goddess of writing and letters and archives.

    It was Seshat who measured time, calculated the best sidereal moment for laying the foundation stones of temples, kept royal accounts and made audits of the loot captured by warlike expeditions. She was shown as a woman holding a pen, palette and sometimes a tally stick; on her head she wore a star, a crescent and feathers. In time the crescent grew into horns, possibly in imitation of those of Hathor; because of the associated ideas of writing: measurement: time: stars: sky, she would have been linked with Hathor the Heavenly Cow. Seshat was married to Thoth and in many areas is his double. That does not mean that she was originally inferior; it could have been that Thoth acquired some of his attributes from her.

    Set (Seth, Seti, Sutekh, Setekh, Setesh, Suty)

    God of darkness or evil; brother and enemy of Osiris.

    God of thunder and storm; the personification of evil in the battle against good.

    God of chaotic forces who commands both veneration and hostility. The complicated character of Seth is not solved by an acceptable etymology of his name, rendered in hieroglyphs as 'Setekh', 'Setesh', 'Suty' or 'Sutekh'.The creture of Seth, probably an heraldic composite animal, is a quadruped with a gently curving muzzle, two appendages jutting out from the top of its head and an erect tail terminating in a short bifurcation. it appears on the macehead of King Scorpion at the end of the Predynasty era. The god himself can take on the complete form of this creature or be shown in human form but with the animal's head. An early tradition of the violence associated with Seth is in the emphasis that at his birth in Upper Egypt he tore himself savagely frmo his mother Nut. The site of his birth was the Ombos-Naqada region where his major southern sanctuary was built. In the Pyramid Texts the strength of the pharaoh is called 'Seth of Nubet' the ancient name for the site of his Upper Egyptian temple. The similarity of this name to the Egyptian word for 'gold' led to the reinterpretation of part of the pharaoh's titulary from 'golden Horus' into 'Horus over the one of Nubet', i.e. Seth. His birthday was always regarded as an ominous event and unlucky day in the Egyptian calendar. As a god associated with foreign countries, he has consorts coming from the Semitic pantheon- Astarte and Anat. The Egyptian goddess linked with him is his sister Nephthys.

    Set was one of the earliest Egyptian deities, a god of the night identified with the northern stars. In the earliest ages of Egypt this Prince of Darkness was well regarded. One persistant token of this regard is the Tcham scepter, having the stylized head and tail of Set. The Tcham scepter is frequently found in portraits of other other gods as a symbol of magical power. In some texts he is hailed as a source of strength, and in early paintings he is portrayed as bearer of a harpoon at the prow of the boat of Ra, warding off the serpent Apep. Yet the warlike and resolute nature of Set seems to have been regarded with ambivalence in Egyptian theology, and the portrayal of this Neter went through many changes over a period of nearly three thousand years. Pictures of a god bearing two heads, that of Set and his daylight brother Horus the Elder, may be compared to the oriental Yin/Yang symbol as a representation of the union of polarities. In time, the conflict between these two abstract principles came to be emphasized rather than their primal union. Set's battle with Horus the Elder grew from being a statement of the duality of day and night into an expression of the political conflict among the polytheistic priesthoods for control of the Egyptian theocracy. This was rewritten as a battle between Good and Evil after Egypt expelled the Hyskos in the 18th Dynasty. Some say the Hyskos were Asiatic invaders, and others say they were an indigenous minority that seized control of the nation. This tribe ruled Egypt for a time and happened to favor the Set cult, seeing a resemblence to a storm-god of their own pantheon The Set cult never recovered from this identification with the Hyskos. Mages of Set were destroyed or defaced. By the time Greek historians visited Egypt, wild asses, pigs, and other beasts identified with the Set cult were driven off cliffs, hacked into pieces or otherwise slaughtered at annual celebrations in a spirit akin to the driving out of the Biblical scapegoat. The report of these historians is often thought to be a valid account of a timeless and immutable theocracy , but just looking at the frequency with which the ruling capital moved to different cities (each being a cult-center) is enough to dispel this idea. One controversial Egyptologist has suggested that the worship of Set might have predated the concept of paternity. Later cults incorporating a father god would reject this fatherless son. This introduces another bizarre factor in the transformation of the Night/Day battle between brothers into an inheritance dispute between Set and Horus the Younger. Any book on Egyptian myth you pick up contains the gory details of this cosmic lawsuit, which includes things that make DYNASTY look like a prayer breakfast. I have always been intrigued, though, that while all books affirm that Set tore Osiris to pieces, everybody knows about Osiris, and it is quite hard to collect the pieces of the puzzle that is Set. Egyptologists have never agreed what the animal used to symbolize Set actually is. Since the sages of ancient Egypt did not use an unrecognizable creature to represent any other major deity, we may guess that this is intentional, and points, like the Tcham sceptre, to an esoteric meaning.

    Child of Geb and Nut, Set was a premature birth; he tore himself out of the womb as if eager to be born. To the Egyptians he was a disgusting sight, for his skin was white and his hair red; a horrible unnatural colouring for a civilized human being. The Greeks identified him with their Typhon, a monstrous creature. Set's misdeeds have been recounted in the entries of Osiris, Horus, and Isis. He came to be identified with evil, drought, dryness, destruction, and all the other terrible things that the desert can inflict on mankind. He was responsible for heat, suffering, hunger and thirst. Worshipped at Kus and Ombos, Set became identified with Sutekh, god of the hated Hyksos invaders, who about 1650 B.C. drove the Egyptians southward and formed themselves a kingdom in the Nile Delta. The Hyksos peoples. The Egyptians drove out the Hyksos but Set's reputation, never very good, was not utterly lost. His statues were smashed, his name forbidden in both writing and speech, his memory reviled. Set was represented as an ugly pig-like creature with erect tail. Archaeologists call this concoction of evil the 'Typhonian animal'. Every month Set, in the shape of this creature, attacked and consumed the moon, which was the hiding place of Osiris, and also the spot where souls gathered together after death.

    Shait (Shay)

    Goddess personifying destiny, who existed both as a concept and as a divinity.

    Shait was sort of a guardian angel who was born with each new person and lived a parallel existence. When the person died and the soul reached the Hall of Judgement, Shait was there to give a true account of all sins and good works. Against her evidence there was no appeal.


    A leonine goddess, probably a manifestation of Sakhmet. Shesmetet gives birth to the king according to the Pyramid Texts and with the 'democratisation' of Egyptian belief becomes the mother of the deceased in funerary papyri. In a spell to be recited on the last day of the year the name of Shesmetet is invoked as a magical force against demons of slaughter. There is a clue to the exotic origins of this goddess in her epithet 'Lady of Punt', i.e. the incense-region on the horn of Africa.


    Bloodthirsty god of wine and unguent-oil presses. Shezmu is a deity with a dual personality who can both exhibit cruelty and provide benefits. These contrasts are apparent as early as the Pyramid Era and coecist down to the Roman period. He is normally envisaged as anthropomorphic but in the later period of Egyptian civilization a lion-iconography of this god becomes more popular. In the spell in the Old Kingdmo pyramids where the king absorbs extra divine strength by eating certain deities and powerful beings, it is Shezmu as butcher who cuts them up and cooks them for the monarch on the evening hearth stones. Also in the Pyramid Texts he brings the king grape juice for wine production. There is evidence from a bowl found near the Step Pyramid that at this time Shezmu already had a priesthood. By the Middle Kingdom his cult had become well established in the Faiyum. From the Coffin Texts there is the vivid image of an Underworld demon who squeezes out heads like grapes and who lassoes sinners for the slaughter-block. A mythological papyrus (Dynasty XXI) depicts this vengeful aspect of the wine-press god by showing two hawk deities twisting the net of the wine press which contains three human heads instead of grapes and explains to the Egyptian mind the red glow of the sky after sunset. There is a definite preference from the New Kingdom to concentrate on the beneficial role of Shezmu as producer of fragrant oils and perfumes. Hieroglyphs on the sarcophagus of Ankhnesneferibre, the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, in the British Museum describe the god as Manufacturer of prize quality oil of Re. Temples like Edfu and Dendera, where architecturally we can still see the production and storage rooms for cult unguents, emphasie Shezmu as 'master of the perfumery'.


    Solar deity; son of Ra and Hathor.

    God of air and the atmosphere.

    Husband of Tefnut, together they were the first couple of the Great Ennead of Heliopolis. She was called 'The Upholder', 'The Carrier'. At Ra's orders he forcibly separated the loving embrace of Geb and Nut and held Nut up to form the sky. He was a character of myth rather than a god with all the necessary temples, priests and such. Shu was king of the world after Ra. However, the children of Apep ambushed him in his palace. He beat them off but was left weakened and exhausted. He abdicated in favour of Geb, which after his treatment of him was the least he could do. After a noisy farewell party, a tempest which lasted nine days, he retired to heaven.

    Sothis (Sopdet)

    Goddess personifying the star Sirius (Dog-star), herald of the annual Nile inundation by its bright appearance in the dawn sky in July ('Heliacal rising'). The Egyptian name of this goddess is 'Sopdet' from which derives the Greek version Sothis, normally used in Egyptology. She is visualised as a lady with a star on her head. Perhaps as early as Dynasty I Sothis is called 'bringer of the New Year and the Nile flood'- the agrivultural calendar began with the rise of the river Nile. Sothis therefore beame associated- like the constellation Orion- with the prosperity resulting from the fertile silt left by the receding waters. In the Pyramid Texts, where there is strong evidence of an early Egyptian astral cult, the king unites with his sister Sothis who gives birth to the Morning-Star. She is also the king's guide in the celestial Field of Rushes. In later funerary texts of deceased courtiers Sothis has become 'mother' and 'nurse'. Because Sothis and Orion are astral symbols that augur anumdamt crops, the aspects of fecundity and agriculture that exist in the Osirian cycle of myth made the following equation possible:

    (Sothis/Orion)Sopedu = (Isis/Osiris)Horus

    In the Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys (a fourth century BC papyrus) Isis asserts that she is Sothis who will unswervingly follow Osiris in his manifestation os Orion in heaven. In the Late Period the cult of Isis-Sothis results in less autonomy for the star-goddess and Hellenistic interpretations of this dual-deity- such as the iconography of a goddess riding upon the back of a dog- alienate Sothis even further from her pharaonic origins.

    Souls of Pe and Nekhen

    Gods symbolising the Predynastic rulers of the northern and southern kingdoms of Egypt, regarded as protective ancestors of the living monarch. The 'Bau' (souls) of Pe have the heads of falcons, Pe or Buto = the capital of the Delta kingdom. The 'Bau'of Nekhen has the heads of jackals, Nekhen or Hierakonpolis = ancient capital of Upper Egypt. The gods are upholders of the divine kingship rightfully inherited by the ruler in ihs manifestation as the god Horus. In the Pyramid Texts the 'Bau' or Pe show their outrage at the murder of Osiris, symbolically the pharaoh's father, by tearing their flesh and tugging at their sidelocks. They feed the flames of the royal anger at the killing by urging the vengeance of Horus against Osiris's slayer. The ascent of the king into the sky is facilitated by the provison of a gold ladder from the 'Bau' of Pe and Nekhen. The link between the monarch and the 'Bau' of Pe seems to be the strongest, perhaps because the town of Pe was given to Horus (i.e. the king) by the sun-god Re as a reconpense for the injury sustained to his eye in the struggle for the throne. Temple reliefs of rituals include the shrine of the god being carried on poles which rest on the shoulders of the 'Bau' of Pe and Nekhen. In scenes which emphasise the renewal of royal power the gods escort the king into the temple. To a lesser extent they figure in funerary pratices. It has been shown that the 'dance of the Muu' performed at the tombside conjures up the presence of the 'Bau of Pe. In the Valley of the Kings the iconography of the 'Bau' shows them on one knee with one arm raised in the air, usually quite close to a depiction of the monarch himself, an attitude indicative of their readiness to hammer their lawful descendant's enemies.


    Scorpion-goddess called wife of Horus in a number of magico-medical spells against poisonous bites. The power of the spell stems from the conjuration of the blood that flowed when Horus took her virginity upon an ebony bed.


    A goddess whose name means 'the good (or beautiful) sister', consort of Heroeris and mother of Panebtawy in the western sanctuary of Kom-Ombo temple. She is only a colourless manifestation of Hathor in the role of divine wife.

    Tatenen (Tathenen, Tanen, Tjanen)

    Ptah in an aspect of an earth god. During the dispute between Horus and Set, he was linked with Ptah as one enity.

    God symbolising the emergence of the fertile Nile silt from the receding waters of the inundation. His name means 'exalted earth' and he was originally an independent deity at Memphis. Tatenen is represented anthropomorphically with a distinct crown comprised of two plumes upon rams' horns. As a chthonic god of vegetation he can be painted with a green face and limbs. However, by the Old Kingdom he has become amalgamated with the god Ptah and is viewed as a manifestation of Ptah as creator-god. In this role of primordial deity he is found in the important credo of the creation of the world according to the Memphitie theologians as formulated on the Shabaka Stone. How he came to represent the idea of cosmogony is the subject of a number of speculations:

  • Tatenen is the counterpart at Memphis of the notion of the 'high sand' or primeval mound or 'benben' put forward by the priests of Heliopolis.
  • Tatenen is the arable land reclaimed at Memphis from papyrus swamps through irrigation projects.
  • The god is a specific stretch of land at Memphis, submerged by the annual flood and then rising out of the Nile.
  • Tatenen is a personification of Egypt and an aspect of the earth-god Geb.
  • The god as creator receives the title 'father of the gods' and can be regarded as a bisexual deity- a papyrus in Berlin Museum calls him 'fashioner and mother who gave birth to all the gods'. He has a protective role towards the royal dead, guarding their path through the Underworld- Ramesses III is shown on the walls of the tomb of his young son Amunhirkhopshef in the Vallet of the Queens inviting the god to look after the dead prince.

    Taueret (Taurt, Thoueris, Taweret)

    Goddess of childbirth.

    Popular with the middle classes, this domestic deity had a most extraordinary look to her; she was a female hippopotamus with human breast, lion's feet, and a scaled, crocodilian back. Standing upright, she had a sort of wig descending to her fat shoulders, and she carried a bundle of reed or straw in the shape of the hieroglyph sa. This hieroglyph was a sign of protection. Her ugly appearance belied her character, for Taueret was kind and helpful. Her protuberant belly probably gave rise to the idea that she was the protectress of childbirth.


    Goddess of weaving

    The most crucial role that Tayet plays is provider of woven cloth for embalming. In the letter which the pharaoh Senwosret I sends to Sinuhe, an ex-harem official, inviting him back to Egypt after a long sojourn abroad, there is a fine passage evoking the rituals of the funerary cult: after Sunuhe's death there will be a night of unguents and 'wrappings from the hand of Tayet'. This refers to the mummy bandages of the embalmers that keep the corpse intact. In the Old Kingdom a prayer was addressed to the goddess to guard the king's head and gather his bones. Tayet also weaves the curtain (embroidered by the god Ptah) which hangs in the tent of purification where the ritual of embalmment is carried out. In daily life, linen bandages were used sparingly for medical complaints. One spell that has come down to us had to be recited over threads of fabric: it was to prevent an haemorrhage and its consequent defilement of the purity of the 'land of Tayet', i.e. the bandages.

    Tefnut (Tefenet)

    Primeval goddess of moisture, especially of the atmospheric variety - dew, rain and mist.
    Consort of Shu, Tefnut was depicted either as a lioness or as a woman with a lioness's head. There was a hint of the sun in her character; she is otherwise a mere attendant on her husband.

    Thoth (Dhouti, Tehuti, Thout, Djehuti, Zehuti)

    God of wisdom and magic; scribe of gods; ibis-headed.

    The god of the moon and of wisdom and learning, whose sacred bird was the ibis. He is represented with the head and neck of an ibis and carries a pen, tablet, and palm branch.

    Great god of wisdom, magic, music, medicine, astronomy, geometry, surveying, drawing and writing.

    Thoth's name means 'he of Djehut', which was a province in Lower Egypt. His cult centre was at Hermopolis (Ashmunen). He was depicted as an ibis-headed man or as an ibis- or dog- headed ape; on his head he wore the combinned lunar disc and crescent. His priests claimed that he was the true universal demi-urge who created everything by sound. Thoth, despite all attempts to find him parents in the mainstream of the gods, remains outside the Osirian family. His achievements are great. He helped to revive the dismembered Osiris, he defended Horus and cured him from scorpion poison, he adjudicated in the dispute and afterwards cured the wounds which gods Horus and Set had inflicted on each other. He invented all the arts and sciences. His followers said that Thoth had certain book which contained all magic and all knowledge. He had locked them up in a crypt, and his priest claimed that they alone had access to them. Not without reason was Thoth called 'Thrice Greatest'. After spending a busy time on earth Thoth became overseer of the moon. He was responsible for measuring time (the first month of the year was named after him); he was in charge of all calculations, archives, inventories of treasure and loot. He was historian, scribe, herald and divinr judge. Thoth was called Hermes by the Greeks and is the original of Hermes Trismegistus ('thrice greatest Hermes'), the mystical figure behind many an arcane school of celestial philosophy; and for those who know, the god was the originator of the Four Laws of Magic (D.W.K.S.). Thoth's festival was celebrated with figs and honey and his worshippers greeted each other with the phrase 'Sweet is the truth'.

    Thoth can be depicted as the ibis or baboon appear in nature or, in case of the ibis, anthropomorphic with the bird's head super imposed on his shoulders. In each instance the god wears a crown representing the crescent moon supporting the full moon disk. Both his sacred creatures can be interpreted in terms of lunar symbolism. Thoth as moon-god could manifest himself as the sacred ibis whose long curved beak hints at the crescent new moon and whose black and white feathering could be seen as indicating the waxing and waning of the moon. Baboons make agitated chattering sounds at dawn and consequently this could be understood as a greeting to the rising sun by creatures of the moon-god. Certainly the baboon is shown in Egyptian art in such an attitude of deferential greeting, e.g. in the vignette accompanying the hymn to the sun-god at the beginning of the Book of the Dead baboons stand on their hind legs with front paws raised in honour of Re, or above the colossal statues of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel, a frieze of baboons is carved to face the rising sun. It is also possible- but not provable- that the Egyptians had noticed that the hierarchy of a baboon pack mirrored to a certain extent their own society- dominant aloof male = pharaoh, select female baboons = royal harem- and therefore this animal exhibited a wisdom worthy of the god Thoth in his role as sacred repository of knowledge. in typical Egyptian fashion scribes did not concern themselves with the historical or logical development that might have led to the adoption of these creatures as sacred to Thoth but explained their association with the god by a series of puns- e.g., Thoth as the ibis (='hib') treads on (='hab') his enemies. The god's birth was, according to one legend, unnatural in that he sprang from the head of Seth. Elsewhere, such as in the inscription of the statue of Horemheb as a scribe in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Thoth if called the son of Re. This a clear concept of Thoth as a conciliator among the deities because, as one text puts it, the 'peace of the gods' is in him. The skill of his words brings order to warring factions in Egypt itself. However, as early as his appearance in the Pyramid Texts there are hints that Thoth could be merciless to enemies of truth, decapitating them and cutting out their hearts. He us a staunch advocate of Horus and is seen opposite him on temple walls in the ritual of pouring signs of life over the monarch between them.

    Uajyt (Uatchet, Per Uadjit, Uazet, Uto, Buto, Wadjet)

    Cobra guardian goddess of Lower Egypt.

    Uajyt's main shrine was at Buto (Per Uadjit, 'the dwelling place of Uadjit'). As sovereign of the Delta lands, she helped Isis hide with the child Horus in the swamps. She was a cobra goddess, winged and crowned with the red crown of Lower Egypt. Often identified with the uraeus serpent, she was guardian of royalty and an image of her was worn about the forehead, either alone or combined with one or both crowns of Egypt.

    Wadj Wer

    Fertility-god personifying under this name (which means Great Green) either the Mediterranean sea off the north coast of Egypt or the major lagoons of the Nile Delta itself, i.e. Lake Mariut, Idku, Burullus and Mazala. As early as the Old Kingdom this deity is shown in a relief from the pyramid site of Abusir. he proceeds among the fecundity figures, carrying an offering- load on a mat with symbols of life (the 'ankh' sign) suspended from his arm. Under his androgynous form with an emphasised breast and a belly indicative of pregnancy, Wadj Wer is clearly associated with procreation and prosperity. Water signs are carved across his body suggesting the rich fishing in the Delta lakes.


    A son of the sun-god Re found in Old Kingdom texts. He seems to represent the cosmic order, rather like Re's daughter Maat, by supporting the sky and so keeping the forces of chaos from crashing down onto the earth. He is also a judge of other gods, probably administering the cosmic laws of Re.

    Wepwawet (Upuaut, Ophois)

    'Opener of roads'; a god of the Underworld.

    This wolf-headed god lived in the west and was guide of the dead. With Anubis he was worshipped at Lycopolis. When Ra floated on his boat through the regions of night it was Wepwawet who rode on the bows, guarding the way ahead. Wepwawet is found leading all manner of processions, religious, civil, scientific and warlike. Demoted from his godship of Abydos by Osiris, Wepwawet, a lord of the Necropolis, is often seen dressed as a soldier, for he accompanied Osiris on his travels to civilize (conquer) foreign lands. Wepwawet is one of those useful sort of gods who keep quietly in the background and simply get on with their work, with the minimum fuss and the maximum efficiency.

    The archaeological evidence of slate palettes suggests that his origins lie in the south of Egypt among the rulers of the late Predynastic period. He is represented on one of the four standards preceding the conquering monarch on the monument of Narmer, the uniter of Upper and Lower Egypt around 3000 BC. However, by the Old Kingdom Wepwawet is seen as a god of Lower Egypt as well- indeed a pyramid inscription locates his place of birth as the 'Per-nu', the shrine of the northern goddess Wadjet. Elsewhere he is described as 'emerging from a tamarisk bush'. In frount of Wepwawet 'who is on his standard' is a symbol called the 'shedshed' which is a bolster-like protruberance. According to the Pyramid Texts it is on this mysterious emblem that the monarch ascends to the sky. It has been suggested that the 'shedshed' sign represents the royal placenta and that Wepwawet stands for the king himself as the legitimate first-born heir- the 'opener of the ways' from the womb. On the Shabaka Stone in the British Museum, an eighth-century BC copy of an original papyrus dating to the Pyramid Age, Wepwawet is unequivocably identified with Horus. This link extends naturally to the pharaoh himself. On a fragment of a relief from Sinai, Wepwawet's 'shedshed' symbol leads King Semerkhet (Dynasty III) as he crushes all opponents threatening the routes to the turquoise mines of Wadi Maghara. Here Wepwawet is 'opener of the ways' in a strategic sense. He is prominent in royal rituals symbolising the unification of the Egyptian state. In the pharaoh Niuserre's jubilee festival celebrations (Dynasty V), carved in his sun-temple at Abu Gurob, Wepwawet's shrine is entered by the king in the ritual of dedicating the 'field', i.e. the land of Egypt. In a funerary context it is the adze of Wepwawet that is used to 'split open' the kind's mouth in the ceremony of vivification performed at the time of burial. In non-royal mortuary texts Wepwawet is 'opener of the ways' in the sense of guiding the deceased onto a good path in the Underworld. At Abydos, as we learn from the Middle Kingdom stela of Ikhernofret, there was a 'procession of Wepwawet' that began the mysteries of his 'father' Osiris. Wepwawet, in the enactment of the ritual drama, warded off the enemy attacks upon the 'neshmet'- boat of the god. Very rarely Wepwawet is seen as the sun-god. In the Pyramid Texts he is called Re who has 'gone up from his horizon', possibly with the idea of being the 'opener' of the sky to the light of dawn. Also, according to the thankful dedicator of a stela in the Ramesside period, it is Wepwawet-Re 'lord of awe' who saved him from being devoured by a crocodile. Wepwawet as 'lord of Zauty' had ancient connections with the region of Assiut. The later Greek interpretation of Wepwawet as a wolf led to his sacred town being named 'Lycopolis' or 'Wolf-City'.


    Goddess of Thebes whose name means 'the powerful'. possibly she was the earliest consort of Amun at Karnak, preceding Mut. Certianly Middle Kingdom pharaohs of Theban origins take her name as an element in their own- Sen-Wosret or 'man belonging to Wosret'.



    In its earliest attestations the name Yah refers to the moon as satellite of the earth. Yah then becomes conceptualised as a lunar deity, iconographically anthropomorphic but whose manifestations, from the hieroglyphic evidence, can include the crescent of the new moon, the ibis and the falcon- comparable to the other moon deities, Thoth and Khonsu. It is probable that contact with Middle Eastern states in Palestine, Syria and Babylonia was instrumental in the development of Yah as a deity. Certainly the zenith of Yah's popularity lay in the period following the Middle Kingdom when immigration from the Levant was high and princes from Palestine, knoiwn as the Hyksos, rulers, dominated Egypt. These foreigners may well have looked for a lunardeity analogous to the Akkadian moon-god Sin who had an important temple at Harran in north Syria. Strangely, it is with the Theban royal family eventually responsible for the expulsion of these alien rulers that there is a difinite inclination for names involving the mood-god Yah. The daughter of Seqenenre Tao I (Dynasty XVII) is Yah-hotep ('Yah is content'). The founder of Dynasty XVIII was called Yahmose ('Yah is born') and the same element is in the nameo f his wife Yahmose-Nefertari. Most likely the Middle Eastern deity who gave the stimulus to the adoption of Yah is the influence behind the name Kamose, the brother of Yahmose, who began the final thrust against the Hyksos domination. Kamose ('the bull is born') might be the Egyptian equivalent of the epithet applied to Sin describing him as a 'young bull... with strong horns' (i.e. the tips of the crescent moon). This imagery would be totally compatible with the Egyptian concept of the pharaoh as an invinvible bull. In the tomb of Tuthmosis III (Dynasty XVII), the pharaoh whose campaigns took him to the banks of the Euphrates river, there is a scene where the king is accompanied by his mother and three queens, including Sit-Yah 'daughter of the moon-god'. Traces of his cult beyond this period are sporadic.


    Tyrannical god of the sea found in a fragmentary papyrus which seems to hint that his exorbitant demands for tribute from the other deities were eventually thwarted by the goddess Astarte.

    Ancient Egyptian Beliefs & Religions

    Ra, Shu, Tefnut, Isis, Set, Nephythys, Osiris, Geb, and Nut

    The Great Ennead

    These nine gods were the foremost deities of the Egyptian pantheon. They were the close family of Ra, the sun god, and formed a sort of protective dynasty about him. They were also called Great Ennead of Heliopolis, and that city was for a long time the religious capital of Egypt. As its name implies, it was the city sacred to Ra. The nine gods of the Great Ennead were Ra, Geb, Nut, Shu, Tefnut, Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephythys.

    Nun (Nu)

    The Egyptian name for an idea that appears in the many cultures, the primal waters which were the source of all life. Although personified as a bearded man waist-high in water, Nun is more of an idea than a god. Father of the gods, he existed before creation as a watery mass filling the universe. From him sprang Ra and then all of life. The Oseirion at Abydos had a subterranean water channel to represent Nun. Nun is also depicted holding aloft Manjet, the morning boat of the sun god Ra.

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