Guide to Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Understanding the script

Egyptian Gods

The gods of a nation tend to evolve to represent their cultural sophistication.

The Egyptian gods were initially local deities that were consolidated or merged much like modern companies. Alas not the romantic, mysterious objects conceived of by many modern readers.
Initially each city had it's own creation mythology. Hermopolis had eight primeval deities, Memphis had Ptah crafting the world but perhaps the most influential were the creator-god Atum and the falcun headed sun god Ra of Heliopolis.

Late in the dynastic time-frame, the Egyptian gods were incorporated into the Greek and Roman pantheons. Towards the end of the pharaohic period the monotheistic belief systems of Christianity, Judaism and Islam supplanted the old gods.
Finally, with the rush of science, for many, religion ceased to be the best rationalization. Ironically, the philosophic tenant of 'burden of proof' now drives science to furnish the huge amount of explanation a deity may need.

In 391 AD Emperor Theodosius ordered all ancient Egyptian temples to be closed in an anti pagan reaction and hieroglyphic literacy was lost. As a consequence, the mythology of Egypt was only known through Greek and Roman historians until in 1822, with the decipherment of the hieroglyphs, the pyramid texts became accessible.
The Egyptian pantheon may economically be summarized:


Many myths surround the above, and vary with geographical location and period.
One of the oldest, Amon (god of Thebes, a fertility deity), was 'joined' with Ra (the sun god of Heliopolis) to form Atum-Ra.
The creation myth held that Atum was the first and only god. He created a son and daughter, Shu (god of the air) and Tefnut (goddess of mist and moisture).
One day they wandered off and disappeared. Atum removed his eye and ordered it to look for them. It found and returned them, Atum wept tears of joy and where they fell human being sprang up.
In its absence, Atum replaced the first eye, the Sun, with another, which he made into the eye of the Moon.

Bastet, was a daughter of Ra (sometimes said to be his sister and consort) whose cult originated in Bubastis, the capital of a province of lower Egypt. Hathor, another daughter was thought to have been the 'eye of Ra'.

The Netherworld
Anubis, the son of Ra (although later said to be the child of Osiris and Nephthys) supervised the burial of Osiris and so became associated with funeral rites. He is also said to have assisted in the judgement of the dead and is depicted with the head of a jackal.
The Burial texts page gives further details of the journey through the underworld and the dangers described in the Book of Gates.

Isis was the Egyptian mother goddess who was worshipped for more than 3000 years. Her cult later passed much of its imagery to the virgin Mary. Isis resurrected her brother Osiris after he was killed by his brother Seth. Osiris became god of the dead.
Horus was the son of Isis and Osiris, born after Osiris retired to the underworld.
Horus is depicted with the head of a falcon.

Nut and the five extra days
Please also see the Calendar page for the mythology of the extra five days at the end of each year (the days upon the year) which were celebrated as the birth days of Osiris, Horus, Seth, Isis and Nephthys.