Religion guided every aspect of Egyptian life. Egyptian religion was based on
polytheism, or the worship of many deities, except for during the reign of Akenaton. The
Egyptians had as many as 2000 gods and goddesses. Some, such as Amun, were
worshipped throughout the whole country, while others had only a local following. Often
gods and goddesses were represented as part human and part animal.
For example, Horus, the sky god, had the head of a hawk, and body of a human. They
considered animals such as the bull, the cat, and the crocodile to be holy. Their two chief
gods were Amon-Ra and Osiris. Amon-Ra was believed to be the sun god and the lord
of the universe. Osiris was the god of the underworld. Stories about him revolved
around the idea of immortality. Osiris was the god that made a peaceful afterlife
possible. The Egyptian "Book of the Dead" contains the major ideas and beliefs in the
ancient Egyptian religion. Because their religion stressed an afterlife, Egyptians devoted
much time and wealth to preparing for survival in the next world.
The Egyptians had many tales about how the world began. According to one legend, it
started with an ocean in darkness. Then a mound of dry land rose up and the sun god
Re appeared. He created light and all things. Another version has the sun God emerging
from a sacred blue lotus that grew out of the mud, while a third version has him
appearing as a scarab beetle on the eastern horizon.
Temples were considered dwelling places for the gods. They were everywhere. Each
city had a temple built for the god of that city. The purpose of the temple was to be a
cosmic center by which men had communication with the gods. As the priests became
more powerful, tombs became a part of great temples. Shown below is a typical temple
flood plan with the purposes of each... [continues]
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