Religious Beliefs of the Egyptians

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Identify how the beliefs systems about creation, life & death and gods were connected to the environment & influenced daily life & religious beliefs of the Egyptians

Ancient Egypt had a complex array of religious belief systems. Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs can be linked with the environment that they lived in. There are many myths relating to the creation of the world, all these have the environmental representation within them. The life and death cycle of the Egyptians was represented in the patterns of nature. Ancient Egyptians believed in many unique existences in the afterlife. Egyptians greatly relied on the River Nile and its annual cycle which influenced their religious beliefs. Gods and Goddesses were representations of the environment around them and each God or Goddess looked after a part of their daily lives. Worshiping the sun was a critical element in the Egyptians religious beliefs, however through time, the beliefs of the Egyptians connected to sun god changed as well.

There are multiple myths concerning the Egyptian concept of creation. Each myth or story varies slightly but they share a common essential feature. Each of these myths reflect the Egyptians perception their environment. The common environmental myth elements are firstly that the entire earth was covered with water. This is presented in the environment through the annual inundation of the Nile, in which the Nile valley was covered with water. The second is that an island or mound of land came out of the water. This is presented in the environment that as the flood waters receded small islands or mounds of land appear. Thirdly the first god (Ra) appeared on the island from the water and created life. This is presented in the environment as when the waters recede there is rich silt, from the rich silt left, and new life rose up. There are three main creation myths in the old kingdom: the Heliopolitan myth, the Memphite myth, and the Hermopolitan myth. The Heliopolitan myth originated from Heliopolis. In this myth, there was seven days in the period of creation. Everything was created by different gods. It was out of Nu or Nun that everything was created, in the beginning there was only water, the water was known as the chaos water, and from this water, the sun god Ra appeared and gave light to the universe. Ra then created Shu and Tefnut the god and goddess of air and moisture. From these gods many more appeared and created earth, sky, the calendar, and finally life. (Figure 1) An Egyptian painting, is of the sun god Ra; it displays him with a sun disk on his head and was painted in C13th B.C. It is evident that Ra is transporting some kind of spirit (wavering effect) through the river Nile to the afterlife; this is evident because it was in scripted in a tomb.

The Memphite myth originated from Memphis, in this myth there was a ‘father of the gods from whom all life emerged’, this was Ptah. Ptah came into the universe by finding all the aspects of the universe in his heart then speaking them out loud. Ptah created the gods, cities, food, drink, and everything that Egyptians needed in life. (Figure 2) In this statue it shows the god Ptah, the creator god made from gold found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb.

The Hermopolitan myth originated from Hermopolis. In this myth the gods are created before the sun, but similarly there is ‘water’ which is where the god Thoth (ibis) created an egg. He placed this egg on a mound of earth up from the water (ground appearing after the waters recede from the inundation of the Nile) it then cracked and the sun appeared from the egg. (Figure 3) This New Kingdom (about 1550 BC) blue amulet is of the god of wisdom, Thoth in his ibis form. Through the several explanations of their beliefs of creation, we see how the Egyptians had many different ideologies of creation, and how they differed from an area of Egyptian to another.

The environment of the Ancient Egyptians was reflected in their...
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