Idea of God
Evolution of Mummification
Coffins & Sarcophagi
Through numerous clues and findings, it is evident that the ancient Egyptians went through a phase known as animism or animatism.
This is the belief in which one believes that nearly all objects in the universe have a soul and a personality just like humans.
What brought about such a belief? It all started with the experience of a dream or the "phenomenon of sleep". This "phenomenon"
caused one to conclude that all humans possess another self or a living palimpsest (that is, a being inside another being,
which exists at the same time as the other, yet is hidden). It was with the notion of another self that one further concluded
that it would continue to exist after death. This brings us to the fact that the Egyptians believed in an Afterlife, an idea
that other modern religions share.
It is possible to prove that the ancient Egyptians, in fact, believed in the possession of a "soul" or animism. How, one might
ask? The ancient Egyptians had a name for "soul" (the ba), which artists depicted as a human-headed bird. The association
of a bird to the soul is rather interesting in that to the ancient Egyptians, birds have a magical power that humans do not
possess: flight. It has also been in very recent times that humans have been obsessed with flight: the Wright Brothers and
others like them, for example. The ability of flight allowed birds to soar as high as the realm of the gods. It is evident
that, from the bird, the Egyptians developed the notion of the "winged spirit" or "winged god", thus the appropriateness of
the place of the ba in Egyptian religion. Other winged creatures appearing in Egyptian religion include the scarab,
the beetle connected with the rising sun and rebirth; the sun, an astral and ubiquitous image that signifies life among other
things; and the falcon, a bird of prey whose image personifies Re, Hewer, Horus, and Horus of Edfu.
One can further conclude that the ancient Egyptians believed in animism due to their worship of the tree, which is a branch
of animistic belief. One example of the significance of the tree in ancient Egyptian religion is its existence in the myth
of the death of Osiris. In this tale, Osiris, after his brother, Seth, locked him in a chest and threw him out to sea, was
wound inside the trunk of a tree, which provided a vessel for the dead ruler in which he could be reborn. In another example,
the new reigning ruler would have his or her name written on the leaves of an acacia tree, making the new ruler’s name
last forever. The latter example shows that the acacia tree was a thing that possessed a magical character that allowed it
to forever keep intact the legacy of whoever’s name was written on its leaves.
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Idea of God
The ancient Egyptians' concept of "god" can be described in the following ways: the word with which they used to describe
"god" and a prospective description proposed by some Egyptologists and archeologists. In terms of the former, it is evident
that the ancient Egyptians referred to god, or any deity, as ntr (Egyptian for "god"). The latter description of "god"
can be linked to the former in that scholars have observed that the hieroglyphic symbol that represents ntr is an axe-head
let into a long wooden handle. Some believe that this hieroglyph resembles, in outline, a roll of yellowish cloth: the lower
part being bound or laced over; the upper part appearing as a flap at the top, probably for unwinding.
The term "god" should not be confused with the Christian God, as they are not the same thing: the latter is One Entity, whereas
the former could refer to any number of gods or a male or female ruler. Here we have the difference between monotheism (Christian)
and polytheism (Egyptian). What is more, at any given moment, year, or changing of rulers, the changing of the primary god
in ancient Egypt occurred (the Christian God will remain the only One, forever).
Where the Christian God is responsible for everything, a whole slew of Egyptian gods were charged with the gradation of the
earth’s moods (weather, astrological occurrences, et cetera). In addition, it was possible for the Egyptians to appease
the gods in hopes of manipulating a god’s decision of what the weather would be on any given day. This relationship
is non-existent between the Christian God and Its*
followers: the Christian God is not to be manipulated, as It is omnipotent. That is to say, with the Egyptians’ rapport
with their gods comes a far more personal interaction between the two, where the rapport between the Christian God and Its
believers is limited to worship and is impersonal, though one could certainly "talk" with God. One can also certainly ask
God to make a cloudy day sunny, but one would not offer God anything to appease It.
It is also known that the gods of ancient Egypt occupied the same plane as did the ancient Egyptians; the ancient Egyptians
believed that the spirits of the gods lived in their images (effigies), that when they prayed to an image of a god on a wall
or to a statue, they were praying to the god him or herself, although a tête-à-tête with a god was limited to priests, who
were charged with caring for the god whose spirit resided in the statue (bathing, clothing, and nourishing, for example).
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In the mix of the ancient Egyptian religion, one can say that fetishism played a role. Fetishism is a term applied to the
use of objects of various sizes and compositions that one regards as possessing consciousness, volition (freewill), and supernatural
qualities. It is evident that fetishism was a part of the ancient religion because many of the ancient Egyptian gods are depicted
as carrying the fetishes with which the Egyptians associated them. For example, Hathor is often depicted holding a sistrum,
a musical instrument whose handle is often in her image (a cow's head). Tauweret is often, if not always, shown leaning against
a tyet amulet of protection, supporting her role as a protectress. Egyptians artists showed often Ptah as holding
a was-djed-ankh staff, which personifies what his godly duty was: a powerful (was) creator of life (ankh)
who was also in charge of keeping stability (djed) in the world. Osiris is more often than not shown holding the crook
(a short shepherd's staff) and flail (a sort of three-stringed whip) across his chest, the same exact items living rulers
held in their depictions. The crook was a symbol for leadership in terms of the rapport between shepherd and flock; the ruler
was responsible for instilling peace among his people, watching over their wellbeing. The flail was a symbol for power and
dominance, in terms of the rapport between farmer and his or her work animals, where whipping an ox would lead it forward
and better produce a land ready for planting crops. Osiris was leader over all the gods, guiding them in their difficult
decisions, and was the most powerful over any—he was the god of the entire Underworld after all, the father of the gods
and original ruler of the living.
Amulets are prime examples of such evidence of fetishism in the ancient Egyptian religion. Each was closely associated with
a certain deity:
Isis and Tauweret with the tyet amulet of protection; Osiris with the djed pillar amulet of strength; Ptah the
was-djed-ankh scepter; Horus the WADJET eye; and Re the WAS scepter. The Egyptians considered it good luck to anyone--dead
or living--who wore them. Wives might give their battle-bound husbands a wadjet eye amulet attached to a string to
give them the protection of Horus, who would heal the soldier if