Egyptian Mythology

Egyptian Religion and Mythology

What factors dominated Egyptian religion and its mythology?

Sacred kingship was central to Egyptian religion. Every king (pharaoh) was considered to be the son of the creator sun god and the direct representative of Horus, the son of the great king-god Osiris. The connection with Horus is significant, because the primary responsibility of the king was to preserve divine order (maat). In mythology, Horus, representing that order, was in a continual struggle against his uncle, Seth, who represented the opposite.

The connection of the pharaoh to the sun god is important because the daily rising of the sun represented creation itself and the victory of light over darkness.

The most evident aspect of Egyptian religion and mythology is a concern with the afterlife. Anyone who visits the Egyptian wing of a museum is inevitably struck by the presence of mummies, elaborately preserved bodies of ancient kings and noblemen who had been placed—sometimes in pyramids, sometimes in underground tombs—with valuable objects and even sacrificed servants meant to ease the deceased’s passage through the Underworld. The visitor to Egypt is drawn especially to the great pyramid tombs of Giza (near Cairo) with the mysterious Sphinx nearby. The emphasis on death and the afterlife was almost certainly related to a natural phenomenon that was ever present in Egyptian life, the annual flooding of the Nile that brought death and then rebirth to the fertile land along the river.


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