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Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Mythology
Egyptian myth and legend is one of the most referenced ancient cultures in modern society’s pop culture, making unrivaled appearances in books, movies, and television shows.
The religion of Egypt that reigned for over 3000 years starting in 3100 B.C. was a polytheistic religion, which means “many gods.”
Egypt was unified under one central government in 3100 B.C., leading to the creation of this new religion which absorbed many of the occult traditions of the Egyptian people before the unification. This consisted not of a single religious base but of many local pagan cults centered around animal deities (gods).
This centralization of animals in worship can easily be seen in nearly every aspect of the post-unification religion and worship: see gods Hathor and Seth The intricacies of Egyptian myth and worship are extremely complex, and much has been lost over time, (it WAS 5,000 years ago guys!) and the longevity of the culture's reign in Egypt (over 3,000 years) makes it nearly impossible to pinpoint details and present them in an organized fashion.
* It is a common misconception that the polytheistic religion followed by the ancient Egyptians followed conventions similar to that of the Greeks and Romans, that is being organized by a hierarchy in which there is one “supreme god” (Zeus) or “ruler of the gods” and several other minor ones (Poseidon, Hades, Ares).
The most highly venerated deity of the ancient Egyptians was actually dependent upon the region, or Nome, in which one lived. For example, an Egyptian living near Cairo may worship under Seth, while someone residing outside of Abydos would pray to Horus.
Also, the religion would often times change over time as a new Pharaoh came to power. Many times a new Pharoah would make sure their patron god is more widely worshipped.
*At one point, Egypt was monotheistic - meaning "one god" - under the rule of Pharaoh Akhenaten. Akhenaten made Aten, his patron god, the only god for the duration of his reign. *
Individuals would also pray to and worship gods of their choice – usually because of their professions. A tailor would for instance worship Thoth.
Although there were over 700 individual deities worshipped in Egypt over this period, some of the most highly popular were these*:
* Many of these gods were extremely popular starting around the 5th Egyptian dynasty because they were in the Ennead of Heliopolis