The belief and worship of natural forces is referred to as religion. In all religions, ritual performance plays an important role. In many regions, rituals are performed by specific people and at specific places. Statues, pyramids, pharaohs, gods and temples were significant images in Egyptian religion, which played important roles in the religion. Religion was a serious matter in Egypt.
Religion acted as a unifying factor to Egyptian people. It brought them together during important rituals and practices where they shared their resources. Morality was enhanced by religion because through religion, people learned the process of interaction with each other.
Egyptians were polytheistic; they had as many as 700 gods and goddesses some of whom were worshipped throughout the country like Osiris and Isis while others were worshipped within individual societies. In many cases, the representations of the gods were half-human half animal.
The Horus god referred to as the sky god posses human and animal characteristics the head is like that of a hawk while the body figure is like that of a human being. Among the Egyptians, a cat, crocodile and a bull were considered holy. They held the belief that gods were present and in-charge of the forces of nature. The society held rituals and practices to appease their gods and get favor from them.
Life after death was a common belief among them. They believed that after death people had a better life. They preserved their bodies to give room for the spirits after death through a process called mummification. During the burial ceremony, individuals were buried together with their personal properties like food, clothing, utensils etc. The rich were buried with valuable objects like jewellery, and furniture.
In Ancient Egyptian religion, religion and life were intertwined. People were so much devoted to religious ways of life. During important rituals and religious practices like offering sacrifices, all people showed up. They obeyed the instruction delivered to them through pharaoh their mediator by their gods (Baines and Hornung 105).
These gods played different roles in the society. Egyptians performed daily services in honor of the statue gods. They washed, clothed and used perfumes to anoint it. Foods and drinks were placed on the feet as a source of spiritual nourishment. People ate the remains of the food. In some cases, two gods were merged together to come up with one greater and a powerful god.
Amon-Re and Ptah-Sokar are some of the gods among the Egyptians. In other cases, one god was split into several other gods who served different functions. An example is Amon-em-Opet. Each of the gods could have its cult. Egypt was made up of various religions, which interacted with each other, inspired and borrowed practices from each other.
One cult was usually allowed to dominate which led to changes or disappearance of smaller cults. There was no universal theory regarding worship in the various worshipping centers. There was an attempt to introduce monotheism in the 14th century but it was not successful (Spencer 120).
The combination of the Amon and Re was the highest and strongest divinity. Egyptians equated their gods with human beings and gave them human qualities. Egyptians believed that their gods had human characteristics they were born and died just like human beings. The fought and quarreled like human beings do. According to them, gods made mistakes.
However, the gods possessed more powers than human beings possess and were immortal. They took the form of human beings, animals or a combination of the two characteristics. Other gods included Anubis, Osiris and Isis. Anubis was the funeral god.
He takes the picture of a jackal a creature who feeds on dead human bodies. Osiris was the god of river Nile, the god of vegetation while Isis was the fertility god. Gods were important in the religion because they protected people and provided them with their basic needs (Rice 160).
The pharaoh was a religious leader in Egypt who presided over the religious matterys. Devine kingship was therefore among their strong traditions. He was linked with gods like Horus, and the sun god. The pharaoh had many powers in the Egyptian religion.
The pharaoh performed rituals and offered sacrifices to the gods who ensured peace in the universe. Harmony and justice in the society was achieved through the sacrifices that pharaoh made to the gods. After the death of Pharaoh, he was buried together with his belongings including his servants who would continue serving him after death (Shaw 170).
Egypt had as many as 138 pyramids. These pyramids were mainly built as tombs to burry Pharaohs. The pyramid of Khufu at Giza is the largest of all in Egypt. Egyptians associate the origin of some of their gods and goddesses to the pyramids. Priests in the ancient Egyptian religion had myths explaining the existence of their gods.
Egyptians believed that primordial mount was the earth’s place of origin. Pyramids shapes represent sunrays descending from heaven. It was believed that sunrays first landed on Sun God Ra a mark of the way to heaven. After the construction of pyramids, they were polished with shiny and white limestone, which is highly reflective to attract people from a distance.
The naming of the pyramids was related to the solar system. For example, Southern Shining Pyramid was the name given to the bent pyramid at Dahshur. Pyramids therefore played a major role in Egyptian religion as burial places for the pharaohs (Morens and Keep 65).
Temples were important images in the Egyptian religion. The temples were mainly used for religious purposes. It is in the temples that the physical images, which represented their gods, were worshipped, cared for and presented with offerings. Those practices were important because they maintained the good relationship between the people and their gods. The temples were mainly constructed using stones.
The sanctuary was a holy place in the temple where the statue of temple god was kept. Many courts and halls were also located at the sanctuary. Moving from the entrance of the temple all through to the sanctuary symbolized the movement from the human world to the divine world. There were other important buildings near the temple. For example, there were workshops, stores as well as libraries.
The libraries contained the sacred writings of the temple and other records. The libraries also acted as educational centres where people were trained on the Egyptian doctrine by religious leaders as well as reading the documented records.
The rituals in the temple were supposed to be entirely carried out by the pharaoh as the people’s representative. However, in many occasions, priests performed rituals on his behalf (Morens and Keep 98).
Egyptians had shrines were they offered their sacrifices to their gods. The shrines were holy places and only priests visited them. They were mainly located in big trees and mountainous places. They offered burned sacrifices to their gods in the shrines.
These were mainly animal’s sacrifices. They also sacrificed harvests like grains. This was done to appease their gods. During droughts and famine, they went to the shrines, sacrificed and prayed for rain (Wegner, 172).
Religion is a very important aspect not only to Egyptians but also to all people. Religious doctrine teaches the followers the expected behavior in the society. Through religion, a country can earn foreign exchange, for instance, the temples and tombs in Egypt became historical monuments, which attracts tourists from all over the world earning the country foreign exchange.
Baines, John, and Hornung, Erik. Conceptions of God in ancient Egypt: the one and the many. London: Cornell University Press, 1996.
Morenz, Siegfried, and Keep, Ann. Egyptian Religion. New York: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Rice, Micheal. Egypt’s making: the origins of ancient Egypt 5000-2000 BC. Washington: Taylor & Francis, 1990.
Shaw, Ian. Ancient Egypt: a very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Spencer, Jeffrey. Death in Ancient Egypt. London: Penguin Books, 1991.
Wegner, Paul. An examination of kingship and messianic expectation in Isaiah 1-35. London: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992.