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Ancient Egyptian gods in Ancient Art and Antiquities

Ancient Art and Antiquities are usually blessed with stories of mythical proportions. Take Anubis, the god who presided over embalming, and especially a god of the dead. His cult was very general throughout Egypt, but it seems to have had its centre at Lycopolis (Asyut). There was also a Lycopolis in the Delta where he was worshipped, and this fact may have given rise to the apparent doubling of the god, for the tests speak of Anubis of the north and Anubis of the south. He is said to be the son of Osiris and Nephthys, and to have swallowed his father Osiris. He is the protective god of the Valley of the Kings at Thebes.

As a nature god his father being the sun he may represent the twilight. He is depicted with a human body and the head of a jackal. Or as a lying jackal. One of his names is Apuat. Anubis was a dog, or jackal, deity whose cult seems to have originated at Thinis near Abydos, but spread early to most parts of Egypt. The jackal being a desert animal, the Egyptians associated Anubis with the western desert, the home of the dead. He took over the title of the funerary god Khenti-Amentiu, `First of the Osiris, Westerners', but this was in turn usurped by Osiris. It seems that at first Anubis was the god of death for the pharaoh alone. It is thought that in early times the pharaoh may have been ritually put to death by viper poisoning at the end of twenty-eight years' reign. When the end came Anubis (or a priest representing him) would appear to the pharaoh with a viper. Though this practice was ended, Anubis remained the announcer of death, and was represented as a warrior bearing daggers and a coiled viper or cobra. It is interestmg in this connection that Osiris was murdered after twentyeight years on the throne. As he could foresee a mortal's destiny, Anubis was associated with magic and divination. He was depicted at the bottom of divination bowls, so that the Beer saw Anubis first, leading the other gods who would come to reveal the secrets of the future. When Anubis became identified with the Osirian afterworld he was said to be the son of Nephthys by Osiris. We have seen how Nephthys deceived Osiris into giving her this son, and how Isis saved his life by finding him after Osiris's death, being led to him by dogs. Isis adopted the infant, who when he grew up became her gard. After the body of Osiris was recovered Anubis, who administered medicines as well as poison, provided unguents and rare medicaments with which he, or he together with Isis and Nephthys, embalmed it. Anubis then performed the funerary rites for Osiris rite which he invented and were the model for all burial ceremonies thereafter. According to other traditions, however, Geb was the principal officiant, assisted by Anubis and Thoth. In later belief, Anubis had three important functions. He supervised the correct embalmment of bodies and their reconstitution. He received the mummy into the tomb, performing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony; and he then conducted the soul to the Field of Celestial Offerings, laying his hands over the mummy to protect it. Most important of all, he supervised the weighing of the soul, closely watching the scales, which were often surmounted by his head, to see if the pans balanced. His judgement was of vital importance, for it was accepted in turn by Thoth, Horus and Osiris. Anubis was represented as a jackal-headed man; or as a dog accompanying Isis; or as a jackal or a dog couchant on a pedestal or tomb. His symbol was a black and white ox-hide spattered with blood and hanging from a pole, but the significance of this is uncertain.


A god whois more frequently found in ancient art and antiquities in conjunction with Rá than alone. His name signifies "the bidden one." Of all the gods perhaps he was the one most universally worshipped, though almost always in conjunction with some other god. Thus he was fused with Ra, with Ámsu, or Khnemu. His original róle probably was as a god of the dead, and in late times " much mystic philosophy was evolved out of his name.


A combination of the gods Amen and Ra. The chief seat of his worship was at Thebes. He is generally represented as standing and holding in one had the USER sceptre, and in the other the ANKH. On his head are two tall plumes of feathers, from he back which hangs a cord.

Amsu or Min

Called also Ámsi, Armes, or Khem, the ithyphallic nome god of Panopolis, the Apu of ancient Egypt and the modern Akhmin. As representing the generative power of nature he is sometimes identified with Ámen-Rá and called Min-Ámen or Ámen-Ámsu. He is represented on the monuments as a tightly swathed figure with only one arm free, that being raised as if waving the flagellum it holds above the head. For head-dress he wears the long plumes of Ámen. Behind him there are usually growing plants. Sir Flinders Petrie found statues of this god at Coptos, and thinks it probable that he was brought by his worshippers from the land of Punt.


Bes too, of course, occurs in amuletic form in his own right as early as the Eighteenth Dynasty, although his image is found far earlier, notably on ivory magic wands of Middle Kingdom date where he brandishes snakes in the company of other protective beings. He is instantly recognizable, for, almost alone in Egyptian art, he is depicted full-faced and a complete lion's mane surrounds very leonine features; significantly he has a lion's tail. Always naked, dwarf-like with bandy legs, and wearing tall plumes, Bes usually rests his hands on his hips. In Graeco-Roman Period examples, however, he sometimes carries a round shield and brandishes a sword as tangible evidence of his protective qualities, for Bes was a genie who warded off evil influences at childbirth. He was a deity for whom there were no temples, but the numbers in which his images occur indicate his great popularity throughout the later Dynastic Period. His amulets are most often made of glazed composition, sometimes polychrome, very occasionally of cornelian and glazed steatite too, all modelled in the round; in the Late Period solid cast-bronze examples also occur. The burial of the wives of Tuthmosis III contained a bracelet partly composed of hollow gold Bes pendants stamped into a mould with back-plate added; usually, though, flat-backed examples are of glazed composition or glass made in an open-backed mould. Sometimes in the New Kingdom Bes is depicted in profile beating a drum or tambourine, for he was closely connected with music-making; indeed it was this noisy activity which was believed to drive away malevolent forces. From the Third Intermediate Period onwards Bes heads alone occur as an amulet, often with sharp teeth showing and tongue poking out. They are usually moulded with a flat back from glazed composition or glass, or modelled in high relief on a plaque or disc, in which case the other side might carry an equally protective wedjat. Characteristic of the same period are finger-rings of bright-blueglazed composition; these are of openwork wedding-band type for which a popular motif is a column of Bes figures, each standing on another's shoulders. Amulets of Bes were particularly worn in life, especially by women and children, but they served a protective purpose just as well in the tomb.

Cippus Amulets

These amulets are undoubtedly a variant of that most protective of amuletic forms the Cippus, a plaque against which is set a raised-relief standing figure of Horus-the-Child, the saviour, with the head of Bes above him, grasping and standing on all manner of biting, stinging and harmful creatures. Every surface front and back is covered with scenes and texts designed to give protection by magical means from the bite and sting of the noxious creatures depicted (all of which are shown on the plinth on which the Bes figures stand). On the other hand, most Cippi are of stone and are often quite substantial objects. Indeed, it is known that they were set up in temple precincts so that water might be poured over them to absorb the magic of their scenes and spells, when drunk, the water would afford prophylactic protection against the creatures in question or perhaps cure those already bitten or stung. However, glazed-composition Cippi also exist, as do small stone examples complete with means of suspension, indicating that they must have been worn. Yet another variant of the protective Cippus motif appears in glazed composition amulets of the Third Intermediate Period and later, depicting in the round the naked dwarf god Pataikos standing on crocodiles and strangling snakes (which he sometimes also appears to be eating) or brandishing knives. Bronze examples are also known. Lest there be any doubt of his connection with Horus-the Saviour, he is usually flanked by the standing figures of Isis and Nephthys. A falcon perches on each shoulder, a scarab clings to his bald head and a winged goddess, spreads out her wings protectively behind him. These substantial amulets always have a hole for suspension behind the dwarf's head.


The above picture show s the crowns most frequently seen on the monuments. The head-dress formed an important and significant part of the king's royal uniform, and many are the varieties of crown pictured upon tomb and temple walls.
The king can be depicted wearing a number of different head coverings, each corresponding to particular ceremonial situations. The earliest of these to be depicted is a form of tall conical headpiece ending in a bulb. This is the crown of Upper Egypt or White Crown ´Hedjet´ (No. 4), which is seen as early as the time of the Narmer palette (c.3ooo BC). It is sometimes referred to as the ´Nefer´ or ´White Nefer´. The Narmer palette also shows the crown of Lower Egypt, or Red Crown ´Deshret´ (No. 6) which comprises a tall chair-shaped arrangement from which protrudes a coil. With unification, crowns were combined to become the ´Two Mighty Ones´, the double crown Pschent (No. 7). This crown was a combination of the White Crown of Upper Egypt (No. 4) and the Red Crown of Lower Egypt (No. 6). From the 18th Dynasty onwards kings also wore the Blue Crown ´Khepresh´ (No. 3) , sometimes erroneously described as the ´War Crown´.
The king might also wear the ´Nemes´ headcloth. This was a piece of striped cloth pulled tight across the forehead and tied into a kind of tail at the back while at each side of the face two strands or lappets hung down. The brow was decorated with the uraeus and the vulture. The famous golden mask of the boy king Tut Anch Amun is a perfect example of that type of crown. A plain version of this was the khat. which is shaped like a kind of tall, flanged helmet and made of cloth adorned with golden discs.
The ´Atef Crown´ is effectively a ´White Crown' with a plume on either side and a small disc at the top, which was worn in certain religious rituals.
"The keeper of the king's diadem" held a high position at court under the Old Empire; but the office was done away with during the New Empire. The gods are always depicted as wearing crowns, and many of them are most complicated, as Nos. 15 and 16, No. 18 is one which is frequently seen on kings as well as gods, it is known as the ´´Atef´´. The queen's head-dress represented a vulture with his wings spread round her head in the act of protection.



A god associated with war and hunting, was worshipped in the Thinite nome in Middle Egypt from the early phases of Pharaonic history. His Egyptian name - Inhert - "He Who Brings Back the Distant One," refers to the story of his capture and retrieval of Mehyt, his leonine consort, from Nubia. This myth reflects the role of Onuris as the hunting hero - a recurring motif in Egyptian mythology -appearing in conjunction with a number of gods. The hunting hero is commonly associated with the myth of the subduing of the solar eye (cat. 58), manifested as a wild lioness, who, having fled to Nubia, had to be captured and returned home. The solar eye, referred to as the daughter of the sun god Re, is manifested in the Heliopolitan tradition as Re's daughter Tefnut, while the hunter is her brother, the air god Shu. The parallel roles of Onuris and Shu associated Onuris with the hunting of the solar eye and resulted in his identification with Shu. Onuris is always represented in human form, with his upraised right arm holding his hunting weapon, a spear or a rope. The same posture and weapons occur in representations of Horus, who is associated with the hunting hero Onuris in his struggle against Seth, depicted as a savage hippopotamus. During the Late Period, Onuris was worshipped at Sebennytos in the Delta, where a temple for Onuris-Shu was built in the fourth century BCE. During the Ptolemaic Period, he was identified with the Greek war god Ares.


A term applied to the blessed dead. As Osiris died and came to life again, so they hoped to live again ; and in that faith the epithet Osirian was applied by the Egyptians to their dead. " The Osirian " M. or N. is the formula invariably used in funerary inscriptions


"Highest of all the Powers," and the divine king of Egypt, who civilized mankind, taught them agriculture, gave them laws, and instructed them in religion. He was the son of Seb and Nut, the offspring of heaven and earth and the husband and brother of Isis. He was creacherously murdered by his brother Set-the power of darkness and evil – and his death was avenged by his son, the young Horus, who is called "the avenger of his father." After his death and resurrection, Osiris became lord of the underworld and judge of the dead; which fact accounts for the immense number of prayers that are addressed to him. As the whole hope of immortality among the Egyptians was bound up in Osiris, so in order to be as closely allied with him as possible they called their deceased by the title of " the Osirian " M. or N. Among nature gods, Osiris represents the sun, who is overcome by the night, and rises again the next morning. The mythical legend of Osiris is told by Plutarch in " De Iside et Osiride," XIL-XX., wherein it is set forth that after his murder by Set, Isis endeavoured to recover the body, which she found washed up by the sea at Byblos. For greater safety she removed it, which Set discovering, tore open the coffin, and divided the body into fourteen parts, which he scattered throughout Egypt. For these Isis searched, and wherever she found a piece she erected a tempte over the spot. This accounts for the numerous localities which claim to be the burying-place of Osiris.

Ox formed Amulets

A trussed ox, its legs bound beneath its body, carved in the round from red jasper, red sandstone or cornelian, or modelled from red-glazed composition or glass, occurs as early as the Eighteenth Dynasty but has been found in situ only on the torso of mummies of the Late Dynastic Period. Composition examples are often found in New Kingdom foundation deposits. This amulet represented at one and the same time meat as foodstuff and the source of the foreleg, one of the most potent of ritual objects called the khepesh which was used during the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony.

Ox head Amulets

Amulets in the shape of an ox-head with open mouth and projecting tongue presumably had the same function as the complete ox, the part representing the whole. However, since ox-heads are often depicted among foodstuffs heaped on offering tables they may welt have been considered a choice titbit in their own right. Nevertheless, thus far no amulets in this shape have been found in a funerary context, only in foundation deposits or at manufacturing sites.


In Memphis Ptah was considered the oldest of the gods. He is called, " Father of the mighty fathers, father of the beginnings, he who created the sun egg and the moon egg, the creator of his own image." With Sekhet and Im-hetep he formed the triad worshipped at Memphis, where a splendid temple was built to him. He is represented with a mummied body, a close-fitting cap, no head-dress, and with a curious unegplained tassel hanging out of the back of his neck. In his hands he holds a sceptre, which terminates in the signs for power, life, and stability. His name signifies " architect, framer, con-structor." One legend associates him with Khnemu in the work of creation under the commands of Thoth. He is said to have established everlasting justice upon earth. The Greeks compared him to Hephaistos, the Latin Vulcan. Ptah is found in conjunction with other gods, the most important fusion being with Seker Osiris.


The creator of gods, men, and the world. According to some inscriptions he was more ancient even than the firmament. The sun, emblem of life, light, and fertility, is his symbol. The chief seat of the worship of Rá was Annu, the Hebrew On or Bethshemesh, the Greek Heliopolis. He is usually depicted as a hawk-headed human being crowned with the sun's disk and uraeus, and grasping the user sceptre in his hand.

Royal Regalia

The most prominent items in the royal regalia were the so-called `crook' (heka), actually a sceptre symbolizing government', and the `flail' or `flabellum' (nekhakha), which may have derived originally from a fly whisk or an agricultural attribute. Before it became part of royal regalia, the flail was associated primarily with the gods Osiris, who was a vegetation God, and Min, as well as with sacred animals.


Thoth or Tehuti. One of the principal gods of Egypt , whose cult was less confined to one particular district than that of almost any other god. His name signifies « the measurer," and as such he is a lunar deity and wears the lunar crescent and disk. Two animals are especially sacred to him, the ibis and the cynocephalus. Sometimes the god is represented as an ibis, but most frequently he appears in human form with the head of that bird surmounted by the crescent and disk, and carrying either a palette and pen, or the notched palm branch. He is always found in the judgment scenes, where he records on his palette the result of the weighing of the heart of the deceased. He was the inventor of all the exact sciences, letters, learning and the fine arts. He wrote the sacred books and had as great knowledge of magic as Isis. The Greeks identified him with Hermes.