Ancient Egypt and Us

Ancient Egypt Religion
Like all early peoples it was from their surroundings that the early Ancient Egyptians derived their gods. Often it was the animals they came across in their daily lives that they began to worship. Without the ancient egyptians religion the great Pyramids would not exist, nor the fabulous temples, the tombs on the West Bank of Thebes (Luxor) and their mummies, or the colorful decorations that adorn these structures that have lured travelers to Egypt over the past three thousand or so years. Behind every aspect of Egyptian life, including the art, the political structure and the cultural achievements one can see the religious forces that shaped the fabric of ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian religion is founded upon belief in the divine and in the afterlife. These beliefs were ingrained in the religion of ancient Egyptians and their culture from the start. Royal rule was based on the divine right of kings. However, religion in ancient Egypt did not always view the gods as benevolent, and it was believed they had to be appeased with offerings and prayers. Gods were worshiped in cult temples, administered by priests acting on the king's behalf. Only on select feast days and celebrations was a shrine carrying the statue of the god brought out for public worship. Normally, the gloomy forbidding god's domain was sealed off from the outside world and was only accessible to temple officials.

Ancient Egypt religion believed that each human being was composed of a number of physical and spiritual parts. In addition to the body, each person had a šwt (shadow), a ba (personality or soul) often shown as a bird with a human face (below), a ka (life force or spirit) and a name. Ancient Egyptian religion considered the heart, rather than the brain, as the source of thoughts and emotions. After death, the spiritual aspects were released from the body and could move, but they required the physical remains or a substitute, such as a Serdab statue as a permanent home. Ancient Egyptian religion also believed that the ultimate goal of the deceased was to rejoin his ka and ba and become one of the ‘blessed dead’, living on as an akh, or ‘effective one’. In order for this to happen, the deceased had to be judged worthy in a trial, in which the heart was weighed against a "feather of truth". If deemed worthy, the deceased could continue their existence on earth in spiritual form in the so called after life.

Egypt was by nature, a fundamentally conservative civilization. The religion in ancient Egypt believed there was a pact between themselves and their gods. Those on earth must follow the rules and the authority of the king and priests. In exchange the gods would control the stars and the seasons, particularly the vital annual inundation. The ancient Egyptians called this status quo Maat which embodied order, truth, law, morality and justice. Maat was represented by the female god on the right, normally shown with a single ostrich feather in her diadem (royal headband).