Ancient Egyptians were some of the most religious people to inhabit the Earth. Because their knowledge was only a sliver of what we know today, they feared many things and had a strong belief in the supernatural. From this belief sprang a host of Ancient Egyptian gods. If there was a situation or a place which could have its own god, more likely than not there was one. While most of the deities were local presences, some such as Ra, Osiris, and Thoth were elevated to a national stage.
1.Like many young religious traditions, religion in pre-dynastic Egypt was mostly animistic, making various animals, plants, or things the homes of spirits.
2.Many of today’s well-known Egyptian gods harken back to the animistic times. Take Anubis, the god of funerals and death. He is depicted with the head of a jackal since the animals often were seen at the desert’s edge where Egyptians buried their dead.
3.Good news for Gator fans: the Ancient Egyptians had a gator god! (Well, technically he had a Nile crocodile head.) Sobek was one of the most powerful and longest lasting gods. As guardian of waterways, Sobek enjoyed eating flesh, like most crocodiles. To show reverence, many Ancient Egyptian temples kept live crocs in pools.
4.Though the Ancient Egyptians had over 2,000 gods, most were only known locally in small parts of the empire.
5.Just like we have multiple branches of Christianity today – Catholicism, Methodism, Eastern Orthodox, etc. – Ancient Egyptians also had multiple schools of religious thought, each claiming it was superior to the others.
6.Egyptian gods were often seen holding the mysterious Ankh symbol. Symbolizing eternal life, the cross with a handle was known as the key of life and reinforced the permanence and eternity of their rules.
7.Though it may seem difficult to determine if a god is male or female in many of the ancient paintings, here’s a trick: male gods had dark reddish-brown skin, while goddesses had yellow skin to signify their indoor lifestyles.
8.Ancient Egypt was polytheistic for most of its existence, barring a short period during the Eighteenth Dynasty when Pharaoh Akhenaten forced the country to become monotheistic. This one-god devotion was centered around Aten: the disk of the sun, attributed to Ra.
9.Beyond the gods, demons played a strong role in Ancient Egyptians’ belief systems. Though more powerful than humans, they were less powerful than gods but were generally immortal and could be in multiple places at once.
10.Religious life in Ancient Egypt was largely elitist. Only priests, priestesses, and the Pharaoh and some members of his family were allowed inside temples. Normal Egyptians had to stop at the temples’ gates.
11.Despite his importance, the god Geb (bottom middle) never achieved a cult following like others such as Osiris and Amun. As the god of the Earth, it was believed his laughter caused earthquakes.