ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
There are Amduat images over at my Tumblr, dwellerinthelibrary, which focusses on mythology, especially the irresistable visuals of Ancient Egypt. (I can see have a bit of tidying up work to do over there, though!)

The cosmic drama comes to its climax in the seventh hour, as Apophis tries to stop the sun-boat, preventing the sun-god's rebirth and "repeat[ing] the murder of Osiris". (And this battle takes place every night! The Egyptians lived with a constant threat the universe will come to its end. It's like growing up in the eighties.) Apophis dries up the water, and the barque can no longer be towed; it sails on by magical power, provided by Isis, Set (called "the eldest magician"), and the sun-god, who is protected by the Mehen-serpent, while the goddess Selkis puts Apophis in shackles and her assistants chop him to bits.

The sun barque still has a long way to go and a lot of work to do before dawn. The middle register of the eighth hour is another long scene of the barque being towed, including "the four rams of Tatenen, the god of the depths of the earth". Again the ram symbolizes the four ba-souls of Re, here identifying him with Tatenen. (Exactly which four gods those four ba-souls represent changes with the source, in typical Egyptian fashion.)

The upper and lower registers are each divided (by doors again called "knives") into five caverns. The hieroglyph for "cloth" appears repeatedly (often with someone sitting on it), with fresh clothing being provided for the afterlife and as part of the general business of rebirth. Osiris (also protected by the Mehen-serpent) sits in judgment on his foes, who are decapitated (by a cat-eared demon). The sun-god sends the stars "on their way, since their stable orbits are a sign of the continuous order of the cosmos".

This bit blows my mind. "The texts in the vaults describe how the Ba-souls of these beings respond to the generous promises of the Sungod. Human ears hear their jubilation as cries of animals and sounds of nature, like the humming of bees, banging on metal, the screeching of tomcats, the crying of birds, the roaring of bulls, etc. The Sungod, however, is able to recognize what their distorted voices are shouting."

The work of renewal continues in the ninth hour, with bread and beer provided to the dead by three "idols" sitting on what look like neb-baskets. The darkness is illuminated by twelve fire-breathing ureai. In the tenth hour ("With Deep Water and High Banks" – the barque is afloat again, at least part of the time), the solar eyes are restored; eight forms of Sekhmet stand before a seated Thoth, who holds the whole eye. Horus rescues the bodies of drowned people from decomposition (as Isis rescued the parts of Osiris' body from the Nile).

The leftmost figure of the eleventh hour is the "Time Lord" (well, the "Master of Time", with three faces: the sun disc in the middle, and two crowned heads looking left and right (ie backwards and forwards), representing the two Egyptian concepts of time, nḥḥ and dt. Next, Atum repeats the gesture made by Sokar back in the fifth hour, holding (lifting?) the wings of a serpent, with the paired eyes appearing on either side of him. The renewed sun-disc now appears in the prow of the barque; it's preceded by fire-breathing goddesses riding "double serpents", and by twelve gods carrying the Mehen-serpent. Isis and Nephthys, in the form of ureai, carry the red and white crowns.

Meanwhile, the condemned are punished once more, "at depths not visited by the Sungod… 'completely deep, completely dark, completely infinite'", in pits into which armed goddesses and the serpent "Who Burns Millions" spit fire. ("You have not come into being," declares Horus of the Netherworld, "you are upside down!" Take that!)

Finally we've reached the twelfth hour, where gods (including the sun-god) and the blessed dead walk through the body of the Mehen-serpent from tail to mouth, emerging rejuvenated. The sun-god has been reborn as Khepri, and Shu lifts him to the horizon. Osiris remains behind in the Duat - shown as a corpse lying against its curved wall. (Both authors remark that the helpful Mehen-serpent points in the direction as the barque, while Apophis points in the opposite direction. "Nevertheless, later Egyptian texts speculate about Apophis having not only an evil, but also a positive, regenerating aspect." – which makes me think of Set's dual role as Osiris' enemy, but Re's ally against Apophis.)

Hornung has briefly summarized the Amduat, pointing out a few key or interesting highlights, and I've summarized his summary! I'm struck, though, by how much internal logic there is, how much sense it all actually makes (even without the help of Abt's Jungian interpretation, which I've only glanced at). What's also striking is that the Egyptians expended so much thought on the details of what happened in the netherworld – the commands of the creator god were apparently enough to explain goings-on in the realm of the living. Or can we squint and see the complexities of the underworld renewal as a dark reflection of the constant processes of renewal in the natural world?

Thanks again for the loan, [livejournal.com profile] kylaw!

Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung. Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat – A Quest for Immortality. Living Human Heritage Publications, Zurich, 2003.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Time to write up my notes from this book so I can return it to [livejournal.com profile] kylaw!

Written to accompany the travelling exhibition "The Quest for Immortality – Treasures of Ancient Egypt", this book takes the unusual approach of juxtaposing Egyptologist Erik Hornung's description of the Amduat with Jungian analyst Theodor Abt's exploration of its meaning for modern, and perhaps ancient, spirituality and psychology. Abt remarks that the sun god's journey through the "nightworld, that is also the world of the deceased... can also be seen as a symbolic representation of an inner psychic process of transformation and renewal." Not surprisingly, this fits well with the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan ideas about the Dying God's trip to the netherworld and back, which takes place not during the night but during a different natural cycle – the seasons of the year.

The Amduat, or "What is in the Netherworld", first appears in the early New Kingdom – "the first illustrated book in history", as Hornung puts it, "lavishly illustrated throughout" with scenes from the sun's journey through the twelve hours of the night. Part or all of the book appears in various arrangements in the tombs of NK pharaohs. In the late 21st Dynasty, the book appears in the tombs of the Theban priests of Amun, and is written on coffins and papyri rather than in tombs. It appears again in royal tombs of the 22nd and 26th Dynasties, and on royal and non-royal sarcophagi of the 30th Dynasty and the early Ptolemaic period. (There's also short, un-illustrated version – Hornung calls it a "quick guide".)

The first hall of the tomb of Tuthmosis III includes a catalogue of 741 deities from the Amduat; in total, there are 908 "beings" in the book, including those which are punished and damned. (The Egyptians were not great followers of the principle Non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate.)

Each of the twelve hours shows the sun-god in his barque, attended by various deities. In the first hour, the sun passes through the (unrepresented) first gate, "Which Swallows All", which is then "'sealed' to prevent any evil forces from entering' (or exiting, I wonder?) this "intermediate realm" between the world of the living and the netherworld proper. The sun god travels in the form of a ba-soul; hence his ram's head. He's accompanied by two forms of the goddess Ma'at (as Abt remarks, it's "encouraging and consoling" that ma'at is present in the netherworld too - or, I wonder, does the creator god bring ma'at with him?) and welcomed joyfully by nine baboons (familiar from the tomb of Tutankhamun). This hour also introduces the twelve goddess of the hours of the night, which Abt calls "aspects of the goddess Hathor" – given names like "She who smashes the brows of her foes", "She who protects her Eye" and "She who rages", they certainly could be – and twelve ureai, whose fiery breath will protect the sun god from his enemies.

In the second hour (called Wernes), the solar barque is accompanied by four more boats, one of which carries the moon. "Since the moon is meant to replace the sun during the night," says Hornung, "she is not normally present in the netherworld; but by going through phases, disappearing and becoming full again, is an important symbol not only of rejuvenation for the dead but also of the circular regeneration in time. Moreover, she is the left eye of the Sungod, as Hathor [whose symbol is carried in the next boat] is his right eye."

The "abundant and well-watered" second hour and third hour (called Water of Osiris) are followed by the arid fourth hour (Rosetau), "the land of Sokar, who is upon his sand". Hornung characterises the netherworld falcon-god Sokar as "an aspect of Osiris". Sokar-land is filled with "impenetrable darkness", but if you could see it, it would look remarkably like a video game: there are "serpent monsters, some with several heads, or with legs and wings to emphasize their ability to move around quickly", as well as "a zigzag path" blocked by doors named "knife" and "full of 'fire from the mouth of Isis'". The barque, which has turned into a fire-breathing amphisbaena in order to light the way, has to be towed across the sand. The "night sun", which "has finally become the dark sun", can't wake the dead with his light – but they can hear his voice, the only sound in the darkness. The hour is broken up into short scenes, such as Thoth and Sokar healing the solar eye.

In the fifth hour, we're still in Sokar-land. At the centre of the top register is Osiris' burial mound, with Khepri emerging from it in scarab form (like every other being in this register, it's helping pull the barque along!). At the centre of the bottom register is the double-headed sphinx god of the earth, Aker; inside Aker is Sokar in a cavern, lifting the wings of a triple-headed "multicoloured serpent" which is the sun god in another form. At the very bottom of the hour is the Lake of Fire – which punishes sinners, but provides cool water for the "blessed dead". (Dunno who the head in the centre of the middle register is, though.)

At the "utmost depth" of the sixth hour (Arrival That Gives the Right Way), "Re as Ba-soul and Osiris as his corpse" are reunited, "and thus the light of the sun is rekindled". Re is reunited with both of his eyes (shown above Osiris in lion form, behind whom sits Isis-Tait). A baboon-headed Thoth offers himself in ibis form to a goddess who holds the eyes behind her back. The gods Nun and Sobek (with Set-ears?) appear in this watery hour, representing the primeval ocean, "out of which the Sungod has emerged at the beginning of time and is now renewed again." At the right of the middle register can be seen a five-headed snake protecting the sun god's corpse, a scarab on his head.

In the next exciting installment: the battle with Apophis!

Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung. Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat – A Quest for Immortality. Living Human Heritage Publications, Zurich, 2003.

Endless day

Sep. 6th, 2012 11:38 am
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Hornung again, re the fallout from the narrowly averted Destruction of Mankind:

"The sun retreats from the earth on the back of the celestial cow, and darkness reigns for the first time since creation; in their blindness, surviving human beings turn against one another, distancing themselves from the gods forever." (p 48)

I don't think I've seen that before, either - the idea that the golden age was a time of perpetual daylight. (The humans' panicked response reminds me of the Isaac Asimov story Nightfall!)
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Erik Hornung:

"Creation through the word is by no means associated with Ptah alone... the goddess Neith called the world into being through seven statements, which in a later magical text become the sevenfold laugh of the creator god. In the figure of Neith we confront a demiurge who represents more than a late, localized development... her close ties to the primeval cow Mehetweret link her with the early image of the celestial cow. If we consider Neith's important role in the Early Period, and her early incarnation as a beetle, we see that while she holds a central position in early cosmogonic conceptions, these are later eclipsed by others. The beetle Neith disappears, for instance, and gives way to the dung beetle of the sun god, the scarab Khepri."

Is this as unusual as I think it is - a female creator god who uses the abstract method of speech, rather than more concrete methods like birth or craft, to order the world?

Hornung, Erik (trans. Elizabeth Bredeck). Idea into Image: Essays on Ancient Egyptian Thought. Timken Publishers, New York, 1992.
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Well, here we are at the end! As you'll recall, the reason I decided to read Erik Hornung's Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: the One and the Many was to find out whether, as some modern reconstructionist religions claim, the Ancient Egyptians were monotheistic. Hornung has convinced me that the ancients weren't - although as I mentioned, I've got not objections to modern worshippers taking that view.

In his conclusion, Hornung underlines the importance of their gods to the Ancient Egyptians: "The more clearly we comprehend them [the gods], the more clearly we see the human beings whom we wish to study." Our concepts of monotheism, polytheism, and pantheism only lead us away from understanding the Egyptian experience of the divine. Similarly, categorising the Egyptian gods as "sun god", "sky goddess", etc, is too narrow. (In fact, Hornung contrasts Egyptian religious thought with montheistic, dualistic Western thought: "After the shock therapy of this century I believe that society will be thoroughly sick of dogmatic ideologies and 'absolute values'.")

The gods are "always 'under construction'", like their temples. "We see them develop in history, and we see them leading a constantly changing life of their own. What a god is cannot be defined. Whatever statements we make about him, it does not exclude a mass of other statements." We can't simplify them or reduce their ambiguity: "no language has been found whose expressive richness can compare with that of the gods themselves."

The end!
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
In this chapter, Horung gives an overview of the different ways the myriad of Egyptian deities can be grouped, including:

- as triads
- in pairs, usually couples of opposite sex
- the ennead of nine gods
- by location
- by rank

Triads are typically mother, father, and child, but also as a "trinity", such as Amun, Re, and Ptah. Hornung notes that "Ptah and the goddess Sakhmet ... were long worshipped side by side in Memphis before they joined with Nefertem to form a Memphite triad." (That triad dates to the New Kingdom.) Male-female pairs of gods often include a "female doublet of male divine names", such as Amun and Amaunet. Intriguingly, Hornung mentions the "female Re", Raettawy, found in the Eightheenth Dynasty; and later a "female Anubis" and "female Sokar" - none of them "bloodless abstractions".

More... )

Next - the Conclusion, and we're done!
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This chapter opens with an explanation that gods radiate light, fire, and an aroma, all signs of their power: faced with a deity, humans feel awe, fear, and joy. The gods' most important gift is life, which they both give and sustain, for all beings - "As early as the Old Kingdom tomb reliefs show how the creator's loving care affects all of nature and provides nourishment even for the hedgehog in its nest. In New Kingdom solar hymns there is the image of the chick in the egg which the sun god enables to breathe and keeps alive." (I found an example of this online in a hymn to the Aten.) And of course the gods are frequently portrayed holding the ankh, the hieroglyph for life.

The idea of gods loving humanity, and vice versa, comes late into Egyptian religion. The appropriate responses are awe and joy. Nor do the gods demand tribute; after all, as Hornung points out, anything that humanity can offer the gods is going to be pretty paltry in comparison: "Before mankind gives anything, the gods have already given everything." (Cf the Aztec gods, who had to be sustained with sacrifices, or the world would end.) However, "Cult actions do not coerce but they do encourage the gods to show their gracious side". Sekhmet is "mollified" with beer in the Destruction of Mankind; in ritual wine is used to assuage angry deities, especially lioness goddesses. The gods have a dangerous, violent side, and can be extremely cruel, as in the treatment of sinners in the afterlife. The Egyptians didn't desire union with the divine, but to keep it at a safe distance.

Hornung talks about magic - specifically, the force or power emanated by every deity, which causes their word to come to pass. (Just as the king's word comes to pass - he is a god, after all.) Human beings were given magic to use in self-defence, much as Isis strikes Apophis with a blast of magic to protect the solar bark; but of course human magicians turn this around, and use magic to threaten even the gods. However, the will of the gods will always outweigh the will of human beings.

The Egyptians didn't need a theodicy: "Evil is inherent in the nonexistent and hence is older than the gods and present in the world from the beginning." Both gods and human beings have the responsibility to maintain maat, the order of creation; kings are represented offering maat (personified as the goddess Maat) to the gods, symbolising the partnership between gods and people. (Here's an online example - Ramses offering maat to Ptah.)

"The gods do not need any material gifts," concludes Hornung, "but they do need human response to their existence; they want to be experienced in the hearts of men, for only then does their work of creation acquire its lasting significance." In fact, "Lack of response and silence are characteristics of the non-existent".

Just two more chapters to go!
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Continuing my survey of Hornung's book (not before time).

In this chapter, he points out that Egyptian gods "have a beginning and an end in time. They are born or created, they change with time, they grow old and die" - very different to our usual notion of immortal, unchanging deities. Some gods are represented as children, such as the young Horus. Ra's old age prompts the rebellion which in turn prompts Sekhmet's Destruction of Mankind. Interestingly, Osiris' murder at the hands of Seth is never shown pictorially, and it's never outright stated that Osiris died - the image or words "would fix the event and even render it eternal".

However, "Like men, the gods die, but they are not dead. Their existence - and all existence - is not an unchanging endlessness, but rather constant renewal... The blessed dead and the gods are rejuvenated in death and regenerate themselves at the wellsprings of their existence." One example of this is the sun's rebirth each morning. (On page 159 there's a picture of the giant serpent Apophis tied up with a series of tethers, looking a bit like a parade float. :-) The Egyptians "were not given to eschatological utterances" - again because of the danger of reifying them - but magical spells refer to a future return to the primeval chaos.

The gods' power was also limited: "their efficacy decreased in proportion to the distance from their cult centers. As a result, travelers prayed to the deities of the areas in which they were at the time", including foreign gods, and used the generic term ntr if there was uncertainty.

There's an "Excursus" on the subject of non-existence. In the chaos before creation, ("primeval flood and darkness"), everything is undifferentiated and inert. The creator god separates the existent and the non-existent, and differentiates himself into millions of gods. The non-existent is still present, both outside the boundaries of creation, and within it in the form of threatening chaos - dreams and drunkenness both come from the non-existent. The damned are cast into this non-existence, but the sun also regenerates itself nightly by passing through it.

Numerous gods are addressed as "unique god". This refers to the diversity of the divine, rather than to a single deity - with the exception of Aten. Similarly, the term "greatest god" is also used for all sorts of deities, "often in a single text" (including purely local gods such as Mahes). There's no equivalent "greatest goddess", but Isis, Sekhmet, and Satis are all called "great one" (or "greatest one").
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This chapter opens with a discussion of early representations of gods as animals and "fetishes, such as objects on carrying poles. To the earliest Egyptians, argues Hornung, animals seemed "to be the most powerful and efficacious beings, far superior to men in all their capacities". As human beings gained "a new self-awareness" in historical times, deities became more human in appearance.

Hornung makes an interesting point that gods represented without limbs aren't being depicted as mummies, since they were shown that way long before mummification was practiced; throughout the book he refers to gods such as Ptah as being depicted "without indication of the limbs" rather than as mummies.

This chapter deals with something I've been curious about for a while - the depiction of Egyptian gods with animal heads, and whether this was symbolic or metaphorical, or the god's "true" form. Hornung points out, for example, that the same god can be depicted in multiple ways, giving Hathor as an example - she may be depicted as a human woman with a headdress of cow horns and a sun disc; as a cow; a cow's head with a human face; and sometimes as a woman with a cow's head, amongst other forms. "We should not, therefore, assume that the Egyptians imagined Hathor as a woman with a cow's head. It is more plausible to see the cow as one possible manifestation of Hathor, and the cow's head and cow's horns as attributes that allude to a manifestation of the goddess or part of her nature... Any iconography can be no more than an attempt to indicate something of her complex nature." In other cases the deity carries their attribute, or it appears as a hieroglyph on their head, as with Isis' throne or Geb's goose, like a sort of caption. For the Egyptians the true forms of the gods were "hidden", "mysterious".

I've finished reading the book, but the remainder of these summaries will need to wait until after our overseas trip. In the meantime, though, here are a couple of thealogical snippets:

"In the cult wine is used for the ritual assuaging of deities, especially goddesses in lioness form." (p 205)

[Discussing the way in which multiple deities are called "king of the gods"] "... even the lioness Pakhet, who is worshipped in the vicinity of Beni Hasan as both a dangerous and a helpful local deity, is given the title 'chief (h.rjt) of all the gods' on a scarab in the Groppi collection; her elevation may be related to her importance in funerary beliefs from the time of the Coffin Texts, and later at the royal court of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth dynasties." (p 234)
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Hornung states that while some of the gods' names have clear meanings (eg Amun, "Hidden", Sekhmet, "Mighty"), the etymology of some Egyptian gods' names remains unknown, including well-known ones such as Re, Osiris, and Seth. (Interestingly, Hornung uses the Hellenicised versions of some names - I'm guessing this is, or was, a convention among Egyptologists.) He also points out that many gods' names are not the same as the names for what they represent - eg Nut (the sky goddess), but pt (the sky) - which warns us against thinking of them as having simple, one-dimensional natures.

Hornung goes on to discuss how, while the usual view is that the gods started as local deities whose worship spread throughout Egypt, this isn't always the case; for example, Khnum was already worshipped at the court at the start of recorded history, and only later became the local god of Elephantine. Some deities are named for specific places, such as Nekhbet, the goddess of Nekheb; Hornung argues that their influence may have been restricted in space, but not restricted to specialised activities: they represent "the entire extent of divine power, as it were focused by a lens on a single point in the world."

Some gods, such as Ma'at, personify concepts, but Hornung again warns against seeing them simplistically - they have "a life of their own". Moreover many concepts were never personified as deities - there was no god of the morning/evening star, fish god, god of love, etc.

There are female "doublets" of some gods, some of which were worshipped in their own right, such as Raet and Amaunet.

The gods - epecially the great gods - have many names, including secret names which don't appear in their worship or mythology. Often these names can be applied to more than one god, such as "lord of the sky".

Hornung goes on to summarise the ways in which one Egyptian gods can be linked to another:
- family ties
- as the "image" of another
- "complicated theological statements", such as the complex identification of Re and Osiris, who combine and separate daily, or Amon-Re, "not the synthesis of Amun and Re but a new form that exists along with the two older gods." Rather than blending the gods together, this syncretism emphasises that "the divine partner of humanity is not one but many".

So the Egyptian gods exist in a "fluid" state, which reminds me strongly of Aztec religious thought. I think this sentence from sums up the chapter: "Everywhere and at all periods the gods thrive on an abundance that tolerates no dogmatic restriction." (p86)
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I found this rather technical chapter heavy going! The bulk of Hornung's discussion is of the term ntr, "god", pronounced roughly "necher".

There's already a difference between what Hornung describes, and the use of the term ntr in the Kemetic Orthodox religion. In that faith, Netjer is the unique, self-created deity, and what are usually called the gods and goddesses are termed the Names of Netjer - that is, manifestations of the single god. However, the words ntr and ntrt - "god" and "goddess" - were used by the Ancient Egyptians for their deities, not the word "name"; the plurals ntrwj and ntrw and their feminine forms are also found throughout Egyptian history.

The word ntr is sometimes used, for example in personal names, without any reference to a specific deity; proponents of Ancient Egyptian monotheism interpret this as referring to a single god, an "abstract divine entity of a higher order", as Hornung puts it - similar to the single god of the Kemetic Orthodox religion. He points out, though that the evidence is against this. For example, there are equivalent personal names which use the names of particular gods, so the term ntr doesn't seem to have any special characterisatics; also some personal names use the feminine form ntrt, "goddess", or other generic epithets for a deity such as "the living one" or "the great one".

Proponents of monotheism have also found support in the wisdom texts, which contains statements such as "Do not do violence to men, for god punishes with the same". However, Hornung points out that the wisdom texts also contain clear references to named deities, and to multiple gods. He goes on to point out that there's no evidence for a cult of a deity called Ntr - no priests, no temples, etc - and no uses of the word ntr to mean a "god behind the gods".

Why did the Egyptians often use the term ntr instead of the name of a specific deity? Hornung answers: "Our survey of the sources has shown that by ntr the Egyptians meant 'any god you wish'." Instructional texts were meant for officials who might visit any part of the country or to other countries, where the specific deity being worshipped would be different; even the chief deity of the king could change. So ntr becomes "a neutral term that will cover any individual deity and hence any particular situation that the pupil, and later the official, might encounter."

(I should point out again that I don't have any quarrel with the Kemetic Orthodox religion; my curiosity was piqued by their Web site, and I'm pursuing this for my own interest.)
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Hornung opens The One and the Many: Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt with an overview of debate over whether the Ancient Egyptians were polytheists, as they appear to be, or monotheistic. Scholars have proposed that perhaps the common people worshipped many deities while the initiated understood they were really aspects of a single god; or that the Ancient Egyptians originally worshipped a single god, but this was later corrupted into polytheism.

Hornung points out how even in ancient times, the Egyptians' gods were sometimes seen as bizarre or ridiculous. Attempts have sometimes been made to make their religion seem more palatable, more "advanced" - basically, more like that of the scholar in question. This reminds me of the introduction to Edith Hamilton's Greek Mythology, which lauds the Greeks for inventing human gods, while confusing Mesopotamian monsters with Mesopotamian deities - like saying the Greeks worshipped Chimera or the Minotaur. In fact, the Mesopotamians' gods were no less "human" than the Greeks'. The movie The Egyptian presents Akhenaten's faith as prefiguring Christianity, going as far as comparing the ankh to the crucifix, as though the ankh was solely Aten's symbol.

Hornung's conclusion is that what's needed is a good, hard look at exactly how the Egyptians themselves thought about their gods - possibly their theology doesn't match our concepts of "monotheism" or "polytheism" at all.
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Hello and welcome.

In the Kemetic Orthodox religion, a modern faith reconstructed from Ancient Egyptian belief, the various gods and goddesses are considered to be parts of a single self-created deity, referred to as Netjer. I think this is a fascinating and satisfying idea, with parallels in other religions such as that of the Aztecs, and perfectly appropriate for a recently founded religion. But I'm not convinced that this is how the Ancient Egyptians saw their deities.

To satisfy my curiosity, I'm reading Erik Hornung's book Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: the One and the Many (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983). I'm going to summarise Hornung's arguments here as I work through the book.

(I should mention I have no quarrel with, indeed no real connection with, the Kemetic Orthodox faith. This is just for my own interest.)


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