The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

Book - 2003
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The lives of pharaohs and commoners alike were dominated by the need to honor, worship, and pacify the huge pantheon of deities. From lavish tomb paintings and imposing temple reliefs to humble household shrines, countless tributes throughout Egypt reflect the richness and complexity of their mythology. This book examines the evolution, worship, and eventual decline of the numerous gods and goddesses--from minor household figures such as Bes and Taweret to the all-powerful deities Amun and Rethat made Egypt the most completely theocratic society of the ancient world, and made Egyptians, according to Herodotus, "more religious than any other people." * "Rise and Fall of the Gods" considers the origins of Egypt's deities, their struggles to control cosmic forces, and their eventual decline. * "Nature of the Gods" examines the forms, appearances, and manifestations of the deities, as well as the transcendence of preeminent deities such as Amun. * "Worship of the Gods" introduces the rituals and mysteries of formal Egyptian worship, including the importance of temples and festivals. * "Kingship and the Gods" discusses the all-important position of the king, who served as a bridge between the gods and humanity. * "The Many Faces of the Divine" is a unique catalogue of Egypt's gods and goddesses grouped according to their primary forms, discussing their iconography, mythology, and worship, and their influence over time.With hundreds of illustrations and specially commissioned drawings, this is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the deities that lay at the heart of Egyptian religion and society.
Publisher: New York : Thames & Hudson, 2003.
ISBN: 9780500051207
Call Number: 299.31 WILKINSON
Characteristics: 256 p. : 338 ill. (some col.), col. map ; 26 cm
Subjects: Gods, Egyptian.
Goddesses, Egyptian.
Mythology, Egyptian.
Egypt -- Religion.


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Aug 09, 2014

Yes, you may need to know a good bit about Egypt before you start reading. But once you do, it pays off. The chapters that come before the catalogue introduce you to some of the fundamental questions about the Egyptian gods and discuss them in a fairly readable manner. Short chapters are dedicated to the earliest evidence for Egyptian belief in gods and how that belief went extinct 3,500 years later; the forms the gods took and how they interacted with and combined with one another; how they were worshipped; and the relationship between the gods and the king. Wilkinson is also good at pointing out major areas of disagreement among Egyptologists, such as whether the king was considered a god, and summarizing the arguments on each side of the debate.

At the beginning of the catalogue is a section describing how gods were assembled into groups, including both groups based on a specific number of gods (like the Ennead and Ogdoad) and groups based on a specific function (deities of the caverns and gates of the underworld, star deities, the gods of the nomes of Egypt, et cetera). This section emphasizes how much each god's significance and character was defined by its relationship with other deities.

The catalogue itself is a little oddly organized. It classifies gods by their most common appearance in art: as human men; human women; mammals; birds; reptiles, amphibians, and fish; invertebrates; and inanimate objects. The major problem is that many gods appear in more than one form, and they have to go in one section or another. Hathor, for example, goes in the section for human women rather than the one for bovine deities. An advantage is that by reading each section you can see how many gods with the same animal form are similar to each other. Lionesses tend to represent the same traits no matter what they're called, and the lines between Taweret and other hippo goddesses are pretty blurry. In some cases you can use the catalogue as sort of a "field guide" to see how to distinguish the iconography of Sokar from that of other falcons, or that of Wepwawet from other jackals.

Although the book is obviously focused on deities rather than mythology or afterlife beliefs, the wide-ranging nature of the early chapters makes it a surprisingly good introduction to the whole religion, especially if combined with a book that focuses on practices rather than theology, such as Emily Teeter's Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt.

Apr 19, 2010

Useful reference for those researching the specific topic. The style makes it accessible only to those who already have a good knowledge of the context.


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Apr 19, 2010

Nilufar thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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