2012/07/03

Ancient Egyptian Religion

Ancient Egyptian society was highly influenced by religious ideals strongly associated with tradition, which caused them to resist change. Egyptian civilisation was rooted primarily on rituals and worship. "Egyptians did not question the beliefs which had been handed down to them" (Pg. 81, David, 1988) Divine Kingship was one of those beliefs. Divine Kingship is the belief that the Pharaoh was not only the King (political ruler) but also a god. Due to their beliefs, the Pharaoh held an immense amount of power.

Ancient Egyptian Religion

He acted as the intermediary between his people and the gods, and was obligated to sustain the gods through rituals and offerings so that they could maintain order in the universe. Therefore, the state dedicated enormous resources to the performance of these rituals and to the construction of the temples where they were carried out. The popular religious tradition grew more prominent in the course of Egyptian history as the status of the pharaoh declined.

Ancient Egypt had a complex polytheistic religion. They believed in the multitude of gods. They also worshipped natural forces like sun. Their religion hosted about 700 different gods and goddesses. In addition, it was not uncommon for deities to be combined to form a new deity. Belief in afterlife constitutes the essence of ancient Egypt religious belief. They believed the physical body had to be preserved to allow a place for their spirit to dwell in the afterlife. Thus came into existence, the process of mummification to preserve the body. In addition, large pyramids were constructed as tombs for the pharaohs in the Old Kingdom.

Temples were considered dwelling places for the gods and each city had a temple built for the god of that city. Temple was the centre of worship where men were to communicate to gods. The priest's duty was to care for the gods and attend to their needs. The priests had many duties such as funeral rites, teaching school, supervising the artists and works, and advising people on problems. The Egyptians saw death as a transitional stage in the progress to a better life in the next world. They believed in reaching to their potential after death. Each person was thought to have three souls.

On account of the death of a person, prayers were recited by the priests and a final attempt was made to revive the deceased. The body was then washed and purified in a special shelter called an Ibu.  The body was then taken the wabet, which was the embalmer's workshop. A cut was made in the left side, and all the organs were removed and stored in containers known as canopic jars.

The body was then packed with a salt called natron for a period of forty days after which the insides were filled with linen or sawdust, resin and natron. The body was wrapped in bandages with jewellery and amulets between the layers. A portrait mask was placed over the head of the deceased by the Chief Embalmer, who wore a jackal mask to represent Anubis. The wrapped body, or mummy, was put into a coffin.


Ancient Egyptian Religion video

Burial Tombs

Belief in afterlife constitutes the essence of ancient Egypt religious belief. They believed the physical body had to be preserved to allow a place for their spirit to dwell in the afterlife. Thus came into existence, the process of mummification to preserve the body. In addition, large pyramids were constructed as tombs for the pharaohs in the Old Kingdom. After a period of about 70 days, in which the mummification process took place, the mummy was placed in a decorated coffin. Furniture, carved statues, games, food, and other items useful to the next life were prepared to be buried with the mummy.

The last ritual performed by the priest on the mummy was called the Opening of the Mouth. This ceremony was to magically give the deceased the ability to speak and eat again, and to have full use of his body. After placing the mummy in the sarcophagus, the tomb was sealed. The remnants of Egyptian religion still stand high in the form of Egyptian Pyramids, one of the wonders of the world.