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10 Most Important Egyptian Gods

Discover the most important Egyptian deities and the mysteries surrounding them

Egyptian Gods
10 Most Important Egyptian Gods | iSTOCK

Ancient Egypt was home to many gods and these were depicted with human bodies and animal heads. We want to take you on an imaginary ride through the stimulating world of Egyptian mythology by introducing the main Egyptian gods.

They were venerated as  divinities who controlled the elements of nature, provided humans with bountiful crops and governed the course of their lives.

Below we introduce our  ten most important egyptian gods.

The Egyptian gods:

In ancient Egypt there was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals based on the existence of various divinities that controlled the elements of nature and governed the destiny of men. It must be said that the Egyptian religious vision was not unitary, since it evolved and was divided into several groups during the long life of the various Egyptian empires.

For example, the theological variations evolved into great currents that shaped the two vast Egyptian mythologies: that of Heliopolis and that of Hermopolis.

According to the most popular story in Egyptian mythology, Heliopolis was formed before humanity reigned chaos on the world.  Its inception began in the form of turbid water that contained the seed of life. The mountains burst with creative energy, and at the top of the central hill emerged the egg from which the sun was be born. According to this cosmogony, the central role is played by Ra, the god of Heaven, Earth, and of all existing things.

The creator god is also the origin of the Great Ennead, a group of nine supreme deities that, together with Ra sun god, include Shu (the air), Tefnut (humanity), Geb (the Earth), Nut (the celestial bodies) and their four children: Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.

For the Egyptians, religion was the main driver of social life and something very important because through the ritualization of beliefs they managed to get the favor of the ancient gods and their blessing for a long life. The connection between men and the deities was the pharaoh, since he considered himself a representation of the gods on Earth.

One of Pharaoh's main functions was to  guarantee the religious order of the gods of Egypt on Earth, for which the state allocated large amounts of money for the construction of temples and the celebration of rituals. For the Egyptian religion, the primordial element was death as the beginning of the journey to the afterlife.

That is why the  funeral rites and their function that guaranteed survival beyond death, reached a central place in the core of their beliefs and, as a legacy, we have their great symbols: the mummies and the pyramids. 

The 10 most important Egyptian gods

In the most widespread religious current of Ancient Egypt, the mythology of Heliopolis, the world begins with the supreme god, Ra, and the life of man ends with his access to the underworld, whose dominions are ruled by the Egyptian god of death Osiris.

Here is an explanation of the most important Egyptian gods and goddesses in one of the most exciting mythologies.

1. Ra

Egyptian symbols represented the god Ra, the most important out of all the ancient Egyptian gods, with a human body and a hawk's head. He was the god of the Sun and the most important of the Egyptian gods, for he was present in the creation of Heaven and Earth. and The Egyptians believed that with the sunset, Ra traveled to the depths of the world only to emerge again at dawn.

During the day, the Egyptian sun god traveled in a large boat, called Mandjet, and at night he entered the mouth of the goddess of the night, Nut, adopting the shape of a ram. In the night, Ra fought a hard battle against the serpent Apophis in the deep waters of Nun: a struggle between light and darkness to prevent the reign of chaos from returning.

As a god, Ra possessed four great senses and skills: taste and speech, vision, hearing, and touch and understanding.  In addition to this, Ra represented the virtues of abundance, noise, radiance, magic, food, food production, victory, brightness, glory, skill, honor, prosperity and vigor.

A little known fact about Ra is that in the creation book of the Egyptians, he claims that he creates Heaven, Earth and the other gods through his mouth, just by naming them, but also through masturbation

2. Amon

This is the Greek correspondent of the god Zeus, called Amun in Egyptian mythology and represented as a human with two long vertical feathers. Although initially it was not an important God, once the invasion of the Hyksos in the 17th century a. c. took place, Amon acquires national importance and is merged with Ra thus becoming the god Amun-Ra.

As the supreme god, Amun was considered an invisible god who could not be seen by mortals or other gods, and was therefore considered a god of the occult that had mysterious powers. During the New Empire, Amon retained his hegemony in the pantheon and was revered as a transcendental god, of excellence, of the poor and faithful.

In his moment of maximum greatness, Amun consolidated a monotheistic evolution in the Egyptian religion, because it was considered that all the other ancient gods were manifestations of Amun himself,  "the unique God that becomes a million other gods".

3. Osiris

Since the religion of Ancient Egypt elevated the cult of death, and gods of death to new symbolic heights, Osiris, god of the underworld, is one of the main deities in the Egyptian pantheon. He is described as a mummified human body with a white crown and two feathers. Per-Usir or "the Temple of Osiris" is one of the nine kingdoms of the delta.

Therefore, Osiris was born as a local god who blessed agriculture, and was known at national level as "prince of the gods of the Duat", the underworld.

In fact, this change of dimension was only a translation of the harvest process into human life: the wheat, Osiris, embodied the renewal and rebirth of the earth, for this god died in the driest season and was reborn after the withdrawal of water from the flood. As god of the underworld, he completed the resurrection of mortals.

The Egyptians believed that  in death they began a journey through the sky aboard the boat of Ra and descended towards the underworld to meet Osiris, who completed his transmutation of the mortal human body into a divine soul.

4. Isis

Represented as a woman with a throne on her head, Isis was queen of the gods and mother goddess. She had embalmed and resurrected the body of Osiris and she was the protector of the child god Horus until he grew up and could develop his divine powers.

In a dualistic concept, the Egyptian goddess is the opposition of Nephthys, goddess of darkness and night, for  Isis represents light and birth. That's why she was considered the deity of motherhood, protector of mothers, children and family. In Egyptian mythology Isis joins Osiris to give birth to Horus, but her husband dies when he goes to the afterlife. That is why Isis was also associated with widowhood, the pain of loss and loneliness.

Furthermore, Isis was a magical deity, for she had resurrected the body of Osiris, and had forced Ra to reveal his name to him, obtaining ascendancy over him. For this reason, she was considered "The Great Magician", master of occult knowledge and wisdom.

5. Thot

Known as "the god of Dyehut", one of the territories of Lower Egypt, Thoth was revered as a moon god who measured time. According to Egyptian mythology, Ra had placed him in the sky during the night (the moon) to leave a trail of light while he dueled with the creatures of the deep underworld.

In Ancient Egypt he is represented as a human with an ibis body (similar to a stork).

As a timekeeper he is the god who organizes the calendar (and in his honor, the Egyptions named the first month of the year). As prime minister of the pantheon he directs the rest of the gods and makes sure the supreme god’s wishes are fulfilled.

One of his main features is that he invents writing, which is why Thot was God of the scribes, of the arts and of the sciences.

6. Horus

The ancients said that Horus, Egyptian god,  had eyes like the moon and the sun, but when the priests of Heliopolis gave the sun to Ra, he kept the eye of the moon. He is depicted as a hawk-headed man, and while Thot is the god of the western sky, Horus is revered as the god of the eastern sky.

In other words, Horus is the lord of the mountain where the sun rises every morning and is part of the triad of the most important gods - Isis, Osiris and Horus). Osiris was considered the dead king, Horus is considered the living king. In the Book of the Dead, his four children help the Pharaoh access paradise.

The history of Horus contains tales of the struggle for power. Isis protects Horus as a child as he prepares for a great battle against Seth: both gods are fighting over the throne of his father. In the ancient texts, this struggle is presented as the opposition between Osiris and Ra, between heaven and the underworld. In the fight,  Horus loses his eye, while Seth loses his testicles.

7. Seth

Seth is without doubt the most feared god of the Egyptians. Represented as an unidentified animal with pointy ears, he was not an evil god but his supernatural strength was the source of misfortune and, in writings about Osiris, he was considered a criminal.

Seth identifies with the desert and the thunder, he is ruler of the stormy clouds and storm lord. This feared god had negative associations with drought, sterility, violence, plagues, and hunger. It was believed that worms came out of the earth because of Seth's breath. Egyptian mythology tells that the earth goddess Geb gave Osiris the fertile land of Egypt, while Seth stayed was given the deserts. Envious of his brother, Seth planned a fight that ended in the death of Osiris.

Seth - lord of darkness and evil, his worship was forbidden for many centuries, his statues were destroyed and his name forbidden.

8. Anubis

Deity represented with a human body and jackal head, Anubis means just that, "jackal", and is the goddess of the dead before the extension of the cult to Osiris. As one of the oldest Egyptian gods, the function of Anubis was to accompany the deceased on their journey to the afterlife, which is why he is an ever present image on funeral monuments.Anubis had helped Isis to embalm the body of Osiris, which is why she was considered an aid to the embalming priests. In the Book of the Dead Anubis accompanies the deceased to Osiris with seven spirits.

Beginning in the New Kingdom, and with the consolidation of the cult of Osiris and the popularization of the journey to the beyond in the Book of the Dead, Anubis, Egyptian god, is in charge of removing the heart of the deceased to be weighed in the balance of Maat, and thus value their sins and their good deeds in life.

9. Imhotep

Imhotep is one of the few cases (and the most relevant) of divinization of mortals. His personality is exciting, as he was one of the first architects of history, a great sage and supreme priest of Heliopolis, doctor, astronomer and a great official of the pharaoh of Dyeser.

Imhotep attained the rank of god on his own merits and was identified as Nefertum, son of Ptah.  As a god, he was venerated as the protector of wisdom and medicine, and also reveered as the patron of scribes in the New Kingdom. He had his main center of worship in Memphis, although his cult in Thebes also spread. As one of the first humans to become gods, Imhotep was depicted completely as a human, seated and with a scribe’s papyrus on his lap.

10. Neftis

Represented as a woman with the hieroglyph of her name on her head, Nephthys was the deity opposed to the goddess of light and the birth of Isis. However, it is not an opposition between good and evil.

Nephthys is simply the goddess of darkness and night, and in fact Isis and Nephthys act together to help the deceased on their journey to the afterlife. On the one hand,  Nephthys is the assistant of travelers who move in dark and hostile places, and on the other hand, she participates in the myth of Osiris because, together with Anubis, she helps Isis to embalm the body of Osiris.

It is also very interesting that, just as Seth had lost his testicles in his fight against Horus, Neftis was venerated as the "goddess without a vagina". However, she had managed to have sex with Osiris  and thus Anubis emerged. She was one of the most important goddesses, and that is why she always placed herself at the head of the deceased.

Other honorable mentions deserve to be made for  Bast, ancient Egyptian cat god that protected cats. The centre of her cult was in Per-Bast (Bubastis in Greek), which was named after her. Originally she was seen as the protector goddess of Lower Egypt, and therefore her image was a fierce lion.