Egyptian Gods and Goddesses
Worship of the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses ended millennia ago, but their memory lingers in human culture and history. In fact, many of them have become iconic not just in occult groups, but even in popular fiction. Learn more about these mystical deities with these facts about ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.
- Archaeologists have listed over 1,500 different ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.
- The ancient Egyptians also considered their Pharaohs as gods in human form during their reigns.
- Part of the Pharaoh’s role included managing each temple in his kingdom.
- They also officially reserved the right to directly interact with the divine.
- Most ancient Egyptians lived ignorant of the details of their deities.
- Oral traditions about ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses go back to prehistoric times.
- The oldest written records about ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses go back to around 3100 BC.
- Ancient Egypt’s priests and scribes reserved religious knowledge for themselves.
- The Old Kingdom between 2686 BC and 2181 BC saw the peak of the Pharaoh’s religious power.
- Both the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom saw a reduced emphasis on the Pharaoh’s divinity.
- Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, also known as Akhenaton, tried and failed to restore Pharaoh’s religious supremacy between 1353 BC and 1334 BC.
- The Pharaohs completely lost their religious power by the end of the New Kingdom.
- Ptolemy I Soter’s new Ptolemaic Dynasty saw a revival of the Pharaoh’s religious power from 305 AD until the Roman Conquest in 30 BC.
- Christianity’s spread led to the end of millennia of worship for ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.
- Archaeologists first rediscovered the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses during the 19th century.
- Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses supposedly had bodies of gold and blood of silver.
- They also had shapeshifting abilities.
- Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses could only punish misuse of free will, and not take it away.
- They also had fixed roles and a shared duty to uphold the cosmic order.
- Foreign deities could also receive official recognition from the Pharaoh.
A god of the earth and the underworld, the ancient Egyptians also associated Aker with the lion. In fact, they represented him in hieroglyphs as either a roaring lion or as two lions sitting back-to-back with each other.
His most important role, though, involved protecting dead Pharaohs during their journey to the afterlife. In particular, the ancient Egyptians believed Aker held off three demonic snakes: Hemtet, Iqeru, and Jagw. He had help in this role from two other gods, Geb and Set. Aker also had another important role as a ferryman for Ra’s solar barge while it carried the Sun through the underworld.
Also known as Amon, Amun originally had only a minor role during the Old Kingdom. This later changed from the Middle Kingdom onward, thanks to his role as the patron god of the capital city of Thebes. This increase in importance led to Amun becoming identified alongside Ra, as the god Amun-Ra.
Amun-Ra’s importance made him one of the most well-known ancient Egyptian gods, rivaled only by Osiris. In particular, the ancient Egyptians considered him the champion of the poor and the oppressed. Archaeologists have even noted evidence of Amun-Ra as something of a semi-monotheistic deity, with most ancient Egyptians likely to pray to him over other deities. Later, the ancient Greeks associated Amun-Ra with their own supreme godhead Zeus, as Zeus Ammon.
Also known as Amonet and Imnt, Amunet remains one of the more enigmatic ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. Originally, archaeologists consider her a goddess imagined and worshiped as the wife of Amun-Ra. Also, their first findings pointed to her cult developing late in ancient Egypt’s history, specifically in the Ptolemaic Dynasty. However, later findings pointed to Amunet as existing as far back as the Old Kingdom. In particular, the Pyramid Texts refer to Amunet as a primordial creation goddess.
At first, the ancient Egyptians considered her analogous to the goddess Mut, and wife to Ra. Later on, with the rise of Amun-Ra to prominence, Amunet and Mut’s cults diverged, with Amunet becoming wife to Amun-Ra.
A god of war, Anhur’s importance to the ancient Egyptians was reflected in his title – the Slayer of Enemies. They also warmly regarded his reputation as a devoted husband, who stayed faithful and always returned to his wife, Mehit. As the patron god of Egypt’s army, festivals dedicated to Anhur featured mock battles before public audiences.
This also made him attractive to the Romans, with Emperor Tiberius building temples to Anhur in Roman Egypt during his reign. Before the Romans, the Ancient Greeks similarly equated him to Ares, but also strangely changed his totem animal. While the ancient Egyptians associated Anhur with a lion, the Ancient Greeks associated him with a fish.
One of the most well-known Egyptian gods, Anubis also strangely finds himself misrepresented in modern culture. The Mummy franchise, in particular, explicitly describes him as a dark god who made pacts with tyrants offering power in exchange for their souls. In short, he somehow became associated with the Devil.
In truth, Anubis’ role in ancient Egypt involved protecting and judging the souls of the dead. Only after passing his judgment would Anubis allow Horus to lead the dead before Osiris himself. Ancient Egyptians thus greatly honored Anubis, building statues of his totem animal, the jackal, before their tombs and even on top of their sarcophagi. They hoped that by doing so, Anubis would frighten away any demons and other evil spirits that might disturb their resting places.
Also known as Anaqa or Anqet, the ancient Egyptians worshiped her as the goddess of the Nile’s rapids. She also doubled as the patron goddess of Lower Nubia, which today includes Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. The ancient city of Elephantine on the Nile island of the same name also worshiped her as its patron goddess.
Anuket also held the title of Eye of Ra, which she inherited from her father Ra. As the Eye of Ra, Anuket served as a guardian of the dawn and helped protect her father from evil spirits. However, this also made her unstable, with many legends showing Anuket going on a rampage while the other gods and goddesses tried to calm her down.
His name literally means Sun Disc, and originally doubled as a minor title used by Ra. However, during the reign of Amenhotep IV, the Pharaoh attempted to reinvent Aten as the name of a new monotheistic deity. This led to him renaming himself Akhenaten, which literally means Effective for the Aten, essentially equating himself to the god. Akhenaton also built a new capital city in place of Thebes, Akhetaten, meaning “horizon of the Aten”. This made Akhenaton many enemies, as he forced people to abandon their traditional deities and solely worship Aten.
After his death, the ancient Egyptians abandoned Akhetaten as well as worship of Aten. Succeeding Pharaohs even tore down Akhenaton’s monuments, and erased his name and titles from all records. Instead, they simply referred to him as The Enemy, with the only surviving references coming from the ruins of Akhetaten and from ancient Egypt’s neighbors.
The oldest of the Egyptian gods and goddesses, Atum held the role of the creator god. In fact, the ancient Egyptians called him The Complete One, as he alone existed before creation. They believed he created himself out of nothing and created the cosmos in his image. He also created humanity, which emerged from his tears of joy at finding his children after they had wandered off.
The cult of Atum centered itself in the city of Heliopolis, which associated him with Ra. This association comes from Atum’s role as the original bearer of the Eye of Ra, which he used to find his missing children in the myth.
Also known as Bast and Bubastis, she became one of ancient Egypt’s most popular goddesses. This resulted from her role as a guardian goddess who protected homes and families from the ravages of war. While sometimes associated with the lioness, Bastet most commonly appeared as a cat, a similarly beloved pet in ancient Egypt. Much like Bastet did, cats commonly served to protect homes and families in ancient Egypt, specifically from poisonous snakes.
Between their important household role and their association with Bastet, cats in ancient Egypt gained a sacrosanct position in society. This meant that anyone who deliberately harmed a cat would find themselves condemned to death. Similarly, when a family cat died, the family would go into mourning, and would even mummify and entomb the pet like they would a relative.
One of the oldest ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, Bat largely disappeared from the official record in the Middle Kingdom. This resulted from her association with the cow, leading to her cult’s subsumption into the cult of Hathor. Archaeologists think that her cult’s loss of influence also resulted from her limited presence compared to Hathor. In particular, they discovered that Bat rarely appeared in human form as Hathor did. Instead, her images only implied her presence, usually in the form of a cow or a herd of cows.
That said, even after her cult’s subsumption, Bat did not simply vanish into obscurity. In fact, she remained known as the patron goddess of the sistrum, a musical instrument commonly used in religious rituals in ancient Egypt.
One of the more obscure ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, Bennu appears to have served a similar role as a creator god much like Atum. In fact, some archaeologists consider him the original form of Atum which became altered over time. Like Atum, Bennu apparently created himself out of nothing, before singing the cosmos into existence.
His personality is later passed onto Ra but will return to his body at the end of time. This led to him becoming associated with not simply the creation and the Sun, but also rebirth. Some historians even think Bennu may have inspired phoenix myths in Southern Europe and Western Asia.
A god of the earth, Geb held an important role in ancient Egypt, with farmers praying to him for a good harvest. He also held the title of Father of Snakes, represented in official imagery by a cobra sitting on his head. This led to ancient Egyptians, in general, praying to him to keep his children from attacking them and their families.
Even when snakes attacked them regardless, the people continued to worship Geb, for giving them a way to counter the snakes’ venom. Specifically, antivenom, which ancient Egyptians learned to distill from the same venom snakes could use to kill them.
One of the most important ancient Egyptian gods, Hapi’s importance came from his status as the god of the Nile. This is reflected by his blue skin, which referred to the waters of the Nile. As ancient Egypt completely depended on the Nile just to survive, the people prayed to Hapi to bring the annual floods on time.
They also prayed that the floods would come in moderation, to keep their homes from getting washed away. Even then, floods would sometimes come in overwhelming strength, but this didn’t stop the ancient Egyptians from worshiping Hapi. The Nile and Hapi are simply too important for them to curse the overwhelming floods. Instead, they saw such things as a form of divine retribution, leading to shows of public penance and extended acts of devotion to appease the god.
As the goddess of love, Hathor enjoyed importance as a protector of marriage and the family and as someone who blessed couples with many healthy children. She also doubled as the wife of Horus, making her a sky goddess in her own right, and a companion to Ra as he sailed the skies on his solar barge. Hathor even possessed the Eye of Ra, which she used to protect Ra from any evil spirits.
While commonly appearing as a beautiful woman, Hathor also appeared in the form of a cow, representing another one of her aspects, that of the goddess of fertility. This earned her devotion from farmers and herders, who prayed to her for good harvests and to keep their flocks healthy and safe.
The patron goddess of the city of Djedet, Hatmehit primarily served as the city’s protector against floods. She also doubled as a fish goddess, ensuring good catches for the city’s fishermen, leading to prosperity and preventing starvation. Some records also point to Hatmehit as the goddess of perfumes, reflecting Djedet’s status as a center for perfume production in ancient Egypt.
This led to her title as the Lady of Myrrh, as well as the Lady of Punt, Punt referring to a foreign name for ancient Egypt, and its reputation for exporting perfumes and incense in large quantities. Some fragmentary texts also associate Hatmehit with an aspect of other goddesses, such as Isis and Hathor.
Also known as Heket, she makes up one of the more obscure ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. Heqet served dual roles as a goddess of floods and fertility, which had a connection in ancient Egypt thanks to the land’s dependence on the annual Nile floods for farming. This made her recognized as Hathor in some sources, but Heqet associated herself with the frog instead of the cow. Similarly, this gave her a connection with Hapi, the god of the Nile.
Ancient Egyptians, however, generally focused on her role as a fertility goddess, specifically as the guardian of women during childbirth. One myth even describes Heqet as breathing life back into Horus after Isis gave birth to a stillborn son. This later led early Christians to disguise themselves as devotees of Heqet to protect themselves from Roman persecution, thanks to her association with resurrection.
Hesat makes up something of a mystery within the archaeological community, over her limited representation in both art and records despite her importance. Originally, Hesat counted as just another one of Hathor’s manifestations, a fertility goddess symbolized by a cow.
However, Hesat later gained much importance as the patron goddess of beermakers, with beer as the most common alcoholic beverage in ancient Egypt. This even later led to Hesat’s milk being described as the milk that nurtures the life of humanity. Despite that, Hesat remains underrepresented in ancient Egyptian findings. The studies into this mystery continue to this day.
Also known as Heru, Hor, and Har, Horus served as the god of kingship and the sky. The only son of Osiris and Isis, Horus succeeded his father as ruler of the earth after avenging Osiris’ murder by Set. In fact, this resulted in the divine status of the Pharaohs, as the ancient Egyptians saw them as Horus incarnated in human form. Horus also served as a protector deity, again as a result of his vengeance against Set. The battle between the two gods saw Set tearing out one of Horus’ eyes, which fell to the earth.
This became the Eye of Horus, which ancient Egyptians used as a form of protection against evil spirits and magic. In fact, some people still use the Eye of Horus today as a form of protection against bad luck and the evil eye. Horus also had direct and indirect roles in the Egyptian afterlife. As we mentioned earlier, Horus escorted souls who’d passed Anubis’ judgment to meet his father Osiris. Similarly, Horus and Hathor’s sons, Duamutef, Hapy, Imsety, and Qebehsenuef protected the bodies of the dead from demons that might possess them.
Also known as Ament, Amentet, and Imentit, all her names roughly translate to She of the West. Imentet makes up something of a paradox among ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, in the sense that she only had limited worship. At the same time, however, Imentet held a very important role, that of the guardian goddess of ancient Egypt’s necropoles.
In fact, her name references this, as the ancient Egyptians always tried to bury their dead west of the Nile as much as possible. This comes from the fact that they associated the western direction with death, from how the Sun always set in the west. Thus, the ancient Egyptians built entire cities in the Libyan Desert composed solely of tombs. While these necropoles had small numbers of guards and attendants, spiritually, they entrusted their protection to Imentet.
Osiris’ wife, Isis became known for how she recovered her husband’s body after his betrayal and death by Set. By putting him back together in the underworld, Osiris returned to life and became ruler of the afterlife. This also led to the ancient Egyptians attributing mummification and with it the means to reach the afterlife to Isis. Isis stayed with her husband in the afterlife, leaving the rule of the living world to Horus and Hathor. Despite this, Isis remained worshiped as the goddess of healing, motherhood, matrimony, and the family.
Outside ancient Egypt, the Nubians also worshiped her as the goddess of magic, with knowledge and skill in the arcane beyond any other deity. When the Romans conquered Egypt, she even gained a small following in Rome, which endured until the rise of Christianity. Even then, some historians think that the Christian practice of the veneration of the Virgin Mary may have originated from the Roman Cult of Isis.
Khepri makes up another paradox among ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. On one hand, as the god of the dawn, he enjoyed a great deal of importance, appearing very often in his animal form of the scarab beetle. He also held the role of the god of rebirth, inspired by how scarab beetles lay their eggs inside balls of dung.
Once the eggs hatch, the larvae grow inside the dung, only emerging after growing into adults. On the other hand, despite his importance, Khepri had no dedicated cult of his own. Instead, the ancient Egyptians treated him as an aspect of Ra, shown in how many artworks of the scarab beetle have them carrying the Sun between their jaws.
Also known as Khnemu, Khnum is one of the most important ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. This is reflected in his titles: the Divine Potter and the Lord of Created Things from Himself. Both titles referenced his status as the god of clay, which linked him with the Nile and its floods. However, the ancient Egyptians regarded Khnum as more than just another fertility god.
In particular, they believed Khnum was the one who sculpted their children’s bodies after conception, and that of every human who ever lived. This also made him a protector god for children, with parents praying to Khnum to protect them as an artist would his creations.
The son of Amun and Mut, Khonsu held the role of the god of the Moon, referenced by his name which means “traveler”. In some ways, the ancient Egyptians saw him as parallel to Ra and worshiped him in thanks for lighting the night in Ra’s absence. Together with his parents, Khonsu formed the Theban Triad, a divine family that similarly paralleled the family of Osiris, Isis, and their son Horus.
Khonsu’s other roles included ruling over time, a role he shared with Thoth. Khonsu also later became known as a god of healing, especially during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. This role would also see Khonsu’s cult spreading outside of Egypt and into neighboring lands.
The son of Ptah and Bastet, Maahes took after his mother as a god of war and protection. He also became associated with the lion, again much like Bastet, which his name’s meaning “he who is true beside her”. In addition to war and protection, Maahes’ aspects included the weather, lotus flowers, and even knives. Myths also claim Maahes helped defend Ra’s solar barge in the underworld against the primordial serpent of chaos, Apep.
Ironically, Maahes’ titles included the Lord of Slaughter, from how Maahes showed no mercy in battle and never took any prisoners. Archaeologists also think Maahes originally came from Nubia, specifically the Nubian war god Apedemak, which underwent Egyptianization during Egypt’s conquest of Nubia.
A daughter of Ra, Maat’s importance is reflected in the many roles she inherited from her father, as well as her name, which literally meant “truth”. As the goddess of truth, Maat held the responsibility of upholding the cosmic order itself. Ancient Egyptian legends have Maat reminding other deities of their proper roles, as well as bringing down divine retribution on mortals for their sins.
Maat also provided the Feather of Truth to Anubis, who used it to judge the souls of the dead. A soul must either balance or weigh lighter than the feather to earn passage to the afterlife. If a soul proves heavier than the feather, Anubis would condemn them to the demon Ammit. Maat thus became the goddess of justice in both life and death.
Her other roles included ruling over the seasons and ensuring they followed the proper order and time. Maat also served as the goddess of the stars and ensured their proper places in the constellations of the sky. Again, this reflected her primary role as the goddess of truth and with it, the cosmic order.
Also known as Menchit, Menhit originally came from Nubia, which underwent Egyptianization after the Egyptian Conquest. A goddess of war, Menhit became the patron goddess of archers, who held the most important role in ancient Egypt’s army.
In fact, when the ancient Egyptians went to war, they tried to keep their distance as much as possible, allowing their archers to slaughter their enemies from a distance. This is reflected in Menchit’s title, that of She Who Massacres. Ironically, Menhit also held the role of a protected goddess and that of the Pharaoh himself. The Pharaoh’s crown reflected this by featuring a cobra in honor of Menhit.
One of the oldest ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, Montu’s identity has varied over the millennia of ancient Egypt’s long history. Originally an aspect of Ra, Montu became associated with the destructive power of the Sun. Later on, he became an aspect of Horus instead, symbolizing the Pharaoh’s authority over ancient Egypt’s armies.
In both aspects, Montu held the role of a god of war, representing commanding authority over armies. In fact, one of the Pharaoh’s titles referenced Montu’s role, that of the Son of Montu. Pharaoh Thutmose III, also called Thutmose the Great, even became considered Montu incarnate during his lifetime, owing to his skill as a commander and a conqueror.
Also known as Maut and Mout, Mut held the role of a primordial goddess as Ra’s wife. She retained this role even after Ra’s identity was merged with Amun’s to become Amun-Ra, with Mut’s identity merging with Amunet’s. Mut’s importance became so great that, unlike other goddesses, her official images show her wearing the Pharaoh’s crown. Mut even became the patron goddess of Karnak, one of ancient Egypt’s biggest religious centers.
The ancient Egyptians also dedicated the Opet Festival to her, when they celebrated the coming of the annual Nile floods that marked the beginning of the planting season. Other festivals dedicated to her included the days-long Beautiful Festival of the Valley, where the ancient Egyptians celebrated the wonder of life itself.
Also known as Nefertem and Nefer-temu, Nefertum embodied the lotus flower that marked the first life to bloom in the cosmos after its creation. His name reflects this, which means “beautiful one that closes” or “one who does not close”. Other myths also describe Nefertum as having sprung from the first rays of the Sun to strike the primordial waters.
They also describe him as the son of Ptah, with either Sekhmet or Bast as his mother. Ancient Egyptians depicted Nefertum as a young man wearing a lotus flower on his head. They also carried small votive figures of the god with them as good luck charms.
A primordial deity from the first few centuries of ancient Egyptian civilization, Neith held the role of a primordial mother goddess. Before worship of Atum spread, the ancient Egyptians regarded her as the creator of the universe. Similarly, she held the role of upholder of the cosmic balance, until the rise of the cult of Maat.
Despite the rise of rival deities and her own demotion, the worship of Neith never faded in ancient Egypt. Instead, she became a warrior goddess, something reflected by her name which means She is the Terrifying One. She also paradoxically held the role of the patron goddess of the craft of weaving and served as a protector goddess of mothers.
Nekhbet counts as one of the more mysterious ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses because her worship took place in prehistoric times. In fact, all records of her existence date from the predynastic period, before the unification of ancient Egypt by Pharaoh Narmer. At the time, the prototypical ancient Egyptians identified her with the vulture, as well as a protector goddess of the kings of Upper Egypt.
The vulture would remain part of the royal symbols of ancient Egypt, featuring alongside the cobra on the Pharaoh’s crown. Nekhbet, however, would find her identity and role subsumed into those of Nephthys.
One of the oldest ancient Egyptian gods, his worship goes back to the Second Dynasty between 2890 and 2686 BC. He’s also one of the most mysterious to archaeologists, with most records of his original role lost to the ages. The records that remain point to Nemty mostly becoming just another aspect of Horus by the height of the Old Kingdom.
That said, the surviving records do give Nemty a distinct role as the patron god of ferrymen. They also record a myth where Nemty offends Set by helping Isis stop Set from gaining support from the other gods. As punishment, Set has Nemty’s toes chopped off, crippling the god and keeping him from fulfilling his role.
The god of grain, he held the title of Lord of the Mouth, referencing his dominion over the staple food of ancient Egypt. Other forms of Neper’s name include Nepra and Nepri. Official images of Neper show him having mottled skin, symbolizing the ears of wheat. Originally a separate god in his own right, Neper later became subsumed into Osiris, simply becoming another aspect of the latter god.
However, even with reduced importance, his cult retained influence, in connection with the cult of the goddess Renenutet. This resulted from Neper’s status as Renenutet’s son, which remained a point of religious dogma despite Osiris’ subsumption of Neper.
Isis’ sister, Nephthys held the role of a protector of the dead and shared with Isis the role of the patron goddess of funerary arts and rituals. Ironically, the myths also name her Set’s wife, but she helped her sister regardless in recovering Osiris’ body. Set surprisingly never blamed his wife for his actions, implying a loving relationship between them.
In addition to protecting the dead, Nephthys also doubled as a protector goddess for temple priestesses. She also watched over the distilling of beer and patrolled the night for evil spirits trying to take advantage of the Sun’s absence. Mothers in labor also prayed to Nephthys for strength and for the safe birth of their children.
The goddess of the sky, the ancient Egyptians often showed her as a naked woman bent over the world. As the daughter of Shu and Tefnut, she counted Atum as her grandfather and had four important children of her own: Isis, Nephthys, Osiris, and Set. The myths also claim that Ra had forbidden Nut to give birth any day of the year, but with Thoth’s help, Nut found a way around this restriction. She gambled with Khonsu, with the Moon God putting a night’s worth of moonlight as the prize.
Eventually, Khonsu lost enough that Nut had five more nights of moonlight than a year’s number of days. This allowed Nut to give birth to her children without actually breaking Ra’s command. Outraged by Nut’s trickery, Ra forcibly separated Nut from her husband Geb, but Nut never once regretted her decision.
The most iconic ancient Egyptian god of them all, Osiris once ruled over the earth with his sister-wife Isis. This made their brother Set jealous, causing him to murder and chop Osiris, before scattering his remains in the desert. Isis, however, recovered all of her husband’s pieces and put him back together to make the first mummy.
She then brought Osiris’ body to the underworld, where he returned to life. Even after their son Horus defeated Set and reclaimed his father’s throne, though, Osiris remained in the underworld to rule over the afterlife. This led the ancient Egyptians to worship him as the god of eternal life, who made death into simply a gateway to a new life for those who deserved it.
A hunting goddess who gained popularity during the Middle Kingdom, Pakhet also doubled as a desert goddess. Her title referenced this, the Goddess of the Mouth of the Wadi, with wadi referring to the Nile Valley. Desert hunters prayed to her not just for success, but also for a safe return back to the Nile after their hunts.
Though primarily associated with the lioness, the ancient Egyptians also sometimes saw her as an aspect of Bastet. In particular, archaeologists have found catacombs specifically for mummified cats under Pakhet’s temples from the New Kingdom. Later on, during the Ptolemaic Dynasty, the ancient Greeks also associated Pakhet with their own hunting goddess, Artemis.
Another version of a creator god, Ptah supposedly created the cosmos by literally describing it in words. After he created the world, he then created the other gods and goddesses, again by speaking their names and describing their roles. This also resulted in the ancient Egyptian belief of gaining immortality by remembering the names of the dead. Much like how Ptah created the cosmos through the power of speech, so too could they bring the dead back to a semblance of life by speaking in their memory.
Ptah also served as the patron god of craftsmen and artisans, with specially gifted engineers often becoming seen as his mortal children. For instance, the priest and architect Imhotep from the Old Kingdom designed the first pyramids. Regarded as a son of Ptah in life, the ancient Egyptians worshiped him as a god in his own right.
The god of the Sun, Ra practically symbolized ancient Egypt as a whole, with the Sun Disc that symbolized him also doubling as the land’s symbol. His importance became reflected in how he ruled over all creation, overlord of both Horus and Osiris, who ruled over the earth and the afterlife, respectively. The ancient Egyptians also did not see Ra as an idle ruler, for Ra spent all his time constantly sailing his solar barge.
In the day, he would sail across the sky from east to west, bringing light to the land. At the same time, his movements across the sky moderated the Sun’s heat and light, keeping it from destroying the land. At the end of the day, he would descend under the western horizon, bringing life to the underworld even as the land rested in the night, before starting the cycle once again with the sunrise.
Also known as Ernutet and Renenet, Renenutet held the role of the goddess of the harvest. This led to great festivals in her honor during the harvest season, as thanks for Renenutet giving the people plenty of food. In ancient Egypt’s myths, Renenutet also nursed Horus during his childhood, ensuring he grows up healthy and strong.
That said, while primarily a benevolent deity, Renenutet also has a dark side. The ancient Egyptians associated her with the cobra, who had the power to kill with a simple look. This led to them worshiping her as a protector goddess in her own right, with people carrying cobra-headed charms as protection against evil spirits.
Another war goddess, Satet shared with Menhit the role of the patron goddess of archery. However, Satet had her own distinctive aspect, that of the Nile’s goddess of protection. During the Old Kingdom, she also guarded Egypt against attack from the south, but this role faded in the Middle Kingdom onward.
This resulted from ancient Egypt’s growing military power, with the kingdom slowly but steadily expanding south to conquer Nubia. In addition, Satet’s protective role over the Nile also made her a fertility goddess in her own right. In particular, the ancient Egyptians believed she had some say in ensuring the coming of the annual Nile floods.
The mightiest among ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses of war, Sekhmet’s power proved so great that only Ra could control her. This resulted from her possession of the Eye of Ra, which gave her a portion of Ra’s own power. In fact, the ancient Egyptians believed that Sekhmet inherited the power of the noontime Sun when the Sun’s heat and light reached their peak.
This led to her receiving great honor from the ancient Egyptians, with the Pharaohs personally making offerings to her before battles. Sekhmet also doubled as a protector goddess for the Pharaohs in death, defending their souls against demons as they traveled to the afterlife.
Like Anubis, Set commonly gets misrepresented in modern media. On one hand, Set did murder his brother Osiris out of jealousy and usurped the rule of the earth until Horus reclaimed his inheritance. That said, the ancient Egyptians also worshiped Set as the god of the desert, and with it, the main protector god of their land. This resulted from how most of ancient Egypt’s enemies found the desert around the Nile a dangerous barrier to even try and pass.
Foreign visitors to ancient Egypt also enjoyed Set’s protection, the god guaranteeing them safety and hospitality so long as they followed the land’s laws. However, Set’s most important role involved personally protecting Ra’s solar barge from the primordial serpent of chaos, Apep.
A primordial god in ancient Egypt, Shu’s name literally means “emptiness”. Together with his sister Tefnut, Shu had two children, Nut and Geb, who became the parents of Isis, Nephthys, Osiris, and Set. Nut giving birth to her children angered Ra, who commanded Shu to forcibly separate Nut from Geb, with Shu reluctantly obeying. This became the origin of his role as the god of the sky, a role he shared with his grandson Horus.
Shu also became associated with a cool and refreshing wind, as well as with peace. Archaeologists have also discovered a myth about how Shu and Tefnut once argued with each other. This led the two to separate and caused the drought that destroyed the Old Kingdom. Only Thoth’s intervention to bring Shu and Tefnut back together finally ended the drought.
The crocodile god Sobek held a paradoxical role within ancient Egypt. On one hand, people feared him for his children, the crocodiles which formed the apex predators of the Nile. They preyed on both livestock and people, and could even break into homes or sink boats to get at people. For this reason, people prayed to Sobek to spare them from his children’s hunger.
But at the same time, the ancient Egyptians saw Sobek as the embodiment of physical power, inspired by the powerful bodies of the Nile crocodiles. Children carried crocodile-shaped charms so they would grow up healthy and strong, while soldiers similarly made offerings to Sobek to make them stronger than their enemies.
Tefnut and her brother Shu emerged from their father Atum’s shadow shortly after the universe’s creation. She and Shu had two children, Nut and Geb, making Tefnut grandmother to Isis, Nephthys, Osiris, and Set. Tefnut’s roles included serving as the goddess of moisture and the rain, a rarity in Egypt outside of the Nile.
That said, the ancient Egyptians knew that the Nile depended on plenty of rain in its headwaters to flow, and so prayed to Tefnut to keep the Nile flowing. One of their myths even claimed that at one point, Tefnut’s anger caused the Nile to dry up, bringing catastrophe to the land.
The baboon or ibis god, the ancient Egyptians believed Thoth taught them how to read and write and how to understand the world around them. This made him the patron god of scribes, doctors, scientists, and philosophers. He also held the role of a god of magic in his own right and shared the role of god of the Moon with Khonsu.
Thoth also helped his wife Maat uphold the cosmic order, and often joined her in escorting Ra during his never-ending journey. Thoth also played a role in the ancient Egyptian afterlife, as the one who recorded the proceedings of Anubis as he judged the souls of the dead.
An obscure and rather strange god, Wadj-wer’s appearance reflected his reputation. He had blue-green skin, while official records describe him as both male and female. Archaeologists themselves remain uncertain about what role Wadj-wer held in ancient Egypt, beyond that of a fertility god. Circumstantial evidence does point to him as an embodiment of the Mediterranean Sea, which would explain his unusual coloring.
Wall art dating back to the Old Kingdom also seems to associate him with the Nile god Hapi. This could also point to Wadj-wer embodying not the Mediterranean Sea, but the Nile Delta. Study into Wadj-wer’s theology continues today, but proceeds slowly because of limited mentions of the god.
Before the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, Wadjet served as the protector goddess of Lower Egypt. After ancient Egypt’s unification under Pharaoh Narmer, she became the guardian of Egypt against attacks from the north. Her role as a protector goddess also extended to the Pharaoh, which she shared with Menhit.
In particular, both goddesses shared the cobra on the Pharaoh’s crown. This protective role comes from the myth where she protected the infant Horus from his uncle Set’s attempt to kill him. This also made Wadjet a popular goddess among mothers in ancient Egypt, who would pray to her to protect their children from harm.
A mystery and a paradox in one, Wosret is an important god, considering her name means “powerful”. She also served as a patron goddess of Thebes, the capital of ancient Egypt during the Middle and New Kingdoms. Ironically, archaeologists have found no temples dedicated to Wosret.
Circumstantial evidence points to her as just another aspect of Amunet, especially since she too supposedly married Amun-Ra. That said, records do exist of her as a separate goddess in her own right, with three Pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty having the name of Senusret in her honor. Archaeologists continue to study this mystery to this day.