The Gods and the Goddesses of the Afterlife

There were many gods and goddesses in ancient Egypt. Each god had its own aspect of life to look after. Some gods had a mixture of responsibilities and that is why they would have a head or body of an animal. One of the main aspects of life in ancient Egypt was death. Therefore, the Egyptians had many deities which would help the dead pass through the afterlife.

Isis was the mother goddess, the goddess of fertility. In art she was usually portrayed as a woman with wings. Since her name was Isis, which means throne, she would also be depicted with a throne to show how powerful she was. At times she is holding a lotus. Isis was practically the mother of all gods and goddesses. Once Ra had created all things, Isis decided she would deceive him. She decided that she would ambush Ra on one of his journeys across the heavens. She created a serpent which stung Ra on one of his daily journeys, making him powerless. Isis promised to Ra that she would heal the poison and destroy the serpent, though she would only do so if he revealed his true name to her. By learning his true name Isis was able to overpower Ra.

Osiris was the Ancient Egyptian god of the underworld. He had green skin which symbolised rebirth. Osiris is associated with a Pharaoh mummy. He was slain by the god Seth (brother of Osiris), as Seth wanted to overthrow Osiris. Seth tore apart the corpse and flung the pieces all over Egypt. The goddess Isis, partner and sister of Osiris, and her sister Nephthys found the pieces and gave new life to Osiris, by using a spell which their father taught them. This spell gave enough time for Isis to have a child by the name of Horus. Horus, the son of Osiris, soon became the new king. Osiris also represented the power that brought life out of the earth. Osiris is such an important and famous god because before him, only Pharaohs were allowed to go to the afterlife, but he opened the door to any Egyptian he lived a life of good deeds. Festivals re-enacting his fate were celebrated annually in towns throughout Egypt.
The Weighing of the Heart Ceremony - Courtesy of Creative Commons

Before Osiris ruled, a god by the name of Anubis ruled the underworld. However, being overshadowed by Osiris, he was associated with the care of the dead and was credited with the invention of embalming, an art which he coincidentally practiced on the corpse of Osiris. By worshipping Anubis, who is depicted with a head of a jackal, the Ancient Egyptians believed he would protect the deceased from jackals, as jackals would often lurk outside the tombs of the dead. The Egyptians prayed to him so that he could protect the mummies, and after, the unstoppable rotting of the mummies. Anubis is portrayed as a jackal or as a man with the head of a jackal for those reasons.

Ammit lived in the Hall of Ma'at where she patiently waited to devour those who were unworthy of going through to the afterlife. She was depicted with the head of a crocodile, the upper body of a lion and from the waist onwards she was a hippopotamus.

Modern Day Comparison

In ancient Egypt, and in many other ancient civilisations, they needed gods and deities because they could not explain how different aspects of the natural world worked. For example, in ancient Egypt there was a need for the god of death, to help people to cope with a traumatic and unexplainable event. Nowadays, people with scientific mentality know that people do not go to the afterlife once they're dead, on the contrary, they know that once somebody dies they get buried and rot away. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; so to speak.

Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, argued the same point. He coined the phrase "god is dead." He argued that an ancient man could not meaningfully grasp any of the natural occurrences, such as lightning, death, love or thunder. Modern civilisations can now explain how those aspects of the world occur. Therefore, he argued, we no longer need gods.

Judaism believes that there is only one god. Jewish people are not allowed to idolize. God commanded the Jewish people to love one another. This means that the Jewish people are imitating god's love for his people. Everything that happens in the world is caused by god and only god according to Judaism. However in ancient Egypt the people believed that there was one god for every aspect of life.

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