Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Docent Note: A Partial List of Egyptian Gods, To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum

By Kathleen Durham

Note: Listed here are only gods who are mentioned in the exhibition catalog. There were hundreds of gods in ancient Egypt, some local, some universal. There were various creation myths, and sometimes gods changed forms and/or merged with other gods. But there was a remarkable consistency over all those centuries, so that we see the same gods depicted in funerary art from the beginning through to Roman times. Since many of the gods developed from animals, many are shown as animals, or with animal heads. Anubis, the jackal-headed god of funerary matters, is thought to have taken that form because jackals were always seen around burial sites. The hippo is seen as a benign female god as Taweret, and as a god of Chaos in the person of Seth.

AMMIT – Devourer of hearts judged to be wicked in underworld—can take form of crocodile, hippo and/or leopard.
AMUN -- The hidden God, at one point considered King of Gods—sometimes merges with Re, becomes very powerful. Represents air. Temple at Thebes.
ANUBIS -- Jackal-headed god of mummification, and of judgment in underworld. Said to have helped Isis reassemble and bind together the parts of Osiris’ body.
APOPHIS -- Terrible creature who menaces Re on his trip through the underworld. Can take form of dragon, snake, cat.
ATEN -- During reign of Akhtenaten he was made King of Gods, the only god. Generally represented by a sun disc with rays ending in hands. When Tutankhamen became King, he restored the old gods.
ATUM -- Primeval creator god. Arose from the waters of Chaos and created the first gods, Shu and Tefnut. Merges with Re at sunset, representing the setting sun. Known then as ‘He who is Completed’.
BES -- Dwarf god, one of several variations, perhaps associated with Pataikos. Sometimes has lion’s ear and tail. Is always ugly, in order to frighten spirits which threaten homes. Protector of households, childbirth. Very popular amulet.
GEB -- Earth God, always pictured lying down, as the Earth, with his sister-wife Nut arched over him as the sky. Egyptians believed earthquakes were his laughter.
HAPY (HAPI) -- God of Nile. He is the river, the flood and the god. Represented as a man with a little pot belly and plants on his head.
HATHOR -- Goddess of love, fertility, joy, music. Shown as a cow, or woman with cow’s ears and horns, with a sun disk. Known as ‘Mistress of the West’, welcoming the dead into the next life.
HORUS -- Falcon-headed god of the sky and sun. Son of Isis and Osiris. Horus means ‘He who is from above’. Became king after defeating uncle Seth. Throughout Egyptian history is the protector of kings. It was thought that each Pharaoh was the living Horus.
ISIS -- Wife of Osiris, mother of Horus. Goddess of healing, magic, marriage, motherhood. Her crown is usually a throne to show she was mother to a king. Often shown with Horus on her lap (because her lap is the first throne he sat on). She is sometimes shown with wings.
KEBEHSENEUF -- Funerary god, associated with falcons and canopic jars. His is used for storing intestines. A son of Horus.
KHAPRI (KHEPRI) -- Scarab beetle, or man with beetle head, rising sun. This is the name Re takes when he re-appears from the underworld at sunrise. It means ‘he who is coming into being. Connected with scarab because that beetle pushed around a ball of dung filled with its eggs, like sun coming up.
KHNUM -- Ram or ram-headed man. One of the creator gods. He molded people on a pottery wheel.
MAAT -- Goddess of truth and justice. She is present at judging of souls in the underworld. Single feather headdress. Heart is weighed with her feather.
MONT (MONTU) -- God of war, valor. Falcon head, sun disk and double plumes. Associated with cult of Buchis (bull which was venerated, mummified).
NEFERTEM -- God in form of a man with lotus headdress. He is personification of lotus which keeps sun god Re alive with its fragrance.
NEITH -- Goddess of hunting and war. Shown as a woman with red crown.
NEPHTHYS -- Daughter of Geb and Nut, sister of Osiris and Isis, sister-wife to Seth. Headdress has her name in hieroglyphics. Sometimes shown with wings.
NUT -- Goddess of Sky, mother of Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. Shown as a naked woman arched over the reclining body of her brother-husband Geb (Earth).
OSIRIS -- King of Netherworld, God of Re-birth. Son of Geb and Nut, husband-brother to Isis. Father of Horus. Was king of Egypt until killed by brother Seth. After his body was put back together by Isis he became king of the netherworld. Shown as a mummy with green face, atef crown (a combination of the hedjet, the white crown of Upper Egypt, with ostrich plumes). Carries crook, flail.
PATAIKOS -- A dwarf protector of household, similar to Bes. Has scarab on head, he strangles snakes, stands on crocodiles. Often seen with Isis and Nephthys.
PTAH -- Creator god, Memphis. Father of Pataikos.
RE (RA) -- Sun god. Creator god. Hawk head with sun disk. Has seventy-five names. Binds together the darkness and light with his 24 hour journey through the sky and the underworld. Merges at times with Atum, Amun and Horus.
SETH -- God of Chaos. Son of Geb and Nut. Brother of Osiris and Isis, brother-husband to Nephthys. Sometimes shown as a hippo, but more often as a ‘Seth animal’, an undetermined animal with a long snout. Was King, defeated by Horus, now defends Re in the underworld.
SHU -- God of Air, father of Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and Seth.
SOBEK -- Crocodile or Crocodile-headed man. River god.
TAWERET -- Hippo goddess. Patron of household and childbirth.
TEFNUT -- Goddess of Moisture, mother of Geb and Nut. Cobra or lion head.
THOTH -- Ibis-headed (sometimes baboon), holding a writing palette. Scribe of Gods. Recorder of judgment in netherworld, also connected to the Moon. Egyptians thought that he gave them the gift of hieroglyphic writing. He restored Horus’ eye after Seth tore it out.