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Glossary of Egyptian Mythology
Category: History and Culture > Egyptian Mythology
Date & country: 11/09/2007, USA
The Greeks called this place Abydos. It was the seat of worship of Osiris. It was also called Busiris, 'the house of Osiris'. Egyptian tradition says that the sun ended his daily journey at Abydos, and entered into the underworld here, through a gap in the mountains called 'peq'. In the 12th dynasty it was believed that the souls of the dead entered into the afterlife here.
The double lion god, gaurdian of the sunrise and sunset. Gaurdian of the peaks that supported the sky. The western peak was called Manu, while the eastern peak was called Bakhu.
The akh was the aspect of a person that would join the gods in the underworld being immortal and unchangeable. It was created after death by the use of funerary text and spells, designed to bring forth an akh. Once this was achieved that individual was assured of not 'dying a second time' a death that would mean the end of one's existence.
This was the horizon from which the sun emerged and disappeared. The horizon thus embodied the idea of both sunrise and sunset. It is similar to the two peaks of the Djew or mountain symbol with a solar disk in the center. Both the beginning and the end of each day was guarded by Aker, a double lion god. In the New Kingdom, Harmakhet ('Horus in the Horizon') became the god of the rising and setting sun. He was pictured as a falcon, or as a sphinx with the body of a lion. The Great Sphinx of Giza is an example of 'Horus in the Horizon'.
The name given to the historical time period under the rule of Amenophis IV /Akhenaten. During this time period there were unprecedented changes in the government, art and religion.
The Underworld. Originally the place where the sun set, this name was later applied to the West Bank of the Nile where the Egyptians built their tombs.
A female demon, she is found in The Book of the Dead, She plays an important role in the Hall of Maat.
A charm, often in the form of hieroglyphs, gods or sacred animals; made of precious stones or faience. They were worn like jewelry during life, and were included within the mummy wrappings for the afterlife.
A god who's cult center was the temple of Amun at Karnak. He was considered to be king of all the gods and the the creator of all things.
A symbol of life, resembling a looped cross. It was later adapted by Coptic Christians as their cross. Widely used as an amulet.
One of three varieties of Egyptian sphinx, having the head of a man.
A Greek word meaning; man-shaped. This term is used for coffins made in the shape of a human.
A jackal headed god. Guardian of the necropolis.
The Apis Bull was sacred to Osiris. It was revered from the earliest times, through the Graeco-Roman period.
A name for the land of the dead.
The atef crown was worn by Osiris. It is made up of the white crown of Upper Egypt and the red feathers are representative of Busiris, Osiris's cult center in the Delta.
The god that gained its prominence during the reign of Akhenaten, who abolished the traditional cults of Egypt and replaced them with the Aten. This created the first monotheistic cult in the world.
The ba can best be described as someone's personality. Like a person's body, each ba was an individual. It entered a person's body with the breath of life and it left at the time of death. The ba is associated with divinity and power. It had the ability to take on different forms, in this respect the gods had many bas. The ba of the deceased is able to move freely between the underworld and the physical world. The ba is similar to the ka.
The mythical mountain from which the sun rose. The region of the eastern horizon. One of two mountains that held up the sky, the other being Manu. These peaks were guarded by the double lion god, Aker.
A boat in which the gods sailed. The barque of Ra carried a host of deities across the sky each day.
Model barques were kept in these shrines in temples. These model barques were used to carry deities out of the temples in festival processions.
A cat headed goddess. As a sun goddess she represents the warm, life giving power of the sun.
A stone resembling an obelisk, representative of a sun ray
an aspect of Ra-Atum in the form of a phoenix. The patron of the reckoning of time. The carrier of eternal light from the abode of the gods to the world of men.
These were small temples, attached to the main temples of the Late and Greco-Roman Periods. These small temples are where the god of the main temple was born, or if the main temple was dedicated to a goddess it was where she bore her children.
Book Of The Dead
This is a collection of magic spells and formulas that was illustrated and written, usually on papyrus. It began to appear in Egyptian tombs around 1600 BC. The text was intended to be spoken by the deceased during their journey into the Underworld. It enabled the deceased to overcome obstacles in the afterlife. It did this by teaching passwords that allowed the deceased to turn into mythical creatures to navigate around hazards, while granting the help and protection of the gods, and proclaiming the deceased's identity with the gods. The texts continue the tradition of the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts. There are about 200 known spells and the choice of spells can vary from copy to copy.
Four jars used to store the preserved internal organs of the deceased. Each jar is representative of one of the four sons of Horus. The term comes from the Greek , Canopus, a demigod venerated in the form of a human headed jar.
Papyrus or linen soaked in plaster, shaped around a body. Used for mummy masks and coffins.
A circle with a horizontal bar at the bottom, elongated into an oval within which king's names are written It is believed to act as a protector of the kings name. The sign represents a loop of rope that is never ending.
From the Greek word meaning; 'empty tomb'. A tomb built for ceremonial purposes that was never intended to be used for the interment of the deceased.
Texts written inside coffins of the Middle Kingdom that are intended to direct the souls of the dead past the dangers and perils encountered on the journey through the afterlife. More than 1,000 spells are known.
A more then life size statue, often of a kings, but also of gods and even private individuals. These huge statues usually flank the gates or pylons of temples. They are believed to act as intermediaries between men and the gods.
One of three varieties of Egyptian sphinx, having the head of a ram.
The red crown. This was the crown that represented Lower Egypt (northern).
Chief priestess of Amun in Thebes, an office known from the New Kingdom through the Late Period. The office was an important vehicle of political control.
It is believed that the Djed is a rendering of a human backbone. It represents stability and strength. It was originally associated with the creation god Ptah. Himself being called the 'Noble Djed'. As the Osiris cults took hold it became known as the backbone of Osiris . A djed column is often painted on the bottom of coffins, where the backbone of the deceased would lay, this identified the person with the king of the underworld, Osiris. It also acts as a sign of stability for the deceased' journey into the afterlife.
A straight, paved avenue flanked by sphinxes.
The land of the dead. It Iies under the earth and is entered through the western horizon.
A mixture of gold and silver.
A group of 9 deities that are associated with a major cult center. The best known is the great ennead of Heliopolis, It consists of Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.
A glazed material, with a base of either carved soapstone or moulded clay, with an overlay of blue/green colored glass.
False Door. .
A door carved or painted on a wall. The ka would use this door to partake of funerary offerings.
Type of offering bearer rendered at the base of temple walls. They are shown bringing offerings into the temple. The male figures are often shown with heavy pendulous breasts and bulging stomachs, this plumpness symbolizing the abundance of the offerings they bring.
An animal skin hanging from a stick. It was used by the cults of Osiris and Anubis.
A crop or whip used to ward off evil spirits.
This symbol represents a lamp or brazier on a stand from which a flame emerges. Fire was embodied in the sun and in its symbol the uraeus which spit fire. Fire also plays a part in the Egyptian concept of the underworld. There is one terrifying aspect of the underworld which is similar to the christians concept of hell. Most egyptians would like to avoid this place with its fiery lakes and rivers that are inhabited by fire demons.
Clay cones inserted above a tombs entrance with the name and title of the deceased.
Bread, beer, wine and other food items provided by mourners or magically, through inscriptions and pictures in the tomb.
A god that is sometimes pictured with the head of a goose. Geb was called 'the Great Cackler', and as such, was represented as a goose. It was in this form that he was said to have laid the egg from which the sun was hatched. He was believed to have been the third divine king of earth. The royal throne of Egypt was known as the 'throne of Geb' in honor of his great reign.
The god of the Nile, particularly the inundation. He is pictured as a bearded man coloured blue or green, with female breasts, indicating his powers of nourishment. As god of the Northern Nile he wears papyrus plants on his head, and as god of the southern Nile he wears lotus plants.
Hathor was the goddess of joy, motherhood, and love. Hathor was originally worshipped in the form of a cow, sometimes as a cow with stars on her. Later she is represented as a woman with the head of a cow, and finally with a human head, the face broad and placid, sometimes she is depicted with the ears or horns of a cow.
A white crown. This was the crown of Upper Egypt (southern).
One of three varieties of Egyptian sphinx, having the head of a hawk.
From the Greek word meaning 'sacred,' Although this form of the written language was used throughout Egyptian history, it's name comes from the later periods when it was used only in religious texts.
The Egyptian picture language. From the Greek word meaning 'sacred carving'. The symbols are individual pictures that do not join together.
The head of the local priesthood.
A falcon headed god. Horus was so important to the state religion that Pharaohs were considered his human manifestation and even took on the name Horus.
A king's name. It identifies the king with a form of the god Horus.
From the Greek word meaning; 'bearing pillars'. It is a term used to describe the grand, outermost halls. They are believed to represent a grove of trees.
The tent of purification. This is the place where mummification was preformed.
This is the heart. The Egyptians believed the heart was the center of all consciousness, even the center of life itself. When someone died it was said that their 'heart had departed.' It was the only organ that was not removed from the body during mummification. In the Book of the dead, it was the heart that was weighed against the feather of Maat to see if an individual was worthy of joining Osiris in the afterlife.
Isis was a great enchantress, the goddess of magic. She is often represented as a woman wearing on her head the hieroglyphic symbol of her name, which represents a throne or seat.
From the Greek word meaning; 'with erect penis'. Various gods are represented in this form. Most notably Min and Amun.
The ka is usually translated as 'double', it represents a person's double. It is what we would call a spirit or a soul. The ka was created at the same time as the physical body. It was believed that the ram-headed god Khnum crafted the ka on his potter's wheel at the time of a persons birth. A persons ka would live on after their body had died. It was thought that when someone died they 'met their ka'. The ka existed in the physical world and resided in the tomb (House of the Ka). It had the same needs that the person had in life, which was to eat, drink, etc. The Egyptians left offerings of food, drink, and worldly possessions in tombs for the ka to use.
The blue crown was a ceremonial crown.
A scarab headed god. The Egyptians believed that Khepri pushed the sun across the sky in much the same fashion that a dung beetle (scarab) pushed a ball of dung across the ground.
This is a flame or fire. Fire was embodied in the sun and in its symbol the uraeus which spit fire. Fire also plays a part in the Egyptian concept of the underworld. There is one terrifying aspect of the underworld which is similar to the christians concept of hell. Most egyptians would like to avoid this place with its fiery lakes and rivers that are inhabited by fire demons.
A ram headed god. His name means to create. He was the creator of all things that are and all things that shall be. He created the gods and he fashioned mankind on a potters wheel.
A spiritual entity often mentioned in association with the ba. It was viewed as an entirely spiritual and absolutely immortal being.
Translates as 'One who bears the ritual book'. This priests function was to recite from the ritual texts.
A symbol of birth and dawn; it was thought to have been the cradle of the sun on the first morning of creation, rising from the primeval waters. The lotus was a common architectural motif, particularly used on capitals
The concept of order, truth, regularity and justice which was all important to the ancient Egyptians. It was the duty of the pharaohs to uphold maat.
See BIRTH HOUSE
The mythical mountain on which the sun set. The region of the western horizon. One of two mountains that held up the sky, the other being BAKHU. These peaks were guarded by the double lion god, AKER.
The Arabic word meaning; 'bench'. Used to describe tombs of the Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom. The basic form resembled a bench.
A protective amulet invoking the divine favor. It was usually worn on a string of beads at the back of the neck, probably as a counterpoise to items of jewelry worn in front. Many of these amulets have been found in tombs. They were supposed to bring fertility to women and virility to men.
A scribes pallet. Writing was a very important skill to the ancient Egyptians. It was practiced by a group called scribes. The writing equipment used by scribes consisted of a palette, which held black and red pigments, a water jar, and a pen. To be a scribe was a favorable position, even some kings and nobles are show proudly displaying scribe palettes.
In early times Min was a sky-god whose symbol was a thunderbolt. His title was Chief of Heaven. He was also seen as a rain god that promoted the fertility of nature, especially in the growing of grain.
Mistress Of The House
Housewife, title given to married ladies from the Middle Kingdom onwards.
pertaining to the burial of the dead.
People who provided funerary offerings for nourishment of the deceased.
Called the 'servant of the ka'. This was a Person who was appointed to bring daily offerings to a tomb.
From the Persian word; 'moumiya'. A preserved corpse by either natural or artificial means. Mummification involved thoroughly drying the body to remove the source of decay.
Mut was the divine mother goddess, the queen of all gods. She is portraied as a woman wearing a vulture headdress, with the double crown(Pshent) of upper and lower Egypt.
Shrine in which divine statues were kept, especially in temple sanctuaries. A small wooden naos was normally placed inside a monolithic one in hard stone; the latter are typical of the Late Period, and sometimes elaborately decorated. Also used as a term for temple sanctuary.
A naturally occurring salt used as a preservative and drying agent during mummification. It is a mixture of four salts that occur in varying proportions: sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and sodium sulfate.
This is the Egyptian word for gold, which was considered a divine metal, it was thought to be the flesh of the gods. Its polished surface was related to the brilliance of the sun. Gold was important to the afterlife as it represents aspects of immortality. By the New Kingdom, the royal burial chamber was called the 'House of Gold.'
The Greek word meaning; 'city of the dead' normally describes large and important burial areas that were in use for long periods.
A goddess of the hunt. She may have also been a war goddess. Neith was pictured as a woman wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt, holding a bow and crossed arrows. Her cult sign was a shield and crossed arrows.
A goddess portrayed as a vulture. Protectress of Upper Egypt.
A striped headcloth worn by Pharaohs.
A goddess, the twin sister of Osiris, Isis and Seth. She plays an important role in the Osiris legend. Her name means 'Lady of the House' it's thought to be referring to Osiris' Palace.
This seems to be the egyptian word for the forces that are god or a group of gods, although the exact meaning is unknown.
This translates as 'divine subterranean place'. A name for the land of the dead.
Staircase descending into the Nile and marked with levels above low water; used for measuring, and in some cases recording, inundation levels. The most famous are on Elephantine island and on Roda island in Cairo.
The chief official of a nome. In the late Old Kingdom, and early Middle Kingdom nomarchs gained their office as hereditary rulers. They governed their nomes more or less independently of any central authority. During periods of highly centralized government, nomes ceased to have much political importance.
From the Greek, nomos; this is an administrative province of Egypt. The nome system started in the Early Dynastic Period. During some periods, when there was a highly centralized government the nomes had little political importance.
A swirling watery chaos from which the cosmic order was produced. In the begining there was only Nu. See also the creation myths
Nut was originally a mother-goddess who had many children. The hieroglyph for her name, which she is often seen wearing on her head is a water pot, but it is also thought to represent a womb. As the sky goddess, she is shown stretching from horizon to horizon, touching only her fingertips and toes to the ground.
From the Greek word meaning; 'a spit'. It is a monumental tapering shaft usually made of pink granite. Capped with a pyramidion at the top. Obelisks are solar symbols similar in meaning to pyramids, they are associated with an ancient stone called BENBEN in Heliopolis. They were set in pairs, at the entrances of temples, and to some Old Kingdom tombs.