Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Choosing Gods

The question often arises how an individual Egyptian might know which of the hundreds of gods and goddesses were important for their personal practice? There is a formula that can be pulled out of the society of Ancient Egypt to allow us to discuss this topic.

First, all Egyptians and all those who lived in Egypt but may have been of another faith were required to respect the patron god of Egypt. This respect, at the very least, was attendance to the country-wide festivities. For most of Egyptian history the patron of Egypt was some form of Ra: Amun, Atum, Khepera, Amun-Ra, Atum-Ra and so on.

Next, each nome had a patron god or goddess. Nomes are something like a state or district or providence along the Nile river. Each nome had, more or less, one major city. Nome is the Greek word for the areas in Egyptian it would have been sepat. The 42 Nomes can be read about here. This is a fairly good link for the information though I admit I haven't double checked all the names on this site with my own research. (These sites #1 and #2 are also pretty good) I should also mention that 42 is a reoccurring number in Egypt.. 42 nomes, 42 assessors, 42 Negative Confessions and there are others. Anyway, I have digressed. Each nome had a patron deity or sometimes a couple of deities. All Egyptians living in a nome would follow that nome's deities.

Some of the Nome standards from Kom Ombo.

Then, each city had a patron or a triad. The triad was more common and would contain a male, female and child in most of what I have read. Examples would be Osiris, Isis and Horus or Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertum or Thoth, Ma'at and Seshet. Some cities had many deities such as the worship of the Ogdoad in Hermopolis, which was a set of 8 primordial deities.

Finally, an individual would have their personal deities. These would be home and hearth type deities or those deities who oversaw the individual's job or duties. For example, if we imagine a metalsmith with a pregnant wife we might imagine he would worship Ptah, god of craftsman, Bes, who protects families, and perhaps Tuaret or Hathor who both protect pregnant women and their children. While an Egyptian could have images and fetishes for any deity it was most often the personal deities which were home statues or amulets that the everyday Egyptian might wear.

Of course an individual could have more deities than this but this was the normal structure of what an Egyptian might have in their personal worship.

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