#01 Sources of Egyptian Mythology

December 24, 2018

#01 Sources of Egyptian Mythology

Egyptian myths are the basis of ancient tradition, but also address profound questions about the nature of disorder and the fate of the Universe. Egyptian deities represent both physical objects like the earth and Sun, and more abstract forces such as knowledge and creativity. Actions of the Gods, along with their own interactions control all of forces and elements.

Most of Egypt's gods, do not feature strongly in written mythology. However, their nature and relationships with other deities are often established in lists or short statements. When Egyptian gods are included, the narratives point out their important role in the cosmos. Although mythology is a major element in Egyptian religious understanding, it is not as important as other cultures. Egyptian myths sometimes use symbolism to help us understand life in this realm.

Few complete stories appear in the sources for Egyptian mythological and are often contain portions of a larger story. Their importance lies in their meaning, rather than their value as stories. Egyptian stories were also very flexible and often conflict with another. One suggested reason for this is that religious ideas differed over time and between regions. There were lots of local cults based around patron gods. Instead of lengthy, fixed narratives, Egyptian mythology is both flexible and avoids dogma. Only a small proportion of material has survived to the present, and not equally abundant in all periods, so beliefs in some eras is more poorly understood than others. 

This is a list of available sources for Egyptian mythology: -

  •  Artwork from the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt's history (c. 3100–2686 BC)
  • The Pyramid Texts is a collection of several hundred incantations inscribed in the interiors of pyramids from the 24th century BC. These are funerary texts to ensure kings buried in the pyramid would pass through to the afterlife. Many of these texts are much older than their first known written copies, and provide details of the early stages of Egyptian religious belief.
  • The Coffin Texts from the First Intermediate Period (c. 2181–2055 BC), which contain similar material to The Pyramid Texts and also available to non-royals.
  • Book of the Dead is a funerary text used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (c. 1550 BC) up to c. 50 BC.
  • Books of Breathing from the Late Period (664–323 BC) were developed out of earlier collections.
  • Texts such as the Amduat, the Book of Gates, and the Book of Caverns from The New Kingdom contain detailed descriptions of the journey of the sun god.
  • Temple remains which mostly date from the New Kingdom and later, contain libraries, storing papyri of both hymns (which often refer to myths) and religious rituals. The decorated temples themselves also a rich source of myth.
  • Greek and Roman writings by Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch and others. Their knowledge was limited because they were forbidden from many religious practices. Also, statements about Egyptian beliefs were affected by their own bias against Egypt's culture.

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