11 Most Popular Myths in Ancient Egypt

The mythology of Ancient Egypt is quite diverse and interesting, and we have come to enjoy it in various depictions even today. Below you can find a list of 11 most popular tales about Egyptian gods and goddesses worshipped by the ancient civilization.
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The Myth of Creation, or the Story of Re

The sun rises from the mound of creation at the beginning of time. The central circle represents the mound, and the three orange circles are the sun in different stages of its rising.

The sun rises from the mound of creation at the beginning of time. The central circle represents the mound, and the three orange circles are the sun in different stages of its rising. Credits: Wikimedia

Egyptian myth of creation is the story of Re, initially an egg, who named all the living beings, mankind being the last on the list. When he was done, he turned into a man and served as the first Pharaoh for years, until people began to make fun of him because he was getting old. But then Isis intervened and everything was well again. Speaking of Isis…

Osiris and Isis

Statues of Osiris and of Isis nursing the infant Horus

Statues of Osiris and of Isis nursing the infant Horus, Credits: Wikimedia

Osiris was the son of Re who married Isis and became a sole ruler of Egypt after Re. Everyone loved him, except his brother Set. Set tricked Osiris and killed him, leaving poor Isis devastated. However, she managed to put his body back together with magic and embalmed and buried him.

The embalming Isis has used on Osiris’ body is the reason the Egyptians embalmed their dead, so that their souls would return to the earth when Osiris’ son Horus avenges his father.

The Battle of Horus and Set

Horus, (Louvre Museum), Shen rings in his grasp

Horus, (Louvre Museum), Shen rings in his grasp, Credits: Wikimedia

The rest of Osiris’ story focuses on his son Horus, magically conceived after Isis embalmed Osiris’ body. While Osiris was dead, Set ruled Egypt until Horus challenged him. The battle involved appealing to various other deities, various contests, shape-shifting and even sexual encounters between the two. The conflict was never resolved, however, and the story sets the tone for the duality, prominent in the Egyptian mythology.

Anubis and the Underworld

Anubis Shrine, part of the grave goods of Tutankhamun

Anubis Shrine, part of the grave goods of Tutankhamun, Credits: Wikimedia

Osiris’ other son from his other sister, Nephthys, was Anubis, a man with the head of a jackal who served as guardian of the underworld. After a man died, Anubis took his soul down to the afterlife and witnessed the “The Weighting of the Heart” ceremony, during which the heart was weighted on the Scales of Truth against the feather of Ma’at, goddess of truth. If the heart weighed less, the soul was allowed to enter the underworld, but if it was heavy, the demon Ammit would devour it and the person would “die a second time”.

Ra, or the Sun

Ra, god of the sun

Ra, god of the sun, Credits: Wikimedia

Ra,or Amun-Ra,was the god of sun. Sun was associated with fire, so the Egyptians believed that Ra travelled in a boat every day. Every morning, Ra had to fight Apep – the personification of darkness depicted as a crocodile, before Ra could rise from the east. Egyptians believed that storms occurred on the days Ra lost the fight, and eclipses were the result of Apepswallowing Ra’s boat.

Bastet and Cats

Bastet, a feline goddess of ancient Egyptian, Neues Museum, Berlin

Bastet, a feline goddess of ancient Egyptian, Neues Museum, Berlin, via Flickr By Carole Raddato

Bastet, depicted as a woman with a cat’s head, is the reason people believe that Egyptians worshipped cats. They were indeed held in a high regard because they could catch rats and mice that threatened the food. Bastet was the goddess of home and patroness of women. Domestic cats were believed to be docile but everyone knew that felines could be ferocious, which is why Bastet was believed to have two personalities.

The Great Queen Hatshepsut

Osirian statue of Hatshepsut - Temple of Hatshepsut

Osirian statue of Hatshepsut – Temple of Hatshepsut, Credits: Wikimedia

Hatshepsut was prophesized by Thoth to be the first female Pharaoh of Egypt.Ra is believed to have wished for a female Pharaoh to unite the world, and Thoth predicted that the only person capable of doing such a thing was the child of Pharaoh Thutmose I and maiden Ahmes. However, Thutmose has passed away before Hatshepsut was conceived, so Ra took his form and visited Ahmes, impregnating her by his divine breath.

Sphinx and the Prince

The Sphinx at The Pyramid of Khafre

The Sphinx at The Pyramid of Khafre, Credits: Wikimedia

Hatshepsut’s great-grandson Thutmose was a favourite child and as a result, everyone plotted against him. Angry and determined to prove himself, he escaped the court and rode across the desert until he faced the sphinx built for Pharaoh Khafra, who turned out to be his father. He predicted that Thutmose would be a great Pharaoh, but he first must free him from the sand. Thutmose made the promise to do so as soon as he became Pharaoh, and became Pharaoh he did – one of the greatest Egyptian Kings to ever rule.

Book of Thoth

god Thoth

god Thoth, via landofpyramids.org

The Book of Thoth is believed to be a book containing all the knowledge possessed by gods, lying at the bottom of the Nile, locked in a series of boxes guarded by serpents. Many Pharaohs have tried to obtain it over the years, but the knowledge contained was never meant to be possessed by humans.

Khonsu, or the Moon

Egyptian Statue of a Standing Khonsu

Egyptian Statue of a Standing Khonsu, Credits: Wikimedia

Khonsu is the god of moon, who marks the passage of time with Thoth. His name means “traveler” – Egyptians believed that the Moon travelled across the sky. The Egyptians believed that when the crescent moon shone, women conceived, and Khonsu was therefore also associated with childbirth. He was depicted as a man with the head of hawk wearing a lunar disk.

Girl with Rose-Red Slippers

From "THE EGYPTIAN CINDERELLA" Egyptian Children's book

From “THE EGYPTIAN CINDERELLA” Egyptian Children’s book, via etsy.com

This is probably the world’s first ever Cinderella story. The protagonist is a Greek girl called Rhodopis, sold into slavery in Egypt. A kind man buys her and gives her a lot of gifts and a nice house to live in. One day, an eagle steals one of her rose-red slippers and brings it to Pharaoh Amasis. Well, you know how the story goes – they lived happily ever after and died on the same day.

 

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