The Places of Sun Worship in Ancient Egypt

The sun god Re, or Ra, was the predominant deity in ancient Egypt. The young sun god begins his dawn voyage in his boat over the ocean of heaven, is full-grown by the moment of the high-noon sun and sets in the west as an old man, the god Atum. By the time of the fifth dynasty, pharaohs were considered to be the divine, direct descendants of the sun god and they built cities and temples to emphasize their divinity.

Monotheism and Akehtaten

Egyptians were polytheistic, with Ra holding pride of place as the chief deity. But Amenhotep, royal consort of the legendary Nefertiti, belonged to a cult that believed the sun god created himself and then brought about the rest of creation and the other gods. Amenhotep embraced monotheism, smashed the idols of the other gods and regarded himself as a distinctive son of Ra, also known as Aten, the “Great Disc” of illumination. The pharaoh built a new capital, a city called Akhetaten, and changed his name to Akhenaten in honor of Ra. When he died, Tutankhamen, his successor, was faced with a catastrophic economic collapse and severe unrest, partly attributable to the suppressed traditional religion. King Tut restored the rest of the gods to their temples and to active worship and Akhetaten was abandoned, eventually buried under the desert sand.

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Ra

Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. He is the father of the gods and is usually depicted with the body of a human and the head of a falcon.

The ancient Egyptians revered Ra as the god who created everything. Also known as the Sun God, Ra was a powerful deity and a central god of the Egyptian pantheon. The ancient Egyptians worshiped Ra more than any other god and pharaohs often connected themselves with Ra in their efforts to be seen as the earthly embodiment of the Sun God.

Ra | The Sun God of Egypt

The ancient Egyptians revered Ra as the god who created everything. Also known as the Sun God, Ra was a powerful deity and a central god of the Egyptian pantheon. The ancient Egyptians worshiped Ra more than any other god and pharaohs often connected themselves with Ra in their efforts to be seen as the earthly embodiment of the Sun God.

Who is Ra?

Ra (pronounced ray) represents sunlight, warmth and growth. It was only natural that the ancient Egyptians would believe him to be the creator of the world, as well as part of him being represented in every other god. The ancient Egyptians believed that every god should illustrate some aspect of him, while Ra himself should also represent every god.

Ra’s Appearance

Ra was usually depicted in human form. He had a falcon head which is crowned with a sun disc. This sun disc was encircled by a sacred cobra named Uraeus. Ra has also been depicted as a man with the head of a beetle and also a human man with the head of a ram. The ancients also depicted Ra in full species form such as a serpent, heron, bull, lion, cat, ram, hawk, beetle, phoenix and others. His main symbol, however, is the sun disk.

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Ra

Ra (Re) was the primary name of the sun god of Ancient Egypt. He was often considered to be the King of the Gods and thus the patron of the pharaoh and one of the central gods of the Egyptian pantheon. He was also described as the creator of everything. Ra was so powerful and popular and his worship was so enduring that some modern commentators have argued that the Egyptian religion was in fact a form of veiled monotheism with Ra as the one god. This seems to be somewhat of an overstatement, but underlines his primary position within religious texts throughout Egyptian history.

It is sometimes proposed that the pyramids represent the rays of light extending from the sun and thus these great monuments connected the king with Ra. The Egyptians also built solar temples in honour of Ra. Unlike the standard type of Egyptian temple, these temples were open to the sunlight and did not feature a statue of the god because he was represented by the sunlight itself. Instead the temple centred on an obelisk and altar. The most significant early solar temple is thought to be the one erected in Heliopolis, sometimes known as “Benu-Phoenix”. Its location was thought to be the spot where Ra first emerged at the beginning of creation, and the city took its name (“Iwn”) from the word for a pillar.

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Bastet or Bast

Did You Know?
While there are many lion gods and cat goddesses in ancient Egyptian religion, Bastet is the only god or goddess represented as a domestic cat.
Considered as the goddess of warfare in Lower Egypt, ‘Bast’ was known as ‘Sekhmet’ in Upper Egypt, who was also a lioness deity of warfare. However, during the Third Intermediate Period and by the 22nd Dynasty or Bubastite Dynasty (945-715 BCE), this goddess began to be depicted with the head of a cat instead of a lioness. Additionally, she came to be known as ‘Bastet’ a powerful protector deity.
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Bastet or Bast

Bastet, or Bast, was a cat goddess and the patroness of pregnant women. She loved music and dance which made her festival at Bubastis one of the most popular festivals in Egypt. According to records, her festivals had as many as 700,000 attendees. The Egyptians regarded Bastet as the personification of the sun’s beneficial powers. Her depictions show her as either a woman with a cat’s head or as a cat and people mummified cats in her honor.

To read a general description of Bast and other important Ancient Egyptian deities lease click on the following link: Bastet

 

Ancient Egyptian Gods: Bast

Bast (known as “Bastet” in later times to emphasise that the “t” was to be pronounced) was one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt. She is generally thought of as a cat goddess. However, she originally had the head of a lion or a desert sand-cat and it was not until the New Kingdomthat she became exclusively associated with the domesticated cat. However, even then she remained true to her origins and retained her war-like aspect. She personified the playfulness, grace, affection, and cunning of a cat as well as the fierce power of a lioness. She was also worshiped all over Lower Egypt, but her cult was centred on her temple at Bubastis in the eighteenth nome of Lower Egypt (which is now in ruins). Bubastis was the capital of ancient Egypt for a time during the Late Period, and a number of pharaohs included the goddess in their throne names.

Her name could be translated as “Devouring Lady”. However, the phonetic elements “bas” are written with an oil jar (the “t” is the feminine ending) which is not used when writing the word “devour”. The oil jar gives an association with perfume which is strengthened by the fact that she was thought to be the mother of Nefertum (who was a god of perfume). Thus her name implies that she is sweet and precious, but that under the surface lay the heart of a predator. Bast was depicted as a cat, or as a woman with the head of a cat, a sand cat or a lion. She is often shown holding the ankh (representing the breath of life) or the papyrus wand (representing Lower Egypt). She occasionally bears a was-scepter (signifying strength) and is often accompanied by a litter of kittens.

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Set or Seth

Seth (aka Set, Setesh, Sutekh or Setekh) was the god of evil and darkness. He was the adversary of Horus and everything that was good. Except for the red crown, people regarded the color red as an evil color because of its connection to Set. He was associated with war and strength, storms and deserts

The Egyptian God Seth is also known as the god of chaos. According to popular Egyptian mythology it would certainly seem that he created plenty of mayhem. Scholars believe Seth’s cult was one of the oldest in Egypt. Some pharaohs honored him and used his name as part of theirs during certain periods.

Who was the God Seth?

The Egyptians’ concept of Seth changed over time. At first, the Egyptians saw Seth as a beneficial god. They believed he lived in the realm of the blessed dead. Seth was a god the Egyptians prayed to so he would help their dead family members.

After a time, the priests of Horus came into conflict with Seth’s adherents. Scholars believe Horus’ followers subjugated Seth’s. Then Seth’s role in the Pantheon changed. He became the polar opposite of Horus.

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