Since the 4th millennium BC In ancient Egypt religious ideas become tangible in which initially divine powers in the form of animals and fetishes, since around 3000 BC. Also encounter in human form. The old animal aspect is retained as an attribute and is preferably put in place of the head; This is how the typical hybrid creatures of human body and animal head emerge, such as the falcon-headed Horus, the ram-headed Amun, the lion-headed Sachmet. The abundance of deities is often classified into three units (triads) and nine units; a real main god is missing in the older times, even if the sun god Re has had a privileged position since the 4th dynasty and later connects with Amun to form the “imperial god” Amun-Re. Only Amenhotep IV./Echnaton tried to enforce the sole worship of a god (Aton) and no longer to represent him in human or animal form, but by an abstract symbol (sun with hands), but after his death polytheism prevailed again in a short time.
The creation of the world was thought of as the unfolding of a differentiated multiplicity from an initial unity, for which the god Atum stands; from it emerge first the first pair of gods (Shu and Tefnut) and finally the unity of the gods of Heliopolis. Other ideas put water and darkness at the beginning, from which the primeval hill emerged as the basis of creation. The separation of heaven and earth by Schu creates the space that the light of the sun can fill and shape. The initial perfection of creation is lost through the aging of the sun god; people revolt and are partly destroyed by fire, the gods withdraw from earth to heaven (myth of the celestial cow).
According to estatelearning, the gods are also subject to old age and death in Egypt. Osiris, who was killed and dismembered by his brother Seth, embodies the fate of death in a particularly cruel form. But after death he begets with Isis Horus, who is embodied by the ruling Pharaoh.
Belief in the dead played a prominent role. The continuation of earthly life in the realm of the dead was made possible by means of huge grave structures that were erected since the Old Kingdom (pyramids, mastabas; later rock graves), the careful embalming of the dead (mummification) and rich grave goods. The Egyptian beyond encompassed heaven and underworld, whereby the accent shifted more and more to the underworld (Duat), which the sun god travels through every night in order to unite with Osiris and to awaken the dead to a new, rejuvenated existence through his light and his creative word. The body of the dead remains in the underworld, while their soul (Ba) can move freely and can also ascend to heaven with the sun. Through the union of body and ba, life can be renewed again and again.
Since the late Old Kingdom the idea of a general judgment of the dead has been proven, to which every deceased has to submit before Osiris or before the sun god Re; Here his actions and his disposition are checked for their conformity with the Maat, the correct order of the world. Therefore, in the detailed descriptions of the underworld (especially in the “Underworld books” of the New Kingdom), in addition to the happy lot of the blessed dead who are provided with everything they need, the various punishments of the damned are described. a. happens through fire and extends to the complete annihilation of their existence. From such a fate and from many other dangers in the hereafter one tried to protect oneself through ritual and magic spells, as they were v. a. in the Book of the Dead are put together. Through the power of the spoken and written word, the dead should be additionally secured and made independent of the continuation of the gifts and sacrifices; Magic spells guaranteed him protection, care, breathing air and free movement.
The spell also played an important role for the living in averting danger and achieving certain goals. Egyptian magic was held in high esteem among the peoples of antiquity; in the 20th century it was still reflected in the superstition of a “curse of the pharaohs”. The magic was often supported by objects charged with power (amulets), just as the temple cult used the symbolic meaning of certain objects.
Only in a later development towards “personal piety” did man come into direct and spontaneous contact with deities in order to express them through prayer and sacrifice, e.g. B. to call as an emergency helper. In the older days, people relied on the king as mediator, who through sacrifices and rituals gave mercy to the gods and guaranteed the right order in the world. In the temples only the king was represented before the gods; because the cult was state, the priests acted on behalf of the Pharaoh. Despite his divine origin, he was only worshiped as a god in exceptional cases. Since the gods were thought of in heaven or in the underworld, they were worshiped inside the temple in the form of their cult image, a statue made of precious material. At the big festivals the idol was carried into the courtyard of the temple and to other sanctuaries and was then not only accessible to the priests, but to all people; on such occasions oracle questions could also be submitted to him for decision.
With the dwindling of royal power, other mediators came to the fore in the late New Kingdom: deified “sages” and sacred animals. Thus, as a late form of the Egyptian religion, an animal cult emerged, which not only revered individual specimens (such as the Apis and other sacred bulls), but all animals of certain species as mediators between gods and humans, e.g. B. Cats, ibises, crocodiles, which after their death were mummified like humans and buried in cemeteries. In them, as living images, the distant, invisible deity stood before people’s eyes, as in their cult statues and in the divine king. In the late period, local traditions and peculiarities were also given greater weight; Greek influence led to the emergence of mystery cults v. Chr. a. about Isis, Osiris, Sarapis and Hermes Trismegistus, which were common throughout the Hellenistic world. Egyptian theological reflection has also influenced Christian theology.