Ancient Egyptian Religion Overview

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Ancient Egyptian Religion Overview:

~ The religion of Ancient Egypt lasted for more than 3,000 years, and was polytheistic, meaning there were a multitude of deities, who were believed to reside within and control the forces of nature.

~ Formal religious practice centered on the pharaoh, or ruler, of Egypt, who was believed to be divine, and acted as intermediary between the people and the gods. His role was to sustain the gods so that they could maintain order in the universe.

~ The Egyptian universe centered on Ma’at, which has several meanings in English, including truth, justice and order. It was fixed and eternal; without it the world would fall apart.

~ The most important myth was of Osiris and Isis. The divine ruler Osiris was murdered by Set (god of chaos), then resurrected by his sister and wife Isis to conceive an heir, Horus. Osiris then became the ruler of the dead, while Horus eventually avenged his father and became king.

~ Egyptians were very concerned about the fate of their souls after death. They believed ka (life-force) left the body upon death and needed to be fed. Ba, or personal spirituality, remained in the body. The goal was to unite ka and ba to create akh.

~ Artistic depictions of gods were not literal representations, as their true nature was considered mysterious. However, symbolic imagery was used to indicate this nature.

~ Temples were the state’s method of sustaining the gods, since their physical images were housed and cared for; temples were not a place for the average person to worship.

Certain animals were worshipped and mummified as representatives of gods.

~ Oracles were used by all classes.

The Sun’s Reverence of Ramses II

For almost the entire year, the inner sanctum of the main temple at Abu Simbel lies in darkness. On two days though, the anniversary of the birthday and the coronation of pharaoh Ramses II, a shaft of sunlight illuminates statues of gods and the king in the temple’s inner sanctum.

On February 22, a day celebrating the pharaoh’s birth and again on October 22, a day commemorating his coronation, sunlight illuminates seated statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of Pharaoh Ramses II. The statues sit in the company of the God of darkness, Ptah (who remains in the shadows).

The biannual phenomenon, which has endured more than 3,200 years of Egyptian history draws thousands of tourists to Abu Simbel to watch this ancient tribute to a pharaoh whose name is still known up and down the Nile Valley for his military exploits and monumental building projects.

Cosmetic Spoon

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A cosmetics container made around 1300 BC in Ancient Egypt:

“Tusk cosmetic spoon: in the form of a duck, which turns her head to offer a fish to the two ducklings which ride on her back. The duck’s eyes were carved to hold inlays, now lost. The closed wings form the lid of the spoon and swivel to either side so that the bowl hollowed from the bird’s body might be used to receive a scented fat or oil. In order to stabilize the lid when closed, a knob is set at its end, around which a cord could be tied to join it with a corresponding knob at the very back of the duck’s body.”
~ The British Museum

1350BC – 1300BC (circa)

King Tutankhamun’s Tomb

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Various items found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb including his funerary bed and sarcophagus:

Tutankhamun (also known as Tutankhamen ruled c. 1332–1323 BC) is the most famous and instantly recognizable Pharaoh in the modern world. His golden sarcophagus is now a symbol almost synonymous with Egypt. His name means `living image of the god Amun’. He was born in the year 11 of the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (better known as Akhenaten) c. 1345 BCE and died, some claim mysteriously, in 1327 BCE at the age of 17 or 18. He became the celebrity pharaoh he is today in 1922 CE when the archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his almost-intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings. While it was initially thought that Tutankhamun was a minor ruler, whose reign was of little consequence, opinion has changed as further evidence has come to light. Today Tutankhamun is recognized as an important pharaoh who returned order to a land left in chaos by his father’s political-religious reforms and who would no doubt have made further impressive contributions to Egypt’s history if not for his early death.

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Asbusas (Ancient Egyptian Cookies)

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Abusas are an ancient Egyptian cookie:

2 lbs semolina (this is cream of wheat)
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 pound butter
16 ounces of plain yogurt
slivered almond halves

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and semolina (cream of wheat). Rub the butter into this mixture by hand until very well blended. Add the yogurt and mix with your hands until the dough feels smooth. If it feels dry add one tablespoon of water at a time until a firm dough forms.

Butter a 13x9x2 inch pan and pat the dough into the pan. With a sharp knife slice the dough in 2 x 2 inch squares. Press one almond half onto the surface of each piece. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Falafel (Ta’amia)

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Ta’amia was very popular with the Ancient Egyptians and continues to be popular in the middle east today. It was made with fava beans, but these can be substituted with chickpeas to make the well known version of Ta’amia known as falafel.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fava beans or chickpeas soaked overnight and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • A pinch of salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Sesame seeds to coat the cakes
  • Olive oil for frying

Preparation

  1. Ensure the beans are soft and remove their skins. Mix the beans together with all of the ingredients except the oil and sesame seeds and either mash or blend them in a food processor until you have a thick paste.
  2. Set the paste aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to set.
  3. Knead the mixture and form into small round cakes about 2cm thick.
  4. Sprinkle each side of the cakes with sesame seeds and shallow fry in hot olive oil for two to three minutes until golden brown.
  5. Serve with flat bread and lettuce tossed in olive oil, lemon juice and pepper. Alternatively you can also serve with a tahini dip.