Friday, July 31, 2015

Complex ancient origins: Ishtar Astarte

Ishtar was a Babylonian/Akkadian goddess descended from the earlier Sumerian Inanna. She was famed in Assyria and Egypt as a war goddess whose battle steed was a lion. Pardoxically, she is also a fertility figure. The Ishtar Gate at Babylon (in Iraq), an enormous artistic masterpiece built by King Nebuchadnezzar II, was dedicated to the goddess and fellow deities Marduk and Adad.

Ishtar Gate repro from the foundry

Right image shows the Egyptian Astarte-Ishtar

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Image from Ancient Egyptian Gods

The worship of the cobra goddess Wadjet (aka Uto, Buto, Edjo) began in the predynastic period of Ancient Egypt. "The green one" came to personify Lower Egypt, as her crown shows. Wadjet was often seen with her Upper Egyptian sister Nekhbet, who watched over royal children, and later over children in general, as well as pregnant women. These "Two Ladies" represented a unified kingdom. Later they were combined into a single deity.

The Pyramid Text suggests that the first papyrus plant and swamp were created by Wadjet. The papyrus reed was the heraldic plant of Lower Egypt.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Image from philipcoppens

Thoth predated the sun god Ra in the Egyptian pantheon. As his cult grew, he morphed into the creator god.

One legend says that in the shape of an ibis, he laid an egg and hatched Ra. Another has it that Thoth used the power of language to create himself -- an earlier version of the biblical statement that "In the beginning was the word." (John 1:1)

Thoth was the keeper of knowledge and the god of writing. He knew the number of the stars and was the author of important religious texts including The Book of the Dead.

This ibis-headed god was also associated with the moon. Some images show him as an ape, or a dog-headed ape.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Image from egyptianmyths

Tefnut was the goddess of rain and moisture. Like Sekhmet, she has the head of a lioness. Strongly associated with sun and moon, she carries the sceptre of power and the ankh of life, and bears the solar disk on her head.

Tefnut took as a consort her dry brother Shu, and together they produced Geb and Nut, who represented earth and sky.

Legend says that Tefnut and Shu went into the waters of Nun, chaos, causing their father Ra to believe they were lost. The tears of joy he shed on their safe return were transformed into the first humans.

Another story has the leonine Tefnut rampaging into Nubia, depriving the land of all the needed moisture until she was reconciled with her father Ra.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tayet or Tait

Tayet image from goddessaday

Tayet, also called Tayer or Tait, was the ancient Egyptian goddess of weaving. She produced textiles for the embalming of the dead. She was also the weaver of the ceremonial curtain embroidered by Ptah and used in the purification tent,where embalming took place.  

Her name may come from the Lower Egyptian weaving town of Tayet.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Image of a man worshiping Taweret from wikispaces

Taweret, the Egyptian goddess of pregnancy, childbirth and maternity, has the head of a hippo, the body of a lion and the tail of a crocodile.

The combination of symbolic elements point to her demonic aspect, reminders that a mother can kill in defense of her young.

A friendly household goddess, Taweret achieved greater prominence when she was associated with the nursing of young pharaohs.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Image of Shu from wikimedia

Shu, the god of space and light, is seen here with a crown of feathers. His name means dry or parched and his skin is red like the desert.

He had power over snakes, the clouds were his bones, and he held the ladder by which deceased souls ascended to heaven.

Shu was the father of Nut and Geb. The image below shows him supporting his sky daughter over his head while his earthbound son lies below.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Image from themanynamesofgod

The worship of the animal-headed Set dates back to the Predynastic Period of ancient Egypt. The son of Nut and Geb, Seth was the brother of Horus, Nephthys, Isis and Osiris, with whom he played out dramatic scenes of sibling rivalry over their sister Isis and the throne.

The third son of the union of Geb and Nut, Set was the lord of evil. Jealous of his eldest brother Osiris, the beloved ruler of the land, he tricked him into lying in a beautiful chest he'd had made, and then with 72 co-conspirators, sealed it and threw it into the Nile. Soon after, a tamarisk tree sprouted from it.

According to custom, Osiris had married his sister Isis. She knew of Set's wickedness and jealousy. Suspecting foul play, she put her baby Horus in the care of the cobra goddess Buto/Wadjet and set out to look for the body of her husband. He needed a proper burial to reach the underworld.

After long travels, and with the help of Queen Astarte (Ishtar) of Byblos, she found him. Though Isis hid her husband's coffin in the reeds of the Nile delta, Set was on a boar hunt, and by luck, spotted and recognized the chest he had used to murder his brother. Enraged, he tore it open and wrenched the body of Osiris into fourteen pieces.

At this point, Nephthys, who had been Set's consort, left him to help her sister. In the guise of a jackal, her son Anubis assisted with the search. Slowly, Isis recovered and reassembled thirteen of the fourteen fragments of her husband's body. Using her magic, she created a replica of her husband's genitals, the missing piece that had been eaten by impious fishes, and re-formed his body ready for the burial rites.

Meanwhile, she had created shrines at the thirteen places where is body parts had been found, so his final resting place would remain uncertain and he couldn't be desecrated again.

After this, Osiris ruled in the underworld. He came often in visions to his growing son Horus, and told him he had to avenge his father's death by making war on Set. The last battle in this long war took place at the First Cataract, where Set transformed himself into a huge red hippopotamus. With one harpoon blow to the brain, Horus killed his evil Uncle Set.

At Edfu, the place of the battle, a temple was dedicated to Horus. Thereafter, the Egyptians buried their dead pharaohs beneath pyramids, where their bodies could not be disturbed.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Serapis or Asar-Hap

Image from Mythology Wiki

Introduced by Ptolemy I at Alexandra to help unify Greek and Egyptian ethnic groups within his realm, the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis was a composite. From his Greek ancestry, he absorbed attributes of Bacchus, god of wine, Askelpios, god of medicine, and various other gods.

On the Egyptian side, he owed something to Osiris, and something to the bull-god Apis, sacred to Memphis. Called Asar-Hap by Egyptians, his name was Hellenized as Serapis.

On his head, Serapis wears horns, sun disk and protective spitting cobra. he carries an ankh, symbol of life. The Greek version is a bearded man.

His centre of worship, the Serapium in Alexandra, remained sacred to him into the Roman period. Later the Emperor Theodosius destroyed it. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Image of Sekhmet from Ancient Origins

The lion-headed Sekhmet was one of the oldest members of the ancient Egyptian pantheon. Associated with power and might, she was depicted sometimes with the solar disk on her head, and carried an ankh or a papyrus sceptre. At Memphis, her cult centre, she was perceived as thr destroyer, and worshiped along with Ptah, her consort the creator, and the healer Nefertum. 

Image left from ancientegyptonline 

Image right from sangraal

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Image from EgyptAaron

Ra-Horakhty combined the concepts of two gods, as often happened over Egypt's long ancient history.

The Ra aspect was the Sun god, and Horus was the god of sunrise and sunset, "Horus of the two horizons."

As shown in the picture, the falcon headed god carries and ankh and wears the solar disk and/or the double crown to represent Upper and Lower Egypt.

The royal cobra, Uraeus, is another of his symbols. Sometimes he was depicted as a crocodile with a falcon's head.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ra or Re

Image of Ra from Ancient Egypt online.

As a crown, sun god Ra (aka Re)  had the body of a human, the head of a falcon, and a bright sun disk wrapped round by the snake Uraeus, protector of the royal person. The spitting cobra also carried  destruction.

Ra was a powerful god who created everything. Pharaohs liked to associate themselves with him, implying that they too had "solar" power.

The Sun God was a symbol of great importance all over ancient Egypt. His worshipers believed he was swallowed nightly by the nocturnal Nut, and then reborn each morning. Under cover of darkness, Ra's appearance was different. He was thought to travel through the underworld in he guise of a ram's head. This signified his association with the underworld version of Osiris, who ruled over the dead.

As well as the all important sun and snake, Ra carries a flail and an ankh.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Image of Ptah from

Ptah, the god of craftsmen and architects, was worshipped at Memphis. His symbols were architectural: plumb-line, level, transit and bricks. A creator god, Ptah (or Ptha) represented the sun as it rose above the horizon, and he also symbolized wisdom. He carved the bodies occupied by souls in the afterlife. His words initiated the world, a concept expressed in the biblical idea "In the beginning was the word, and the word was God."

In appearance Ptah resembled a seated mummy, bearded and carrying an ankh. His wife was the Lioness Sekhmet, and his adopted son Imhotep, architect of the first pyramids. Ptah's prominence can be inferred from this: the word Egypt derives from the words for Temple of Ptah.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Image of Osiris from Nefertari's tomb, wikimedia

With green skin showing he is dead, Osiris is seen here on the tomb of Nefertari. The firstborn of earth god Geb and sky goddess Nut, he was so prominent and popular that ancient Egyptians sometimes simply called him God.

Osiris married his sister Isis -- marriage between siblings was common practice among Egyptian gods, as it was for the Greek gods of Olympus. He was killed by his scheming brother Set who then usurped the throne.

Presiding in the afterlife, he judged dead souls for balance. But rather than simply awaiting his decision, aspirants tried to persuade him they merited the kingdom. Some used negative confession, listing bad deeds they hadn't done.

Osiris was resurrected twice after his double death, first after being sealed in a lead coffin and thrown in the Nile, and then following his dismemberment, when his faithful wife Isis found his parts, put him back together and breathed life into him. The resurrection myth of Isis and Osiris is thought to represent the natural cycles of death and rebirth that the Egyptians witnessed annually.

This god is portrayed as a mummified king. He wears a ceremonial curled beard and the white crown of Ancient Egypt, with or without the addition of feathers on both sides. He carries a flail and crozier.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Image from Ancient Egypt online

Sky goddess Nut, daughter of Shu and Tefnut, was the mother of Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys. Having borne such important deities, she was revered as a symbol of regeneration. Her brother and consort was Geb, god of the earth.

Represented by the sky, stars and sycamore, she was also depicted sitting, water pot on her head. Here we see her stretched across the sky, arms and legs the pillars on which it rests.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Image from Egyptian Myths

Nun or Nu, as he was sometimes called, represented the primordial waters, a limitless expanse that implied a cycle of destruction and recreation. He symbolized chaos, dark, boundless and turbulent. Nun was also the source of the Nile's annual flooding.

Depicted as a watery man with female breasts representing fertility, he carried a palm frond and wore one another in his headband. With related deities, he was revered at Hermopolis.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Image from Egyptian Myths

The sister of Isis and Osiris, and the sister-wife of Seth, Nephthys was the ancient Egyptian protector goddess of the dead. On her head she wears the hieroglyph representing her name, sometimes on top of a pair of horns. In her hands she often carries the ankh and a staff or rod of papyrus. Her name is associated with crows, kites, skulls and bones.

Nephthys was involved in the death-dismemberment-regeneration myth of Isis and Osiris. Either by disguising herself as Isis, or by getting her brother-in-law drunk, she seduced him, and bore her son Anubis. This caused the jealous Seth to seek out Osiris to kill and and dismember him.

Though Nephthys had seduced Osiris, she was also a loyal sister who helped Isis locate and reconstitute the body of her beloved, so he could enter the underworld and reign there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Image from ancient egypt

In the mythology of ancient Egypt, the goddess Ma'at, daughter of sun god Ra and air goddess Shu, married the moon god Thoth. She represented balance, order, law, justice and truth. The hieroglyph of her name means straight, or that which is straight.

Winged like Isis, Ma'at (also called Maat or Mayet) may carry the life sign of the ankh as well as a sceptre. She wears an ostrich feather in her headdress.

Since it was her duty to judge truth at the trial of the dead, the feather may symbolize the fine judgments expected of this important figure. Her devotion to order and balance stood in opposition to the forces of chaos.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Image from mysteries in stone

Khnum or Khnemu was the Ancient Egyptian god with the head of a ram. This god was associated with the flooding of the Nile, and he also used mud from the river and straw to mould human children on his potter's wheel, then infused them with Ka, or spirit.

Khnum was a god of water, fertility and procreation, and the patron of potters. His duties included protecting the primary sun god Ra on his solar barque, and also protecting the Dead.

Essential early duties of this god were the guardianship of the source of the River Nile. Later he morphed into a helper of the river god Hapi and the controller of the silt so that the right amount was present during and after the annual inundation.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Image from dreamstime

Khepri, "He who is coming into being," was the god associated with the scarab or dung beetle. He symbolized the rising sun that crossed the sky, denoting rebirth and transformation.

The antennae of the scarab resembled horns, and the ball of dung that appeared between them as the insect pushed suggested the solar disk which appears between horns on the heads of ancient Egyptian deities.

Khepri appeared in various forms. He was sometimes a man with a scarab head, as seen above. Other images show a man with a scarab crown. Sometimes he was depicted as the beetle itself. Alternative spellings of his name include Chepri, Kheper, Khepera and Khephir.

The scarab image was widely used for amulets. Indeed, I learned the word scarab when I was a teenager and my Aunt Leona brought me back a souvenir scarab following a visit to Cairo.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Image from wikimedia

Near the first cataract of the Nile River, on an island called Philae, the "Jewel of the Nile," a temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis. The headdress of this winged goddess is a throne the hieroglyphic symbol for her name. The sister/wife of Osiris and mother of Horus, the worship of this mother goddess dates spread from Egypt to the Greeks and Romans. Even today, there may be those who worship her.

Isis the winged one is a grieving wife who in the regeneration myth, finds and reassembles her murdered and dismembered husband. She flaps her wings up and down above his body and restores him to life by filling his nose and mouth with air. After this trauma, she conceives Horus.

This goddess is associated with magic and enchantment. She and Thoth were believed to have taught humans the secrets of medicine and embalming. Isis spreads her wings to protect the deceased, and thus, her image is frequently found on the feet of coffins. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Horus and the eye of Horus

Image of Horus from Ancient Egypt Mythology

Horus is the Greek name of the Egyptian falcon god, called in Egypt Hor, Har or Heru. As the image suggests, he was originally a sky god, but also a war god.

Falcons were worshipped in early Egypt and early on, Egyptian Pharaohs allied themselves with the symbolism of Horus.

The all-seeing Eye of Horus was a powerful symbol for ancient Egyptians. It was used as an amulet and believed to have healing powers. Horus had a white and a black eye, representing the sun and moon respectively. These concepts of the eye's virtues arose out of a complex mythology that involved other gods like Osiris and Thoth.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Image from Swarthmore

In this image from Queen Nefertari's tomb, sky goddess Hathor wears her cow horns supporting the sun disk. This deity is sometimes seen leading a cow. Early versions of this goddess were associated with the Milky Way, which was perceived as an outpouring of milk from the heavenly cow.

The Great One of Many Names, Hathor, was worshipped from the early days of ancient Egypt. In the valley temple at Giza, she appears as the representative of Upper Egypt along with Bastet/Bast, who represents Lower Egypt.

Her epithets included Lady of Stars, Mistress of Heaven and Celestial Nurse. Her great importance merited both priests and priestesses. The image shows her preparing the queen for the underworld.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Mirror image of Hapy from

Though the Nile had other guardian gods, it was Hapy, the "Lord of the Fishes and Birds of the Marshes," who held the  all-important job of controlling the flow of the river.

He was a powerful deity; yet he had no temple, as far as we know. This patron of Lower and Upper Egypt had two names: Hap-Meht and Hap-Reset.

The mirror image shows his dual nature, and the blue colour symbolizes the water so important to him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Image of Geb with goose on his head from landofpyramids

Geb, also known as Seb or Keb, was an earth god, grandson of Atum and child of Shu, god of the air, and Tefnut, goddess of moisture. He was one of the original deities.

During the Ptolemaic period, he was associated with the pre-Olympian Titan Greek god of time, Kronos.

During the pre-dynastic period, Geb was worshipped as a goose. God though he was, he had some of the female attributes usually associated with earth deities. As the "Great Cackler," he laid an egg, the symbol of rebirth and renewal.

Monday, July 6, 2015


Image of Bes from ancient egypt

Symbolized by lions, knives, bells, drums, and rattle, this unattractive little god was the protector of childbirth, who entertained the newborn baby. He was worshipped in Abydos, gateway to the underworld.

A member of the Fool-Shaman brotherhood, Bes resembles the other Egyptian deities not at all. The most startling difference is that he is never shown in profile, but always face on. Egyptians often kept his ugly image at their door to frighten away mischievous spirits.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Image of Bast or Bastet from wikipedia

Bastet or Bast, the cat goddess, was one of the most popular of ancient Egypt. She was associated with the sun, the moon, and fertility.

Though we often see images of Bast with the head of a domestic cat, in the beginning, she had a lion's head, or that of a desert sand-cat. As well as being fierce, Bastet was considered to be cunning. Yet she was graceful, playful, and affectionate too. 

Her cult, from the Late Period, was located in Bubastis (Tel Basta), on the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt. Once a capital, the city once commanded by this sensual deity now lies in ruins.

Cats were sacred to Bast, and Ancient Egyptians were careful not to harm them.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Atum the creator god of Heliopolis

Image from wikimedia

Atum, whose name translates as the All, or Perfection, was a creator god of the ancient Egyptians. His cult at Heliopolis (city of the sun) dates back to the Old Kingdom. This was the age of pyramid building. It ended around 4000 years ago.

Atum was the father of feather-headed god Shu and the goddess Tefnut, who became the mother of Nut and grandmother of Isis, Osiris, Nephthys and Set. Atum's symbols include the ape, bull, mongoose and snake.

He was also associated with the sun, especially the dying sun of evening. This symbolized his attribute of daily and rebirth.

Atum was revered in the funerary cult, as Ancient Egyptians hoped to emulate his ability to regenerate after death.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Amun-Ra, Egyptian god of the air

In this image from Ancient Egypt, Amun-Ra is seen on his throne, wearing his hat with its decoration of ostrich plumes.

The King of the Egyptian pantheon in Upper Egypt, Amun is believed to have existed in the imagination of his ancient people from the inception of their religion.

He was a supreme creator, the god of fertility and life, and was called by many names including Am, Amen, Amoun, and Amon. In neighbouring cultures, the Greeks equated him to Zeus and the Romans to Jupiter. He was also worshipped in Nubia.

Patron saint of the city of Thebes/Karnak, he was responsible for all life, and was father of the Pharaohs. Over time he was combined with the Ra deity, becoming Amun-Ra.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Aten, Egyptian sun god

This representation of the Egyptian sun god shows the rays with stylized hands. The solar disk has a symbolic feather and the Egyptian symbol of the ankh appears at the bottom.

Aten or Aton represented both the spirit or god of the sun and the actual solar disk. The god Ra (or Re) was thought to dwell in the disk of the sun. For a time, under the Pharaoh Akhenaton, the sun god reigned supreme. This king built a city named for himself, now el-Amarna.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Anubis, Egyptian god of the dead

Right: Anubis weighing the heart of the deceased from ancient egypt

His Greek name was Anubis; in Egyptian he was known as Yinepu or Anpu. In early Egypt, he was the god of the dead. Later, as the jackal-headed god of mummification, he officiated at the rites that ancient Egyptians believed made it possible for souls to enter the underworld. According to legend, this role came about when he discovered a way to embalm the dismembered Osiris, so he could live once more.

The symbols of Anubis included a flail, embalming equipment and  an ox-hide suspended from a pole. His cult centre was Heliopolis.