A Handbook of Egyptian Religion

By Adolf Erman; A. S. Griffith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II

RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS OF THE EARLY PERIOD

WE cannot here attempt to describe all the religious ceremonies, to discuss the various plans of the temple buildings, or to define the distinctions between the different orders of priests; the immense mass of material renders it impossible to do so. We must confine ourselves to a rapid review of some of the most important characteristics of the outward forms of the Egyptian religion.

When the Egyptian named his temple the house of the god, the name was a literal expression of his belief: the deity dwelt in the temple, as a man lives in his house, and the priests, the servants of the god, who supplied him with food and attendance, were his household servants. This appears also in the religious ceremonies, and perhaps in the arrangement of the temple buildings--although in historical times this belief can have been little more than an obsolete idea.

Each temple must originally have been dedicated to one single deity who was considered to be its lord, but owing to the natural anxiety to secure the favour of other gods for the city others were added as secondary deities, and in the greater temples their numbers steadily increased in the course of centuries. Two of these, a goddess and a god, were generally regarded as the wife and child of the principal deity. Thus Ptah of Memphis had Sekhmet for his consort, and Nefer-tem. for his son, and Amon had Mut assigned to him as wife, and the moon god Khons as his child. The goddesses had at least one child: thus Hathor of Denderah had the boy Ehi, and Buto a god Horus.

Of the temples of the earliest period, which, as we have already seen (p. 6), consisted merely of simple huts, nothing has of

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