Religious Evolution of Egypt
Whenever Egyptian history is taken into context, the one aspect that no historian falters from bringing forth is the religious history of Egypt. It is so rich, so full of culture and so adhering that no reader or listener would ever want to abandon this topic midway once they have started to explore the versatility and perspicacious of its history. Over time, the comprehensive and thorough studies by various historians have unveiled the fact that the Egyptians were stringently critical thinkers and remarkably analytic people.
Their religious history happens to be integral proof of how they have evolved with time. Like most agile and dextrous nations Egyptians also started with proposing various theories related to religion and any divine existence controlling the universe based on their understanding. As time went by Egyptians started to meticulously question, carefully research, and efficiently research the statics and facts presented by their ancestors. This led them to advance in their previous rationale hence enabling them to reach many precise and concise conclusions that evolved over the centuries derived through numerous disparate hypotheses to their now current approach.
Egyptian history has been mainly divided into three eras.
Pre-Dynastic period or Origin of the deities
Rule of various dynasties
1-Pre-Dynastic period or Origin of the deities
During this period, the Egyptians were devoted towards comprehend the laws of the universe. They were curious and inquisitive that how various matters and entities came into being inside our universe. They were dedicated to identifying and exploring that which objects govern, decide and control their working. How are various objects distinguished in our universe and who assigned them these roles? They also took a keen interest in natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, droughts, etc, and always wondered how the unison of these inanimate objects caused such rigorous impact with their occurrence.
This led to the belief that every dynamic and poignant natural phenomenon is conducted by some divine, supernatural beings. Eventually, the Egyptians halted that several Gods and Goddesses are influencing and dominating different aspects of nature. They also had a staunch belief in the afterlife. The strongly believed that whoever dies comes back strong in a more eternal state after the resurrection. They also stood by the belief that death is not the end of life but a gateway to another.
Their ardent and firm belief in the spirituality after the annihilation of existence is what paved the way towards the decipherment of supernatural beings who ordained over this universe and made sure that all of its basic and significant are operated painstakingly and effectively. This faith in spirituality made them feel connected to the earthly plane relentlessly.
Egyptians have said to have honored and worshipped nine primeval Gods and Goddesses of the Egyptian Ennead but there are many more divine supreme beings further affiliated with these nine prior most and exceeding ones. Here are enlisted some of the Gods and Goddesses which the Egyptians worshiped back in the day.
Nine primeval Egyptian Gods and Goddesses
AMUN-RA:- The God of air or the hidden One
MUT:- The Mother Goddess
OSIRIS: The King of the Living
ANUBIS: The Divine Embalmer
RA: God of the Sun and Radiance
HORUS: God of Vengeance
THOTH: God of Knowledge and Wisdom
HATHOR: Goddess of motherhood and fertility
GEB: God of Earth
Some other Gods and Goddesses
ISIS: Goddess who was the embodiment of love and motherhood
SETH: God of chaos and violence, the murderer of Orisis
PTAH: head of a triad of gods
SEKHMET: lion-headed Goddess who was the wife of Ptah
NEFERTEM: Son of Ptah and Sekhmet
BASTET: cat-headed Goddess
2- The Dynastic Period
The concept of different Gods and Goddesses governing the universe eventually tarnished with the advent of Christianity in Egypt. This began after the conquest of Alexander the Great in Egypt. After the long reign of King Pepy II came to an end resulting in major land divisions of most of the regions of Egypt on a political basis. The country was later reunited under the reign of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh dynasty. Furthermore, in the Persian period, Egypt was able to achieve 60 years of independence again after Amyrtaeus revolted successfully against the Achaemenid Empire which turned out to be the final period of Christianity in Egypt. The annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire was when Islam emerged in Egypt and is still currently being followed by the Egyptians up till today.
3- Islamic Period.
The period of Islamic history began in Egypt when the Roman Empire conquered it from the Persian dynasty to spread Islam as the only true religion there making them have faith in one true God Allah. Muslims also claim to have a history of a prophet “Moses” (Hazrat Musa AS) who, in the 13th century BCE (Before the Common Era) or BC (Before Christ) saved the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and ruled Egypt for a certain time there spreading the knowledge and virtue of Islam there during his era. This is why Muslims of that time would express a sense of affiliation and ownership with Egypt.
However, after the abolishment of the Persian empire, the Arab invasion led by ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ in AD 639–642 was responsible for the re-emergence of Islam there and the Egyptians had to abandon all past religious activities and the heritage left by their ancestors to embrace a new language and a new culture. However, stating that they had to acquire a new faith would be inept as told earlier Egypt was once reigned by a prophet after who’s demise certain such circumstances occurred that forced the Israelites to flee from there ending the Islamic era in Egypt. The successive past of the Egyptian empire is hence mainly a study of how Islam as a religion evolved and flourished in Egypt so much that even the centuries of dynastic rules in Egypt were entirely dismantled and a new culture prospered.
In this brief article, we have tried to encompass and summarize the entire history of the religious evolution of Egypt in the most facile and easy way possible. Hope you enjoyed reading it!