Nun was the primordial ocean from which all things sprang forth. There was nothing but him at the beginning of time. He became lonely, so he rose a small island from his depths, and on this island was a large egg. The egg hatched soon after, and the god Ra was brought into the world. He was given power over life and death from his creator, and became the most powerful of the gods, and took reign over the sun. Nun had neither temples nor worshippers anywhere in Egypt, but remained a purely intellectual concept that all of the Egyptians shared. He was often depicted as a man plunged up to his waist in water with his arms raised up supporting all of the gods that issued forth from him.
Ra, or Ra-atum (he was combined into a composite deity along with the creator god Atum; both were associated as one and the same). As mentioned above, he took control over the sun and spent the first 12 hours every day taking the Boat of Millions of Years across the sky, lighting the lives of all of the beings on the Earth. During his voyage across the sky, he would always be careful to avoid conflict with his bitter enemy Apep (Serpent Lord). On the days of total eclipses, the Egyptians believed that Ra was swallowed up by the Serpent, but in the end, when the sun shone through the darkness once more, Apep was defeated and cast back into the Abyss by Ra and his defenders. Ra watched over the world and all aspects of it. He came to realise that his existence could be made easier if he had other gods to share the burden with. He spat twice upon the ground; from one spot grew Tefnut (Goddess of moisture and rain) and her consort Shu (God of the arid, dry winds). Those were the only two of the gods that he created himself (two others are Hathor and Sekhmet), but no matter how many gods existed, he was still the supreme deity…or so he thought.
Shu was the god of the dry winds that were so frequent in Egypt. Like all of the major divinities of nature, he had no especial cult or temples dedicated to him. He succeeded Ra to the throne of the King of the Earth, but later surrendered it to his own son, and fled back to the skies.
Tefnut was the goddess of moisture and was responsible for the rains that replenished the waters of the Nile at the beginning of every season. She gave birth to her two children shortly after having become pregnant by Shu. Her first child was Nut, goddess of the sky, then came Geb, god of the Earth. Ra wasn’t pleased with the birth of Tefnut’s twins, and he immediately placed a curse on Nut that wouldn’t allow her to have any children of her own on any day that existed in the current 360 day calendar. To enforce his decree, Ra separated the Sky (Nut) from the Earth (Geb) by placing Shu in between them. Little did he know that Nut was already pregnant, but she was still unable to give birth.
Geb was the god of the Earth, son of Shu and Tefnut. He is depicted as a man lying on his back with Shu standing on top of him. He’s propped up on one elbow; one of his knees is bent up pointing to the sky (representing the mountains). He has no distinguishing features aside from the goose that is seen perched on his head (an ideogram - or hieroglyph - in his name). He was the third divine Pharaoh to take over the throne as King of the Earth, but – just like all of the other times- his reign was disturbed. One legend speaks of the golden box that contained Ra’s Uraeus (serpent surmounting Ra’s head) being opened in the presence of Geb and his followers. Ra had put the box in Geb’s path, along with his cane and a lock of his hair. These were placed in his fortress on the eastern-most point of his empire as a potent talisman. When the box was opened, the breath of the divine asp killed all of Geb’s followers on the spot and burned Geb’s entire body. The only thing that could heal Geb was to lay the lock of Ra’s hair over his wounds. This lock of hair was so powerful that, after Geb used it to heal himself; he plunged it into the lake of At Nub where it instantly turned into a crocodile. After Geb retook his throne, he drew up a careful report of all of the provinces and cities in Egypt; he then handed the throne over to his eldest son, Osiris.
Nut was the Lady of the Starry sky and was depicted as a silhouette of a woman spotted with stars arched over the earth, standing on her hands and feet. She became pregnant with Geb’s children, but Ra’s curses forbade her from giving birth to them. To circumvent his plan, Nut went to see Thoth, the god of Wisdom and intelligence, and asked for his advice on the matter. Thoth agreed to help her, and sought out Khonsu (god of the Moon), challenging him to a game of bones. They agreed that if Thoth lost, Khonsu would have control over the Tomes of Knowledge, which would make him as intelligent as Thoth was. If Thoth won, then he would gain partial control over the moon. At the end of the game, Thoth won (as he knew he would). From the control that he now had over the moon, he was able to create 5 new days, which were exempt from the jurisdiction of Ra’s curse. Thus, Nut was able to give birth to her four children. Osiris was born on the first day, Isis on the second, Set on the third and Nephthys on the fourth. Each of her children received their office, and Osiris ascended as the new King of the Earth.
Osiris became the third and the last King of the Earth. Ra rejoiced at his birth, despite the curse that he had put on Nut. He immediately pronounced his great-grandson as heir to his throne. Osiris was worshipped throughout Egypt as a god of vegetation and nature, having temples spread out all throughout the country. Set (Osiris’ youngest brother) was jealous for all that he had achieved, and began to plot his downfall. Set had his servants make a sarcophagus that had Osiris’ exact measurements. He then invited all of the gods to a great feast in his palace. As the feast continued, he had the sarcophagus brought out and announced that any god able to fit into the sarcophagus would be awarded a prize. Many gods and goddesses tried to fit into the coffin, but since it was tailored to fit Osiris and none other, he was the only one that would be able to fit into the coffin. Right as Osiris lay down in the coffin, Set threw the lid on and nailed it shut. Before any god could protest, he flung the sarcophagus into the Nile. Isis, Osiris’ wife and sister, immediately began searching for the sarcophagus, which she came close to finding. As she came upon it, Set got there first and tore Osiris’ body into several pieces and flung them back into the Nile. Isis and her twin sister Nephthys travelled all over Egypt in search of Osiris’ missing body, which they found, piece by piece. In the end, they found all of the pieces but one, which was Osiris’ phallus. Isis pieced his body back together, reconstructing a phallus of pure gold and using her magic to graft it onto Osiris’ body. She cast a powerful spell that brought him back to life long enough so that he could impregnate her. After she had conceived, Osiris became the god of Death and would judge the souls of the dead that would inevitably have to go to him when they died. He is represented by a man in mummy wrappings with his arms crossed over his chest holding a crook in one hand, and a flail in the other. Together these are a symbol of royalty.
Isis became the great goddess of magic, learning the art from Thoth. She soon learned all that she could from him, and began to surpass anything that he could even dream himself capable of. She was the only being that existed that could alter realty with nothing but her voice. She learned all of the secrets of the Universe, making her wiser than all of the gods and mortals combined. She took Osiris as her husband and ruled over Egypt by his side. Most of her power came from the true name of Ra, which she tricked him into revealing to her. She was once a simple woman in his service, but she had learned from Thoth that if she possessed his true name, ultimate power would be hers. One day as Ra was walking through the desert; Isis followed him cloaked from his view by magic. Some spittle fell from Ra’s mouth and landed on the sand. Isis found the spittle and scooped it up along with the sand that was with it. She took it back to her palace and moulded the sand into a serpent. She baked the serpent in her oven, then spoke words of power over it, giving it life. She placed the serpent in Ra’s path and watched carefully as events unfolded. Ra was walking through the desert again, taking the same path as he had before. As he passed the place where Isis had placed the serpent, it lashed out and bit him on the ankle. Ra immediately fell to the ground wracked with the worst pain he could ever imagine. All of the gods in his company tried healing him as best they knew how, but to no avail. Isis told him that she could heal him, but only if she knew his true name. He pulled her close to him and whispered it into her ear. Right as the word left his lips, the poison fled his body and he was whole again. From the power gained from Ra’s true name, Isis became to most powerful sorceress in the Universe. With her power, she was bale to bring her husband back from the dead and bear him one son. When she brought Osiris back to life, she immediately became a bitter enemy of Set who had worked so hard to kill him in the first place. When Set found out that Isis was pregnant, he chased her all across Egypt to kill the baby that she would bear. It was prophesised that the child that she carried would overthrow Set and cast him out of the Egyptian pantheon. His minions followed Isis wherever she went, but she always kept well ahead of them. She won the protection of the scorpion goddess Selket, who would send her scorpions to sting Set’s minions. With the support of the other gods, Isis was able to bring her son Horus into the world. True to his prophecy, he did end up defeating Set and avenging his father’s death, thus earning the title as the god of Vengeance.
Nephthys was the twin sister of Isis, though born a day after her sister was. She was the Goddess of wealth and chance. She is always portrayed as a woman wearing the hieroglyphs of her name on her head. Her glyphs mean “Mistress of the Palace”. When Osiris was killed, she helped Isis resurrect him. Set took her as his wife, but she left him as soon as he turned towards evil. She bore him one son, Anubis, who became the guardian of the dead. Nephthys was the second of the guardian goddesses, along with Isis, Selket, and Neith.
Set became the god of evil and darkness. At his birth, he tore himself viciously free of his mother’s womb. When Osiris ascended as King of the Earth, Set was consumed with jealousy for he thought that he should be the King of the Earth. He plotted out Osiris’ death so that he may have the throne. Isis brought Osiris back to life and became pregnant with his child. Set sent his minions out to kill Isis, but she always managed to evade them. Soon, she gave birth to her son, who was destined to overthrow Set and drive him into hiding.
Horus was the son of Isis and Osiris. He was known as the Divine child, being conceived through his mother’s magic. When he was fully-grown, Horus began to seek out his evil uncle who had killed his father so many years before. Thus he became a god of vengeance, eventually overthrowing Set and driving him out Egypt.
Selket was the scorpion goddess. She was believed to be the daughter of Ra, not having a mother. She was one of the guardian goddesses, sending out her scorpions to sting her enemies, or the enemies of those that she would try to protect.
Anhur was the god of War. He was always depicted as a man wearing a large feathered plume on his head, holding his spear aloft ready to strike.
Neith was the fourth guardian goddess. She was the goddess of Wisdom.
Thoth was the god of intelligence. He was the teacher of Isis, teaching her everything that he knew. He was always portrayed as an ibis, a man with the head of an ibis, or a baboon. He was the scribe in the Underworld, recording the deeds of every soul to stand before Osiris.
Anubis was the son of Nephthys and Set. He became the guardian of the dead, and created the art of embalming. He would weight the heart of the dead against the feather of truth in the Underworld in order to see if the soul was worthy of eternal life. If the heart was heavy with sin, then in would be consumed by the creature Ba-matah and the soul would be lost forever. If the heart was pure, it would be lighter than the feather, and the soul was allowed to board the Boat of Millions of Years, and pass into the after life.
Ma’at was the goddess of truth, and was depicted as a beautiful woman wearing the feather of truth in her headdress. She oversaw the judgement of souls in the Underworld to make sure that every trial was fair and just.
God of the moon.
Hathor was created by the fire of Ra’s left eye. The people of earth began to doubt Ra’s power as he grew older. Ra’s sought out the advice of Nun, and Nun told him to send out his left eye in fury to punish mankind for their insolence. Ra did this, and his fury took on the form of Hathor. She began to kill relentlessly until almost all of mankind was dead. Ra tried to withdraw her before she wiped out the entire race of man, but she wouldn’t stop. She became insane with bloodlust and became he goddess Sekhmet (goddess of hatred and destruction) Ra eventually stopped her by mixing beer with pomegranate juice. Sekhmet thought it was blood, and drank herself into a stupor.
Bast was the patron of cats, joy and pleasure. Enormous festivals were held in her name once a year, for which people from all over Egypt would come to participate in. The cat was her sacred animal; to kill one meant death to the person (while the punishment of killing another person was to be whipped). Her priestesses were renowned for having a monthly ritual dedicated to Bast, and then having sex with one another. As pleasure was one of Bast’s attributes, this involved EVERYTHING that may be deemed pleasurable; there were no taboos in her church.
She was the wife of Ra. She was the goddess of motherly love and the nurturing mother.
Tauret was the hippo goddess of women and childbirth. She is always depicted as being heavy with child.
Buto is the cobra goddess, or the uraeus present on the crowns of all of Egypt's royalty (and even on the gods). She protected the baby Horus as Isis was fleeing across Egypt from the wrath of Set. She is depicted both, alone as the cobra goddess (in the form of a cobra) or in conjunction with the vulture goddess Nekhbet (as a cobra with wings).
Nekhbet was the Vulture goddess venerated mostly in Lower Egypt. She is depicted as the divine vulture.
The Egyptian Afterlife
The Egyptian Afterlife, I think, is the neatest one out of all of the mythologies I know of. When a person dies, their soul (or ba) disengages from their body and is led to the Judgement Halls in the Underworld. Here the soul stands before 14 gods and pleads his case. He tells them all of the good deeds that he has done in his life, and tries to convince them that he is worthy of entering the Afterlife. The gods that find him worthy will each present him with an ankh (hieroglyph for 'life'). He has to recieve at least 8 of the 14 gods' approval before he can proceed. If he isn't found worth, then his heart is fed to a little beastie that lives down there, and the soul is destroyed forever. If he is found worthy, then he proceeds to the Scales, which are governed by Ma'at (goddess of Truth) and Anubis (Guardian of the Dead). The soul's heart is placed on one side of the balance scales, and the white Feather of Truth (Ma'at's symbol) is placed on the other. If the heart is heavier that the feather, then it means that his heart is heavy with sin and it's fed to the little beastie. If it's lighter than the feather, the he is considered 'free of sin' and brought before Osiris. Osiris will then decide himself if the soul is worthy of the Afterlife. If he is worthy, then he is allowed to board the Boat of Millions of Years. If he's not....guess? Yep! the little critter gets to eat his heart. The Boat of Millions of Years is guided by Ra, and he leads the souls to the Afterlife. Twin dolphin deities swim along side the boat to make sure the souls don't fall off. They are Abdu and Inet (Gods of Friendship). If the journey goes well, then the soul enters paradise. Below is a picture of the little moster that eats the hearts. It's part crocodile, hippo and lion.
Please note: there are literally hundreds of gods and goddesses in ancient Egypt. To save myself the time and trouble I only mentioned the major deities. However, if there is any specific deity you want information on, feel free to e-mail me, and I’ll help you out however I can.