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I. Egyptian culture is one of the most unique and diverse cultures in the world.

1) Introduction
2) The Ancient Egyptian mythology: how cosmos came into being, numerous Egyptian deities,
their appearance and significance.
3) The sacred animals and their godlike manifestations: the worship of animals and their
importance and significance (cats, crocodiles, cobras etc.)
4) The Egyptian pyramids: one of the greatest wonders in the world, served as tombs for the
Egyptian rulers their bodies were mummified and preserved there; the pyramids represented
the connection between material world and spiritual world and afterlife;
5) Conclusion

The Ancient Egyptian culture is surely one of the oldest cultures in the world and its
diversity and uniqueness still intrigues and amazes ones imagination. In this essay I shall try to
prove that this culture is really unique and exciting even today, since many people who like
history will find this essay very useful and they will gain an insight into this truly magnificent
culture. There are many reasons why I consider this culture rather interesting, one of them being
the fact that its mythology is very diverse and the numerous deities that encompass it are
different from the deities of other cultures, for instance, Greek gods are usually represented as
masculine men carrying various weapons. As opposed to them, Egyptian gods usually have the
faces of animals, they are wearing sceptres and ankhs which are rather symbolic and represent
their omnipotent power. The animalistic aspect of these gods can indeed be connected to the fact
that they worshiped and feared certain animals such as cats, snakes, crocodiles and so on. The
pyramids remain one of the greatest wonders of the world and I think that they are one of the
many aspects of Egyptian culture that contribute to the fact that it is rather unique, diverse and
interesting to study in detail.
Firstly, it should be taken into consideration that Egyptian culture, as most cultures
during the history, developed gradually, with numerous deities changing their original form. The
Egyptians created their culture and shaped their beliefs in order to adjust themselves to the
environment around them and overcome the difficulties which inevitably affected their life. The
authors (the Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology) Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm stated that
the regular floods around the Nile inspired the numerous myths of the Ancient Egypt. They also
claimed that the survival of the people who inhabited the valley of this great river largely
depended on these floods which brought life to this desolate land in the dessert. The way of life
of the people living in this area can be seen as a reflection to the myth about Osiris, the Egyptian
god of vegetation who dies, resurrects and withdraws from the world of living so he could take
control over the underworld.
In order to gain an insight into the Egyptian mythology one has to be aware of its
creation. The author Veronica Ions (''Egyptian mythology'') argues in her book that the Egyptians
believed that the sky was actually the goddess named Nut, who was often represented as a cow
standing on the ground supported by the other deities. The boat of the Sun sails over her belly
and she gives birth to the Sun every morning. The goddess Nut created all objects on the sky: the
moon, the sun and the stars. She was often represented as a thin woman, supported by Su, the
god of wind and air, who surrounds the Earth. Below the goddess Nut lies the god of Earth Geb
who is surrounded by a great ocean and carries thicket and shrubs on his back. One part of the
Earth was red and it was inhabited by various dessert wildling tribes, the other part of the Earth
was black and it contained fertile land of the low valleys. The waters from the oceans and the
Nile were flowing to the underworld, the dwelling place of the dead, which was a mirror of the
sky on which the night boat of the Sun sailed.
The most important Egyptian deity was the Sun, which carried many names with many
different interpretations, often very diverse. For instance, the rising Sun was often called Khepri,
(a big scarab, who rolled the Sun as if it was a giant ball), when the Sun was at its zenith it was
called Ra, while the setting Sun was called Atum. The author Veronica Ions states that there are
various gods and goddesses that were important part of the Egyptian mythology, but she the
following deities can be considered the most essential, because of their unique appearance and
significance: the god of the Sun Ra, the god of the underworld Osiris, Isis, his wife and the
goddess of marriage, love and life, Seth, the god of wind, storm and drought. These are the gods
that can be considered very diverse because of their appearance, their often had the faces of
animals, with the exception of Osiris, Isis and some other goddesses. For example, the most
important Egyptian god Ra, was depicted as a man with hawk head and headdress with a sun
disk. It was believed that Ra was swallowed every night by the goddess Nut and was reborn
every morning. During the night he wandered through the underworld and had the appearance of
a man with the head of a ram. Some gods, however, had the appearance that was more man-like,
though very unusual, for instance, the god of the dead, resurrection and fertility Osiris had the
appearance of a mummified man, wearing a white cone-like headdress with feathers. Osiris was
also the god of the underworld and one of the most significant gods to ancient Egyptian people,
for instance, he was believed to have provided them with barley, one of their most important
crops. The goddess of marriage, love and life Isis was Osiriss wife and she had the appearance
of a woman with a headdress in the shape of a throne and a pair of cow horns with a sun disk.
Isis was believed to be a protective goddess, since she used powerful magic spells to help people
in need. She was believed to have given the birth to Horus, the god of the sky, who is probably
most well-known as the protector of the rulers of Egypt. Horus ('the one far above') was also
depicted with the head of a hawk as the sun god Ra. According to the popular myth, Osiris was
killed by Seth, the god of chaos, and Horus fought with Seth for the throne of Egypt. In this
battle Horus lost one of his eyes, that was restored to him later on and became a symbol of
protection for the ancient Egyptians. After this famous battle Horus was chosen to be the ruler of
Egypt and the world of living. Seth, the brother of Osiris and Isis, was the god of chaos, dessert
and wind, he stood for everything that threatened the harmony in Egypt. According to Veronica
Ions (''Egyptian mythology'') Seth was believed to have originated from Libyan myths where he
was represented as a crocodile or hippopotamus. Although he was definitely represented with the
face of an animal, it cannot be said with certainty which animal and it is often referred to as
''Seths animal.'' According to the ancient myth, Seth ruled over the Upper Egypt, while Horus
ruled over the Lower Egypt. There are also other gods in Egyptian mythology that possess the
'animalistic' appearance. Some of the most well-known examples are: Anubis, the god of
embalming and the dead, Thoth, the god of writing and knowledge, Sobek, the god of the Nile,
Bastet, the protective goddess and many other gods. All of these gods have their animal forms
and manifestation, their significance was closely connected to animals they stood for. Actually,
the animal they represented was determining the characteristics of a certain deity, for example,
the birds such as hawk or ibis were often considered the symbol of wisdom and protection.
Horus, for instance, was often listed as the protective god of the Egyptians, the one who protects
the pharaoh, and he possesses the head of the hawk. According to Veronica Ions, Thoth, the god
of writing and knowledge, belongs to the group of older deities that represented something
mysterious, not quite comprehensible to human perception. He had a significant role in various
myths, being known once as the god who created the world and carried the cosmic egg. It was
also believed that he was created by the power of 'words', so he was known as 'the founder of
speech'. According to some myths, Thoth was believed to have returned the eye that Ra had lost,
and as a reward he received the power over the night sky, that is, the moon. It was believed that
he carried the moon in his boat and transported the dead to the underworld. Later on, Thoth
received a number of other functions, became the god of time and was considered the founder of
astronomy, mathematics, technology and even magic. Anubis, the god of embalming and the
dead also had a significant role in the Egyptian mythology. He was often depicted with the head
of jackal and since jackals were often seen in cemeteries, the ancient Egyptians belived that
Anubis was in charge of the world of the dead. According to the ancient myth (Joseph Campbell,
The masks of god, Oriental mythology, 1962) Anubis was the one who embalmed Osiris after he
was assassinated by Seth and was in charge of mummifying people when they died. His role in
determining the fate of the dead was a major one, since the Egyptians beleived that they were
judged after death to determine whether they would assume the place in eternity or become
consumed by their own greedy appetites. (Robert Campbell, Ancient Egyptian Theory of
Everything, part 1, 2008). The cult of Anubis had a great impact on the ancient Egyptian religion
since the priest often wore a mask of Anubis during mummification ceremonies. As far as his
physical appearance is concerned, Anubis was often depicted with the head of jackal or he was
represented entirely in the shape of a dog. His appearance was often associated with cemeteries
in the ancient Egypt, since jackals often threatened disintegration of human bodies. The black
colour of his head was often associated with death but also with fertility which was connected to
agronomy and land. According to Campbell, he was often depicted sitting on the grave of the
deceased, thus protecting it and his role was ''to weigh the heart'', the center of human feelings
and thoughts. The diversity of gods is truly impressive when we take a closer look at the entire
spectrum of gods and goddesses in the Egyptian mythology. The deities usually had the animal
heads, but not just any animal, but those that can be found in the near surroundings, some of
those who are reffered to as 'sacred animals'. The Egyptian god of the Nile was Sobek, depicted
as a man with the head of a crocodile. He was considered to be connected with the Nile, he was
also the god of fertility, military prowess and pharaonic power. Sobek himself was thought to be
the protector of the pharaoh and in his honour many crocodiles were kept in pools at temples that
were built to honour him. According to some beliefs (Veronica Ions, Egyptian mythology) Sobek
was considered to be violent, hyper-sexual and erratic deity who was prone to his primal whims.
He was primarily agressive and animalistic deity who owes his vicious reputation to the large
and violent Nile crocodile. Although he had a bad reputation as someone who 'loves robery', and
the one who 'eats while also mates', he was also represented as a god who displays grand
benevolence in various myths. He was often associated with Horus, the god who protected
pharaoh, and Isis, because he was belived to have healed Osiris, after he had been killed by Seth.
The ancient Egyptians had a large variety of protective deities, both gods and goddesses, with
both human and animal appearance. Although some Egyptian goddesses were depicted with
human head, such as Isis, some Egyptian goddesess got the head of an animal, which was usually
cat, a female one, that was considered to be a sacred animal. One such goddess, that was very
well-known in the ancient Egypt was Bastet, the goddess with the head of a cat and the body of a
woman. In Veronica Ions's book ''Egyptian mythology'' Bastet was said to be a gentle, protective
goddess that sometimes assumed the face of a lioness in order to aid the pharaoh in battle. Bastet
was, presumably, the daughter of the god Ra and in her honour many statues of cats were made
since her characteristic symbol was cat. What her name means remains a mystery, but there were
many suggestions, one of which was by Stephen Quirke (''Ancient Egyptian religion'') who
suggested that her name means 'she of the oinment jar', which makes sense, since her name was
written with the hieroglyph 'oinment jar' and she was assosiated with protective oinments too.
Egyptians believed that she was the goddess of protection against various diseases and evil
sprits, so she became known as 'the eye of Ra'. The varous deities, gods and goddesses may be
one of the reasons why the Egyptian culture can be considered very diverse, beautiful and
intriguing, but the origins of those deities can certainly be found in varous myths, starting from
those that refer to the creation of the world to those refering to particular deities and their origin.
It can be said with great certainty, and it was proven by many authors (Veronica Ions, Joseph
Campbell..) that the origin of each of the Egyptian deities stems from their symbolic
representation, which is basically seen in their forms and aspects as animals which were attached
to the human body. While it is cerain that the ancient Egyptians tended to identify with the world
around them by giving the things around them meaning and unique signature, what they saw
around them formed their opinions and judgements, which were often based on their impressions
and beliefs. From their beliefs and the way of living, the world around them and the animals that
were a part of this world, became in a way, a key to their understanding of the world. The ancient
Egyptans started to cherish and respect certain animals, giving them godlike manifestations in
the process, thus giving them human nature and subhuman appearance. Those were the animals
that inhabited the valley of the Nile and the dessert which surrounded the area, becaming a part
of the myth of creation, on which the Egyptian religion pillars were formed. In the book
''Egyptian mythology'' Veronica Ions states that the fetishes in the ancient times before the first
great dynasties had the shapes of animals. However, these animals were not personified and
represented as the manifestations of gods until the later period of country's development. When
the cult of the god represented in the pharaoh started to weaken, the Egyptians started to woship
various animals, because, as the author Veronica Ions states, 'the pure imagination needed the
true representative of the deity on Earth.' Furthermore, as not all gods were good and merciful,
the same way not all animals were considered to be good either. Many animals were thought to
be connected with evil spirits, for example, snakes were often connected with Seth, the god of
war and dessert, and they represented his 'evil spirit' and demonic appearance. In some instances,
however, one god could have several different animal manifestations, both good and evil. Certain
animals were respected and glorified to such an extent, that their killing was punishable by death.
If it happened that someone killed an animal on purpose, that person was sentenced to death, and
in case the violation was done by accident, that person had to pay a fine for killing an animal.
But in any circumstances, the killing of certain animals, for instance, ibises or hawks, was
instantly punishable by death. Many different animals were present in the ancient Egypt, yet not
all of them were considered sacred, many animals were used as pets, in farming, labour or food.
The sacred animals were the ones that were connected to the particular deity, some god or
goddess that they stood for. However, these categories sometimes cross over, for instance, cows
were used in people's daily lives, but still they were considered sacred. Some dangerous animals
were woshiped so that their aggressive behavour towards human beings could be controlled, or
prevented. The most popular animals that the ancient Egyptians worshiped were: crocodiles,
cats, hippos, hawks, ibises, cows, snakes, and many others.