The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

Book - 2003
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A comprehensive and authoritative illustrated guide to the deities that lay at the heart of Ancient Egyptian religion and society. It examines the evolution, worship and eventual decline of a huge pantheon, from minor figures such as Bas and Taweret to the all-powerful Amun and Re.
"With hundreds of illustrations and specially commissioned drawings, this is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the deities that lay at the heart of Egyptian religion and society."--BOOK JACKET.
Publisher: London : Thames & Hudson, 2003.
ISBN: 9780500051207
0500051208
Branch Call Number: 299.31 WIL
Characteristics: 256 p. :,ill. (some col.) ;,27 cm.

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dajones89
Aug 09, 2014

Yes, you may need to know a good bit about Egypt before you start reading. But once you do, it pays off. The chapters that come before the catalogue introduce you to some of the fundamental questions about the Egyptian gods and discuss them in a fairly readable manner. Short chapters are dedicated to the earliest evidence for Egyptian belief in gods and how that belief went extinct 3,500 years later; the forms the gods took and how they interacted with and combined with one another; how they were worshipped; and the relationship between the gods and the king. Wilkinson is also good at pointing out major areas of disagreement among Egyptologists, such as whether the king was considered a god, and summarizing the arguments on each side of the debate.

At the beginning of the catalogue is a section describing how gods were assembled into groups, including both groups based on a specific number of gods (like the Ennead and Ogdoad) and groups based on a specific function (deities of the caverns and gates of the underworld, star deities, the gods of the nomes of Egypt, et cetera). This section emphasizes how much each god's significance and character was defined by its relationship with other deities.

The catalogue itself is a little oddly organized. It classifies gods by their most common appearance in art: as human men; human women; mammals; birds; reptiles, amphibians, and fish; invertebrates; and inanimate objects. The major problem is that many gods appear in more than one form, and they have to go in one section or another. Hathor, for example, goes in the section for human women rather than the one for bovine deities. An advantage is that by reading each section you can see how many gods with the same animal form are similar to each other. Lionesses tend to represent the same traits no matter what they're called, and the lines between Taweret and other hippo goddesses are pretty blurry. In some cases you can use the catalogue as sort of a "field guide" to see how to distinguish the iconography of Sokar from that of other falcons, or that of Wepwawet from other jackals.

Although the book is obviously focused on deities rather than mythology or afterlife beliefs, the wide-ranging nature of the early chapters makes it a surprisingly good introduction to the whole religion, especially if combined with a book that focuses on practices rather than theology, such as Emily Teeter's Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt.

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Nilufar
Apr 19, 2010

Useful reference for those researching the specific topic. The style makes it accessible only to those who already have a good knowledge of the context.

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Nilufar
Apr 19, 2010

Nilufar thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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