Which of the Ancient Egyptian gods were the most important?

The Ancient Egyptians had a vast collection of Gods in their pantheon, but which ones were the most important, and why?
Christopher McFadden
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  • Ancient Egypt had its fair share of gods to choose from.
  • Some of them, according to scholars, would influence some of the characters in other cultures and religions around the ancient world.
  • But which of them was considered the most important? 

In the following article, we'll explore some commonly asked questions about ancient Egyptian gods, and highlight 7 of the most worshipped. 

Who are the nine gods?

The Egyptian "Nine Gods," or The Ennead, was a group of 9 deities most commonly worshipped at Heliopolis. 

These were: 

  • Atum: The God of the Sun
  • Shu and Tefnut: Atum's children
  • Geb and Nut: Atum's grandchildren
  • Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys: Amut's great-grandchildren

This group of gods became the most prominent in the V and VI Egyptian Dynasties and ended with the occupation by Macedonian forces under Alexander the Great and his successors.

What is the Egyptian god's family tree?

According to sites like landofpyramids.org, the Egyptian family tree for the major gods is as follows: -

"Geb and Nut had four children: Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys. Shu Genealogy: Shu was the name of the God of Wind and Air, created by Atum Ra and one of the 'twin lion gods' with his sister, and wife, Tefnet. Shu and Tefnut were the parents of the Earth God, Geb, and the Sky Goddess, Nut."

Which of the Ancient Egyptian gods were the most important?
Egyptian god family tree.

Who is the most powerful god?

This is a tricky question to answer as the ancient Egyptians didn't seem to consider one particular god as more "powerful" than the others. Technically speaking, in ancient Egypt, the living Pharaoh was regarded as the most powerful and essential "god" in the land, albeit technically a demi-god. 

But, some gods were favored over others throughout time.

Ra, for example, was the god of the Sun and appeared to have been widely favored. Others, like Amun, Horus, and any of the "Nine Gods," were also idolized throughout ancient Egypt. 

What are the main Egyptian gods?

Ancient Egypt had a vast pantheon of Gods that were, they believed, responsible for many earthly phenomena and things, from the Sun to the flooding of the Nile. Some of the many gods were more celebrated and important to ancient Egyptian culture. 

Here are 7 of the more important ones. However, the following list is far from exhaustive and in no particular order.

1. Amun was a major Egyptian deity

Which of the Ancient Egyptian gods were the most important?
Amun was very important,

Amun was one of Ancient Egypt's most important gods. In ancient Greek mythology, he can be likened to Zeus, the king of the gods. Amun, or simply Amon, was merged with another major God, Ra (The Sun God), sometime during the Eighteenth Dynasty (16th to 13th Centuries BC) in Egypt. Ancient Egyptians widely considered Amun as also being the father of all pharaohs. 

Amun-Ra formed one part of the so-called "Theban Triad" along with Mut and their son Khonsu (The Moon God), which was widely worshiped throughout ancient Egypt. He would retain his position as chief deity throughout the New Kingdom (16th to 11th Centuries BC) of Ancient Egypt. 

2. Anubis: protector of the underworld

Which of the Ancient Egyptian gods were the most important?
Anubis is probably the most famous.

Anubis is probably one of the most iconic and better-known of the Egyptian pantheon. The Jackal-headed God, Anubis, protected the gates to the underworld. 

He was also originally the god of death and the afterlife and was strongly associated with the mummification process of the dead before burial. He is widely believed to be related to jackals because they tend to dig up and eat buried bodies whenever and wherever they can find them. 

Anubis is also famous for deciding the fate of the dead in the afterlife. Their heart was weighed by him against that of the "feather of truth" to assess their worthiness for entry into the afterlife. If they failed the test, another Egyptian God, Ammit, would devour them, heart and soul. 

3. Horus is watching you!

Which of the Ancient Egyptian gods were the most important?
The Eye of Horus.

Horus was an extraordinary god in ancient Egypt. According to Egyptian mythology, Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis, who avenged his father's death to rule Egypt.

Horus was also the God of the sky. During his vengeful battle with his father's brother, Set, Horus lost one of his eyes, which would become the so-called "Eye of Horus" or Wadjet. According to Egyptian legend, when the other gods attempted to catch it, the eye began to cry, and its tears became the first people of Egypt. 

Horus' eye would become one of ancient Egypt's most potent protective symbols.

4. Osiris was Horus' father

Which of the Ancient Egyptian gods were the most important?
Source: Shawn Kelly/Flickr

Osiris was the Egyptian god of life, death, the afterlife, and flooding events of the Nile. According to Egyptian mythology, he was the brother, and husband, of Isis and the father of Horus.

Osiris, according to legend, was betrayed and killed by his brother Set who coveted his brother's position as pharaoh. His sister, and wife, Isis, managed to resurrect him to temporarily conceive their son, Horus.

Osiris appears to have later been merged with Dionysus during the Hellenic era of ancient Greece. Osiris' death and resurrection, as well as other elements of his story, have led some to believe Osiris might well be, in part, the inspiration for parts of Jesus Christ's life in Christian mythology. 

5.  Bastet: the Cat Warrior Goddess

Which of the Ancient Egyptian gods were the most important?
Love cats? Then Bastet is the only god you need.

Bastet, or simply Bast, was an ancient Egyptian goddess of protection and, most importantly, cats. According to Egyptian mythology, she was the warrior daughter of Ra and was sent by him to fight his archenemy Apep.

Worship of Bast appears to have begun around 3200 BCE, during the second dynasty in northern Egypt, and her city is Bubastis.

Cats were sacred to ancient Egyptians and held high, honored positions in many households throughout the land. They even achieved the status of demi-gods in ancient Egypt, and harming, or killing one, was punishable by death!

Bast was seen as a protectress by ancient Egyptians and the defender of pharaohs. Bastet was the most honored feline deity in Ancient Egypt.

6. Set the Betrayer!

Set, Seth, Sutekh, Setesh, or Seteh was the ancient Egyptian god of the desert, thunder, evil pain, and suffering. According to Egyptian mythology, Set protected Ra on his journey to the afterlife.

Set was also the brother of Osiris, who replaced Ra as the pharaoh of Egypt. As we have already mentioned, Set betrayed and killed his brother to take the position of pharaoh after Ra's death. 

He was often represented by the color red which embodied the concept of evil for ancient Egyptians.  

7. Ra: The Sun God

Since we've mentioned his name several times, it would be uncouth not to include Ra. He was one of the more prominent gods in the Egyptian pantheon and was often depicted as a falcon-headed man with a sun disk above his head to represent him as the God of the Sun and creation. 

Ra was believed to have created the Earth, and every sunrise and sunset was seen to represent the process of renewal. It was said he was born each morning in the East and died each night in the West. He was later merged with other Egyptian gods, most prominently Amun

And that is your lot for today.

Although the ancient Egyptian gods may no longer be actively worshipped, their legacy endures in the archaeological treasures, religious texts, and artistic masterpieces that have survived the ravages of time. They inspire awe and fascination, inviting us to explore the profound spiritual and cultural dimensions that once shaped one of humanity's most enduring civilizations.

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