Ancient Egyptian Gods & Goddesses: Names & Family Tree

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  • 0:02 Egyptian Mythology Overview
  • 0:31 Egyptian Mythology Origin
  • 1:27 Egyptian Royal Lineage
  • 2:01 The Egyptian Mythology…
  • 4:11 Other Significant Gods
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Teater

Emily currently is a substitute teacher, and has taught a variety of K-12 courses. She has a master's degree in Mythological Studies.

In this section, you will receive a brief overview of the principal gods and goddesses in ancient Egyptian mythology. A general family tree that connects these gods and goddesses will also be provided.

Egyptian Mythology Overview

Egyptian gods and goddesses are some of the most fascinating and complicated figures in the world. There are hundreds of gods and goddesses in the Egyptian pantheon. A select few are particularly important, especially in the myths of creation. It's important to note that Egyptian myth is multi-form. In other words, there are many versions of particular myths, and the versions provided in this lesson are but one of many. This particular version of creation was accepted mostly in the city of Heliopolis.

Egyptian Mythology Origin

Similar to the Greeks, in the beginning, there was chaos, who was called Nun. Nun represented the watery and swampy chaos from which all life emerged. In art, he's sometimes depicted as a human figure, who holds the boat of Ra, which carries the sun, afloat. From Nun's watery depths emerged Atum, the creator god. Atum is sometimes considered to be an incarnation, or part, of Ra. Thus, he's the god of the setting sun. Most often, he was represented as a human figure wearing the two crowns of Egypt.

Atum then spat, and Shu and Tefnut were created. Shu was the god of dry air. He was responsible for separating the earth and the sky. He's depicted as a man with a feather on his head, who is holding up the female sky away from the male earth. Tefnut, Shu's twin sister, was the goddess of moisture and rain. She is frequently depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness wearing a solar disk upon her head.

Egyptian Royal Lineage

Shu and Tefnut had two children. The eldest was Geb, god of the earth. He was the first king of Egypt, according to the myth. He is often depicted as a human lying on his back. The daughter of Shu and Tefnut was Nut, goddess of the sky. She's depicted as a blue woman covered in stars. She stretches herself over Geb and is held up by her father, Shu. Geb and Nut had four children: two sons and two daughters. They were Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. Of the four, Osiris was chosen as the next king of Egypt, and Isis was his queen.

The Egyptian Mythology Narrative

Set, the god of desert storms and discord, grew jealous of his brother. Set was depicted as a man with the head of a dark, as yet unknown animal, and was known as a shape-shifter. He built a coffin measured to fit only Osiris. At a dinner party, Set showed off his beautiful coffin and offered it to whomever it fit. Of course it fit Osiris. Set nailed the coffin down before Osiris could escape and threw it into the Nile. He then became king.

Isis set out to find Osiris. Isis was the goddess of motherhood and magic. She was often depicted as a woman with cow horns and the sun disk upon her head. The coffin made it all the way to Byblos where a tree grew around it. Isis, disguised as a human, went to the city and took the coffin, wanting to find a proper place to bury Osiris. Set heard that Osiris had been found and while Isis was not looking, he chopped Osiris up into fourteen pieces and scattered them all over Egypt.

Isis asked her sister Nephthys, who was a goddess also associated with magic, to help her. Nephthys was married to Set, and they had a son, Anubis, the god of mummification, who was depicted as a man with the head of a jackal. Anubis also agreed to help his mother and his aunt. Eventually they are able to reassemble Osiris. Isis then asks Ra, the sun god, to bring Osiris back to life for one night. Isis and Osiris conceive Horus that night. After his final death, Anubis mummifies him, making him the first mummy. Osiris is thus, represented as a mummy with green skin. Osiris is thus the god of the underworld and also agriculture.

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