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Egyptian religion

The Major Cults

The most important of the many forms of Egyptian worship were the cults of Osiris and of Ra. Osiris was especially important as king and judge of the dead, but he was identified as well with the waters of the Nile, with the grain yield of the earth, with the moon, and even with the sun. A bountiful and loving king, Osiris was the protector of all, the poor and the rich. His myth, portraying the highest ideals of family devotion, expressed aspirations that were close to the people. His murder by his brother, Set, and his restoration to life by his wife, Isis, made him the great symbol of the eternal persistence of life. The revenge exacted by his son and successor, Horus, showed the triumph of good over evil.

The worship of Ra, the great sun-god, chief of the cosmic deities, was perhaps more closely related to the fate of the royal house than to that of the people, but his cult was nevertheless one of the most important in ancient Egypt. His symbol, the pyramid, became the design of the monumental tombs of the Egyptian kings. Ra was said, in fact, to be the direct ancestor of the kings of Egypt, and in certain hymns was even addressed as a dead king. But he was more specifically thought of as a living power, whose daily cycle of birth, journey, and death was a fundamental theme in Egyptian life. Besides Osiris and Ra the other most prominent Egyptian god was Amon. By the XIX dynasty he was Egypt's greatest god, united with Ra as Amon Ra.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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