The pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses is complex and confusing. From mother goddesses and architects of the Earth to deities of crocodiles and cats, ancient Egyptian religion lasted, and adapted, for over 3,000 years.
Here are 13 of the most important gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt.
1. Ra (Re)
God of the sun, order, kings and the sky; creator of the universe. One of the most popular and long-lasting Egyptian gods.
The Egyptians believed Ra sailed across the sky in a boat each day (representing sunlight) and travelled through the underworld at night (representing night). Faced a daily battle with Apep, the celestial serpent, while he was making his way through the underworld.
Ra is depicted with the body of a man, the head of a falcon and a sun-disk (with cobra) resting on his head.
Ra was later merged with several different gods, such the local Theban deity Amun. Together they created the combined deity ‘Amun-Ra’.
God of craftsmen and architects (monumental and non-monumental); chief deity of the city of Memphis. Believed to have designed the shape of the Earth. Consort of Sekhmet.
Consort of Ptah; daughter of Ra. Goddess of war and destruction, but also healing. Sekhmet is most famously depicted with leonine qualities.
God of the Earth; father of snakes. Husband of Nut; father of Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus (the elder). It was said that his laugh caused earthquakes. Together with his wife Nut, they are portrayed as encompassing earth and sky.
One of the oldest and most enduring of the Egyptian gods. According to the ‘Osiris myth’ he was the eldest of the 5 gods, born of Geb and Nut; initially Lord of the Earth – god of fertility and life; murdered by a resentful Set, his younger brother; temporarily resurrected by Isis, his sister-wife, to conceive Horus.
Became the Lord of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead; Father of Anubis and Horus.
6. Horus (the Younger)
God of the Sky; son of Osiris and Isis. Defeated Set, his uncle, after Osiris took his place among the dead. Restored order to the land of the living but loses his left eye in the fighting before defeating Set. After banishing his uncle, Horus became the new king of Egypt.
Horus is associated with two principal symbols: the Eye of Horus and the falcon.
The eye of Horus became a powerful symbol in ancient Egypt, representing sacrifice, healing, restoration and protection.
The mother of all Pharaohs; wife of Osiris; mother of Horus; daughter of Geb and Nut. Closely associated with the earlier Egyptian goddess Hathor and was considered ‘Mother of the Gods’ – selfless in providing aid to Pharaohs and the people of Egypt.
By the 1st Millennium BCE, she had become one of the most popular Egyptian goddesses and worship of her soon spread outside Egypt to Greece and Rome. Common symbols of Isis include the kite (bird), the scorpion and the empty throne.
God of war, chaos and storms; lord of the red desert land; brother of Osiris and Isis; uncle of Horus the younger; son of Geb and Nut. Murders Osiris, his elder brother, out of resentment and jealousy, but is in turn defeated by Horus and eventually driven from the land and into the desert (other accounts say Set is killed).
Though Set remained the archetypal villain in Egyptian mythology – the antithesis of Osiris – he remained popular. He became closely-linked with the Christian Satan.
Set is often depicted with the head of an unknown animal: the Set animal.
The god of embalming and of the dead; patron of lost souls; the son of Osiris and Nepthys (according to Osiris myth).
Often depicted with the body of a man and the head of a jackal, the Egyptians believed Anubis watched over the dead and the process of mummification. Replaced by Osiris as God of the Dead in early 3rd millennium BC.
God of writing, magic, wisdom, science and the moon; regularly depicted in Egyptian art either in the form of a baboon or with the head of an ibis. He played a key role in advising the gods, such as Osiris when he is making his judgement on the dead.
Thoth served as the record keeper for the gods and regularly reported to Ra, the sun god; he was believed to be the inventor of the written word.
God of crocodiles, wetlands and surgery; associated with fertility, but also danger. Sometimes he was shown as a large crocodile, similar to those found in the River Nile; other times he was shown with the body of a man and the head of a crocodile.
Priests of Sobek honoured the god by keeping and feeding live crocodiles within the temple. When they died, these crocodiles were mummified – just like the Pharaohs of Egypt. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, anyone killed by a crocodile in the city of ‘Crocodilopolis’ (Faiyum) were considered divine.
Goddess of cats, fertility, childbirth and women’s secrets; warder away of evil spirits and misfortune from the home; feline defender of the innocent daughter of Ra.
Batet was one of the longest and most popular of Egyptian deities; Egyptians came from far and wide to the festival of Bastet at Bubastis.
Initially a local, Theban god. Worship of Amun came to prominence at the start of the New Kingdom Period (c.1570-1069 BCE), when his qualities were combined with those of the Sun god (Ra), making him Amun-Ra – King of the Gods; Lord of All; Creator of the Universe.