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One of the most interesting aspects of ancient Egypt is its religion. The depth of Egyptian thinking and rich imagination displayed in the creation of ideas and images of the gods and goddesses is beyond compare. On elaborating their beliefs, the Egyptians were working on the cosmic plane searching for an understanding of the most basic laws of the universe (Religion). The ancient Egyptians instilled their religion into every aspect of life including their art and architecture.
The Egyptians were humanistic, naturalistic and polytheistic in their ardent faith. They were humanistic in that they worshiped man, particularly the pharaoh; naturalistic in that they deified the forces of nature; and polytheistic in that they believed in thousands of gods and goddesses (Thompson). These gods were responsible for all aspects of their existence (Cunningham). The Egyptians saw no distinction between the creator and his creation. They believed the gods to be powers, which could be manipulated by man for his own benefit (Thompson). Because they believed in so many gods, the Egyptians invented rituals to praise them all. The rituals in turn affected the daily life of every Egyptian (Soul). These deities included Hathor, the goddess of beauty and love; Bes, the god of war; Anibus, the god of death; and Hapi, the god of the Nile. The Egyptians also praised animals such as, the jackal and the cat (Cunningham).
The Egyptians treasured life in this world and did everything in their power to ensure immortality in the next life (Thompson). The ancient Egyptians attitude towards death was influenced by their belief in immortality. They regarded death as the beginning of life, instead of the end (Life). All Egyptians were offered the hope of survival in the next world as a reward for a good life in a form that was thought of in literal, physical terms (Cunningham). The funerary customs and beliefs of the Egyptians called for the preservation of the body and ample provisions for the afterlife (O'Brien). Of the provisions provided for the afterlife were food, drink, clothing, and boats. They buried two boats with the deceased so that they would have a smooth sail into their after life (Soul).
The funeral rites with their meaning were described in a series of sacred text known collectively as the Book of The Dead (Cunningham). Osiris was the god who presided over the ceremonies (Cunningham). The Egyptians further conjectured that the deceased would go before the god Anibus, and if they passed a series of sacred test they would eventually move on to live with the gods for all eternity (Hieronimus).
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The beliefs of the Egyptian people concurring a life after death were responsible for the principle characteristics of Egyptian art (Smith). Their religion and beliefs were shown in most of their paintings. The relief paintings were the most common, for they showed everyday life. Most consisted of pictures of feasting, working, learning, and dancing. These painting also consisted of pictures of gods and goddesses doing different activities. (Hieronimus). The Egyptians also erected huge statues to express their devotion to their gods. As with the paintings the statues were also mainly of the gods and goddesses, but they included the pharaohs and queens as well. Unlike the other art forms the statues were not supposed to copy nature, but instead they were meant to be symbols of the peoples beliefs (Hodge). The Sphinx, perhaps the most famous statue is a figure of a king's head with the body of a lion. The Egyptians painted idealized scenes from daily life on the wall of their tombs; these scenes represented the hope for the after- life, in which there were fertile fields and harmony and happiness at home. Representing these things in the tomb was thought to ensure an ideal existence in the next world (O'Brien). Art is how they expressed their beliefs. From the beginning Egyptian art was employed largely in the service of the cult of the dead and for religious purposes (Smith). The basic intention of Egyptian art however was not to create an image of things as they were in reality, but rather as the essence of the person or object for all eternity (Egypt). In addition to producing images of deities, artists were required to provide temples and shrines where they could be honored (Cunningham).
The Pyramids are still one of the world's best architectural achievements, even though they were built many centuries ago. Built as tombs or burial places for Egyptian pharaohs or kings, these architectural wonder are still a mystery. The Egyptians believed that the bodies of the pharaohs would be protected in these tombs for all eternity. To keep the bodies safe the tombs were built as mazes with secret doors and antiquated to end passages (Pyramid). The pyramid had a Mortuary Temple built averse to the side of it.
This is where the priests made offerings to the kings' spirit every day for eternity. To the left of the Mortuary Temple, was built a smaller pyramid for the queen. Because the pharaohs believed that the home of the dead was toward the setting sun they chose a religious site on the west side of the Nile. The burial chambers were placed under the exact centers of the pyramids, because the Egyptians believed the center of the pyramid to be the cosmic force of the after life (Egypt). The pyramids design, was influenced by the religion based on the sun god Rae. The pointed shape represented the pharaohs' soul lifting to the heavens to live with the gods for all eternity (Egypt). The Egyptians also used their craftsmanship to build great temples in distinction of the pharaohs and the different gods in their religion. Sun temples or private temples were normally built near the pyramid of the pharaoh that they represented. The Egyptians conjectured the sun temples summit transmitted the life-giving force of the sun. The private temples were only for the pharaohs and the gods to enter, for they consisted of private tables and tombs (Woldering).
In conclusion, without their religion the Egyptian society would not have existed, as we know it. Egyptian culture revolved around its ardent beliefs. They never forgot about their gods they praised them everyday for their existence. They created idols of their gods and goddesses to praise. This celebration of life and death showed in all their art and architecture. Their religious rituals to pagan idols was selfless and an everyday event. I hope that one day we will be selfless, for we have only one God and yet many of us never talk to Him unless we need something. If they could praise so many everyday then why cannot we praise our one and only God?