Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt's gods and goddesses looked at least partly like humans and behaved a bit like us, too. Some deities had animal features, like heads, on top of humanoid bodies. Since they were gods, people were supposed to worship them. There wasn't one right way to do this throughout all of Egyptian history and in all places. Different cities and different pharaohs favored one set of gods over another.

Here is a summary list of some of the major gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt and their primary functions.

01
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Anubis.jpg
Head of Anubis, 13th-12th century BC. Anubis was the jackal-headed god of the dead in Egyptian mythology. This head dates from the 19th Dynasty. Located in the Louvre, Paris. (Photo by Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Anubis was a funerary god. His task came to be holding the scales on which the heart was weighed. If the heart was lighter than a feather, the dead would be led by Anubis to Osiris. If heavier, the soul would be destroyed.

02
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Bast or Bastet

Bast
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Bast is usually shown with a feline head or ears on a woman's body or as a (usually, non-domestic) cat. The cat was her sacred animal. She was a daughter of Ra and was a protective goddess. Tour Egypt says another name for Bast is Ailuros and says she was originally a sun goddess who came to be associated with the moon after contact with the Greek goddess Artemis.

03
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Bes or Bisu

Bas-relief depicting God Bes, Temple of Isis at Philae (Unesco World Heritage List, 1979), Agilkia Island, Aswan, Egypt, Egyptian civilization
Bas-relief depicting the God Bes, Temple of Isis at Philae (Unesco World Heritage List, 1979), Agilkia Island, Aswan, Egypt. Egyptian civilisation. De Agostini / C. Sappa / Getty Images

Bes may have been an imported Egyptian god, possibly of Nubian origin. Bes is depicted as a dwarf sticking out his tongue, in full frontal view instead of the profile view of most of the other Egyptian gods. Bes was a protector god who helped in childbirth and promoted fertility. He was a guardian against snakes and misfortune.

04
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Geb or Keb

Depiction of Geb, detail of wall painting, Tomb of Baenentyu, Bahariya Oasis, Egypt, Egyptian civilization, Saite Period, Dynasty XXVI
Depiction of Geb, detail of a wall painting, Tomb of Baenentyu, Bahariya Oasis, Egypt. Egyptian civilisation, Saite Period, Dynasty XXVI. De Agostini / C. Sappa / Getty Images

Geb, god of the earth, was an Egyptian fertility god who laid the egg from which the sun was hatched. He was known as the Great Cackler because of his association with geese. The goose was Geb's sacred animal. He was worshiped in Lower Egypt, where he was depicted as bearded with a goose on his head or a white crown. His laughter was thought to cause earthquakes. Geb married his sister Nut, the sky goddess. Set(h) and Nephthys were children of Geb and Nut. Geb is often shown witnessing the weighing of the heart during the judgment of the dead in the afterlife. Tour Egypt says Geb was associated with the Greek god Kronos.

05
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Hathor

Hathor.jpg
Hathor goddess in Philae Temple, Aswan Egypt. Getty Images

Hathor was an Egyptian cow-goddess and personification of the Milky Way. She was the wife or daughter of Ra and mother of Horus in some traditions.

06
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Pharaoh Hatshepsut making an offering to Horus.
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Horus was normally considered the son of Osiris and Isis. He was the pharaoh's protector and also patron of young men. Tour Egypt lists these other names for him:

  • Heru
  • Hor
  • Harendotes/Har-nedj-itef (Horus the Avenger)
  • Har-Pa-Neb-Taui (Horus Lord of the Two Lands)

Horus' different names are associated with specific aspects of Horus so that Horus Behudety is associated with the noon sun. Horus was the falcon god, although the sun god Re, with whom Horus is sometimes associated, also appeared in falcon form.

07
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Neith

Neith
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Neith (Nit (Net, Neit) is a predynastic Egyptian goddess who is compared with the Greek goddess Athena. She is mentioned in Plato's Timaeus as coming from the Egyptian district of Sais. Neith is depicted as a weaver, like Athena, and also like Athena as a weapon-bearing war goddess. She is also shown wearing a red crown for Lower Egypt. Neith is another mortuary god connected with the woven bandages of the mummy.

08
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Isis

Isis
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Isis was the great Egyptian goddess, wife of Osiris, mother of Horus, sister of Osiris, Set, and Nephthys, and daughter of Geb and Nut, who was worshiped all over Egypt and elsewhere. She searched for her husband's body, retrieved and reassembled Osiris, taking on the role of goddess of the dead. She then impregnated herself from Osiris' body and gave birth to Horus whom she raised in secrecy to keep him safe from Osiris' killer, Seth. She was associated with life, the winds, the heavens, beer, abundance, magic, and more. Isis is shown as a beautiful woman wearing a sun disk.

09
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Nephthys

Nephthys Welcomes Sethi I
Nephthys Welcomes Sethi I. The Tomb of Sethi I (KV 17) Valley of the Kings in Thebes. CC Flickr User dalbera

Nephthys (Nebet-het, Nebt-het) is the head of the household of the gods, and was the daughter of Seb and Nut, sister of Osiris, Isis, and Set, wife of Set, mother of Anubis, either by Osiris or Set. Nephthys is sometimes depicted as a falcon or as a woman with falcon wings. Nephthys was a death goddess as well as being a goddess of women and the house and a companion of Isis.

10
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Nut

Egyptian Sky Goddess Nut Arched Over the Earth
Egyptian Sky Goddess Nut Arched Over the Earth. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Nut (Nuit, Newet, and Neuth) is the Egyptian sky goddess depicted supporting the sky with her back, her body blue and covered with stars. Nut is the daughter of Shu and Tefnut, the wife of Geb, and mother of Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nepthys.

11
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Priest of Osiris Holding Canopic Jar of Osiris.
Priest of Osiris Holding Canopic Jar of Osiris. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Osiris, god of the dead, is the son of Geb and Nut, brother/husband of Isis, and father of Horus. He is dressed like the pharaohs wearing an atef crown with ram's horns, and carrying a crook and flail, with his lower body mummified. Osiris is an underworld god who, after being murdered by his brother, was brought back to life by his wife. Since he was killed, Osiris thereafter lives in the underworld where he judges the dead.

12
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Ra at Deir el Bahari
Ra at Deir el Bahari. CC Flickr User kairoinfo4u

Re or Ra, the Egyptian sun god, ruler of everything, was especially associated with the city of the sun or Heliopolis. He came to be associated with Horus. Re may be depicted as a man with a sun disk on his head or with the head of a falcon

13
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Set - Seth

Seth Amulet.
Seth Amulet - Faience. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Set or Seti is the Egyptian god of chaos, evil, war, storms, deserts, and foreign lands, who killed and cut up his older brother Osiris. He is depicted as composite animals.

14
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Shu

The Egyptian god Shu holding up the sky
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Shu was an Egyptian air and sky god who mated with his sister Tefnut to sire Nut and Geb. Shu is shown with an ostrich feather. He is responsible for holding the sky separate from the earth.

15
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Tefnut

Menat with the Heads of the Deities Shu and Tefnut
In rituals for the gods, special instruments were used by priests and priestesses to invoke the deities or to perform rituals before them. One of the most important instruments was the Menat, a counterweight that held elaborate beaded collars in place, used also as a noise-making ritual instrument by rattling the collar's beads. The representation of a broad collar called an Usekh (also called an Aegis, originally a Greek term for "shield") surmounted with the head of a deity functioned as a protective symbol. This combination of the Menat and Usekh is surmounted by the heads of the divine couple Shu (god of the air) and Tefnut (goddess of moisture and corrosive air). They were the first emanations of the primeval god Atum, when he created the world. The Menat is flanked by cobra serpents; the upper part displays the squatting figure of the ram-headed sun god, while the lower part displays an oxyrhynchus fish in a papyrus thicket. Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

A fertility goddess, Tefnut is also the Egyptian goddess of moisture or water. She is the wife of Shu and mother of Geb and Nut. Sometimes Tefnut helps Shu hold up the firmament.