Glossary of Egyptian Mythology
ABTU. . The Greeks called this place
AKER. . The double lion god, gaurdian of the sunrise and sunset. Gaurdian of the peaks that supported the sky. The western peak was
called Manu, while the eastern peak was called Bakhu. AKH. . The akh was the aspect of a person that would join the gods in
the underworld being immortal and unchangeable. It was created after death by
the use of funerary text and spells, designed to bring forth an akh. Once this was achieved that individual was assured of
not “dying a second time” a death that would mean the end of one’s
. This was the horizon from which the sun emerged and disappeared. The horizon
thus embodied the idea of both sunrise and sunset. It is similar to the two
peaks of the Djew or mountain symbol with a solar
disk in the center. Both the beginning and the end of each day was guarded by Aker, a double lion
god. In the
AMARNA. . The name given to the
historical time period under the rule of Amenophis IV
/Akhenaten. During this time period there were
unprecedented changes in the government, art and religion. AMENTA . . The Underworld. Originally the place where the sun set, this
name was later applied to the
AMMUT. . A female demon, she is found in The Book of the Dead, She plays an important role in the Hall of Maat.
AMULET. . A charm, often in the form of hieroglyphs, gods or sacred animals; made of precious stones or faience. They were worn like jewelry during life, and were included within the mummy wrappings for the afterlife.
AMUN. . A god who’s cult center was the
ANKH. . A symbol of life, resembling a looped cross. It was later adapted by Coptic Christians as their cross. Widely used as an amulet. ANTHROPOID. . A Greek word meaning; man-shaped. This term is used for coffins made in the shape of a human.
ANUBIS. . A jackal headed god. Guardian of the
necropolis. APIS BULL. . The Apis Bull was sacred to Osiris.
It was revered from the earliest times, through the Graeco-Roman
. A name for the land of the dead. ATEF CROWN. . The atef crown was worn by Osiris. It
is made up of the white crown of Upper Egypt and the red feathers are
representative of Busiris, Osiris’s
cult center in the Delta. ATEN. . The god that gained its prominence
during the reign of Akhenaten, who abolished the
traditional cults of
BA. . The ba can best be described as someone’s personality. Like a person’s body, each ba was an individual. It entered a person’s body with the breath of life and it left at the time of death. The ba is associated with divinity and power. It had the ability to take on different forms, in this respect the gods had many bas. The ba of the deceased is able to move freely between the underworld and the physical world. The ba is similar to the ka.
BASTET. . A cat headed goddess. As a sun goddess she represents the warm, life giving power of the sun.
BAKHU. . The mythical mountain from which the sun rose. The region of the eastern horizon. One of two mountains that held up the sky, the other being Manu. These peaks were guarded by the double lion god, Aker. BARQUE. . A boat in which the gods sailed. The barque of Ra carried a host of deities across the sky each day. BARQUE SHRINE. . Model barques were kept in these shrines in temples. These model barques were used to carry deities out of the temples in festival processions.
BIRTH HOUSE. . These were small temples, attached to the main temples of the Late and Greco-Roman Periods. These small temples are where the god of the main temple was born, or if the main temple was dedicated to a goddess it was where she bore her children. BENBEN. . A stone resembling an obelisk, representative of a sun ray BENNU. . an aspect of Ra-Atum in the form of a phoenix. The patron of the reckoning of time. The carrier of eternal light from the abode of the gods to the world of men.
BOOK OF THE DEAD. . This is a collection of magic spells and formulas
that was illustrated and written, usually on papyrus. It began to appear
in Egyptian tombs around 1600 BC. The text was intended to be spoken by
the deceased during their journey into the Underworld. It enabled the
deceased to overcome obstacles in the afterlife. It did this by teaching
passwords that allowed the deceased to turn into mythical creatures to
navigate around hazards, while granting the help and protection of the
gods, and proclaiming the deceased’s identity with the gods. The texts
continue the tradition of the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts. There are
about 200 known spells and the choice of spells can vary from copy to
CANOPIC JARS. . Four jars used to store the preserved
internal organs of the deceased. Each jar is representative of one of the four
sons of Horus. The term comes from the Greek ,
CARTONNAGE. . Papyrus or linen soaked in plaster, shaped around a body.
Used for mummy masks and coffins.
CARTOUCHE. . A circle with a horizontal bar at the bottom, elongated into an oval within which king’s names are written It is believed to act as a protector of the kings name. The sign represents a loop of rope that is never ending.
CENOTAPH. . From the Greek word meaning; “empty tomb”. A tomb built for ceremonial purposes that was never intended to be used for the interment of the deceased.
COFFIN TEXTS. . Texts written inside coffins of the Middle Kingdom that are intended to direct the souls of the dead past the dangers and perils encountered on the journey through the afterlife. More than 1,000 spells are known.
COLOSSUS. . A more then life size statue, often of a kings, but also of gods and even private individuals. These huge statues usually flank the gates or pylons of temples. They are believed to act as intermediaries between men and the gods.
CRIOSPHINX. . One of three varieties of Egyptian sphinx, having the head of a ram.
DESHRET. . The red crown.
This was the crown that represented
DIVINE ADORATRICE. . Chief priestess of Amun in
DROMOS. . A straight, paved avenue flanked by sphinxes. DUAT. . The land of the dead. It Iies under the earth and is entered through the western horizon.
ENNEAD. . A group of 9 deities that
are associated with a major cult center. The best known is the great
FAIENCE. . A glazed material, with a base of either carved soapstone or moulded clay, with an overlay of blue/green colored glass. FALSE DOOR. . A door carved or painted on a wall. The ka would use this door to partake of funerary offerings.
FECUNDITY FIGURE. . Type of offering bearer rendered at the base of temple walls. They are shown bringing offerings into the temple. The male figures are often shown with heavy pendulous breasts and bulging stomachs, this plumpness symbolizing the abundance of the offerings they bring.
FETISH. . An animal skin hanging from a stick. It was used by the cults of Osiris and Anubis.
FLAGELLUM. . A crop or whip used to ward off evil spirits. FUNERARY CONES . . Clay cones inserted above a tombs entrance with the name and title of the deceased.
FUNERARY OFFERINGS . . Bread, beer, wine and other food items provided by mourners or magically, through inscriptions and pictures in the tomb. FLAME. . This symbol represents a lamp or brazier on a stand from which a flame emerges. Fire was embodied in the sun and in its symbol the uraeus which spit fire. Fire also plays a part in the Egyptian concept of the underworld. There is one terrifying aspect of the underworld which is similar to the christians concept of hell. Most egyptians would like to avoid this place with its fiery lakes and rivers that are inhabited by fire demons.
GEB . . A god that is sometimes pictured with the head of a goose. Geb was called ‘the Great Cackler’, and as such, was represented as a goose. It was in this form that he was said to have laid the egg from which the sun was hatched. He was believed to have been the third divine king of earth. The royal throne of Egypt was known as the ‘throne of Geb’ in honor of his great reign.
HAPI. . The god of the
HATHOR. . Hathor was the goddess of joy, motherhood, and love. Hathor was originally worshipped in the form of a cow, sometimes as a cow with stars on her. Later she is represented as a woman with the head of a cow, and finally with a human head, the face broad and placid, sometimes she is depicted with the ears or horns of a cow. HEDJET. . A white crown. This was the crown of Upper Egypt (southern). HIERACOSPHINX. . One of three varieties of Egyptian sphinx, having the head of a hawk.
HIERATIC. . From the Greek word meaning “sacred,” Although this form of the written language was used throughout Egyptian history, it’s name comes from the later periods when it was used only in religious texts. HIEROGLYPH. . The Egyptian picture language. From the Greek word meaning “sacred carving”. The symbols are individual pictures that do not join together.
HIGH PRIEST. . The head of the local priesthood. HORUS. . A falcon headed god. Horus was so important to the state religion that Pharaohs were considered his human manifestation and even took on the name Horus.
HORUS NAME. . A king’s name. It identifies the king with a form of the god Horus.
HYPOSTYLE HALL. . From the Greek word meaning; “bearing pillars”. It is a term used to describe the grand, outermost halls. They are believed to represent a grove of trees.
IBU. . The tent of purification. This is the place where mummification was preformed.
IEB. . This is the heart. The Egyptians believed the heart was the center of all consciousness, even the center of life itself. When someone died it was said that their “heart had departed.” It was the only organ that was not removed from the body during mummification. In the Book of the dead, it was the heart that was weighed against the feather of Maat to see if an individual was worthy of joining Osiris in the afterlife.
KA. . The ka is usually translated as “double”, it represents a person’s double. It is what we would call a spirit or a soul. The ka was created at the same time as the physical body. It was believed that the ram-headed god Khnum crafted the ka on his potter’s wheel at the time of a persons birth. A persons ka would live on after their body had died. It was thought that when someone died they “met their ka”. The ka existed in the physical world and resided in the tomb (House of the Ka). It had the same needs that the person had in life, which was to eat, drink, etc. The Egyptians left offerings of food, drink, and worldly possessions in tombs for the ka to use. KHEPRESH. . The blue crown was a ceremonial crown. KHEPRI. . A scarab headed god. The Egyptians believed that Khepri pushed the sun across the sky in much the same fashion that a dung beetle (scarab) pushed a ball of dung across the ground. KHET. . This is a flame or fire. Fire was embodied in the sun and in its symbol the uraeus which spit fire. Fire also plays a part in the Egyptian concept of the underworld. There is one terrifying aspect of the underworld which is similar to the christians concept of hell. Most egyptians would like to avoid this place with its fiery lakes and rivers that are inhabited by fire demons.
KHNUM. . A ram headed god. His name means to create. He was the creator of all things that are and all things that shall be. He created the gods and he fashioned mankind on a potters wheel. KHU . . A spiritual entity often mentioned in association with the ba. It was viewed as an entirely spiritual and absolutely immortal being.
LECTOR PRIEST. . Translates as “One who bears the ritual book”. This priests function was to recite from the ritual texts.
LOTUS. . A symbol of birth and dawn; it was thought to have been the
cradle of the sun on the first morning of creation, rising from the
primeval waters. The lotus was a common architectural motif,
particularly used on capitals
MAAT. . The concept of order, truth, regularity and justice which was all important to the ancient Egyptians. It was the duty of the pharaohs to uphold maat.
MANU. . The mythical mountain on which the sun
set. The region of the western horizon. One of
two mountains that held up the sky, the other being BAKHU. These peaks were
guarded by the double lion god, AKER. MASTABA. . The Arabic word meaning;
“bench”. Used to describe tombs of the Early Dynastic
MENAT. . A protective amulet invoking the divine favor. It was usually worn on a string of beads at the back of the neck, probably as a counterpoise to items of jewelry worn in front. Many of these amulets have been found in tombs. They were supposed to bring fertility to women and virility to men.
MENHED. . A scribes pallet. Writing was a very important skill to the ancient Egyptians. It was practiced by a group called scribes. The writing equipment used by scribes consisted of a palette, which held black and red pigments, a water jar, and a pen. To be a scribe was a favorable position, even some kings and nobles are show proudly displaying scribe palettes.
MIN. . In early times Min was a sky-god whose symbol was a thunderbolt. His title was Chief of Heaven. He was also seen as a rain god that promoted the fertility of nature, especially in the growing of grain. MISTRESS OF THE HOUSE. . Housewife, title given to married ladies from the Middle Kingdom onwards.
MORTUARY. . pertaining to the burial of the dead. MORTUARY CULT. . People who provided funerary offerings for nourishment of the deceased.
MORTUARY PRIEST . . Called the “servant of the ka”. This was a Person who was appointed to bring daily offerings to a tomb. MUMMY. . From the Persian word; “moumiya”. A preserved corpse by either natural or artificial means. Mummification involved thoroughly drying the body to remove the source of decay. MUT. . Mut was the divine mother goddess, the queen of all gods. She is portraied as a woman wearing a vulture headdress, with the double crown(Pshent) of upper and lower Egypt.
NATRON. . A naturally occurring salt used as a preservative and drying agent during mummification. It is a mixture of four salts that occur in varying proportions: sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and sodium sulfate.
NAOS . . Shrine in which divine statues were kept, especially in temple sanctuaries. A small wooden naos was normally placed inside a monolithic one in hard stone; the latter are typical of the Late Period, and sometimes elaborately decorated. Also used as a term for temple sanctuary.
NEBU. . This is the Egyptian word for gold, which was considered a divine metal, it was thought to be the flesh of the gods. Its polished surface was related to the brilliance of the sun. Gold was important to the afterlife as it represents aspects of immortality. By the New Kingdom, the royal burial chamber was called the “House of Gold.” NECROPOLIS. . The Greek word meaning; “city of the dead” normally describes large and important burial areas that were in use for long periods.
NEITH. . A goddess of the hunt. She may have also been a war goddess. Neith was pictured as a woman wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt, holding a bow and crossed arrows. Her cult sign was a shield and crossed arrows.
NEKHBET. . A goddess portrayed as a vulture. Protectress of
NEMES. . A striped headcloth worn by Pharaohs. NEPHTHYS. . A goddess, the twin sister of Osiris, Isis and Seth. She plays an important role in the Osiris legend. Her name means ‘Lady of the House’ it’s thought to be referring to Osiris’ Palace. NETER. . This seems to be the egyptian word for the forces that are god or a group of gods, although the exact meaning is unknown. NETER-KHERTET. . This translates as “divine subterranean place”. A name for the land of the dead.
NILOMETER. . Staircase descending into the Nile and
marked with levels above low water; used for measuring, and in some cases
recording, inundation levels. The most famous are on Elephantine island and on Roda island in
NOMARCH. . The chief official of a nome. In the late Old Kingdom, and early Middle Kingdom nomarchs gained their office as hereditary rulers. They governed their nomes more or less independently of any central authority. During periods of highly centralized government, nomes ceased to have much political importance.
NU. . A swirling watery chaos from which the cosmic order was produced. In the begining there was only Nu. See also the creation myths NUT. . Nut was originally a mother-goddess who had many children. The hieroglyph for her name, which she is often seen wearing on her head is a water pot, but it is also thought to represent a womb. As the sky goddess, she is shown stretching from horizon to horizon, touching only her fingertips and toes to the ground.
OBELISK. . From the Greek word
meaning; “a spit”. It is a monumental tapering shaft usually made of
pink granite. Capped with a pyramidion
at the top. Obelisks are solar symbols similar in meaning to pyramids, they are associated with an ancient stone called
OGDOAD. . Term describing the group of 8 deities associated with Hermopolis. It contained four couples who symbolized the state of the world before creation. The group usually consists of: Nun and Naunet, representing the primeval waters; Huh and Hauhet, being endless space; Kuk and Kauket. are darkness; Amun and Amaunet. represent that which is hidden.
OPENING OF THE MOUTH. . This ceremony was performed at the
funeral to restore the senses of the deceased. The ceremony was done by
touching an adze to the mouth of a mummy or statue of the deceased,
it was believed to restore the senses in preparation for the afterlife. OPET. . A great religious festival that took place in
PANTHEON . . All the gods, collectively as a group.
PAPYRUS. . The main Egyptian writing material, and an important export. The earliest papyrus dates to the Ist Dynasty, the latest to the
Islamic Period. Oddly enough, the papyrus plant became extinct in
PET. . This is the sky depicted as a ceiling which drops at the ends, the same way the real sky seems to reach for the horizon. This sign was often used in architectural motifs; the top of walls, and door frames. It symbolizes the heavens.
PRAENOMEN. . This is a king’s first cartouche name, which he adopted on his accession; also called the “throne name.” It consists of a statement about the god Ra.
PRONAOS. . Room in front of the naos sanctuary of a temple. The location of this
room varies with the design of the temple.
PROPHET. . This translates as “God’s Servant”,
There was usually a ranking; the high priest of Amun
at Thebes was called “The First Prophet of Amun”;
below him were the Second Prophet and so on. The head of the local cults, was often called “Overseer of Prophets.” PROPYLON. . Gateway that stands in front
of a pylon. PSHENT.
. The Crown of upper and lower
PYLON. . From the Greek word meaning “gate” It is a monumental
entrance wall of a temple. Pylons are the largest and least essential parts of
a temple that is usually built last. Some temples have more then one set, the
PYRAMIDION. . Capstone of a pyramid or the top of an obelisk. The pyramidion was decorated and became a symbolic object that was the focal point of the small brick pyramids of private tombs. PYRAMID TEXTS. . Texts on the walls of the pyramids of the end of the 5th through 8th Dynasties.
RA. . From very early times Ra was a sun god. He took on many
of the attributes and even the names of other gods as Egyptian myths
evolved. He is often pictured as a hawk
or as a hawk headed man with a solar disk encircled by a uraeus
on his head. He is often pictured wearing the double crown of upper and lower Egypt. ROCK-CUT TOMB. . Method of excavating
tombs that begun during the Middle Kingdom. The burials in the
SA. . The Sa was a symbol of protection. Its origins are uncertain, but it is speculated that it represents either a rolled up herdsman’s shelter or a papyrus life-preserver used by ancient egyptian boaters. Either way it is clearly a symbol of protection. From early times the Sa plays an important part in jewelry design. It is often used in conjunction with symbols, particularly the ankh, was and djed signs. We often find Taurt, the hippopotamus goddess of childbirth, resting her paw on a standing Sa sign.
SAFF TOMB. . An Arabic word that means “row”, it describes the rock-cut tombs of the early 11th Dynasty that consisted of a row of openings on the hillside.
SARCOPHAGUS . . From the Greek word meaning; “flesh eater”. It was the name given to the stone container within which the coffins and mummy were placed.
SCARAB . . The dung-rolling beetle was, to the ancient Egyptians, a symbol of regeneration and spontaneous creation, as it seemed to emerge from nowhere; in fact it came from eggs previously laid in the sand. Seals and amulets in scarab form were very common and were thought to possess magic powers.
SED FESTIVAL. . This is ritual meant to show royal regeneration. It was traditionally celebrated after 30 years of a king’s reign. It is a scene usually found decorating the mortuary temples of the king. SEKHEM. . A symbol of authority.
SEKHET-AANRU. . This mythical place was originally
called the “Field of the Aanru plants” It was
believed to be islands in the Delta where the souls of the dead lived. This was
the abode of the god Osiris, who bestowed goodness
upon his followers, and here the dead could lead a new existence complete with
an abundance of food of every kind. The Sekhet-Aanru
is in the “Fields of Peace”. SEKHET-HETEPET. . According to the Osiris
cults the Fields of Peace was the desired location of the deceased. They would
join with their god, Osiris and become a khu, drink, plow, reap, fight, make love, never be in a
state of servitude and always be in a position of authority. SEKHMET. . A lion
headed goddess. As a sun goddess she represents the scorching, burning,
destructive heat of the sun. She was a fierce goddess of war, the destroyer of
the enemies of Ra and Osiris. SEPAT. . The ancient Egyptian term for an administrative
SESEN. . A lotus flower. This is a symbol
of the sun, of creation and rebirth. Because at night the flower closes and
sinks underwater, at dawn it rises and opens again. According to one creation
myth it was a giant lotus which first rose out of the watery chaos at the
beginning of time. From this giant lotus the sun itself rose on the first
day. SET AMENTET.
. This means “the mountain of the underworld,” a common name
for the cemeteries were in the mountains or desert on the western bank
SETH. . Early in Egyptian history, Seth is spoken of in terms of reverence as the god of wind and storms. He was even known as the Lord of Upper Egypt. Later he became the god of evil. SHAWABTI . . See USHABTI.
SHE. . A pool of water. The Egyptians
believed water was the primeval matter from which aII
creation began. Life in
SHEN. . A loop of rope that has no beginning and no end, it symbolized eternity. The shen also seems to be a symbol of protection. It is often seen being clutched by deities in bird form, Horus the falcon, Mut the vulture. Hovering over Pharaohs head with their wings outstretched in a gesture of protection. The word shen comes from the word “shenu” which means “encircle,” and in its elongated form became the cartouche which surrounded the king’s name.
SISTRUM. . The sistrum was a sacred noise-making instrument used in the cult of Hathor. The sistrum consisted of a wooden or metal frame fitted with loose strips of metal and disks which jingled when moved. This noise was thought to attract the attention of the gods. There are two types of sistrum, an iba, was shaped in a simple loop, like a closed horse-shoe with loose cross bars of metal above a Hathor head and a long handle. The seseshet had the shape of a naos temple above a Hathor head, with ornamental loops on the sides. The rattle was inside the box of the naos. They were usually carried by women of high rank. SOBEK. . A crocodile-headed god. Admired and feared for his ferocity. At the command of Ra, He performed tasks such as catching with a net the four sons of Horus as they emerged from the waters in a lotus bloom. SPHINX. . A figure with the body of a lion and the head of a man, hawk or a ram.
STELA. . A stone slab, sometimes wood, decorated with paintings, reliefs or texts. They usually commemorate an event.
TALATAT. . This Arabic word means “three handbreadths”. It is used to describe the typical stone building blocks of temples of Akhenaten, they are decorated with scenes in the Amarna style. They have been found reused at a number of other building sites. TAURT. . A goddess who protected pregnant woman and infants. Also protectress of rebirth into the afterlife. She is pictured as a pregnant hippopotamus with human breasts, the hind legs of a lioness and the tail of a crocodile.
THEBAN TRIAD. . This consist of the gods Amun, his wife Mut, and their son Khons.
THOTH. . An ibis headed god. Thoth was
said to be mighty in knowledge and divine speech. The inventer of spoken and written language. As the lord
of books he was the scribe of the gods and patron of all scribes. He is credited with inventing astronomy,
geometry, and medicine. Thoth was the measurer of the
earth and the counter of the stars, the keeper and recorder of all knowledge.
It was Thoth who was believed to have written important
religious texts such as The Book of the Dead.
TIET. . The exact origin of the tiet is unknown. In many respects it resembles an ankh
except that its arms curve down. Its meaning is also reminiscent of the ankh, it is often translated to mean welfare or life. As early as the Third Dynasty we find the tiet being used as decoration when it appears with both the
ankh and the djed column, and later with the was scepter. The tiet is
UDJAT . . This important symbol is named after the “sound eye” of Horus. According to one version of the legend Seth, the god of evil intentions, snatched away the eye of Horus which then fell to pieces. Thoth found it and put it together again. The udjat was regarded as a powerful protective amulet; it is frequently found in tombs, on coffins and on the seal which was placed over the incision in the mummy through which the internal organs were removed.
UNDERWORLD BOOKS. . A textual and
pictorial compositions that is found in
URAEUS. . A symbol of kingship.
A rearing cobra was worn on the king’s forehead or crown. The cobra was
associated with the “eye” of the sun. It
was a protector of the king, spitting out fire.
USHABTI. . Literally translated it means “to
answer.” It is a small mummiform figure placed in
tombs to do work in the afterlife on behalf of the deceased. In some tombs of
WAS SCEPTER. . This is a symbol of power and dominion. The Was scepter is carried by deities as a sign of their power. It is also seen being carried by kings and later by people of lesser stature in mortuary scenes.
WABET. . A place where part of purification and mummification rites took place.
WADJET. . See Udjat.
WINGED DISK. . This is a form that the god Horus Behudety (Horus of Edfu) takes in his
battles with Seth. The god Thoth used his magic to
turn Horus into a sun-disk with splendid outstretched
wings. The goddesses Nekhbet and Uazet
in the form of uraeus snakes joined him at his side.
The earliest example of this image is found in the Ist Dynasty. It is used widely in architecture, on
ceilings, cornices and stelae. It is an image that is
often copied outside
ZODIAC. . The Babylonian and Greek signs of the zodiac were
Try these links for
more info about Theosophy
and there’s always a cup of tea afterwards
Independent Theosophy Blog
One liners and quick explanations
About aspects of Theosophy
Classic Introductory Theosophy Text
A Text Book of Theosophy By C
Try these if you are looking for a
local Theosophy Group or Centre