Myth / Egyptian Mythology

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/st_osiris.jpg
Osiris, followed by his two sons, Anubis and Horus.

The Ancient Egyptians had quite a lot of deities, many of whom have "turned up" in fiction, especially as Ancient Aliens. They show up in The Bible book of Exodus, most of which takes place in ancient Egypt. note 

As with many other mythologies around the world there are different versions of many Egyptian myths, which results in a highly confusing mythology. Ancient Egyptian History is reflected in the history of Egypt's gods. Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt.note  When the formerly-two kingdoms started to merge the pantheons into one, things became a messnote . Some deities were merged, renamed, or outright changed to try to keep the newly united kingdom's religion straight.

And of course, Egyptian Mythology contains the Older Than Dirt examples of many a trope. See the character sheet for a listing of the major gods and associated tropes.


Tropes:

  • Action Girl: Many of the goddesses became one, particularly Isis, Sekhmet, and Hathor.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Set, although an ambiguous deity in the earliest version of his myths, was worshipped like the other gods and protected Ra from Apep. After the division of Egypt, he became a God of Evil in the Lower Kingdom and even more so after the Hyksos invasion.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population:
    • Osiris had greenish-blue skin, though that might have something to do with the fact that he's a corpse.
    • Min is pitch black, Ptah is also green, and other gods are blue or yellow, or just various shades of flesh.
    • At least some period have the belief that the gods had flesh made of gold. As in, they were living metal.
  • Animorphism: Many gods are either depicted with the heads of their specific animal, or can completely turn into one.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification
  • Ax-Crazy: When Sekhmet was sent to Egypt to punish traitors of Ra, she slaughtered half the population, mauling them and drinking their blood.
  • Back from the Dead: Osiris, after being killed and cut into pieces by Seth.
  • Badass Bookworm: Thoth. The book of spells he wrote had to be dumped in the deepest part of the Nile, guarded by scorpions and an immortal serpent, and put inside a gold box inside a silver box inside an ebony/ivory box inside a wooden box inside a bronze box inside an iron box. The person who recovered it turned into a living god until Thoth wiped him out. He also plays a major role in pretty much every major variant of Egyptian mythology, with him even having hand in creating the universe in some of them. Also, said book was made from Emerald...
  • Beware the Nice Ones: See below regarding the connection between Hathor and Sekhmet.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Even though she still is a benevolent goddess, Isis convinced Ra to tell her his secret name by poisoning him. She's also well known to be clever and deceptive. Hathor is also an example due to her Ax-Crazy alter ego Sekhmet.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: A lot. Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys were all siblings, who fell in love while still in the womb. This aspect of Egyptian mythology reflected on the marriage habits of the Pharaohs. Also, Nut and Geb were so much in love with each other, that their children decided to put a stop to it by keeping them apart. (And this is why the sky is far enough from the ground that plants, animals, and people can live between the two.)
  • Canon Foreigner: Aten, the disc-shape sun god.
  • Canon Immigrant: Bes, who is drawn in a completely different style than the other gods, and came from Nubia. It's also possible that Hathor's following originated further south as well.
    • Qetesh is an adopted deity from the Canaanite pantheon.
  • Cain and Abel:
  • Came Back Wrong: Osiris seems to be a cross between Destination Host Unreachable and Inhuman Human.
  • Cat Folk: Bast. The Cat Goddess.
  • Cessation of Existence:
    • If a dead person's heart is heavier than Ma'at's feather, it's fed to the beast Ammit and the dead person ceases to exist. note 
    • Also the punishment given to tomb robbers. A convicted tomb robber would be executed, their body left out in the desert for scavengers, and their name utterly erased from everywhere. In the Ancient Egyptian religious system, this meant that their soul was annihilated.
  • Continuity Snarl: Best describes the contradictory nature of Egyptian mythology. Ancient Egyptian culture spans more than half of written history, and suffered repeated massive breakdowns and invasions/occupations. It is inevitable that things got a bit wonky.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • Osiris once he became the god of death.
    • Anubis as well, being portrayed as a black jackal.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: That is one version of how Atum created Shu and Tefnut (the other is by spitting).
    • Some versions have it as both. It wasn't really a date with Rosie Palms, so much as a date with... his own mouth.
    • Although some myths have him dating both simultaneously, leading Egyptian priests to argue over whether his hand or his mouth was the first female.
    • In the event, the prevalence of myths about Atum/Ra going about creation by pleasuring himself seem to have led to a custom at some point in time where Shemu—the Egyptian spring festival—would include a ceremony in which the pharaoh would publicly jack off into the Nile to ensure fertility that growing season.note 
  • Depending on the Writer: There was little uniformity in Egyptian mythology, and several different versions of the legends and tales of the gods. The most prominent example is the backstory of Anubis. Originally he was just another of Ra's spontaneously birthed children. Then he became the son of Set and Nepthys. Then later myths tried to degrade Set by implying he was impotent, so Anubis became the secret child of Nepthys and Osiris. Who said soap operas weren't high art?note 
  • Destination Host Unreachable: After being murdered by Set, Osiris was resurrected twice but couldn't stay in our world either time. The first time, he died almost immediately after having sex with Isis and impregnating her with Horus. The second time, he was shuffled off to the the underworld to rule over the dead. This wasn't such a bad deal for him, though, as in Egyptian mythology the underworld is a pretty nice place, more akin to heaven than to other mythological underworlds. And Osiris stayed a powerful god and was venerated by the people of Egypt as one of their chief deities.
  • Destroyer Deity: Apep, also known by his Greek name Apophis, is a giant primordial serpent who chases the sun god Ra every day in an attempt to eat him and so end all life. Any soul who get lost on their way to the afterlife are also devoured by Apep. He's notably the only god in the Egyptian pantheon who was prayed against.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Ra (or Aten, sometimes) fights Apep every single night. However, Apep eats souls, so he's dangerous to humans as well. The solution? Guides to fighting Apep, with such tactics as Spitting Upon Apep, Defiling Apep with the Left Foot, Taking a Lance to Smite Apep, Fettering Apep, Taking a Knife to Smite Apep and Laying Fire Upon Apep.
  • Divine Conflict:
    • Set was often in conflict with the other gods, up to killing Osiris and driving Isis and Horus into exile. Horus would eventually return to drive Set off and reclaim Osiris' throne.
    • Every night Ra had to pass through the underworld and battle the serpent-god Apep (a.k.a. Apophis). Sometimes Apep would eat Ra alive, causing bad weather. If Apep went after Ra during the day, we got a solar eclipse.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Osiris and Anubis, despite what people will say.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Apep, or Apophis, a gigantic serpent-demon that embodied chaos and darkness. Every night it tried to eat Ra as he passed through the underworld. Prior to the demonization of Set (and even afterward; even the "Evil Set" merely wanted to overthrow the other gods, not destroy everything), Apep was considered the ultimate evil. Set's punishment for murdering Osiris is to guard Ra's sun barge from Apophis and kill him twice a day until his punishment is fulfilled.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: This applies to pretty much the whole of Egyptian Mythology. Many works of fiction revolving around Egyptian mythology tend to get the role of Anubis way off. He's usually referred to as "the Lord of the Dead" or as "the God of Death," when that title in fact refers to his father, Osiris. Anubis was a deity whose role revolved around the dead, but he was actually more of a guardian of the dead (as mentioned, largely a psychopomp) than the Grim Reaper type figure often shown. More egregiously, he is often, in addition to being referred to as a god akin to Hades from Greek mythology, misconstrued as being an evil or malevolent god, sometimes even serving as the Egyptian stand in for Satan. In reality, the Egyptians considered him to be an all-around pretty cool guy. It should be noted, however, that prior to Osiris' rise in popularity during the Middle Kingdom, Anubis was the primary god of death, and the son of Ra.
  • Evil Counterpart: Apep could be seen as one compared to Wadjet, as they where both snakes.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Set was a right bastard, but nevertheless opposed Apep and his attempts to destroy the universe.
  • Evil Uncle: Set was one to Horus.
  • Eye Scream: During their battle, Set plucked out one of Horus' eyes. Additionally, after Horus decapitated Isis and escaped, Set found him and did it again, but with both eyes.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Set
  • Feathered Serpent: Wadjet sometimes.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: For the most part, the followers of Egyptian Mythology understood that the various forms ascribed to their various gods weren't supposed to be how the gods actually were. Those forms were supposed to be symbolic of concepts and traits found in the gods, with the actual gods themselves being thought to exist as abstract forces.
  • Furry Fandom: Because they have animal heads, Anubis, Bast and Sekhmet are particularly popular here. Especially Anubis.
  • God of Evil: Set, though he wasn't always: originally, he was the god of the desert and storms. He was designated as evil after Egypt was invaded by a people who favored him. He even helped Ra fight against Apep the serpent every night (which doesn't change the fact that he ruthlessly killed Osiris). Apep on the other hand was the god of darkness and chaos but is oddly never really used in fiction as much as Set.
  • Going to Give It More Energy: Sekhmet is let loose (in the form of a lioness) upon a sinful population. She gets out of control and the gods, taking pity on the humans, show them the way to stop her: they exploit her insatiable thirst for blood by flooding a nearby field with blood-red wine (either that or beer dyed red, depending on what version you read). When the crazed goddess passes by on her way to eat more people, she pounced on the lake of "blood" and drank it all. This results in the most severe hangover ever — Sekhmet passes out and wakes up as a cow. This peaceful form of her is named Hathor.
  • Greater Scope Villain: Apep is this; Set might indeed be a foe for some of the other gods, but he never outright challenges Ra, and actually is often depicted loyally defending him. Apep on the other hand, embodies chaos and darkness, and stands against all that the other gods stand for, essentially being the Egyptian equivalent of Satan.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Hathor, at times.
  • Hell Hound: Egypt was in love with these: Anubis is the most well-known, but there were also Wepwawet, a white wolf war god that got associated with Anubis; Duamutef, a jackal-headed god and one of Horus' children who guards the canopic jars, also has ties with Anubis; Khenti-Amentiu, a jackal god of the dead that's even more ancient than Anubis and Osiris, likely connected to the former; and Sed, a jackal god with a ritual named after him celebrating the anniversary of the current Pharaoh's rule, closely connected to Wepwawet. Oh, and Hermanubis, a Fusion Dance between Anubis and Hermes created after the Greeks invaded.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: During the battle between Horus and Set, Horus does something very naughty over Set's salad.
  • I Love the Dead: Isis and Osiris' corpse.
  • Inhuman Human: Osiris, perhaps, as he's usually portrayed as a blue- or green-skinned mummy after his resurrection. He was still able to impregnate Isis.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: Sweet fertility goddess Hathor and her alter ego Sekhmet the Ax-Crazy Omnicidal Maniac.
  • Kill All Humans: In one myth Ra becomes angry with humanity for disrespecting him, so he turns Hathor into Sekhmet (depending on which version of the myth you're reading) and sends her on a bloody rampage. Sekhmet nearly wipes humanity out before Ra decides she's overdoing it and sends Thoth to lull her with tales and blood-colored wine. When she becomes drunk she reverts back to Hathor. The Egyptians celebrated the events every year during the Festival of Hathor by getting really drunk.
  • Killed Off for Real: Whoever's heart doesn't weigh the same as the Feather of Truth on the scales in the afterlife gets their heart fed to Ammit, after which the person the heart belonged to ceases to exist. People whose bodies fire had destroyed could also not enter the afterlife.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: It would be daunting to try to collect all, or even some, of the gods of Egyptian Mythology can be a daunting task. And that's before you get into the numerous combinations and variants of said gods.
  • Lost Forever: Nobody knows what kind of animal Set's head was based on. One might say its form is no longer set in stone.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • Ammit, the demon that devoured the hearts of the unworthy, was made up of the scariest animals in Egypt: head of a crocodile, body of a lion, hindquarters of a hippo.note 
    • The Sphinx. (Some Sphinxes had ram horns.)
    • Some of the protection gods were also made of the scariest bits of the scariest animals. Made it easier to frighten those evil spirits away.
    • The Set animal, according to one theory. Another possibility is the mormyrid.
  • My Beloved Smother: Nut literally does this, as the goddess of the sky.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Ammit the Devourer.
  • Necromantic: Isis as she tries to resurrect Osiris.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Sobek was the crocodile-headed god. He isn't one of the worse gods, actually, but because he represented the flooding of the Nile he could be both benevolent and dangerous.
  • Non-Human Head: Quite a few, and possibly the Ur-Examples of it:
    • Horus, one of the main sun gods, has the head of a hawk; the sun and moon are his eyes.
    • Bastet, a warrior goddess/goddess of cats, has the head of a lioness.
    • Thoth, god of knowledge, has the head of an ibis (or sometimes a baboon when he's being A'an, the god of equilibrium).
    • Anubis, one of the most famous gods of the underworld, has the head of a jackal, a known scavenger of the dead.
    • Set, god of storms and violence, has the head of an unidentifiable (and possibly imaginary) creature usually just called a 'Set animal'.
  • Off with His Head!: Horus beheads his mother Isis at one point for her intervening in a fight between him and Set.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Sekhmet doesn't care who or what you are. If she sees you, you're dead.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The primary division of the Ancient Egyptian religion was not Good versus Evil, but Order Versus Chaos. The concept of balance, or Ma'at, was the central theme of the whole religion with the Pharaoh as the "Lord of Ma'at". Depending on the version of the story, several gods such as Ra, Osiris, Thoth, Anubis, and Benu were all considered beyond the concepts of good or evil; instead, their main responsibility was to keep the universe from spiraling into chaos.
  • Our Souls Are Different: The Ancient Egyptians believed that a person's soul was composed of several different aspects:
    • The Ib, or a person's heart, the seat of their emotions, and of their place in the spectrum of good and evil. When a person died, it was weighed against a feather of Ma'at, and if it was found wanting, it was cast to Ammit, the devourer, and a person experienced complete Cessation of Existence.
    • The Sheut, or a person's shadow, also translated as their image. Part of the reason why pharaohs had so many statues of themselves made; it was believed that because these statues were of their image, they would partially live on through them. Also, an aspect of worship, as it was believe that the image of a god held an aspect of the god itself, and was thus, divine.
    • The Ren, or a person's name. Almost all pharaohs and gods utilized many different names for themselves, believing that if no one knew all of them, it was impossible to fully curse and damn the individual's name. Part of the reason Isis was so feared: one of her names was "She Who Knows All Names."
    • The Ba, or a person's "individuality." Sometimes interpreted as the essential intrinsic "uniqueness" of the person it belonged to, or sometimes, as the person them self. Part of what gave an individual their consciousness in the afterlife.
    • The Ka, or a person's vital life-force. When a person is born, their Ka is created, and when they die, it is destroyed, and is merged with their Ba to become...
    • Akh, which has no literal translation that makes sense. It is best described as the magical essence that allows a person to experience the afterlife. Part of the reason for properly maintained tombs, as it was believed that a tomb held the person's Akh, and if it was destroyed, a person could experience "the second death," as mentioned above, Cessation of Existence.
  • Petting Zoo People: The deities with animal heads and human bodies. Though the Egyptians didn't actually believe those deities had animal heads; the animals symbolized aspects of the deity or were sacred to them, as the ibis to Thoth.
  • Resurrective Immortality: The Egyptian gods are immortal in this way. Although they are depicted as being killed, and aging, in several myths, they always come back to life. Ra dies each and every evening, and is reborn every morning. Though the evidence isn't entirely clear, it appears that all gods were thought to age, die, and resurrect.
  • Psychopomp: Anubis, whose "guarding the dead" duties came reasonably close, as although he did not directly guide the dead in the journey to the Underworld (you had to do that more or less alone), he was one of the more helpful deities in the whole getting-to-the-afterlife thing.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In some versions, Set murdered Osiris as revenge for having slept with his wife.
  • Scarab Power: The Trope Maker and Ur-Example. To the Ancient Egyptians, the scarab beetle (specifically the species Scarabaeus sacer) was a symbol of Khepri, the early morning manifestation of the sun god Ra, from an analogy between the beetle's behaviour of rolling a ball of dung across the ground and Khepri's task of rolling the sun across the sky.They accordingly held the species to be sacred. The Egyptians also observed young beetles emerging from the ball of dung, from which they mistakenly inferred that the female beetle was able to reproduce without needing a male. From this, they drew parallels with their god Atum, who also begat children alone.
  • Shapeshifting: Nearly all the gods and goddesses could do it.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Most of the names in Ancient Egyptian. Because Egyptians didn't write vowels in their language, Egyptologists generally use an arbitrary transcription where certain vowels (usually "e") are inserted to make pronunciation easier. This results in a god's name being spelled in several different ways, most of which have little to do with how it was pronounced in the actual language. note 
  • Top God: Just who did the Egyptians call top god? That's dependent heavily on what historical period you were in, and often what city you were in. In Heliopolis it was Amun (whom the Greeks conflated with Zeus), Ptah in Memphis, and in various other times and places Ra, Osiris, Horus, Isis, Anubis, and, during a brief flirtation with monotheism, Aten held this role.
  • Twincest
  • Twin Switch: Apparently this is how Anubis was conceived; Nephthys disguised herself as Isis and slept with Osiris. Though after everyone found out Isis and Osiris never seemed to hold it against her. Indeed, Osiris treated Anubis as a second son and co-ruler of the Underworld. Set, however, disowned Anubis.
  • The Unpronounceable: See Spell My Name with an "S". Most of the Egyptians are noted by their Greek names due to them being easier to pronounce in English. Thoth in particular is referred to by his greek name since the closest anyone can get to the Egyptian spelling is "Jehuti".
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: Ancient Egyptian art depicts the soul (ba) of a deceased person as a bird with the face of the deceased.
  • You Killed My Father:
    • The bloody and drawn-out battle between Horus and Set happened because Set killed his father and took over the kingdom.
    • Although his role was more subdued, Anubis aided his half-brother Horus and helped his dad Osiris enter the underworld.


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