VII. Religion of the Ancient Egytians.
By Prof. G. Steindorff.
In spite of the numerous religious inscriptions and represent¬
ations that have come down to us from Egyptian antiquity our
knowledge of the Egyptian religion is comparatively slight. "We are
indeed acquainted with the names and aspects of many deities and
we know in what temples they were worshipped, hut of the true
essence of these deities, of the particular significance attributed to
them by priests and people, ofthe myths attached to the personality
of each, we know very little. One thing, however, is certain; viz.
that the Egyptian religion was developed in prehistoric times in
separate and independent communities. Each town, each village,
each hamlet had its own god, its own patron deity, to whom the in¬
habitants prayed when need or danger threatened, whose favour
they courted with gifts, and whose anger they sought to avert with
sacrifices. The names of these local deities and the aspects assigned
to them by their various worshippers differentiate them very mark¬
edly. The god of the region of the cataracts, for example, was
named Khnum, the god of Thebes Amon or Ammon, and the god of
Heliopolis Alum. Frequently they possessed no special name, hut
were distinguished only in terms of the town where their worship
was celebrated, as, e.g., He of Ombos, She of Bast (Bubastis), etc.
The actual form also of the deity was affected by the character of
the town and his worshippers. A locality in which the manufacture
of pottery was the chief industry represented its god as a great.
potter, who had formed the entire world out of clay moulded on the
potter's wheel; in agricultural districts the deities were gods of
harvest; places inhabited by flsherfolk worshipped water-gods.
When a small town increased in power and extended its authority
over an entire district or province, the jurisdiction of its god was
likewise extended, and the 'town god' became a 'provincial god'.
It probably often happened also that the inhabitants of a certain
town emigrated to new settlements; in such cases they doubt¬
less carried their deities with them and erected new temples to
them in the new home. Sometimes the effective protection and
abundant benefits bestowed on his worshippers by some local deity
might attract the attention of less fortunate neighbours and induce
them also to rear a temple for him and worship him. Thus in various
ways gods became known in towns to which they were not indig¬
enous and obtained circles of worshippers side by side with the
purely local deities.
The extended influence of local deities is, however, not always
to he explained by such merely external considerations. There can
be no doubt that the nation at the very earliest period had a certain
number of universally shared religious ideas and that certain super-