Ancient Egypt for Kids
Gods & Goddesses
The ancient Egyptian gods were very different from the gods in other ancient civilizations.
Animal Heads, Green Bodies, False Beards: In the ancient world around the Mediterranean, most civilizations had gods that looked like people, at least sort of like people. This was not true in ancient Egypt. In ancient Egypt, it was fairly easy to spot a god in drawings, hieroglyphics, statues, and paintings and other works of art. They could be recognized by the objects they carried and how they looked. Some gods carried an ankh (symbol of life) and some gods carried the scepter of power. Most ancient Egyptian gods had animal heads or green bodies or something that set them apart from people. Those few gods that had more human-like heads wore false beards. Even some with animal heads had false beards. That's why pharaohs wore false beards - because when a pharaoh died, he became a god. Unless you were a pharaoh or a god, you could not wear a false beard.
The God Relay System: Most ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean built temples to honor their gods, and quite often each temple honored only one god. If you wanted to talk to a specific god, you went to a specific temple. This was not true in ancient Egypt. There were many cities built along the Nile River. These cities built many temples. Each temple was used for a variety of purposes including store rooms, guest rooms, school rooms, places to meet and gossip, and more. Each Egyptian temple was also used to honor and communicate with the many Egyptian gods using a relay system. The statues inside a temple were called temple gods. Their job was to listen to requests. In ancient Egypt, if you wanted something, what you did was pray to the temple gods. The temple gods would pass on or relay your request to the right god, the god that could consider granting or not granting your request.
The reed whack: If ancient Egyptians did not get their request granted, the next time they visited the temple they might give the temple statue a little whack with a reed to let the gods know how disappointed they were. It was just a small whack, and only sometimes. The ancient Egyptians were very practical. They knew they not get everything they wanted.
They were not afraid of their gods, not most of them anyway. In most ancient civilizations, if you whacked a statue of a god with a reed, or anything really, you would be very afraid of nasty repercussions from the gods. Not so in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians believed the gods were on their side, whether their wish was granted or not. Most people in ancient Egypt were afraid of one particular god - the god Ammut (also spelled Ammit.) Ammut was the god with the crocodile head. The ancient Egyptians believed if you did something really bad during your lifetime that the god Ammut might magically appear when you died and eat you. With her crocodile head, she had the teeth to do so. If you were eaten, you could not travel on to your happy afterlife, your life after death. That would be a terrible thing. The ancient Egyptians, most of them, tried very hard to do many good deeds during their lifetime to save themselves from the horrible fate of being eaten by the god Ammut. Most Egyptians would agree that even Ammut was on their side because, after all, who wants a bunch of bad guys in your afterlife? So it was very good of Ammut to clean things up. Practical. The ancient Egyptians were very practical.
God jobs: Gods could not be lazy or hang around causing trouble. In ancient Egypt, everyone had a job to do. Gods were no exception. All the gods had jobs. Many were assigned several jobs. There were over 2,000 gods in ancient Egypt because there was a lot of work to do.