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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Contacting the Gods


The Egyptians had an intensely personal relationship with their gods whom they constantly approached with prayer, offerings, and requests for assistance. The deities were beneficent, sympathetic, and often responsive to the pleas of their devotees. The diverse ways in which they could appeal to the gods reflected people's confidence that the gods were accessible and could be trusted to assist them in matters of concern both large and small. Gods were revered, but they were also seen in practical terms as patient problem solvers and mediators who could be counted on for help as long as they were revered, maintained by offerings, and shown proper respect though prayer and veneration.

A remarkable feature of their contact with the gods was the confidence and boldness with which the Egyptians approached their deities, a reflection of the intimacy between humans and gods. The texts show that the people were motivated to contact a deity by their desire for help with a range of personal issues, from the major – infertility, illness, grief – to the relatively minor – complaints about a neighbor or the theft of small items. The gods were always there for the petitioners, and they were a constant comfort to their flock. The gods were rarely consulted on philosophical issues – practicality was the motivation for communication. In keeping with this practicality, prayers were often offered with a brisk, businesslike directness.