Religion and the cult actions derived from those beliefs held ancient Egyptian society together and allowed it to flourish for more than three thousand years. This text does not start with the myths of Osiris and Isis or Horus and Seth, because there are many books that cover that well-trodden ground. Rather, my goal is to examine how the manifestations of religious beliefs were incorporated into the culture, how they formed the society, and what the impact of those complex beliefs and practices was on the people who lived in the Nile Valley thousands of years ago.
This book explores how the ancient Egyptians responded to their world. How did the Egyptian people relate to the great temples that dominated their cities? Did they even enter the temples? How did they regard and worship the gods? What was their attitude toward death, and how did they prepare for the end of life? What was the relationship between the realms of the living and the dead? How did religion color the most basic aspects of Egyptian life: birth, death, even commerce? These are among the questions investigated in the text that follows.
Whenever possible I have allowed the ancient Egyptians to speak for themselves by incorporating quotations from their letters, autobiographic texts, economic records, prayers, and inscriptions on tomb and temple walls. I have also brought paintings and reliefs, statues, and ritual objects into the discussion, for they are rich sources for exploring how religion was expressed.