Religion was the center of life for Egyptians. Except for a period of about one hundred years, their religion was based on beliefs in many gods, polytheism. Some of the gods were connected with death and afterlife. There were gods who created and ruled over the world. Everything the Egyptians did was based on their religion. Many Egyptians built small shrines at their homes to worship their favorite gods.
Before Egypt was united, every town and village worshipped its own gods. Egyptians worshipped as many as 2, 000 gods and goddesses. They identified their gods with animals. The gods had a person's body with an animals' head. All Egyptians worshiped the most important god, Ra the sun god, with consistency.
Even the Egyptian pharaohs made offerings to the gods as part of their worship. The Egyptians believed that the gods created the world. The ocean existed before anything else. The Sun god, Ra, came out of an egg and appeared on the surface of the water as the sun.
The god An had children, Shu and Tef nut, who formed the atmosphere. Ra's child, Geb, formed the earth. The god Nut formed the sky. The Egyptian 'Book of the Dead' contained hymns, prayers, and spells. The book described that the gods would weigh the dead person's heart to decide if the soul would go on to afterlife. Egyptians spent a lot of time preparing for the afterlife.
During life, the Egyptians would look forward to life after death. After death, the body would be prepared. First the priest recited prayers. Next, the body was washed and purified. The organs would then be removed and stored in can opic jars.
The body would be packed in natron, a type of salt, for 40 days. After the forty days, the body would be filled with sawdust, resin, and natron. The body would be wrapped in bandages. Jewelry, amulets, and scarabs-good luck charms- were placed between the layers. A mask was put on the head by a chief embalmer who wore a jackal mask to represent the god Anubis. At last the mummy was put into a coffin.
The coffin was made to look like a human. A face would be carved on the coffin that looked like the dead person. Spells and prayers were written on the inside of the coffin to protect the soul. The Egyptians believed this process would preserve the body for life after death. The coffins were put into tombs. In the tombs, furniture, statues, games, food, and other everyday items were buried with the mummy.
The priest would perform an 'opening of the mouth' ceremony. This ceremony gave the mummy the opportunity to eat, speak and have full use of the body in the afterlife. The tomb would then be sealed. The Egyptians believed that their lives would continue after death. The burial ceremonies and customs prepared the soul for the afterlife. The Egyptians believed that the afterlife would be much like life when they were living.
The Egyptians were buried with things that they enjoyed in life so that they could continue to have a good life after death. Some people were buried with clothes, games, pets, and statues. The wealthy Egyptians were buried with gold and jewels. Even the poor Egyptians would be buried with some of their favorite things. They wanted to be buried with the things they would need to enjoy the afterlife. Religion played a very important role in ancient Egypt.
From explaining how the world was created to a belief in life after death, religion was the central part of Egyptian life.