Custom «The Role of Religion» Essay Paper Sample

The Role of Religion

A fundamental theme religion in ancient Egypt was the need to continually maintain order over chaos. This balance is referred to as maat which is the belief in the world's numinous nature as well as the hope of eternal life in the afterlife. These beliefs transcended the Pharaonic society as well as affected the lives of all the Egyptians despite their social class (Szpakowska).

The Osirian cycle myths which epitomizes the afterlife concept as well as the King being the sun-god Re's son became popular in the Old Kingdom and continued on in the Middle and New Kingdom. The Osirian cycle used in tandem with the solar cycle provided models of the Egyptian religion's fundamental element. The funerary rights (mummification and resurrection) performed on Osiris after he was killed by his brother Seth offered hope to the people that the performance of such rituals on them when they died would guarantee their rebirth into the afterlife. These are aspects present in the religious practices of both the Kahun and the Deir el-Medina (Szpakowska; Parkinson and; McDowell).

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Kahun community featured worship represented formally with the king as the worshiper to the god and acting as the intermediary between the god and the people. People could also communicate with the dead by use of letters and rituals. Though materials from this period indicate that gods were approached, this is not represented in texts. In addition to items found, The Calendars of Days perhaps represents the strongest evidence of divination in this period. By the period of the Deir el-Medina community, oracles were already being used by commoners and royalty alike, as well as prayers in written expression conveying individual's direct appeals to the gods in a more informal format as opposed to royal texts used previously (McDowell). The god Amun was considered at the tome as the personal savior as well as guide to the Egyptians and a champion of mercy, personal justice and benefaction. Divination at the time become widespread as this god became regarded as being control individual destiny. However people still continued worshipping other gods at a personal level proof being figurines, private shrines, votive amulets, spells and hymns from the period (Szpakowska).

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The successful birth of a child was attributed to the gods' benign influences as well as the use of magic to repel hostile entities (heka). Magic was prominent in the Deir el-Medina community with a scorpion charmer (mafician) drawing rations for performing special services (McDowell). All Egyptians were granted these gifts by the gods in an effort to keep away the tragedies from events as well as watch over the people night and day. This was a key part of the religion's most important function, relationships negotiations between the people and those in the afterlife (Szpakowska).

The deities varied in nature and interaction with the people. Where Ra was universal and omnipresent, others like Hathor (offered petitions of fertility) were worshipped for particular purposes. Others were local such as Sate and Anuket associated with Elephantine, the source of the Niles annual inundations (Szpakowska).

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Festivals were also a part of the religious lives of ancient Egyptians. Attendance lists for dancers and singer in a festival in Kahun are present. Attendance lists of the Deir el-Medina community indicated that workers were given time off from work. These festivals were connected to religious events such as Osiris and death and were characterized as national, regional or local (Szpakowska).

Both communities had religious emplacements, libation basins, furnishings and reliefs as part of the homes of both the affluent and the simple worker. This points to the dwelling places of the people as being regarded as sacred spaces. Shrines or niches have been unearthed embedded in columns or walls of Egyptian homes (Szpakowska) .

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Other supernatural entities in ancient Egypt included the justified dead as well as the damned. The damned were considered enemies of Osiris, Re and the king and would be tortured or punished for eternity while the justified dead had succeeded in being reborn in the afterlife after proper funerary rituals were performed and they had navigated the perilous ways into the afterlife. These religious convictions acted to regulate the society and instill set of ethics, values and behavior to maintain maat. However, greed and poverty could outweigh religious belief as evidenced by the tomb-robbery in the Deir el-Medina (Szpakowska; McDowell).

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