Deities of the Afterlife




Egyptian Museum, CairoOsiris is the major god of the Afterlife, also known as God of the Dead.  He is usually depicted as a mummy with a crown on his head and his hands present holding scepters.[18,27,28]  He is depicted in this manner, because in the Egyptian mythology, he became the God of the Underworld after his brother Seth killed him to gain his throne.   It was Isis, his sister and wife, that was able to bring him back to life through magic.  He is also considered the god of agriculture, because of his death and resurrection, is associated with seed and regrowth of the seed.  Oftentimes, the color of his face is green, black or gold.  Osiris was considered one of the most important Egyptian gods because “he symbolized the triumph of life over death.”  He was also a judge of the deceased, and would not let any criminal journey to the pleasures of the Afterlife. [18,27,28]




















Isis and Horus

In Egyptian mythology, Isis was both sister and wife to Osiris, and the mother of Horus[18]  The Egyptians believed when she found her husband Osiris murdered by Seth, his brother, she bound the pieces of his body with linens and used her magic to “bring him back to life in a limited way.”  Isis is noted as the first to perform the mummification process.  She is also known for her devotion to her son Horus, as depicted in the statue with him sitting on her lap. [22]  She eventually was able to gain the throne back for her son Horus and have Seth thrown out of the kingdom.  “With determination, cunning, and a little magic, she was able to ensure that her son succeeded to the throne of his father.  The story of Isis and Osiris, is a love story, a story of triumph over death, and the victory of good and right over brute force.”[22,28] Their story is one the most cherished in the Egyptian mythology.  Isis has also been pictured with a throne emblem on her head because her name literally means ‘female of throne’ or ‘Queen of the throne’.[29]  It is also believed “Isis is the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, called Soped by the ancient Egyptians.”  The story is the star disappears behind the sun for seventy days, (which is the estimated time for the mummification process to be completed) and then reappears to bring the Nile’s annual flood  waters to replenish the dry land for farming.  This is symbolic of the deceased for rebirth into the afterlife.[28] 










A falcon-headed sky god and the son of Osiris and Isis, Horus was also said to be the fifth son of Nut and Geb in another tale.  Over the centuries, his stories and attributes blended together.  The tale that still remains is he was raised by his mother Isis, hidden because his father, King Osiris was killed by his brother Seth, (uncle to Horus).  When Horus grew up, he reclaimed his father’s throne with the help of his mother.   There was a struggle for the throne, because Seth did not want to give up the throne.  But in the court of all the gods, Horus rightfully became king. “In Ancient Egypt, each king was Horus.  When a king died, Egyptians said that the falcon had flown to Heaven and united with the Sun Disk.  The next king became Horus.  Like the Hawk, the king was a fighter, a warrior.  This is why Horus, when shown as a hawk-headed man, wears an armored breast-plate. [18,25,28]










Anubis is the jackal or canine-headed god (with a body of a man) of embalming.[18]  During embalming ceremonies, the main priest would have to wear a jackal mask and chant prayers while the process of evisceration took place.   It was believed Anubis had invented the embalming process for his King Osiris, ‘the first mummy’.[23] Other resources credit Isis was the first to perform mummification on the King Osiris, and that Anubis came soon after.  He was sometimes depicted as a full black canine with long sharp ears or just with the head of the canine as in the photo to the left. The black colour of the canine may be symbolic of the “discoloration of the deceased body after mummification”, or it could also refer to “the rich dark soil of Egypt, from which new growth came every year.”[28]  Valuing their dogs as companions, the Egyptians would often have their dogs mummified and buried with them. 









The Goddess Maat was the goddess of truth, justice and balance.  She was represented by ostrich feathers and was the goddess that would judge the deceased in the final phase of their trial to cross into the Afterlife.  The deceased heart would be weighed against Maat, and if they were found to balance with the weight of the feather, then the person had lead a good and decent life and could enter into the Afterlife.  But if the heart did not balance, then The Devourer (see below) would consume it.[2]

Another resource describes Maat as the wife of Thoth, a god of wisdom.  Both Maat and Thoth are responsible for ‘weighing the heart’ of the deceased soul, to determine if  they are worthy of an Afterlife.[24]  



Maat; Source: Jon Bodsworth













A depiction of Ammit in a late period papyrus, showing her decorated leonine body, and crocodile head.

Ahemait is the underworld goddess, also know as the Devouver, taking the form of part lion, crocodile, and hippopotamus.  She devours the souls of the unworthy dead.[21,26]   The belief was Ahemait awaited the deceased whose hearts failed the test when weighed against Maat.  Other resources say Ahemait was not worshipped and not considered a goddess, but she is what Egyptians feared, “threatening to bind them to eternal restlessness if they did not follow the principle of Maat.”[26]  The Egyptians would refer to her as a demon, yet she destroyed evil as a force for the good.  She was also depicted as a guard for a lake of fire, where the unworthy hearts were cast.  In this depiction, she was more of the guard of the lake of fire, so that the unworthy could not escape.[26]  











The Form of a Winged SnakeNehebkau (or Nehebu-Kau) is known as the God of Protection and Magic for the pharaoh and all the Egyptians in both life and their afterlife.     He is also associated as the god that unites the deceased with their Ka and his name comes from the ancient Egyptian word for 'yoke together' or 'unite.  His symbolic form is a snake with arms and legs (half human) or a snake with wings.  Egyptians would pray to him to protect or cure them from the venomous snake bites.  In the After life he was the god thought to feed the pharaoh and the other deceased who were found worthy and good.The drink known as the ‘Milk of Light’, which was a magical drink that could heal the deceased if they had been bitten by a poisonous animal was the liquid Nehebkau would offer to the deceased if needed.  The myth of Nehebkau was he was bound to the Sun god swimming around in the primeval waters before the world was created.  Another myth was he swallowed seven cobras and was able to use them for his magical power.  Thus making him so powerful that the god Atem, “had to press his nail inot Nehebkau’s spine, so he could control the snake god.”  It was also believed he was one of the many gods that also helped to judge the deceased in the Halls of Maat. [40] 















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