Religion of ancient Egypt - more African or Middle-eastern?

Jul 2017
100
Czech Republic
#1
Yesterday evening, I was reading again classical book about history of Egypt by Nicholas Grimal. I found inside interesting passage:



I have to confess, that this fragment made me confused. I'd always before associated religion of Ancient Egypt rather with contemporary religions of Middle-East (Levant and Mesopotamia), than those of Black Africa.

After a while a reflection, another analogies came to my mind. Status of pharaoh as living god is further resemblance. In the Ancient Middle East, before Hellenistic Age, deification of ruler were very rare, but is quite common in Sub-Saharian Africa (take for example Ashanti rulers). Egyptian deities, depicted with animal heads, recall totemism.


Please, don't mistake me. I reject Afrocentrism as absurd and without foundations in reality, however these resemblance are really thought-provoking. Is it possible, that analogies between religious beliefs of Ancient Egypt and Black Africa are remnats of proto-afro-asiatic religion, lost in Middle East, but retained in Egypt and West Africa?
 
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Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,909
Crows nest
#2
Grimal, as it shows in the scan of the relevant page, is basing this on the work of Marcel Griaule, whose ideas on Dogon cosmology have been seriously doubted, and in fact what the Dogon told Griaule about Sirius is mostly a case of cultural contamination deriving from Dogon contact with Europeans in the 1880s. This sloppy aspect of his otherwise good work on the Dogon has unfortunately been seized upon by the fringe, notably by Robert Temple in his fantasy story book "The Sirius Mystery", and subsequently by other fantasists and Afrocentrists. We are essentially asked to accept umpteen thousands of years of oral tradition as a true record of the past, when in fact "tradition", unless carved in stone or preserved in the form of written documentation from the time, often does not go back much more than 70 or so years. Note that the cultural contamination of the Dogon occurred about 50 years before Griaule encountered them.

Representations of gods as anthropomorphic are representations of an animal, or non human god, given a human body while keeping their non human head. When we see an Egyptian god appearing as anthropomorphic, it is not an animal god with a human body, it is in fact in emphasis more zoomorphic and is a representation of a human shaped god given the head of the animal closest to what that god represents. Even an Egyptian god when shown as fully animal, zoomorphic, such as many depictions of Horus, is not an "animal god", but simply a representation of an aspect of that god, in the case of Horus as a falcon to represent a typical sky god, but the Egyptians would have seen Horus's true form as human, and he is represented like this in his guise as Har-pa-khered. This way of portraying gods and of what the Egyptians saw as an underlying reality of their gods, seems specific to them, and these representations are not totems or representations of animal gods as they are in other cultures.

On a general point on any aspect of Ancient Egypt. If you find something that looks connected with Ancient Egypt outside of Egypt, given how long Egypt has been around the chances are that this object is not a progenitor of the Egyptian object, but a copy, and this goes for religious ideas as much as anything physical. Further on another point, that is relevant. There are some people who say Ancient Egyptian cosmology comes from the Dogon, and others who say it is from Nubia. It cannot be from both, so will there be a heated debate between "Dogonists" and "Nubianists" about which culture is the progenitor of Egypt. Somehow I think not, just as pyramidiots do not argue among themselves even though their fantasies often diametrically oppose each other. Of course there is in fact a third interest group in the Dogon, the "Ancient Alienists", so we can have a three way fight between them, or a four way if the "Blavatskyists" make a showing.
 
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Oct 2013
6,330
Planet Nine, Oregon
#3
There are also a number of Anubis masks surviving, worn during embalming rituals, and a Bast mask from the Magician's Tomb. Further reinforces what Corvidius says. And Amun --the "Hidden One" (in the mask or head). Similar to Hinduism.
 
Jun 2017
2,891
Connecticut
#4
In my study of polytheistic pantheons I was under the impression that is was tough to put Egypt's in the same family with the Middle Eastern ones. I actually think the Greeks and Middle Eastern pantheons have more in common and are more likely to be related to each other. Egypt's pantheon and religious tradition seems quite unique among classical civilizations on the other hand.

What are the similarities you've traditionally seen OP, I'm curious and want to look into them?
 
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Feb 2013
1,283
Second City
#5
Nubian cosmology/theology would probably provide an insight, and I suspect that examining the religious practices of Punt may also prove useful, as those were the two other African civilizations with which Egypt seems to have had the closest connections.
 
Nov 2017
789
Commune
#6
I would say it is more African. Mesopotamian and Levantine gods in general weren't zoomorphic like Egyptian gods, much less to the same extent as even frogs and crocodiles were divinised by Egyptians. The emphasis on the sun is also something that the Middle East didn't have nearly as much as Egypt. There was nothing like the Ogdoad (divine personifications of even such specific things like obscurity) either.

Succession myths is also another important element lacking mostly in Egyptian mythology. Whereas succession myths among Sumerians, Babylonians and Hittites where gods replace each other as the head divinity are extremely common, this is not the case in Egypt where the only such myth is the Horus-Set cycle that is still significantly different from the succession myth since Set was never a head god while Horus also remained subordinated to Amun-Ra and Osiris.

Egyptian mythology also lacks the defined flood narrative of Middle Eastern religion, which repeats itself from the Epic of Gilgamesh all the way to the Bible with the core narrative intact, even influencing the Greeks who adopted this myth with the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha. Flood myths in Egypt are more related to the Nile flooding than the worldwide floods described in Gilgamesh and the Bible.

Then there's the fact that Egyptian language is very different from the languages of the Middle East. Egyptian and Sumerian are completely unrelated, while Egypt is only very distantly related to Semitic languages like Akkadian, Hebrew and Aramaic as part of the Afro-Asiatic family. That means that the names of the Egyptian gods are almost invariably native to Egypt itself, rather than being exported from Egypt's eastern neighbours.
 
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Oct 2009
3,556
San Diego
#7
ALL human religious beliefs are essentially drawn from the exact same human needs and fears.

ALL religions founded in ancient times tend to have reverberations of the kinds of things that mattered to early human agriculturalists and herders. Hence the recurrent imagery of rams, lambs, bulls, cows, etc. Not to mention the threats to those resources such as lions, jackels, wolves etc.

Egypt straddled the route between Africa and the Middle east, and as a crossroads its religion can be shown to be linked to either area since all human ideas and products from either region passed thru egypt on their way to the other.

The monotheists of palestine may very well be the descendants of followers of akenaten.
The only real link the jews have to egypt may be simply the notion of a single god.


But the OPs confusion is founded in the fact that supposedly learned men are all trying to make associations that are moot.
Religious belief is an archetype- rooted in the reason WHY human beings invent narratives about the things they do not understand.

They are ALL cut of the same cloth and differ only in minor details that revolve around the individual societal circumstances of each separate culture.
 
Nov 2017
789
Commune
#8
ALL human religious beliefs are essentially drawn from the exact same human needs and fears.

ALL religions founded in ancient times tend to have reverberations of the kinds of things that mattered to early human agriculturalists and herders. Hence the recurrent imagery of rams, lambs, bulls, cows, etc. Not to mention the threats to those resources such as lions, jackels, wolves etc.

Egypt straddled the route between Africa and the Middle east, and as a crossroads its religion can be shown to be linked to either area since all human ideas and products from either region passed thru egypt on their way to the other.

The monotheists of palestine may very well be the descendants of followers of akenaten.
The only real link the jews have to egypt may be simply the notion of a single god.


But the OPs confusion is founded in the fact that supposedly learned men are all trying to make associations that are moot.
Religious belief is an archetype- rooted in the reason WHY human beings invent narratives about the things they do not understand.

They are ALL cut of the same cloth and differ only in minor details that revolve around the individual societal circumstances of each separate culture.
Love the mental gymnastics you do in order to take away whatever uniquely African element there is in Egyptian religion. This is like saying Mayan religion has influences from everywhere which is ridiculous.
 
Oct 2009
3,556
San Diego
#9
Love the mental gymnastics you do in order to take away whatever uniquely African element there is in Egyptian religion. This is like saying Mayan religion has influences from everywhere which is ridiculous.

WOW- somebody failed english comprehension.

I said ALL HUMAN RELIGIONS are products of the SAME Human mind- with the same human needs, fears and ignorances.
As a result- they ALL tend to feature identical archetypes. Similar stories filled with similar delusions.


And I ACTUALLY said that OF COURSE Egyptian religion featured elements from african religions.

That Egypt straddled the narrow connection of land between the middle east and africa... so it OBVIOUSLY would have been shown a confluence of ideas from BOTH.


But sorry- if you want to claim that African religions are in any substantive way different from every other magical belief predicated in ignorance, then you are drawing distinctions that make no difference.

And Beyond that, since ALL modern men are descended from people who migrated out of Africa- ALL human religious delusions obviously originate with the evolved human mental limitations and drives that originated in Africa.

the mental gymnastics are YOURS in trying to derive some racial narrative in what I had to say.
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,285
Australia
#10
ALL human religious beliefs are essentially drawn from the exact same human needs and fears.
Aside from the bolded ^ I tend to agree , however I would put it like this ; they are drawn from and formed by a similar psychology / essential human , 'nature' .

I have had personal and direct contact with people with 'primitive religious beliefs' (Australian Aboriginals ) and they seem to instantly 'be attracted to' Egyptian religious representations ( for a variety of reasons ) .

Also I note that similarities exist between some Egyptian concepts, theirs and some modern western one's . Eg, Horus and Bungil ; both relate to the eagle as both concepts and qualities are seen evident in eagle behaviour , and eagles tend to behave in a similar way, wherever they are.

ALL religions founded in ancient times tend to have reverberations of the kinds of things that mattered to early human agriculturalists and herders. Hence the recurrent imagery of rams, lambs, bulls, cows, etc. Not to mention the threats to those resources such as lions, jackels, wolves etc.

Egypt straddled the route between Africa and the Middle east, and as a crossroads its religion can be shown to be linked to either area since all human ideas and products from either region passed thru egypt on their way to the other.

The monotheists of palestine may very well be the descendants of followers of akenaten.
The only real link the jews have to egypt may be simply the notion of a single god.


But the OPs confusion is founded in the fact that supposedly learned men are all trying to make associations that are moot.
Religious belief is an archetype- rooted in the reason WHY human beings invent narratives about the things they do not understand.

They are ALL cut of the same cloth and differ only in minor details that revolve around the individual societal circumstances of each separate culture.
I agree, that is why we have similarities and differences. Indigenous astronomy offers a good example with the 'Pleiades' asterism often being seen as similar cross culturally ( eg. Australian Aboriginal and Ancient Greek )

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Aboriginal_astronomy#Pleiades


Yet others as totally different ( eg Scorpius in western view is a scorpion but with Aboriginals it is two guardian chasing two lawbreakers and throwing their weapons at them... even though we do have scorpions here and the asterism looks like a scorpion from here as well ) .
 
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