How Ancient Egyptian Religion Related to Daily Life

Religion and daily life were interconnected in ancient Egypt.
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As is true with most religious traditions, ancient Egyptian religion had a direct connection with the workings of daily life. The Egyptians saw a strong connection between the cosmic world and the material world, and consequently they believed the two realms influenced one another. Egyptologists attribute this to a need to understand the harsh physical environment the Egyptians faced.

1 Celestial Forces

In Egyptian mythology and belief, the material world and the cosmic or spiritual world were intertwined, if not consubstantial. The universe was composed of one nature, of which all things – people, creatures, gods, even ideas – were created. Actions and rituals practiced on earth had an effect on the celestial world and vice versa. The people of Mesopotamia also recognized the notion of separate beings of one substance, yet the gods were beyond this substance and their power was not to be reckoned with.

2 The Cosmos

The people of ancient Egypt saw in nature the cosmos. The rejuvenation of the Nile floods and the rising and falling of the sun were representative of the balance and order of their universe. When the Sumerians first observed the destruction that the Tigris and Euphrates could potentially bring, and the ferocity of the storm, they came to understand that the cosmological order was driven by powerful forces that were potentially conflictual and even anarchical. The people of this region knew the cosmos to be a collection of powers or divine wills that could easily dictate their lives and livelihoods.

3 Relationship with God

The Egyptians saw the gods as governors of the cosmic state, not to be troubled by mundane problems or inquiries. As a result of this understanding, every man had a personal deity to whom he could turn to appeal for daily needs. Despite this personal relationship, all gods were seen as forces to submit to with cautionary obedience. The more an individual could submit to and serve his or her god, the more he or she could call on them for protection or assistance with daily life. Egyptians also believed worshipping the gods led to a long and healthy life of wealth familial prosperity.

4 Notions of Fate

Because the gods demanded from humans a moral nature, evil or harmful acts were not treated as mere accidents or random happenings, but rather as consequential or acts of fate. If something bad happened to a person, he was deserving of that occurrence as he had most likely angered the gods. This meant that daily life was an exercise is practicing religious righteousness.

Rachel Alexander is a cultural and political area specialist of South Asia and the Middle East. She received the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in 2011, and again in 2012, to live in northern India and study advanced Hindi. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Loyola University of Chicago.