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Thoeris

(170 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Θόηρις/ Thóēris etc., Egyptian T-Wr.t, 'the great one'). Egyptian protector-goddess, presumably identical with Ipet. Both of them are represented in the shape of a hippopotamus with the paws of a lion and the tail of a crocodile. The name T. may originally have been only an epithet of Ipet. The most important attribute of T. is a loop identical with the hieroglyph for protection. Because of her function as a protector, T. was quite popular (e.g. as an amulet), but she cannot be seen…

Osiris

(483 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Ὄσιρις/ Ósiris, Eg. Wsr). The ruler of the afterlife, one of the central figures in Egyptian mythology from the Old Kingdom; he was regarded as the son of Geb and Nut, brother and husband of Isis and the posthumous father of Horus; additional siblings were Seth and Nephthys. There was no coherent version of the myth of O. until Plutarch ( De Iside et Osiride, [7]), although it is already attested in allusions and extracts in the oldest texts. O. was regarded as the mythological king at a time when the gods reigned on earth and evil did not y…

Moon deities

(1,252 words)

Author(s): Bendlin, Andreas (Erfurt) | Röllig, Wolfgang (Tübingen) | von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] I. General The status of the moon in ancient mythological speculation and cult worship reflected its central position in the calendar cycles, agricultural cycles and monthly cycles with respect to their various aspects. The moon (personified) could be the addressee of the cult; the cult also included the male and female deities embedded in the traditional panthea and associated with the moon as moon deities (MD) with regard to their particular aspect. Whilst e.g. Selene/Luna just li…

Nut

(225 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Eg. Nwt). The Egyptian goddess of the sky, daughter of Shu (air) und Tefnut (fire; Tefnut, legend of), wife of the earth-god Geb und mother of Osiris, Seth, Isis and Nephthys as well as the sun god Re and the 36 decan stars. N. appears either in a purely human form with a nw-jar on her head or as a cow. She is depicted frequently in cosmological representations, which show Geb on the earth, separated from N. who is held over him by Shu. According to the so-called ‘Book of Nut’,  a cosmological treatise about the course of the heave…

Ritual

(8,221 words)

Author(s): Bendlin, Andreas (Erfurt) | von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin) | Böck, Barbara (Madrid) | Haas, Volkert (Berlin) | Podella, Thomas (Lübeck) | Et al.
[German version] I. Term Ritual refers to an elaborate sequence of individual rites which, following an established ritual syntax, are logically connected within a certain functional context. Rituals are not limited to religious contexts but exist in other cultural contexts, political as well as social. The significance of rituals for those who participate in them can be reduced neither to an integrative function (legitimation ritual) nor to a temporary disabling of the regular structure - the two e…

Bastet

(193 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Egyptian Bst.t). Chief goddess of  Bubastis, represented as a cat or a cat-headed woman. B. is syncretistically associated with  Sachmet,  Hathor,  Isis and similar goddesses [1. 11-69]. In the   interpretatio [2] graeca she is seen as  Artemis (e.g. Hdt. 2,137), infrequently also as  Aphrodite (e.g. Pistis Sophia 139-140, [5]). B. can be understood as a more benign aspect of Sachmet, but she herself may be said to be mistress of a particular class of demon. In this capacity, she is assigned the lion god Maih…

Ptah

(628 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Φθᾶς/ Phthâs, Φθάς/ Phthás; Egyptian Ptḥ, Ptah) was initially the creator god of Memphis, but later he also had cults in other places, e.g. in Egyptian Thebes [10]. Just as Thot was the scribe and scholar par excellence, so P. was considered the artisan, especially the metal worker [4]; the interpretatio Graeca (Interpretatio II. Religion) calls him Hephaestus. P., his wife Sekhmet, a lion-headed goddess of the plague, and their son Nefertem (connected with the lotus) formed the Memphitic Triad of Gods. Particularly…

Sekhmet

(290 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] Egyptian goddess, wife of Ptah (Ptah) and mother of the lotus god Nefertem. S. is usually depicted as a lion-headed woman; her main cult site is Memphis. As her name ('the powerful') suggests, S. is a dangerous goddess par excellence. She is the ruler of the demons, especially the ḫ.tiw ('slaughter demons', the seven invisible decan stars; Astronomy B.2.). Hence statues, primarily in the late period (713-332 BC), often represent her on a throne the sides of which are decorated with decan figures in the form of snakes. Identifie…

Underworld

(3,318 words)

Author(s): S.LU. | von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin) | B.CH. | Johnston, Sarah Iles (Princeton) | Käppel, Lutz (Kiel) | Et al.
[German version] I. Mesopotamia Myths, Epics, Prayers and Rituals of the 2nd and 1st millennia BC, in the Sumerian and Akkadian languages, describe the location and nature of the Underworld, along with the circumstances under which its inhabitants live. This domain, located beneath the surface of the earth and surrounded by the primeval ocean called Apsȗ, is known in Akkadian as erṣetu (Sumerian: ki), a term that can refer both to the surface of the earth and to the Underworld. There are other terms for certain characteristics of this region. The Underworl…

Sun god

(930 words)

Author(s): Renger, Johannes (Berlin) | von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin) | Taracha, Piotr
[German version] I. Mesopotamia In Mesopotamia, the Sumerian sun god Utu (written with the Sumerian sign for day, ud, which may be an etymological connection) was regarded as the city god of South Babylonian Larsa [2. 287-291] and the Akkadian god Šamaš (also common Semitic for 'sun') as the city god of North Babylonian Sippar. The sun god was never at the top of the Mesopotamian pantheon [1] which was dominated by Enlil (3rd/early 2nd millennium), Marduk (1st millennium) and Assur [2]. As the god of daylight, Ša…

Progenitors

(1,342 words)

Author(s): Renger, Johannes (Berlin) | von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin) | Kierdorf, Wilhelm (Cologne)
[German version] I. Ancient Near East Knowledge of one's own progenitors in the ancient Near East legitimized one's status and material and immaterial rights in the individual and societal spheres. Such knowledge was based on patriarchal relationships of kinship. Evidence for this comes, for example, from lineage lists (Genealogies; OT: Gn 5; 11:10-32; 22:20-24; 25:1-9; Judges 4:18-22: progenitors of David [1]; 1 Sam 9:1-2: progenitors of Saul; Mt 1:1-17: progenitors of Jesus), the Assyrian Kings' Lis…

Seth

(494 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] As the killer of his brother Osiris, S. is a central figure of Egyptian mythology [8]. He is usually depicted with the head of an unidentified animal (known as the S. animal). He litigates and fights with the son of Osiris, Horus, over Egypt's rule [1]. Together, the two gods embody Upper and Lower Egypt; much more common, however, is the connexion of S. with the desert and foreign lands. In the New Kingdom, this led to his identification with the Syrian Baal, who is associated wi…

Satis

(150 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Σάτις/ Sátis, Egyptian Sṯ.t), Anuket and Chnum (Chnubis [1]) are the three chief deities of the island of Elephantine. The temple of S. on Elephantine is archeologically attested as early as the Early Dynastic Period (from c. 2800 BC) [1]. S. is depicted as a woman wearing a crown with horns. Because of the phonological similarity of S. and Sothis, the two goddesses were identified with one another in the Late Period (713-332 BC) [2]. This connection is reinforced by the association of Sothis with the flooding of …

Bull cults

(379 words)

Author(s): Renger, Johannes (Berlin) | von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] I. Mesopotamia In historical times, bull cults were of no significance in the religions of Mesopotamia which were mainly anthropomorphic in character. Enlil was metaphorically referred to as a bull, and the roaring of the weather god Hadad compared to the bellowing of a bull. The fact that bulls (and other animals) served as pedestals for the statues of gods (in Syria-Palestine and Hittite Anatolia) is no argument for an actual bull cult. The 'golden calves' in Ex 32 and 1 Kg 12,28-32 are also interpreted as pedestals for the invisible Yahweh. Renger, Johannes (Berlin) …

Pornography

(3,053 words)

Author(s): Renger, Johannes (Berlin) | von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin) | Henderson, Jeffrey (Boston) | Obermayer, Hans-Peter (Munich)
[German version] I. Ancient Near East With the possible exception of the numerous depictions of the sexual act on terra cotta reliefs and lead tablets - many of which may have served as magical amulets or represented ex voto gifts [1. 265] - there is no evidence of pornography from the ancient Near East. In literary texts, explicit verbal depictions that refer to sexuality are found in literary texts (e.g. hymns to Ishtar, who was, among other things, the goddess of sexual love) and therefore are to b…

Nephthys

(201 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Νέφθυς/ Néphthys, Plut. De Is. et Os. passim; Epiphanius, Expositio fidei 3,2,12; Egyptian Nb.t-Ḥw.t, ‘mistress of the house’). In Egyptian mythology, N. is the daughter of Geb and Nut and sister-wife of Seth; other siblings are Isis and Osiris. She is known primarily for helping Isis in her search for Osiris and in rearing Horus; little is known of her own characteristics. N. protects the dead and, along with Isis, Neith und Selket, takes care of their entrails. She appears in the Pyramid Texts as a ‘pseudo-woman who had no vulva’, and had…

Sinuhe

(220 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Egyptian z-nh.t). Hero of an Egyptian story, generally regarded as a masterwork of Egyptian literature. The text has come down to us in various papyri and ostraca from the period of c. 1800 to 1100 BC. The original probably dates from the time of Sesostris I. In the story, S. is a liegeman to the crown prince Sesostris . On the way back from a campaign in Syria, Sesostris learns of the death of his father and sets out for the residence with his retinue. S., who overheard these news unobserved, deserts and fle…

Sothis

(168 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (σωθίς/ sōthis according to Heph. [5] 1,1). Constellation (Egyptian śpd.t, from śpd 'sharp'), essentially corresponding to Sirius (its main star). Identified with Isis, it appeared in a prominent role as early as the Pyramid texts (Funerary literature) [1]. It retained this role until the end of the Egyptian religion. S. is one of the 36 decan stars (Astronomy B.2.). Its first heliacal rising was thought to introduce a new  year and forebode the flooding of the Nile. Its 70-day phase of invi…

Hathor

(245 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Egyptian Ḥw.t-ḥrw, ‘house of Horus’; Greek Ἀθωρ/ Áthōr [4]). The Egyptian goddess H. - in human or cow shape - is regarded as the daughter of  Re and as the mother of the music god Iḥy. She is often matched with  Horus of Edfu as a partner. H.'s areas of competence cover love, music, as well as the realm of the dead. In the   interpretatio [2] Graeca she is identified with  Aphrodite [4]. At birth, seven H.s determine the baby's destiny [5. 41 f.]. As an aspect of the ‘dangerous goddess’, H. usually represents the appeased sid…

Thot

(466 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Θωύθ/ Thōýth and similar; Latin Theuth; Egyptian Ḏḥwtj). Egyptian god of wisdom, knowledge and writing and moon god. The cult of T. was practiced mainly in Hermupolis (magna); however, there were also cults of T. in numerous other places. T. has probably been worshipped since the Early Period; reliable documentation is extant from the period of the Old Kingdom ( c. 2700-2190 BC). He is mostly represented as a man with the head of an ibis; the ibis and the baboon are sacred to him. T. is supposed to be either a son of Neith or, having no m…
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