God of the week: Amun
Amun-Ra is a combination of two separate gods. This practice was common in Egypt, as deities were believed to take on new roles. Egyptians did not see contradictory responsibilities or identities of gods to be an issue, as the gods were to exist in multiple levels or time lines.
With this in mind a god could be another god’s brother father and son at the same time without removing any of their previous roles or positions. Egyptian gods became complex combinations of previous deities and symbols. Amun-Ra shares this trend, as he is one of the oldest Egyptian gods, and can be best described by explaining the personalities which combined to create his eventual state as ‘one one’ or ‘king of kings’.
Amun, was the primary deity of the city of Thebes during the 11th dynasty. Amun, was known as king of the gods. He was represented by a ram’s head and wore an ostrich feather hat. Amun’s primary role was as a creator with the power over life and fertility. Amun’s name has a variety of spellings and thus mirrors the tendency of modern religions to use a series of names to describe their chief deities.
Amun was originally part of a triad of deities. The Thebean triad includes Mut, Amun, and khonsu. When Thebes became the capital city, Amun was given even more importance in Egyptian culture. Not only was Amun the king of the gods, but he was also the father of the pharaohs.
This relationship, gave Amun the ability to protect over the rulers and to show the people their divine right to rule. Amun, depicted, with an Ankh and Scepter, represented the life giver and the ruler. Pharaohs who were questioned about their rule, created images of Amun as their father to maintain their right as divine ruler.
Worship of Amun became a threat to the throne once their followers had gained power and importance among the people. The cult of Amun was weakened by changing the capital, but quickly regained power and returned the capital to Thebes. Women held the most importance in the cult, as the wife of Amun.
Ra is the Egyptian god of the sun and is typically depicted as having a falcon head with a sun disc on his head. Ra was responsible for bringing the sun across the sky. He would die every night and be resurrected every morning. Inside his temple was rumored to be the tree of life were mortals could live forever. Ra was combined with many other deities as he was said to be a part of all gods. He was cast aside by the Romans and could potentially have influenced Roman myths and beliefs.
Ra is a deity that gave birth to himself in the beginning of time. His rays touch the earth and brought life. Egyptians created a stone, called the benben stone, that possibly represented the first point that the light would touch. This was especially true of the capstones of pyramids.
These stones may have been considered sacred as the final touch of the structure and the first place that their god would see and touch with his warm sunlight. The stone was also a beacon that could contact the bennu bird. The bennu bird, is an Egyptian representation of the phoenix. Ra himself was a reflection of the phoenix as he would die each night and be reborn each morning. Bennu may be the animal form of Ra based on the importance of the stone and the god himself.
Once Amun and Ra were combined, they formed Amun-Ra as a supreme deity. Some researchers, consider this to be a movement toward monotheistic practices. As the combined version of the deities Amun-Ra became the sun and the supreme creator of all life. Amun-Ra protected kings and gave them the reason they needed to convince the public that their rule was in fact divine order.