The civilization of Ancient Egypt, which arose thousands of years ago, still arouses great admiration among many today. Because Ancient Egypt was home to many strange inventions, interesting practices, traditions and, of course, magnificent monuments. In addition to all this, extremely complex and mysterious belief systems were one of the most striking features of Ancient Egypt.
The ancient Egyptian pantheon, which contains many gods, goddesses and holy spirits with various characteristics, looks very interesting when viewed today. However, it is known that in ancient Egypt some animals were deified, sacrificed to some “animal gods” and worshiped. Among the animal gods of ancient Egypt, cats and crocodiles come to the fore. Okay, but why? Why did the ancient Egyptians worship cats and crocodiles? Let’s look at the details together.
Ancient Egypt had a deeply rooted and complex belief system.
In this complex belief system, animals also occupied an important place. However, in order to answer the question of why the ancient Egyptians worshiped animals, especially cats and crocodiles, it is necessary to take a closer look at both the belief system in ancient Egypt and the attitude of the Egyptians towards animals.
The ancient Egyptians attributed the characteristics of certain animals they saw in everyday life to the gods.
This was the main reason for depicting gods and goddesses with animal heads or bodies in Ancient Egypt. Among the animals whose characteristics were attributed to the gods and goddesses, in the first place were insects, lions, cows, birds, monkeys, crocodiles and, of course, cats.
Some gods were also identified with animals. However, sacredness was not attributed to animals in everyday life.
For example, the goddess Hathor, who in ancient Egyptian mythology is associated with such concepts as love, marriage and birth, adopted many of her traits from cows. So much so that she was often depicted as a woman with cow horns.
On the contrary, cows were one of the favorite foods of the ancient Egyptians! Probably not a single ancient Egyptian was afraid of the goddess Hathor, never refused the opportunity to eat a cow … So, compared to the concept of holiness in modern India, the ancient Egyptians’ understanding of holiness also included extremely pragmatic practices.
Animals occupied an important place in both religious and social life.
The ancient Egyptians also prioritized utility when it came to animals. For example, cats were one of the important creatures in everyday life because they protected houses and barns from mice and snakes. On the other hand, dogs were also very important, especially for Egyptian hunters.
The importance given to animals in ancient Egypt came not from love for them, but from their functionality.
So much so that the animals were mostly bred to be sacrificed to the animal gods! For example, crocodiles were grown in special temples by the priests of the corresponding god, and then sold to the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians, on the other hand, killed animals they bought from temples, mummified them, and offered them to their kindred god. In a word, in ancient Egypt, it was not the animals themselves that were sacred, but the gods they symbolized … But why were cats and crocodile-like gods especially popular?
Cats were more important than many other animals in ancient Egypt. This is why Ancient Egypt was home to a large number of cats.
So much so that they were almost considered pets. Many cats lived with the household. The reason for this was that, as we mentioned earlier, cats were much more useful than other animals.
Cats protected houses and barns in ancient Egypt from pests, mice and snakes. This duty of “protection” entrusted to cats led to the emergence of Bast, the patron goddess of Egypt in the early stages of ancient Egyptian civilization. For centuries, the protective goddess Bast was depicted as a man with a cat’s head.
Crocodiles were one of the most feared animals of ancient Egypt. This fear gave birth to a god with the head of a crocodile Sobek!
The Nile River was of much greater importance to the people who lived in this region thousands of years ago than it is today. Cleaning, food delivery, trade, and transportation are largely made possible by this river. But the Nile River was also home to a large number of deadly crocodiles. The source of life in ancient Egypt was also associated with death. In ancient Egypt, the “masters of the waters” were crocodiles …
This is how the crocodile-headed god Sobek, the patron of all waters in Ancient Egypt, appeared! The people dedicate specially grown crocodiles to Sobek, begging him to protect them from crocodiles in the Nile River.
As a result, people in ancient Egypt identified the characteristics of certain animals they encountered in their daily lives with gods and worshiped those gods with real respect. In contrast, crocodiles that gave birth to a god in the form of a crocodile, or cats that gave birth to a goddess with a cat’s head, were not sacred beings.
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