This book uses an interesting methodology: it treats the Egyptian Gods as an ethnic group subject to anthropological study much as one might have studied the Egyptians themselves. The authors apparently decided on this approach after noting that most scholarship on Egyptian religion shed more light on the scholars’ biases than on the supposed subject, a phenomenon nicely described in the Introduction. The Meeks have therefore relied on surviving texts and inscriptions (a full participant-observer approach being rather difficult!) to describe the Gods, their origins, customs, and mode of life, as well as the human afterlife. Extensive reconstructions of Egyptian ritual are also included. This book thus forms an excellent detailed resource for students of Egyptian mythology.
“A unique and fascinating book that recreates the characters of the Egyptian gods, their habits and desires, relationships and conflicts.
This is the first translation of an extraordinary new study that has caused considerable stir among Egyptologists in France. Accessible but scholarly, and filled with a sense of wonderment at divine doings, it treats the gods as a tribe or community that has caught the interest of anthropologists. The authors describe the structure of this community and some of the conflicts that frequently upset it as individual gods act to protect their own positions in the hierarchy or struggle to gain power over their fellows. The nature of their immortal but not invulnerable bodies, their pleasures and their needs are considered. What did they eat, the authors ask, and did they feel pain?
The second part of the book cites familiar traditions and little-known texts to explain the relationship of the gods to the pharaoh, who was believed to represent them on earth. By performing appropriate rites, the pharaoh maintained a delicate equilibrium, balancing the sky and home of the sun-god, the underworld of Osiris, and the dead, and the earth itself. While each world was autonomous and had its own mythological context, the separate spheres were also interdependent, requiring the sun’s daily course and the pharaoh’s ritual actions to ensure the cohesion of the universe.
No one, expert or layman, who read this book will look on the strange figures of the Egyptian gods in quite the same light again.” — back cover