Thursday, September 11, 2008

Egyptian Deities and Wargods

"It is the Antediluvian Age...the time after the fall of Atlantis and before the destruction brought about by the Great Flood. It is a time when the Children of the Gods still walked the earth, and fought great wars for their creators. To lead them in battle, the gods invested certain mighty mortals with a portion of their own power—the Harbingers. On the bright sands of ancient Aegyptus, the Harbingers and their armies made war."

WarGods is a game for 2 or more players that re-creates these battles of ancient mythology using metal minatures on a tabletop. This 288 page hardcover book provides you with the rules and background you need to play the game using the forces of Aegyptus, and gets you started collecting and painting your own warband of Crocodile Games miniatures.

Where did the gods live?

Did Egyptian deities dwell in some unreachable divine realm beyond space and time, or did they inhabit the human world? There is evidence for a variety of answers to this question. A few religious texts speak of the creator god Amun as an invisible, unknowable force existing beyond the limits of the cosmos. Others emphasize that something of the essence of the creator was present in the elements that made up the cosmos and in all the beings whom he had made. One answer to where did the gods live might be ‘in the past’. In a letter to his dead wife, a scribe called Butehamun refers to Ra and his ennead, or council, as being gone like the kings of old. Most of the surviving mythical narratives are set in a remote era when a dynasty of gods ruled Egypt. This golden age was terminated by the first acts of rebellion and murder.

Gradually, the gods withdrew to divine realms beyond and below the earth. There they lived in their mysterious true forms, as huge, radiant beings with an overpoweringly sweet scent. Most humans could only enter the divine realms after death, but deities continued to interact with the human world in a variety of ways.

Deities could manifest themselves in natural phenomena such as storms, floods, and plagues. Their spirits could be ‘resident’ in special or unusual people, such as kings and dwarfs, and in sacred animals, trees, and objects. One of the main functions of Egyptian art was to provide temporary bodies for deities in the form of statues, drawings, or hieroglyphs. Much of the ritual that went on in Egyptian temples was aimed at encouraging the gods to inhabit these bodies so that their presence could benefit humanity. Thus, a deity like Sobek could be thought of as living simultaneously in the primeval ocean before creation, in a palace in the mountains of the horizon, in wild areas of Egypt’s lakes and marshes, and in the statues and sacred crocodiles kept in his temples.

Were Egyptian deities all-powerful and immortal?

In hymns and prayers deities are praised for their wisdom, strength, and power. In other writings, that power seems to come with limitations. Deities were expected to obey the rules of maat. They might be subject to fate and they did not always know what would happen in the future. In Egyptian myth, gods were depicted as longer-lived, stronger, and more powerful than people, but they did age and they were not invulnerable. In the story known as ‘The Secret Name of Ra’, the sun god suffered the indignities of old age and was harmed by heka (magic), one of the powers he had used to make the world. That world was like a small island in the ocean of chaos, and the forces of chaos posed a continuous threat to the gods.

In their struggles with chaos monsters or with each other, Egyptian deities could be injured or even die. Such deaths rarely seem to be more than a temporary inconvenience. Isis survived being beheaded. Seth was executed in a number of unpleasant ways but always came back again. In these cases it is usually only a particular body or manifestation of the deity that dies, but Osiris seems to die in a more final manner and could not go back to his former life in Egypt. Some Underworld Books imply that the sun god died each evening and was reborn each morning. Time was made up of inescapable cycles of birth, life, death, and renewal. The creator would eventually grow weary and return into chaos until it was time for the creation of a new world.


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