Ancient Egypts complex society developed upon the base of religion. The people devoted their lives to pleasing the gods and winning their favor. We often find their brilliant displays of worship and sacrifice within the tombs of their rulers who were believed to be an earthly figure of Horus. In time, these beliefs would come to be the very symbols of Egyptian heritage.
Gods and Goddesses:
For the most part, ancient Egyptians were polytheistic, believing in many gods. There were numerous gods; each representing one element of everyday life. Many villages developed their own gods suited to their needs as well. The Egyptians depended on the gods to ensure them a well-lived life as mortals.
The most important among these gods was Horus. He was reborn through the pharaoh and served as a guardian over the mortal world. Another god that was commonly worshiped was Ra, guardian of the sun. He became in later time combined with Amun, god of creation.
Other renowned gods include Bastet (goddess o f cats), Hathor (goddess of music), Sekhmet (goddess of destruction), Isis (goddess of magic), Osiris (god of the dead), Seth (god of chaos), Thoth (god of wisdom), Anubis (god of embalming), Maat (goddess of justice), and the group of Nut, Shu, and Geb (goddess of the sky, god of the air, and god of the earth). These gods were the most prominent among this culture, but there was a vast number of others varying in importance. Many of them were depicted as being only partially human, with heads or limbs of animals. Some villages and architecture would devote their emblem to one god, but often the gods were paid tribute to in groups. This worship of many gods would eventually lead to turmoil between monotheistic religions.
Throughout the vast reign of this culture symbols were created to serve as protection from evil and to explain difficult concepts. Among the most eminent of these symbols was the Ankh. The Ankh was known as the original cross and represented eternal life. It was often held by the gods and kings to distinguish them from mortals. When worn as an amulet it was believed to provide protection from evil forces and to extend the life of its beholder. It survives to this day as an important spiritual symbol.
The Eye of Horus:
Another symbol used in daily life was the eye of Horus. The story is often told that while in battle Horus was injured and lost his left eye. A gold replacement was made and it came to be a common element in math figures and sensory. The entire eye measured one heqat and represented the six senses. The right side of the eye represented smell and made up for 1/2 of the fraction. The pupil represented sight and made up 1/4 of the fraction. The eyebrow represented thought and made up 1/8 of the fraction. The left side of the eye represented hearing and made up 1/16 of the fraction. The curl represented taste and made up 1/32 of the fraction. Finally the fraction was made whole by the figure underneath the eye, which represented touch and 1/64 of the fraction. The calculation of this whole was incomplete by a few numbers, but was said to be made up for by Horus magic.
The Scarab Beetle:
One of the most common symbols found outside of Egyptian culture is the scarab beetle. The scarab was a representation of the dung beetle and the ball it rolled across the sands was believed to be the sun going through its daily cycle. It came to represent protection and was often depicted as having beautiful wings with colorful feathers. Today it only serves decorative purposes. More and more we are beginning to see an impact on our culture from Egyptian mythology.