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Hello, Sunshine

Whether the Greek God Helios, the Ancient Egyptian Ra or the Mayan God G,  Sun Gods were hugely important figures in the pantheons of many ancient cultures. With the weekend in sight and those of us still in the country praying for  sunshine we take a look at the significance of sun worship in ancient Egypt, as explored in our recent exhibition catalogue Journey through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead

Egyptian sun god

Ra, the ancient Egyptian Sun God in one of his many forms

Seen as one the most significant of all ancient Egyptian gods,  the sun god Ra was perceived as the creator of the world and of all living things. As he travelled across the sky by day he brought life to the inhabitants of the earth. At sunset he was thought to experience a symbolic death, after which he journeyed through the Netherworld during the night, retracing his path from west back to east, to re-emerge from the horizon at dawn.

The ancient Egyptians wrote many hymns to Ra – most importantly in the The Books of the Dead where they praised the sun-god in the hope of joining him on his endless cycle of recurring life.  This passage from the Book of the Dead of Ani is typical:

“…give praise to Ra, Lord of the Sky, the Sovereign who made the gods. Worship him in his goodly shape when he appears in the Day-baroque… May he grant that I see the sun-disc and behold the moon unceasingly every day; may my soul go forth to travel to every place it desires… may a place be made for me in the solar baroque on the day when the god ferries across, and may I received into the presence of Osiris in the Land of Vindication” Spell 15, papyrus Ani

Here’s to a spell of good weather this weekend!

Journey through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead is available now from the British Museum shop

Category: History


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