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Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt Paperback – 13 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (13 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521613000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521613002
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 1.4 x 25.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 534,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'In Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt, Emily Teeter presents her readers with a very helpful offering on Egyptian religion. Rather than examining abstract or esoteric principles, Teeter's book aims to address lived religion, 'how ancient Egyptians related to and worshipped their gods, and how religion affected their daily lives' … In it she ably familiarizes the reader with the fundamental elements of Egyptian religion, including the priests, temples, festivals, divine-human communication, magic, and the afterlife … Overall, Teeter's work is to be highly recommended both for the classroom and for the scholar of biblical and comparative literature.' Michael B. Hundley, Journal of Biblical Literature

Book Description

This book demystifies ancient Egyptian religion, exploring what it meant to the people and their society. The text and rich illustrations explore and explain what rituals were enacted in temples, who served as priests, how people communicated with the gods, and the complex rituals associated with death and burial.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Neutral VINE VOICE on 7 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback
Since the decline of classical studies the public's general knowledge of ancient societies has been a largely second-hand regurgitation of populist critiques of the social dominance of Christendom in the West. Thinking of Ancient Egyptian history as a unity is an error which Teeter recognises by providing a relevant and interesting chronology which she divides into thirty-one dynasties, grouped into three kingdoms separated by intermediate periods. Hence 'Ancient Egypt' must be viewed in terms of time and space not as a unity which can be dipped into without reference to historical context. She states, "Religion and the cult actions derived from those beliefs held ancient Egyptian society together and allowed it to flourish for more than three thousand years'. She considers 'how ancient Egyptians related to and worshiped their gods and how religion affected their daily lives'. Religion and religious institutions underpinned Egyptian society and, in a real sense, it had no 'secular' realm.

The art and architecture were outgrowths of religion. Egyptians considered a representation of an individual was a counter-image – an actual substitute for the object portrayed with the potential to be imbued with the spirit of that person. Writing was believed to have been given to humans by the god Thoth and writing about an individual was to call that person into existence. The Egyptian priesthood was not separate from the community at large but lived in their own homes and were free to have families. Most priests acted on a part-time basis in conjunction with other professions. Egypt was a 'belief-saturated world'. Although records suggest that Egyptian society was not much different from all other human societies in practice their world-view was substantially different.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
An Exceptional Work of Scholarship 18 Oct. 2011
By William Suddaby - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Emily Teeter has made a very important contribution to the understanding of ancient Egypt and its people. "Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt" will be eye-opening to both the casual egyptophile and the seasoned egyptologist. The author has brought together a bewildering amount of information (I suspect she has been gathering it for many years) and presented it in a most refreshingly uncomplicated way. Her style is eminently accessible and clearly organized--if at times a bit repetitive, which only makes browsing more intelligible.
One overarching theme runs through the entire work: The incredible longevity of the ancient egyptian religion, which seems to us so bizarre and complicated in the extreme, was due to the fact that it offered real comfort and support to a largely illiterate population, allowing for non-violent resolution of daily conflicts, simple incentives to do right, and reassuring answers to the mysteries of birth and death. The innumerable strange gods with heads of birds, beetles, cows, and crocodiles were basically benevolent and helpful figures from egyptian everyday life, and perhaps no more fanciful than centaurs, many armed shivas, eleven headed bodhisattvas, voluptuous genies, or three persons in one.
Some of the black and white photographs are slightly dark, and, in this reviewer's opinion, Teeter is a bit hard on pharaoh Akhenaten and his incorporeal monotheism, but still the work is enormously valuable and deserves five stars.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Excellent overview of Egyptian religion from the point of view of the worshipper 16 Feb. 2013
By Shadowrider - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why did a religion that seems so bizarre to us thrive for thousands of years and have so much appeal that one of its offshoots was actually was a rival for converts with Christianity during the Roman Empire?

That is the question which Teeter explores. The book does not delve into the mythology of the gods but rather focuses on what they meant to the average man or woman on the street. Teeter portrays a religion that was accessible to everyone, brought the community together, offered deities which were approachable--if sometimes unpredictable and even dangerous. The Egyptian religion upheld a strong moral code and offered the promise of eternal life to those who lived a good and pious life on earth.

The author's style is very readable and painless. I recommend it for readers interested in the inner life of the Egyptians and in comparitive religion in general.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Book 14 Mar. 2013
By Della - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Emily Teeter's fairly short book packs a lot of information. She talks not only about how the priesthood might have expressed their piety toward the gods, but also about how the common person did as well. For example, many temples had chapels of the "hearing ear", where the average person could go into a wooden booth or behind a curtain to pray to the image of a god there.

Teeter also mentions festivals and how they might have been celebrated. This particular chapter was a little disappointing if only because it was (a) so short and (b) didn't have the greatest sample of festivals. She chose to write about the Beautiful Feast of the Valley and the Festival of Amenhotep I. The Beautiful Feast is a good one to write on, yet I couldn't help but feel that there are plenty of other, more interesting festivals to talk about. What about Khoiak? Even the Sed Festival would have been more informative than Amenhotep I's (no offense intended toward him, of course!)

Teeter also talks about different forms of devotion for the average worshipper, including hermitage in one of the local temples. You'll also read about ancient Egyptian magic, its place in society, and much, much more.

My last criticism is I think Teeter tends to lean heavily on the "ancient peoples terrified of their world invented their religion so they could feel better" viewpoint. For sure, the ancient Egyptians found their religion comforting. But I'm not sure all of it was just for comfort and comfort alone.

Ancient Egypt has left us a lot of records of how her people lived. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell what people other than priests and kings did since only the elite were literate. Any book that contributes to our knowledge of personal piety (ie: the piety of the common people) is very much welcome.

If you're interested in ancient Egypt, I would recommend this book. If you are a Kemetic (worshipper of the ancient Egyptian gods), then I would also recommend this book. It's terrific. I can't recommend it highly enough.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The people's religion 13 Dec. 2012
By Gheart - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book. It was very helpful to me when I was trying to gain a better understanding of Ancient Egyptian religion and how it pertained to and impacted the people on a basic level.
What people did rather than believed 16 Oct. 2014
By DAJ - Published on
Format: Paperback
An overview of Egyptian religious practice, filling a need left by the multiplicity of deep-thinking studies of theology. Temple rites and festivals, private prayers and offerings, and funerals are all here, and Teeter's descriptions are evocative without feeling exaggerated or intruding on the flow of the text.

There are a couple of minor caveats. Teeter still tries to distinguish magic from the rest of the religion. I firmly believe, based on Robert Ritner's arguments in The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, that the rituals people tend to label as "magic" and those they label as "religious" were all performed by priests and powered by heka, so there really isn't a major distinction. Second, in discussing how great the division was between state cults and popular religion, she clearly believes it was small. I sympathize with that position, but the reader should know that other scholars have challenged it.
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