on 22 April 2014
I've been reading about Egyptian mythology since childhood, it's always been one of my favourites and I'm always on the look out for more reference books on the subject. I recently picked up a copy of this from Waterstones and I haven't been disappointed.
Firstly, the quality of the book is gorgeous; everything from the dust jacket to the paper used just feels top notch. That in itself makes you feel like it's worth the money.
As for the content, the author shows a fantastic breadth of knowledge and a clear love of the subject is evident on every page. The chapters are laid out very well, with very nice photographs and useful charts complimenting the text. The photos aren't in colour though, which is a shame as Egyptian paintings and sculptures can be very vibrant.
However, unlike most reference books this one is very easy to dip in and out of. It manages to be both informative and entertaining, and doesn't leave your brain feeling like it's bogged down with information.
I would throughly recommend this book to people who would like to know more about the mythology of this fascinating civilisation, yet who don't want to wade through massive text books. Or maybe you're a student studying the myths or a hardcore fan just looking for a lighter read.
My only massive gripe is that he doesn't use the Egyptian names for deities and places, instead opting for the Greek alternative. But that's just me.
on 11 July 2014
There are many books about Egyptian myths and gods, but in this handbook-sized guide Garry Shaw asks you to “place yourself in the sandals” of the ancient Egyptians, to try to see and understand the world through their eyes, a world where gods were not just distant entities but an integral part of everyday life.
Focussing on the stories, personalities and “human” characteristics of the ancient gods, Shaw begins with creation myths: the Ogdoad of Hermopolis, the Triads of Thebes and Memphis, the Ennead of Heliopolis, and the reigns of the god kings Ra, Shu, Geb, Osiris, Seth and Horus, succeeded by the pharaohs, who were themselves the personification of Horus and the Son of Ra.
These stories developed as the Egyptians tried to make sense of their surroundings. Why is the land separated from the sky? Because Geb (earth) and his sister Nut (sky) embraced so closely she was unable to give birth until their father Shu (the air or atmosphere) forced them apart, separating sky from the earth.
Part Two concentrates on the manifestations of the gods in the living world. Major deities such as Amun were accessible only to the king and his priests, but ordinary people could communicate with the divine using magic spells, oracles and hearing chapels, and interact with household gods such as Bes and Taweret through small shrines in the home. Hathor and Min watched over the desert routes, the blood of the cat goddess Bastet fell to earth and became the much prized turquoise, mined by workers who invoked the protection of Hathor as the Lady of Turquoise. The supernatural was as much a part of daily life as the mundane.
The focus of Part Three is life hereafter; Shaw discusses the role of the gods in the afterlife, the journey taken by the deceased to become “true of voice” and a follower of Osiris. A short epilogue highlights the decline of the ancient gods with the advance of Christianity and Islam and how the ancient Egyptians became myths themselves, their lives distorted by fragmentary remains and the ever-changing understanding (scientific and fantastical) of the modern world.
Beautifully set out on high quality paper (although the turquoise tinge to the illustrations to match the front cover and text headings may not be to everybody’s taste), and featuring some lesser known stories (such as the search for the magical wig of Ra) alongside more familiar myths, this is a good introduction to the complex mythology of the ancient Egyptians and their unique way of understanding the world around them.
Reviewed by ancientegyptmagazine dot com
on 12 June 2014
If you want to learn about the real Egypt this is a great guide. I especially liked the final third of the book as we are guided through death and what it means for the people of those ancient times. The author has immersed himself in the world of Egypt's ancestors and depicts what its like to live in a time and world dominated by legends, gods and the magic of life and death. Seeing more in their day to day life than we can see in the typical Egyptian monologues we are subjected to. The author knows his stuff that is clear and puts a reality on what is seemingly un-real. Its layout, the author's humour and knowledge are well presented and well written. Its size and readability make it something you can look forward to dipping back into in the future after a first read. A great book that those learning about Egyptian culture should read - it pulls together knowledge which is broad and deep and the author uses his experience and learning in this field to make it understandable to the reader without recourse to a Hammer horror mummy in swathe bandages running rampage in the mind. Great book.