NPJ Book Review: Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods by Dimitri Meeks & Christine Favard-Meeks, Translated from the French by G.M. Goshgarian

 

My 1996 translation sits next to several works on the Egyptian Gods but this particular slim, scholarly volume is a fascinating esoteric work that requires some basic knowledge of ancient Egyptian history. The authors piece together a thought-provoking examination and their notes are reflective of their extensive research. That said, it’s a unique addition to any library focusing on the nature of how beliefs develop and the effect of those beliefs on daily life.

The introduction to this work reveals the complicated nature of the author’s undertaking. As a sidebar, whenever God or Gods are studied speculation is part and parcel to the study.

The authors state early on for historical context that, “The Gods of Egypt did not always exist. On more than one occasion, Egyptian religious texts evoke the idea that they can be born and die and that time has a beginning and end.”

 In the very beginning of the creation of the universe some texts such as the Coffin Text suggest that the creator-god was meditating in solitude on the Primeval Ocean, and being inspired created a daughter and son called Life. As time progressed man saw a need to describe and explain his predicament. The gods with associated rites to honor those gods evolved as a means of guidance in life. The names of the gods became numerous as were the developing rites – all were created by humans to aid in exploring life’s purpose. 

In fact, God and the Gods are words invented by man. Before Earth was created there were no names to express man’s evolving concerns about life’s brutal struggles. To give himself a sense of control over self and others and daily life divinities evolved and names were created to describe their purpose on a daily basis. This work puts forth the nature and influence of man’s inspiration, and invention of the gods to help assuage the meanings of his life on a day-by-day basis. The rituals and rites help substantiate the purpose of the gods’ existence.

Not all gods are equal…that is, a number of gods evolved with half monster traits. A duality of life developed to explore and explain why the humans kill and sacrifice each other on altars of their own making. (A number of the stories have a cannibalistic quality which corresponds to the actuality of primitive life, and becoming like one’s enemy who possess great strength)  Justifications for human decisions were projected onto the gods they created.

This work can be read in many different ways. It’s thorough but not an easy read with all the names, actions, rites, rituals, stories and so forth. For myself it offers another perspective on how complicated the study of “gods” and myth is and yet one came begin to understand that behind it all is the human search for meaning and control over his and her life. It can be quite vain and yet at the same time humbling.

Overall, I found this to be a useful reference tool and relevant to the degree that it shows Man’s quest to balance disorder with order.