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Divine Creatures:
Animal Cults in Ancient Egypt

The origin of Egyptian animal cults dates back to the beginning of dynastic Egypt in 3100 B.C. The fertile Nile valley nurtured ancient Egyptians and a wide variety of animals. For Egyptians, animals enchanted the mundane space and filled the blanks of the unknown world with divinities and fantasies. They brought these animals and their characteristics into the spiritual realm, depicting them either as animal forms or as animal-human amalgam. Viewed as manifestations of the divine, animals played an important role in Egyptian’s religious activities and even secular lives. 


As the kingdoms of Egypt changed and developed, the animal cults gained increasing importance. During the troubled times when the country was progressively being drawn into the Mediterranean world, animal deities can be seen as an attempt to return to traditional core values, providing a means of more immediate contact between gods and people while reassuring the unsettled hearts. By the end of the Ptolemaic period in the first century B.C., animal cults began to fall out of favor. During Roman rule and the expansion of Christianity into Egypt, the old gods were abandoned. 

Today, the discovery of the sacred animal artifacts traces a historical space where animals’ power, grace, and strength were revered and worshiped. Divine Creatures: Animal Cults in Ancient Egypt invites audiences to take a closer look at the sacred menagerie and unlock the secrets of Egyptian religion and mythology.

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