(interactions between people and animals)

Animals with religious significance in Egypt

Ancient Egyptian towns usually possessed their own local sacred animal. However, the ancient Egyptians did not practice zoolatry (worship of animals). The animals they considered sacred represented one of their gods or goddesses. They believed that particular species were especially adored by each god/goddess, and that by honoring that animal, they would please the deity. The reason that animals appear regularly in ancient Egyptian religion is because they worshipped gods and goddesses which had an intimate relationship with the animal world, not because the animals by themselves were holy.

The belief that animals share the afterlife with humans resulted in the burial of many animals in family tombs. Some were buried at the time of their natural death because of their special significance, but many were killed and buried as part of funerary ritual or worship activities.

It was thought that some deities represented themselves on earth in the form of a single representative of a specific species. The animal believed to be the incarnation of the god or goddess lived a pampered life in and near the temples and religious centers. Upon the animal's death, another young replacement was found to represent the deity.

The human race was not considered superior to the animal world. Both had been created by the gods to share the earth as partners. These attitudes toward animals are reflected not only in the Egyptian religious beliefs, but also in the general attitudes toward the animal kingdom at large.

The following animals were considered especially sacred

  1. Cat, the male cat had religious connections with Ra. Kittens were specifically reared for sacrificial/worship uses.
  2. Cattle, beef was often used as a sacrificial offering to various deities.
  3. Scarab (dung) beetle, the emblem of a specific goddess, the scarab beetle was associated with the daily birth of the sun, and credited with spontaneous generation of its young. Because of its sacred status, it was widely represented in art; especially by the scribes.
  4. Other animals with religious significance include: ibises, baboons, rams, dogs, shrews, mongooses, snakes, fishes, beetles, gazelles, and lions.

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