Egy szinttel feljebbAmun

Egyptologist and scientists have already written entire books about Amun, so here I cannot intend to tell everything about him in just a couple of paragraphs. Yet I try to give a brief, overall summary that touches upon most of his characteristics and aspects. Maybe some of our readers will find this composition too sketchy but - as we have emphasized so many times - our main goal is to raise your interest and attention for the subject, not to write scientific publications. Despite this entry has become a little longer that the previous ones.
It is necessary for me to practise a different kind of approach because I feel that Amun's many-sided personality calls for a more detailed description even in the case of a summary. On the other hand we don't let our traditions down. We have some fun in store for you. Read on!

Amun is one of the most general and universal gods of the Egyptian pantheon. From the age of the 18th dynasty the imperial theology endowed him with many characteristics in order to make him more and more general, to melt together most of the gods in his personality and finally turn him into an overall imperial deity. That's why we have difficulties in following back his original role.

The creator function can be traced in many of Amun's attributes but this is not his only function. The ultimate purpose was to raise his cult over the cult of any other god, so the more gods melted into his personality, the more powerful the imperial religion was. That is why he had to be appointed as the father of every god, creator god, the resource of every kind of life. This is how other gods came to beings who were identical with Amun: Amun-Ra, Amun-Min-Kamutef, etc.

Attempts were made even to put him into the place of Osiris in the underworld but the mortuary cult and the concepts related to the underworld were founded so deeply in the Egyptian traditions that Amun could not sneak behind the original beliefs.

Though the god was known even in the age of the Old Kingdom (the Pyramid Texts refer to him) only from the First Intermediate Period could his cult be traced. This time his worship concentrated only to Thebes. The local major god of Thebes had been Montu, even under the Middle Kingdom. Only during the New Kingdom did Amun replaced him and became the main deity of the city and the whole empire. Then he raised to the top of the pantheon and his cult melted together with the institution of kingship and the management of the state. This period was the golden age of the deity and the divine family organized around him, called the Theban Triad. The citadel of his cult, the temple complex of Karnak wears the fingerprints of many pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom to the Late Period. His clergy owned a power that sometimes endangered even the reign of the kings. From the 21st dynasty Amun physically turned into a "governor of the state". The issues concerning the empire were presented to the god himself and the answers arrived through his oracles. On these occasions the statue of the god was requested to answer and he indicated his agreement or disagreement by certain movements. His decision was over debate. Was it the god himself who reacted? Or maybe the hands of the priests shivered while they held the statue? We cannot be sure. However, the decision often represented the interest of the Amun-clergy against the central power.

His cult was still vividly alive when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. The great Macedonian general treated the culture and religion of conquered peoples with devotion and respect. So did he in Egypt. He was aware that if he intends to make the Egyptian people accept his domination, he has to respect their traditions. He went to Siwa Oasis, one of the cult centres of Amun, in order to gain divine legitimacy. Amun declared him to be the son of his own, so no doubt could touch the legitimacy of the General anymore. Or was it the approval of Egypt's dominating clergy what he really needed? As a matter of fact, no other cult of any other god was penetrated and corrupted by the politics as deeply as the cult of Amun.

The original form of his name is "Imen" that means "The Hidden One". Many forms and names of Amun were worshipped. He was called "The Only One" too. At this point the science of religions thinks to find similarity with the monotheist religions. Some of the concepts around Amun are the same as the concepts of the gods in religions that worship an only, invisible transcendent being not to be named. Is it possible that there was a more secret, mystic religion in Egypt beyond the well-known polytheism practised by the public?

The twin-feathered crown of Amun

The decoration of Amun's crown usually rather hard to figure out. It is often stylized, and the fashion of the crown is obscure a bit. This picture is interesting because every detail is clearly visible and it verifies that the crown has feathers on it.

Most often Amun is portrayed in anthropomorphic shape wearing double feather-crown on his head. He appears also in the form of a ram. The passage leading to his temple in Karnak is guarded by hundreds of ram-headed sphinxes till the present days. The ram is the symbol of fertility and creation in the Egyptian religious concept. It symbolized the creating power only the most ancient gods could possess. These gods were present at the creation of the world and know its destiny from the beginning to the end. That's why the people turn to them - first of all to Amun - if they want to know about the future. He is also represented in the form of a goose, which is the result of the identification with the Great Gaggler. He is also referred to as the ancestor of Ra's begetters, the saint of all saints (Imen Djeser Djeserew).

His festival - the Opet-ceremony - was performed in the second month of the season of inundation and it was one of the most spectacular events of Egypt.

At the beginning his female partner was first Amaunet who accompanied Amun all along his cult, but she was replaced more and more by the new family of the deity, the other two members of the Theban Triad, Mut and Khons.

Besides, Amun's family had earthly members too, the pharaohs (as we have already referred to in the story of Alexander the Great). Every ruler of the New Kingdom considered himself to be the son of Amun but in the case of certain pharaohs this ideology gained extra attention. Queen Hatshepsut used him to enforce his unstable legitimacy. Have the gods ever seen a woman on the throne of Egypt? So the queen tried to extremely stress the prove his divine origin in order to make the country accept her as pharaoh. According to her inscription Amun had visited the queen's mother in her sleep and fathered Hatshepsut. The inscription tells the story of that night in naughty details and says that the god blessed the mother-queen with a child of his own seed. This story deleted every doubt about the queen's right to the crown of the Two Lands.

The worship of Amun was present in the Egyptian religion for many millennia. This is a long period, even for a cult. Nor the church of the Christian god is older than 2000 years. And how interesting! The apparatus organized around him has asked and gained as dominating political role as the clergy of Amun. They owned the same economic power, and the Vatican is the city of God, just like Thebes is the city of Amun during the 11-9th century B.C. I suppose it is not an overstatement to say that the cult of Amun meant the same in the ancient Egypt as the Christianity means in our age.

Ram-headed sphinx of Amun in front of Karnak Temple. - (C) 1999 ESzAH

Amon as a ram-headed sphinx in front of the Karnak Temple

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