The ancient Egyptian culture produced more enduring temples than almost any other culture in history. And the temples that now exist for us only as ruins are as nothing when compared to the sheer number of temples that existed throughout the thousands of years of Egyptian history. Every sizable town had a significant temple. What has crumbled to dust surely outweighs the few precious temples that remain.
Why was so much time, effort, and such staggering amounts of money devoted to temple building?
Is it enough to say that the Egyptians were very religious people—that they built the temples to honor their Deities and to have a place to worship them?
Well, yes—and no.
Ancient Egyptian life was lived in intimate connection with the Deities so, in that sense, the Egyptians were indeed a very religious people. For them, religion wasn’t different from the rest of life. And they did build the temples to honor the Deities, including the living Deity, the Pharaoh (and to some extent his or her family). What’s more, the Egyptian Deities were not only worshipped within the temples, They actually lived in Their temples; so the temples were built as great and beautiful houses for the Goddesses and Gods.
But I think there is a more interesting story to be told about Egyptian temples, their Deities, the rituals worked within them, and why they were built. And it has to do with magic.
We’ll take up that tale in the next installment.