Netjer – Egyptian word in English – as god

The Egyptian word that is translated into English as god is netjer. This word is written with a hieroglyph resembling a flag (yellow in color) on a flagpole, often shown in green. It has been described as “a pole wrapped with a band of cloth, bound by a cord, the end projecting as a flap or streamer.” Exactly what this image has to do with the concept of god has been the subject of much discussion. It could represent a cult flag that is seen flying from tall flagpoles found at the entrances to New Kingdom (circa 1539-1075 b.c.e.) temples. Another suggestion is that the object represented a fetish, an inanimate object believed to have supernatural power. A more recent theory is that the flag represents the pennants found hanging from poles that were surmounted by hieroglyphs representing various deities. Usually a symbol representing a particular deity was found above the pennants, and it has been suggested that the pennant without the symbol came to represent the general concept of deity.

Etymology . The etymology of the word netjer is uncertain. It corresponds roughly to the word god, because in the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian history, bilingual decrees in Greek and Egyptian translate the Egyptian netjer with Greek theos (god). A detailed examination of the Egyptian texts reveals that the word netjer has a far wider frame of

Acquired Status in Life . In contrast to the gods are those beings who acquired the status of netjer through undergoing a ritual at some time after their birth. These entities fall into two categories, those who become netjers while living and those who become netjers after death. In the first category are the king of Egypt and certain sacred animals. The king at his accession underwent a coronation ritual and as a result acquired the status of netjer. The king was the only living person in Egypt who had this status. In addition to the king, specific animals were viewed as being special manifestations of particular gods, usually based on the presence of special markings or characteristics. These animals also underwent a ritual that inducted them into the category of netjer and made them instruments through which a particular god could make his presence manifest.

Acquired Status in Death . The last class of beings that were considered to be netjer are those beings that underwent a ritual, and hence became netjer after death. The funerary ritual had the effect of turning every deceased Egyptian for whom it was practiced into a netjer. The dead person would become an akh a glorified spirit, and would be the recipient of offerings of food and drink from his family members. Particularly important individuals might acquire a prominent cult after their deaths and receive offerings from people in addition to family members. Finally, animals belonging to particular species that were kept at Egyptian temples would be mummified and buried at death, conferring on them the status of netjer.

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