Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Religion and Magic

NEHC 20212/30212 = ANST 23302
Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Religion and Magic
M/W/F 9:30–10:30 AM

Why did the Egyptians wrap their bodies in linen? Did they believe in a human soul? How did they envision life after death? Who was Osiris? This course will seek answers to those (and other) questions through an introduction to the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Egyptians. Each week we will cover a thematic topic with readings, lectures, and discussions. Focus will be placed on trying to understand ancient Egyptian perspectives in order to evaluate popular mischaracterizations and critically assess the biases and assumptions in historical scholarship. Students will get the chance to investigate ancient Egyptian creation accounts, the pantheon of gods, the role of humans, conceptions of the afterlife, the mysteries of Osiris, ritual practices, and domestic religion while applying what they learn to portrayals found in popular media.

The study of religious ideologies is fundamental to understanding the relationships between people and the world around them. In particular, the study of traditions far removed from one’s own offers an opportunity to develop empathy, understanding, and awareness of new modes of thought and appreciation for the peoples and culture that created them. Students in this course will work with both primary and secondary sources to develop an understanding of the primary aspects of the ancient Egyptian systems of belief, how those beliefs structured their social lives, and in what forms they were expressed. In the process, students will gain a broad knowledge of the methodologies employed in Egyptology and religious studies. Students will refine analytical skills for reading critically and assessing the value of scholarly argument. In addition, the class will confront and evaluate popular tropes found in popular media about ancient Egyptian religion in order to expose biases and reinterpret such tropes in light of the ancient evidence.

Brooklyn Museum Magical Papyrus 47.218.156a-d

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