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Review of Max Müller's Egyptian Mythology 
25th-Jan-2007 03:42 pm
Müller, W. Max. "Egyptian." The Mythology of All Races. Vol. 12. Boston: Marshall Jones Co., 1918. Rpt. as Egyptian Mythology. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2004.

[Amazon link]


Author's Preface
1. The Local Gods
2. The Worship of the Sun
3. Other Gods Connected with Nature
4. Some Cosmic and Cosmogonic Myths
5. The Osirian Circle
6. Some Texts Referring to Osiris-Myths
7. The Other Principle Gods
8. Foreign Gods
9. Worship of Animals and Men
10. Life after Death
11. Ethics and Cult
12. Magic
13. Development and Propagation of Egyptian Religion


Although the back cover claims Müller's Egyptian Mythology to have "served for generations as a reader-friendly introduction to the vast complexities of Egyptian myth," it seems to me that it would be a poor introduction to one with little or no knowledge. The discussion within sometimes jumps from topic to topic, with discussion on any given topic therefore sometimes quite spread out, and it might be difficult for someone with little background in Egyptian mythology to follow.

This book is a step beyond those books which present a mostly unified view of Egyptian religion or which present only a single retelling of the myths. It discusses throughout the contradictions and changes over time which exist. The tellings of myths come from translations of original texts, with uncertainties indicated and variations marked. A number of hymns and pieces of hymns are also presented in translation.

The first chapter emphasizes the development of gods from local spirits in Egyptian thought. This attention to the development of the deities carries through the next two chapters, as differing and generally conflicting descriptions of the gods and their relations are discussed with no attempt to artificially coalesce the differences into a single whole. Rather, the origins of each are related as much as is known, as well as the manners in which the Egyptians combined them or let them coexist.

The ninth through twelfth chapters shift the focus from the mythology itself to the practices associated therewith, touching on the most important aspects of Egyptian religion. The final chapter discusses the development and spread of Egyptian religion.

The main detriment to the book is the difficulty in locating information within it when not reading straight through. It lacks an index, and in some chapters, the information presented is not necessarily in any sort of easily discernable order. It does contain a pair of chapters which alphabetically list and describe gods native to Egypt and those from foreign lands.
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