The beliefs and rituals surrounding these deities formed the core of Ancient Egyptian religion, which emerged some time in prehistory. Deities represented natural forces and phenomena, and the Egyptians supported and appeased them through offerings and rituals so that these forces would continue to function according to maat, or divine order. After the founding of the Egyptian state around 3000 BCE, the authority to perform these tasks was controlled by the pharaoh, who claimed to be the deities' representative, and managed the temples where the rituals were carried out.
The deities' complex characteristics were expressed in myths and in tales regarding the intricate relationships between deities: family ties, loose groups, and hierarchies, and combinations of separate deities into one. The diverse appearances of deities in art—as animals, humans, objects, and combinations of different forms—also alluded, through symbolism, to their essential features.