The winged sphinx of Boeotian Thebes, the most famous in legend, was said to have terrorized the people by demanding the answer to a riddle. If the person answered incorrectly, he or she was eaten by the sphinx. It is said that Oedipus answered properly where upon the sphinx killed herself.
The earliest and most famous example in art is the colossal Sphinx at Giza, Egypt. It dates from the reign of King Khafre (4th king of 4th dynasty; c. 2550 b.c.)
The Sphinx did not occur in Mesopotamia until around 1500 b.c. when it was imported from the Levant. In appearance, the Asian sphinx differed from its Egyptian model mostly in the addition of wings to the leonine body. This feature continued through its history in Asia and the Greek world.
Another version of the sphinx was that of the female. This appeared in the 15th century b.c. on seals, ivories and metalworkings. They were portrayed in the sitting position usually with one paw raised. Frequently, they were seen with a lion, griffin or another sphinx.
The appearance of the sphinx on temples and the like eventually lead to a possible interpretation of the sphinx as a protective symbol as well as a philosophical one.
The Sphinx rests at the foot of the 3 pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkure. It talons stretch over the city of the dead as it guards its secrets.
The myth goes that a prince who later became Thutmose IV, took a nap in the shadow of the half-submerged Sphinx. As he slept, the Sun-god (whom the Sphinx represents, appeared to him in a dream. Speaking to him as a son, he told the prince that he would succeed to the throne and enjoy a long and happy reign. He urged the prince to have the Sphinx cleared of the sand.
In his book on Isis and Osiris, Plutarch (A.D. 45-126) says that the Sphinx symbolizes the secret of occult wisdom, though Plutarch never unveiled the mysteries of the Sphinx. It is said that the magic of the Sphinx lies within the thousands of hands that chiseled at the rock. The thoughts of countless generations dwell in it; numberless conjurations and rites have built up in it a mighty protective spirit, a soul that still inhabits this time-scarred giant.
Another well know superstition of the peoples of Ancient Egypt was that regarding their dead.
They believed that in the West lies the World of the Dead, where the Sun-god disappears every evening. The departed were referred to as "Westerners." It was believed that, disguised as birds, the dead soar into the sky where in his heavenly barge Ra, the Sun- god, awaits them and transforms them into stars to travel with him through the vault of the heavens.
The occult of the dead reached it's height when it incorporated the Osiris myth. Osiris was born to save mankind. At his nativity, a voice was heard proclaiming that the Lord had come into the world (sound familiar?). But his brother / father Seth shut him up in a chest which he carried to the sea by the Tanaitic mouth of the Nile. Isis brought him back to life. Seth then scattered his body all over the place. It is said that Isis fastened the limbs together with the help of the gods Nephtis, Thoth, and Horus, her son. Fanning the body with her wings, and through her magic, Osiris rose again to reign as king over the dead.
The Egyptian believed that a person had two souls. The sould known as Ba is the one that progressed into the afterlife while the Ka remains with the mummy. The Ka is believed to live a magical life within the grave. Thus the Egyptians placed miniture belongings of the deceased into the tomb. Such items as images, statuettes, imitation utensils, and miniture houses take the place of the real thing. They believed that the Ka would use these as the real item because the mortuary priests possesed magic that would make them real for the dead.
The priests believed that the gods could be deceived, menaced and forced into obedience. They had such trust in the power of magic, the virtue of the spoken word, the irresistibility of magic gestures and other ritual, that they hoped to bend even the good gods to their will. They would bring retribution to the deities who failed to deal leniently with the dead. They threatened to shoot lightning into the are of Shu, god of the air, who would then no longer be able to support the sky-goddess, and her star-sown body would collapse, disrupting the order of all things.
When Ikhnaton overthrew the Egyptian gods and demons, making the cult of the One God Aton, a state religion, he also suppressed mortuary magic. Ikhnaton did not believe in life after death.
As Christianity became a part of this nation, there is much evidence to show where the Christians of the time, and the pagans lived peacefully together.