Deity – What is it, concept, history and difference with a god

We explain what deities are, how they differ from a god and how they arose in history. Also, the origin of the term.

The notion of deity is broader than that of god.

What is a deity?

When we speak of a deity, we are referring in very general terms to any form of god, divinity, or mystical, spiritual, or supernatural entity to which some role is attributed within the cosmic order and to which, therefore, some form of tribute or devotion is paid. It is a term similar to that of “god”, but much broader and more encompassing, since it refers to the gods of any monotheistic or polytheistic religion.

Deities of various kinds have accompanied the human being throughout the history of civilization, embodied different values ​​and played different roles in his imaginary order of things. Many of them represented ideals of justice, order and abundance, while others had more grim roles, as destroyers of the world, responsible for chaos and death, or rulers of the afterlife.

In fact, some of the first known deities were linked to the world of agriculture and the fertility of the land, or with natural phenomena such as day and night, the path of the sun in the sky, and so on. For example, the ancient Egyptians called the sun god Ra, and imagined him as a hawk-headed man, traveling through the sky in his chariot, alongside his daughter Maat, who embodied the cosmic order.

The term “deity” comes from Latin deitas, more or less comparable with “divinity”, although sources such as Saint Augustine (354-430 AD) assure that it is a term created by ancient Christians to differentiate their god from those worshiped by the pagans. Similarly, other authors distinguish between “deity” and “divinity”, in this case stating that the first term refers to the god and the second to his powers or supernatural faculties.