You want to know more about the Egyptian eye? You want to discover the legends behind this eye? Or, perhaps, you want to know what uses it had in the time of ancient Egypt?
Our team of ancient Egypt enthusiasts is here to answer all these questions!
The Egyptian eye, or more commonly known as the eye of Horus, is an inescapable symbol of Egyptian mythology. It plays a determining role in the fight between Set and Horus and still has an influence in Egyptian beliefs today.
You will discover in this article:
- The origins of the Egyptian eye
- The difference between the Egyptian eye and the eye of Ra
- The uses and meanings of the Egyptian eye in ancient Egypt
The myth of the Egyptian eye will soon have no more secrets for you.
We invite you now to dive into the heart of this story!
1) The legend of Horus and the origin of his eye
In this part, we will discover together the origins of Horus (the holder of the Egyptian eye). Knowing who Horus was will allow us to understand how the legend of the Egyptian eye starts.
A) Horus, the falcon god
Before we begin our story, we are going to give you a brief summary of the divine protagonists, so that you are not lost in your reading.
According to the Egyptians, at the beginning of our era, there was only a vast infinite Ocean and the depths of original Darkness. By answering the call of life, the falcon-headed deity Amun-Ra sprang from the Ocean and Darkness to give birth to the Earth, to the Universe, to the Cosmos and, above all, to humanity.
Before our time, there was only a vast empty ocean according to the ancient Egyptians.
Amun-Ra is the father (and king) of all gods. He created Geb (the god of the earth) and Nut (the goddess of heaven), and from their union they gave birth to four deities: Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys. Osiris married his sister Isis and Set took Nephthys as his wife.
To understand the circumstances of Horus' birth, we must tell you the "myth of Osiris", the most popular myth in ancient Egypt.
The Osirian myth stems from the fraternal jealousy of Set towards Osiris. Osiris was considered a perfect being, deeply just and good. Amun-Ra then decided to proclaim him the first pharaoh of Egypt, preferring him to his brother Set who was then devoured by hatred and jealousy.
Amun-Ra was not mistaken in his choice: the more the two brothers grew, the more they affirmed their personalities. While Osiris ruled over Egypt with a masterful hand, using all the benevolence that animated him, Set longed only for chaos.
The resentment of the evil protagonist was such that it drove him to assassinate Osiris. To do this, Set devised an infallible plan.
First, he organized a banquet with hundreds of guests (including Osiris, of course). Then, Set offered them to play a game with a priceless chest put in play. Whoever managed to get entirely into the chest would win it.
Previously carved to the exact dimensions of Osiris, he was the only one who could fit inside. But once inside, Set closed the lid and threw the chest into the Nile, causing his brother to drown. Set seized the throne and became king of Egypt in his turn.
Isis, the wife of Osiris, sets out to find the body of her late husband. She walked along the river for several days until she found the chest stranded at the foot of a majestic tree. The tree had grown at an exceptional speed due to the divine and magical aura emanating from the body of Osiris.
Isis, using her healing powers, did everything she could to bring back to life her husband. Unfortunately, her powers did not allow her to revive the first pharaoh of Egypt for a long period. However, her love for Osiris was so strong that, combined with her powers, Horus, son of Osiris and Isis, was born from this last union.
Isis brought back from her journey the body of Osiris (in order to give him a proper burial) along with her newborn child, Horus. But when Set discovered that Isis had brought back his brother's body, he cut it into fourteen separate pieces and scattered them throughout the kingdom.
However, Osiris' widow did not give in and led an expedition to find every piece of the body. Accompanied by her sister Nephthys, Isis managed to gather and assemble all the pieces using magic bandages.
Thanks to her powers combined with those of her sister, she succeeds in bringing back to life Osiris. But Osiris could not return to the world of the living because of his status of "resurrected" and thus became the god of the kingdom of the dead.
Unable to reign over the kingdom of the living, Osiris becomes king of the kingdom of the dead: the judge and funerary god of souls.
But the story doesn't end there because Horus, when he reached the age of wielding a weapon, decided to avenge his father and to recover the throne that should have been his by right of inheritance.
Horus summoned a divine council to cast out Set from power. The council was composed of Amun-Ra (the god of the Sun), Thoth (the god of wisdom) and Shu (the god of air).
The jury is undecided, and its members decide that the two rivals must face each other in some tests to determine who is most worthy of becoming pharaoh.
B) The origin of the Egyptian "Udjat" eye
The Egyptian eye originates from the confrontation between Horus and Set for the throne of Egypt.
Set (left) and Horus (right) face each other in multiple trials for the throne of Egypt.
Before the ultimate test that would determine the big winner, Horus decides to rest at the top of a mountain. Set, once Horus is asleep, tears out his rival's eye and cuts it into six pieces, which he then throws from the top of the mountain.
Thoth, having been a spectator of this infamy, doesn't want the last confrontation to be unbalanced. So, he goes in search of the pieces of the eye but founds only five fragments out of six. He then replaces the last missing piece with a divine particle of his creation.
Thus, the eye of Horus become the famous Egyptian eye or Udjat eye. With this new attribute, Horus can see the invisible, that is, predict the future and thus anticipate every movement of his opponent.
The Egyptian eye, divine relic and symbol of the omnipotence of Horus.
His eye enables him to win the last trial and put an end to the reign of Set marked by oppression and terror.
Horus then become the rightful pharaoh of the Egyptian kingdom and later marries Hathor, the goddess of love and beauty.
C) Representation of Horus in Egyptian mythology
As you may have realized, Horus is one of the most important gods in the Egyptian pantheon and plays a key role in the legends of Egyptian mythology.
In various murals dating from ancient Egypt, Horus is most often depicted with a falcon's head wearing the pschent, the sacred crown of the Egyptian pharaohs.
Many pharaohs identified with Horus because of his status of son of Osiris but also, and above all, because Horus represents the triumph of good over evil.
Horus is a very popular god in both Lower and Upper Egypt. He is particularly venerated in the cities of Edfu and Nekhen (also called Hierakonpolis, literally translated as "City of the Falcon"), which placed themselves under his divine protection.
2) The difference between the Egyptian eye and the eye of Ra
In this section, we will highlight the major differences between the Egyptian eye and the eye of Ra so that you will never confuse these two symbols again!
To do this, we will give you a very simple mnemonic:
- The Egyptian eye (or eye of Horus) is always a left eye (so if you look at Horus from the front, it will be his eye located on your right).
- The eye of Ra is always a right eye (so if you look at Ra from the front, it will be his eye on your left).
3) Uses and meanings
We will now highlight the different uses and meanings that the Egyptian eye had in ancient Egypt.
The Egyptian eye was a very popular emblem throughout the period of ancient Egypt.
Wearing it as a talisman, the Egyptians believed that it had therapeutic properties and was capable of protecting the wearer against all forms of disease. Many people used it as a sort of good-luck charm to benefit from its supposed protection. It was like a guardian of its owner's spiritual and physical health.
The symbol was also used in funeral rites as an offering. According to ancient texts, placing an Egyptian eye on the body of the deceased would protect him on his journey to the realm of the dead.
Even today, the Egyptian eye is a strong symbol of Egypt. Many Egyptian fishing boats paint the eye on their hulls to benefit from the supposed protection of this divine symbol.
The Egyptian eye
That's it for this story! You now know everything there is to know about the Egyptian eye and are able to explain:
- What are the origins of the Egyptian eye
- Who was Horus, the holder of the Egyptian eye
- How to differentiate the Egyptian eye from the Eye of Ra
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