Would you like to know more about the eye of Horus? Do you want to discover the myth behind this eye? Would you like to know what uses it had in the time of ancient Egypt?
Passionate about ancient Egypt, our team is here to answer all these questions!
The eye of Horus (or Udjat eye) is an inescapable symbol of Egyptian mythology. Its decisive role in the battle between Horus and Set as well as its presumed protective virtues make it a flagship emblem of ancient Egypt.
In this article, you will discover:
- The myth of the eye of Horus in ancient Egypt
- The difference between the eye of Horus and the eye of Ra
- The usefulness of the eye of Horus in ancient Egypt
The myth of the eye of Horus will soon have no more secrets for you.
It is now time to immerse yourself in this thrilling tale!
1) The legend of the eye of Horus
In this part, we will discover together the legend of the mystical Udjat eye as well as the myths surrounding its owner, the god Horus.
A) Who is Horus?
Horus is one of the most ancient Egyptian deities and is one of the most important gods in the Egyptian pantheon. He is most often depicted with a falcon's head and is crowned with the pschent, the emblem of the pharaohs of Egypt. Son of two iconic deities that we will present later in this story, he is sometimes presented as a child god to evoke his youth.
In ancient Egypt, Horus became the protective deity of the pharaohs and was constantly associated with royal power. The kings of Egypt were associated to Horus, because they were the guarantor of universal harmony on earth while Horus was the guarantor of universal harmony in the afterlife. Horus was also considered as the god of the sky and celestial spaces.
Horus was a god recognised and worshipped in both Upper and Lower Egypt. The oldest city to have made him its protector is Nekhen (or Hierakonpolis translated literally as "City of the Falcon"). Horus was also highly venerated in Heliopolis, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt, what shows the importance of Horus' cult in ancient Egypt.
Mural representation of Horus, the falcon-headed god of Egypt.
B) The Egyptian falcon god
In order to help you better understand the origins of Horus, we are going to provide you with a brief summary of the description of the divine protagonists in the form of a family tree:
As you can see, at the top of the tree is Ra, the Sun God, creator of the Earth, the Universe and the Cosmos. He is the king of all the gods and the grandfather of Geb (the god of Earth) and Nut (the goddess of Heaven). Geb and Nut gave birth to four children: Isis, Osiris, Nephthys and Set. Osiris took Isis as his wife while Set married Nephthys.
In order to understand under what circumstances Horus was born, we must first tell you about the myth of Osiris.
The Osirian myth stems from the fraternal jealousy of Set towards Osiris. On the one hand, we find Osiris, considered by all as the perfect being, and on the other hand we find Set, a representation of evil and disarray.
This jealousy will be fuelled by two events:
- First, the appointment of Osiris as a worthy heir of Ra to the throne of Egypt.
- Secondly, Set's wife, Nephthys, bewitched by the charm and presence of Osiris, pretended to be Isis in order to have a child with him. From this forbidden union born Anubis, illegitimate son of Osiris and Nephthys.
Set's resentment towards his brother is such that it will lead him to murder him. The murder of Osiris is undoubtedly one of the most popular myths of ancient Egypt, both in its realization and its outcome:
It is during a banquet that Set decides to trap his brother. He offered all the guests the chance to take part in a game, with a priceless chest winnable at the end of the game. The rules are simple: whoever manages to get into the priceless chest wins. Previously cut to Osiris' dimensions, the brother of Set was naturally the only one who was able to get into it.
However, as soon as Osiris was inside, Set closed the lid of the chest and threw it into the Nile, causing his brother to drown. This chest then became the first sarcophagus in Egypt.
Isis immediately set off in search of her husband's body. Once the body found, using her healing powers, she tried to bring him back to life, which proved to be a failure. Instead, their son, the falcon-headed god Horus was born from the strength of Isis' love for Osiris.
On learning that Isis had found the body of Osiris, Set cut the body of his brother into fourteen separate pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. With no more pretenders to the throne, Set seized power and became king of Egypt in his turn.
However, Isis did not let herself be discouraged and led an expedition in order to find each fragment of her dead husband's body. Accompanied in her task by Nephthys and Anubis, she succeeds in gathering and assembling all the pieces together. By combining her powers with her sister, she succeeds in bringing Osiris back to life, who will then become the god of the kingdom of the dead.
However, the story does not end there because Horus will seek to avenge his father and to recover the power usurped by his uncle Set.
C) Horus and Set
After many years of terror on the throne of Egypt, the evil reign of Set is in danger. As the son of Osiris, Horus is convinced that he is the only one who can claim the title of king of the land of the Nile. Since Set did not want to give up his place, Horus summoned a divine jury composed of Ra (the god of the solar disc), Thoth (the god of wisdom) and Shu (the god of air) in order to decide between them.
But according to the three deities, Set (as brother of Osiris) and Horus (as son of Osiris) are both entitled to the throne. The jurors then decided that the two rivals must face each other in trials in order to show their ability to rule Egypt.
The confrontation between Horus and Set for the throne of Egypt in the online game Smite.
However, Set, true to himself, showed disloyalty at every confrontation. He used cunning and deception to win the trials.
Before the last trial, the final clash that will determine who is worthy of ascending to power, Horus decides to rest on the top of a mountain. Set, still using his sneaky ways, took advantage of Horus' sleep to tear out his left eye and split it into six pieces, which he threw into the Nile.
Thoth, not wanting the last trial to be uneven, decided to find each sliver of Horus' eye in order to reconstitute it. However, he found only five pieces and chose to replace the last missing fragment with a divine particle. The six pieces combined together then became the magic eye of Horus (or Udjat eye), which allows Horus to see beyond the visible.
The eye of Horus, a magical and divine relic that allows to its owner to see beyond the visible (i.e. the future).
Equipped with this eye, the son of Osiris had no difficulty in triumphing in the final confrontation. Set was then banished to the desert, his initial kingdom, and began his long journey of repentance.
Horus became king of Egypt and married Hathor, the goddess of love and beauty.
2) The eye of Ra and the eye of Horus
Many people confuse the eye of Horus with that of Ra. But thanks to our explanations you will never be one of them!
It is indeed very simple to distinguish the two eyes:
When we speak of the eye of Horus (or Udjat eye), it is always a left eye (if you look at Horus from the front, it will be the eye on your right).
On the contrary, if we speak of the eye of Ra, it will always be a right eye (so, if you look at Ra from the front, it will be the eye that is on your left).
In ancient Egypt, the eye of Ra represents the Sun and is a symbol of the power of pharaohs, while the eye of Horus is the representation of the Moon and is a symbol of protection.
3) The meaning of the Egyptian eye
In ancient Egyptian times, the eye of Horus was a very popular emblem.
It first represented the victory of good over evil, because it was thanks to this eye that Horus triumphed over Set.
Worn in the form of a talisman, this eye would have therapeutic virtues and would be able to protect its owner against diseases. It would thus resemble a lucky charm guarding the physical and spiritual health of the person who holds it. In ancient art, the Udjat eye is a symbol of protection and healing worn by the Egyptians, living or dead.
During rites or ceremonies, the Udjat eye was brought by priests to the deceased pharaohs to symbolize large funeral offerings.
Today, the eye of Horus is still worn (in the form of jewelry, for example) so that its holder benefits from its supposed powers of protection. Moreover, nowadays, this eye is found on the hulls of Egyptian fishing boats to ensure that sailors can travel peacefully under the "divine protection" of the falcon-headed god.
The eye of Horus
As you have seen, the eye of Horus is an inescapable symbol of ancient Egypt. Because of its importance in Horus' victory over Set or because of its presumed protective qualities, this eye plays a key role in the world of ancient Egypt.
You are now able to explain the legends that revolve around this eye, to differentiate it from the eye of Ra but also to show what its meaning was and how it was used in the time of the pharaohs!
Now, the myth of the eye of Horus holds no more secrets for you! Of course, we invite you to take a look at our large collection of necklaces, bracelets and rings.
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