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All About Horus – The Sun God

Horus, Egyptian HorHarHer, or Heru, in ancient Egyptian religion, a god in the form of a falcon whose right eye was the sun or morning star, representing power and quintessence, and whose left eye was the moon or evening star, representing healing. Falcon cults, which were in evidence from late predynastic times, were widespread in Egypt.

Horus
Horus, statue at his temple in Idfū, Egypt.© Comstock/Jupiterimages

Horus appeared as a local god in many places and under different names and epithets—for instance, as Harmakhis (Har-em-akhet, “Horus in the Horizon”), Harpocrates (Har-pe-khrad, “Horus the Child”), Harsiesis (Har-si-Ese, “Horus, Son of Isis”), Harakhte (“Horus of the Horizon,” closely associated with the sun god Re), and, at Kawm Umbū (Kom Ombo), as Haroeris (Harwer, “Horus the Elder”).

Donation Stela of Shebitqo
Donation Stela of Shebitqo Donation Stela of Shebitqo, limestone stela showing the pharaoh Shebitqo (second from right) with a priest (right) offering two jars to Horus (second from left) and Hathor (left), c. 707–690 BCE; in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Rogers Fund, 1965 (accession no. 65.45); www.metmuseum.org

At Nekhen (Greek: Hierakonpolis), however, the conception arose that the reigning king was a manifestation of Horus, and, after Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt had been united by the kings from Nekhen, this notion became a generally accepted dogma. The most important of an Egyptian king’s names (the number of which grew from three in early dynastic times to five later) was his Horus name—i.e., the name that identified him with Horus. This name appeared on monuments and tombs in a rectangular frame called a serekh.

In addition to being characterized by a Horus name, the king was typically depicted with a hovering form of Horus above his head. Sometimes Horus is shown as a winged sun disk, representing the Horus of Behdet, a town in the Nile River delta where the falcon-god enjoyed a cult.

From the 1st dynasty (c. 2925–2775 BCE) onward, Horus and the god Seth were presented as perpetual antagonists who were reconciled in the harmony of Upper and Lower Egypt. In the myth of Osiris, who became prominent about 2350 BCE, Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis and was the nephew of Seth, Osiris’s brother. When Seth murdered Osiris and contested Horus’s heritage (the royal throne of Egypt), Horus became Seth’s enemy. Horus eventually defeated Seth, thus avenging his father and assuming the rule. In the fight, Horus’s left eye (i.e., the moon) was damaged—this being a mythical explanation of the moon’s phases—and was healed by the god Thoth. The figure of the restored eye (the wedjat eye) became a powerful amulet. Horus is also associated (sometimes as son, sometimes as partner) with the ancient cow-goddess Hathor, who is often depicted with cow’s horns, sometimes with cow’s ears.

Isis nursing Horus
Isis nursing Horus, calcite and bronze sculpture from Egypt, c. 712–525 BCE; in the Brooklyn Museum, New York.Photograph by Lisa O’Hara. Brooklyn Museum, New York, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.400E

In the Ptolemaic period the vanquishing of Seth became a symbol of Egypt triumphing over its occupiers. At Idfū, where rebellions frequently interrupted work on the temple, a ritual drama depicting Horus as pharaoh spearing Seth in the guise of a hippopotamus was periodically enacted.

Idfū, Egypt: Temple of Horus
Temple of Horus courtyard, Idfū, Egypt.Dennis Jarvis (CC-BY-2.0) (A Britannica Publishing Partner)

Horus was later identified by the Greeks with Apollo, and the town of Idfū was called Apollinopolis (“Apollo’s Town”) during the Greco-Roman period.

Origins

Horus was the first known national god in Nekhen, city of the falcon and religious and political capital of Upper Egypt at the end of the Prehistoric Period. Many falcon gods existed in Egypt over the next millennia. A great number of them were assimilated to him.

The falcon god became known as Haroeris or Horus the Elder over time. In this form he was often associated with Hathor, the ancient cow-goddess, sometimes as son and sometimes as mother.

It was believed that the reigning king or pharaoh was a manifestation of Horus. Every king also had a Horus name that identified him with the god.

Appearance

Horus was most often depicted as either a falcon or a human with the head of a falcon. These depictions could be in the form of statues, engravings or paintings. Horus’s right eye symbolized the sun or morning star and was therefore associated with the sun god Ra, while his left eye symbolized the moon.

There are a number of examples of him being portrayed as a falcon, such as this statue at the Temple of Horus at Edfu. Here, the falcon is wearing a double crown called a pschent.

Statue of Horus

When he was portrayed as a human with a falcon head, he was often wearing clothing similar to that of the pharaohs. Sometimes he was pictured wearing the pschent. In other instances he was depicted wearing a Nemes headdress, like the one on the statue in the picture below. Horus is also often shown wearing a broad collar called a wesekh.

Horus Statue with Nemes Headress

Family

The many aspects of Horus make him a complicated deity with an intricate mythology, passed on in a multitude of ancient texts such as the early Pyramid Texts. In the myth of Osiris, Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis as well as the mythical heir to Egypt’s kingship. During this time, the living king was seen as a manifestation of Horus in life and of Osiris in death.

Horus is the brother of the god Anubis.

Horus the Elder battled his uncle Set (brother of Osiris) for 80 years after Set murdered Osiris. Set wanted the Egyptian throne for himself but was eventually defeated by Horus. According to myth, Horus’ left eye was damaged in one of the battles, explaining the different phases of the moon. The eye was, however, restored by the god Thoth.

Symbols

The falcon, along with the Eye of Horus, are the two main symbols affiliated with the god.

The Eye of Horus is a symbol of protection and power, and is personified in the goddess Wadjet, another early Egyptian deity. It appeared in funerary amulets, protecting pharaohs in the afterlife. Seven such bracelets were found on the mummy of Shoshen II.

Powers & Duties

As creator and god of the sky, Horus was known as the protector of the pharaoh.

Horus was also believed to be a god of war and hunting. The prehistoric Hunters Palette or Lion Hunt Palette, an ancient Egyptian cosmetic palette showing a lion hunt, includes images of a falcon-headed man believed to be Horus.

Worship

He was worshiped over a period of approximately three thousand years, from prehistoric Egypt (before 3100 BC) until the time of the Roman Empire.

The temple of Edfu in Upper Egypt was dedicated to Horus. It is one of the best-preserved temples in Egypt today.

10 Interesting Facts About Horus

Today, Horus remains a prominent figure in pop culture and he appears in numerous films, television series and games. Here are 10 interesting facts about the Ancient Egyptian God Horus.

#1 THE TERM HORUS HAS BEEN USED FOR VARIOUS FALCON DEITIES OF ANCIENT EGYPT

The name Horus is the Latin version of the Egyptian Hor which means “the distant one”. Horus as a divine figure evolved in name as well as in form over the course of ancient Egyptian history. Historians believe that the worship of Horus started from the age of prehistoric Egypt and continued till Roman Egypt. Through historical records, it has been seen that throughout periods, different forms of Horus are considered as different entities of the deity. Historians believe that the name Horus is an umbrella term for various falcon deities of ancient Egyptian mythology.

One such historian, Jimmy Dunn believes that as “Horus takes so many avian forms, it is impossible to certainly say which form of the deity is his actual form”. Nonetheless, Horus was primarily worshiped as the God of the Sky; and of kingship. Being the god of the sky, Horus was said to contain the sun and the moon. While his right eye was the sun or morning star, representing power and quintessence; his left eye was the moon or evening star, representing healing. Horus was usually depicted as a falcon-headed man wearing the pschent. Pschent is a red and white crown which was used as a symbol of kingship over the entire kingdom of Egypt.

Horus falcon
Replica of a Horus falcon, British Museum

#2 HORUS THE ELDER WAS ONE OF THE FIRST FIVE ORIGINAL GODS

In Egyptian mythology, the name Horus is primarily used for two deities Horus the Elder and Horus the Younger. The latter is the son of Osiris and Isis who plays a prominent role in the Osiris Myth. Horus the Elder, also known as Horus the Great, was one of the oldest deities in Ancient Egypt. He was the son of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky); and the last born of the first five original gods: Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus. While his brother Osiris and his sister Isis were given the responsibility of governing the earth, Horus the Elder was given charge of the sky, specifically the sun.

One of the earliest images from Ancient Egypt show Horus as “a falcon in a barque” representing him in the sun barge traveling across the heavens. As time progressed, Horus the Younger started eclipsing the Elder Horus while assuming many of his characteristics. By the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last dynasty of Ancient Egypt, Horus the Younger had completely replaced the Elder Horus.

Horus
Depiction of Horus

#3 HORUS THE YOUNGER WAS THE SON OF OSIRIS AND ISIS

The Osiris myth is the most important as well as famous story in ancient Egyptian mythology. According to the myth, Osiris, and his wife, Isis, were the rulers of the world shortly after its creation. Men and women were initially highly uncivilized. However, due to the gifts of Isis and the teachings of Osiris, they were taught the art of agriculture; culture; and a way to live a civilized life. Set, the younger brother of Osiris, became envious of the power Osiris held. He tricked Osiris into laying into a coffin, locked it and threw it into the river Nile. When Isis learned of this, she set out to find the coffin to bring her husband back to life. Set became aware of this plan, cut the body of Osiris and threw the different parts on land and the river Nile.

Isis tried to find the parts of Osiris’s body but was unable to find his penis, which had been eaten by a fish. Due to this, even after returning to life, Osiris could not rule the kingdom again. He had to descend to the underworld and thus he became the God of the Underworld. Isis transformed into a falcon, flew around her husband’s body, drew his seed into her body and became pregnant with Horus.

Statues of Horus, Osiris and Isis
From left to right – Horus, his father Osiris and his mother Isis

#4 HE FOUGHT WITH HIS UNCLE SET TO WIN THE THRONE OF EGYPT

Isis gave birth to Horus while hiding from Set. She is offered protection from Set by the goddesses Selket and Neith. Horus was thus nurtured and educated by three goddesses. When Horus became an adult and strong enough to take on his uncle Set, he challenged Set for the throne of Egypt. The story about the conflict between Horus and Set has various versions but the most well-known and widely accepted story is mentioned in the manuscript ‘The Contendings of Horus and Set’. A council of gods was responsible for resolving the conflict between Set and Horus.

While most Gods chose Horus as the successor to his father’s throne; Ra, the supreme god, supported Set because he was older and therefore, wiser and more experienced. Due to this, the conflict went on for more than 80 years. The two had to go through a series of battles to prove their competence for the throne. During the battles, both Horus and Set were severely injured. Horus lost his left eye and Set was castrated. Even though all the battles are won by Horus, Ra continues to deny him his rightful position. This leads to Isis tricking Set into condemning himself and Horus ultimately becomes the ruler of Egypt.

Horus Vs Set
Horus Vs Set In the game Smite

#5 EGYPTIAN PHARAOHS HAD A HORUS NAME

Set was associated with violence and chaos in Ancient Egypt. Thus the triumph of Horus in the Osiris Myth leads to restoration of order in Egypt. Pharaoh was the title that was bestowed upon the monarchs of Ancient Egypt. The pharaoh was seen as a manifestation of Horus in life and Osiris in deathNew incarnations of Horus were believed to succeed the deceased pharaoh on earth in the form of new pharaohs.

One of the major roles of the pharaoh was that of an administrator and due to this they tried to associate themselves with Horus, as he represented order and peace. Pharaohs had a number of titles and, by the Middle Kingdom (2055 BCE – 1650 BCE), the full royal titulary consisting of five names came into usage. The Horus Name is the oldest form of the pharaoh’s name and the most important. It conveyed that the King was the earthly embodiment of Horus. Moreover, there was also a Golden Horus Name. Its meaning is contested. It probably means that the pharaoh wishes to be Horus for eternity.

#6 THE GREEK GOD HARPOCRATES WAS ADAPTED FROM HORUS

In the early Egyptian Dynasty, the elder Horus was worshiped by the people of Egypt and was considered the most powerful god among all. However, by the time of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, it was the younger Horus who became people’s idol. Statues and figures discovered from that period show Horus as a young child with his finger on his lips. Historians believe that the figure is a representation of Horus while he is silent in fear of his uncle, Set. The sufferings and difficulties that Horus faced throughout his childhood became an inspiration for the people of Egypt during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. They believed that the young form of Horus represented the protection offered by God to the human civilization. The Ancient Greeks adopted this form of Horus as their God Harpocrates, which was their god of silence, secrets and confidentiality. In fact, the name Harpocrates is a Hellenization of an Egyptian word which means “Horus the Child”.

Statue of Harpocrates
Ptolemaic bronze statue of Harpocrates

#7 THE EYE OF HORUS IS ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS SYMBOLS OF ANCIENT EGYPT

During the struggle between Set and Horus, Set ripped out the left eye of Horus and tore it into six parts. The lost eye of Horus was magically restored by Thoth, the god of wisdom. The magically restored Eye of Horus, also known as the Wadjet, is one of the best-known symbols of ancient Egypt; and it was believed to provide protection, health, and rejuvenation. Among other things, funerary amulets were often made in the shape of the Eye of Horus as it was believed that it would “protect the pharaoh in the afterlife” by guarding against evil. Interestingly, the Eye of Horus was also used by the Egyptians for mathematics. As it was tore by Set into six parts, the Egyptians used the six parts to represent one divided by the first six powers of two. The right side of the eye is 1/2, the pupil 1/4, the eyebrow 1/8, the left side of the eye 1/16, the curved tail 1/32 and the teardrop 1/64. Even today, some people believe that the Eye of Horus possesses magical abilities. Some wear it as jewelry to protect themselves from ill-will while in Mediterranean countries, fishermen paint it on their vessels for protection. Moreover, it is used in occult and considered by some as a satanic symbol.

The Eye of Horus
The Eye of Horus

#8 HIS FOUR SONS ARE CONSIDERED PERSONIFICATIONS OF THE FOUR CANOPIC JARS

Horus has four sons – Duamutef, Hapi, Imsety and Qebehsenuef – each of whom protected one of his vital organs after his death. Through his four Sons, who protected his vital organs, Horus was able to look over the land of the living. The four sons of Horus were depicted on the four canopic jars, which accompanied mummified bodies. They were said to act as guardians of the organs in the jars.

The four gods represented the cardinal points of a compass and were in turn protected by four different goddesses. Hapi, who is baboon-headed, protected the lungs of the deceased and was in turn protected by the goddess Nephthys. Imsety, who is human-headed, protected the liver of the deceased and was in turn protected by the goddess Isis. Duamutef, who is jackal-headed, protected the stomach of the deceased and was in turn protected by the goddess Neith. Lastly, Qebehsenuef, who is falcon-headed, protected the intestines of the deceased and was in turn protected by the goddess Serket.

A Complete Set of Canopic Jars
A Complete Set of Canopic Jars featuring the four sons of the god Horus protecting the stomach, intestines, lungs and liver

#9 SOME SCHOLARS HAVE RELATED HORUS TO JESUS CHRIST

The controversial topic of the relation between the Cult of Horus, the Cult of Isis and early concepts of Christianity has led to many significant debates about the origin of the religion. In 1877, William R. Cooper, a young lawyer and Egyptologist, published a work titled The Horus Myth In Its Relation To Christianity. In this work, he highlighted many similarities between Horus and Jesus Christ. More recently, author Tom Harpur, in his 2004 book The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light, claimed that Jesus Christ is just another form of Horus. He argued that themes such as virgin birth, deity father, star in the east, raising of the dead, descent into hell, crucifixion and resurrection were common to both Christ and Horus. However, experts and scholars of Egyptian Mythology as well as Christianity and Biblical Studies have rejected such claims. According to them, the foundation of Egyptian religious beliefs and Christianity are different because whereas Christianity promotes the concept of resurrection, ancient Egyptian beliefs are focused on the afterlife.

Cove of The Pagan Christ
The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur

#10 HIS PRIMARY CULT CENTERS WERE KHEM, PE AND BEHDET

Horus was one of the most important deities in Ancient Egypt. Numerous temples were built for him. His statue was placed within the inner sanctum where only the chief priest was allowed to attend him. The sites where Horus was worshiped are too numerous to list. His major cult centers were Khem, where he was hidden as a child; Pe, where he lost his eye in his battle with Set; and Behdet. All these sites were in the Delta region of Egypt. Horus remains a prominent figure in the pop culture of today and he appears in numerous films, television series and games. 

Stargate SG-1 is a Canadian-American military science fiction adventure television series which was hugely successful and won numerous awards. Horus appears in Stargate SG-1 as the son of Ra and Hathor. In the 2016 film Gods of Egypt, Horus is a prominent character as the movie follows his battle to reclaim his throne from his uncle Set. Horus is also one of the deities in the video game Smite, in which players choose a deity to take part in team-based combat.

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Horus

https://learnodo-newtonic.com/horus-facts

https://www.gnome.net/egyptian/horus/

https://www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-other-artifacts/eye-horus-0011014

https://gods-and-demons.fandom.com/wiki/Horus

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