Horus is one of the most significant ancient Egyptian deities who served many functions, most notable god of kingship and the sky.

He was worshipped from at least the late prehistoric Egypt until the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Roman Egypt. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists.

These various forms may possibly be different manifestations of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality.

He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner falcon or peregrine falcon, or as a man with a falcon head.

The earliest recorded form of him is the tutelary deity of Nekhen in Upper Egypt, who is the first known national god, specifically related to the ruling pharaoh who in time came to be regarded as a manifestation of Horus in life and Osiris in death.

The most commonly encountered family relationship describes him as the son of Isis and Osiris, and he plays a key role in the Osiris myth as Osiris’s heir and the rival to Set, the murderer of Osiris. In another tradition, Hathor is regarded as his mother and sometimes as his wife.

Horus and the pharaoh

The Pyramid Texts (c. 2400–2300 BC) describe the nature of the pharaoh in different characters as both Horus and Osiris.

The pharaoh as Horus in life became the pharaoh as Osiris in death, where he was united with the other gods. New incarnations of Horus succeeded the deceased pharaoh on earth in the form of new pharaohs.

The lineage of Horus, the eventual product of unions between the children of Atum, may have been a means to explain and justify pharaonic power.

The gods produced by Atum were all representative of cosmic and terrestrial forces in Egyptian life. By identifying him as the offspring of these forces, then identifying him with Atum himself, and finally identifying the Pharaoh with Horus, the Pharaoh theologically had dominion over all the world.

The notion of Horus as the pharaoh seems to have been superseded by the concept of the pharaoh as the son of Ra during the Fifth Dynasty.

Origin mythology

He was born to the goddess Isis after she retrieved all the dismembered body parts of her murdered husband Osiris, except his penis, which was thrown into the Nile and eaten by a catfish, or sometimes depicted as instead by a crab, and according to Plutarch’s account used her magic powers to resurrect Osiris and fashion a phallus to conceive her son (older Egyptian accounts have the penis of Osiris surviving).

After becoming pregnant with Horus, Isis fled to the Nile Delta marshlands to hide from her brother Set, who jealously killed Osiris and who she knew would want to kill their son. There Isis bore the divine son.

Sky god

Since Horus was said to be the sky, he was considered to also contain the Sun and Moon. It became said that the Sun was his right eye and the Moon his left and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it.

Later, the reason that the Moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as The Contendings of Horus and Seth. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually, the gods sided with him.

As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as ḥr.w wr “Horus the Great“, but more usually translated “Horus the Elder”. In the struggle, Set had lost a testicle, and Horus’ eye was gouged out.

He was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as nfr ḥr.w “Good Horus“, transliterated Neferhor, Nephoros or Nopheros (reconstructed as naːfiru ħaːruw).

The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and royal power from deities, in this case from Horus or Ra.

The symbol is seen on images of Horus’ mother, Isis, and on other deities associated with her. In the Egyptian language, the word for this symbol was “wedjat“.

It was the eye of one of the earliest of Egyptian deities, Wadjet, who later became associated with Bastet, Mut, and Hathor as well. Wadjet was a solar deity and this symbol began as her all-seeing eye. In early artwork, Hathor is also depicted with this eye.

Funerary amulets were often made in the shape of the Eye of Horus. The Wedjat or Eye of Horus is “the central element” of seven “gold, faience, carnelian and lapis lazuli” bracelets found on the mummy of Shoshenq II.

The Wedjat “was intended to protect the king in the afterlife” and to ward off evil. Egyptian and Near Eastern sailors would frequently paint the symbol on the bow of their vessel to ensure safe sea travel.

Golden Horus Osiris

He gradually took on nature as both the son of Osiris and Osiris himself. He was referred to as Golden Horus Osiris. In the temple of Denderah, he is given the full royal titulary of both that of Horus and Osiris.

Although he was believed to be both the father of himself as well as his own son, and some accounts have Horus Osiris being brought back to life by Isis, there is no proven connection with the story of Jesus, as some have suggested, and many serious scholars reject such a connection.

Her-ur

Heru-ur, also known as Horus the Elder or Har wer, was a form of Horus, where he was the son of Geb and Nut. He was one of the oldest gods of ancient Egypt. He became the patron of Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) and the first national god (‘God of the Kingdom’) and was depicted as a hieracosphinx, a creature with a lion’s body and a hawk’s head and wings.

Later, he also became the patron of the pharaohs and was called the son of truth – signifying his role as an important upholder of Maat. His right eye was the Sun and the left one was the Moon. Her-ur was sometimes depicted fully as a hawk, he was sometimes given the title Kemwer, meaning ‘(the) great black (one)’.

The Greek form of Her-ur is Haroeris or Harmakhis. Other variants include Hor Merti ‘Horus of the two eyes‘ and Horkhenti Irti.

It was believed that he was the inspiration for the Sphinx of Gizah, constructed under the order of Khafre, whose head is depicted.

*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.