Eye Of Horus: Meaning Behind The Egyptian Eye

The Eye of Horus is a reclict from ancient Egypt, with its numerous deities, elaborate and advanced culture, and intricately designed architecture, is a place of mystery and wonder. The crisply carved tiny hieroglyphic writing that is inscribed in the beautifully painted murals that depict enigmatic rituals and mystic scenes tell lost stories. Symbols play an important part in understanding ancient Egyptian culture and history. One of the more famous Egyptian symbols is the Egyptian Eye, also called the Eye of Horus.

What is the Eye of Horus?

The Eye of Horus, also called the Egyptian Eye, the Wedjat, or the all-seeing eye, was a powerful symbol for the ancient Egyptians. The Eye was widely used in funeral rites and as protective amulets in ancient Egypt. Often made of gold, wood, carnelian, or lapis, the Eye of Horus was often worn as jewelry worn by both the living and the dead or as an amulet to be tucked between the folds of linen wrapped around mummified corpses.

Eye of Horus symbol. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

What Does the Eye of Horus Mean?

The Eye of Horus is a symbol of protection and is said to promote restoration and health. It was said that Horus fought with his uncle, Set (the god of chaos, storms, and violence), over the throne of Horus’ father, Osiris, after Osiris had died. During the fight, Set gouged out Horus’ left eye, the eye of the moon. Horus’ eye was restored to him by his wife Hathor, the goddess of joy, music, love, and motherhood. Horus then gave his eye to bring his father, Osiris, back from the dead. Because of how he lost and regained his eye, and then gave it away, the Eye of Horus was used as a symbol of sacrifice and healing.

Mathematics of the Eye of Horus

The fractions of the Eye of Horus. Image source: Wikipedia.

Parts of the Eye of Horus were said to be used to represent different fractions, as shown in the image above. Since the Egyptians worked in unit fractions (the number one divided by a whole number that, in the case of the Egyptians, was a power of the number two), the idea had some merit. Though this has since been shown to be a false idea, it is still an intriguing thought, especially given the often very in-depth and detailed meaning of Egyptian symbols.

When Set gouged out Horus’ eye, he tore the eye into six pieces. Those six pieces each represent a sense and a fraction. The right corner of the eye represents the fraction 1/2, and the sense of smell. The left corner of the eye represents the fraction 1/16 and the sense of hearing. The circle of the pupil represents 1/4 and as the aperture of the eye, represents the sense of sight. The downward sweeping line that ends in a spiral represents the fraction 1/32 and the sense of taste. The teardrop is the fraction 1/64 and represents the sense of touch. Finally, the curved eyebrow above the eye represents the fraction 1/8 and, sitting above the eye as the brain does, represents thought.

Who Was Horus?

Horus is a Latin version of the name; the ancient Egyptians would have called him Heru, Her, Hor, or Har. The son of the king of the gods, Osiris, and his queen, Isis, Horus was the falcon god of the sky. Often depicted as a full falcon or as a man with the head of a falcon, Horus was also a god of order, and of protection. It was said that his right eye was the sun, or the morning star, and his left eye was the moon, or the evening star.

The figure of Horus. Image source: Wikipedia.

As a popular and powerful god, Horus was the protector of the ruler of Egypt. While he was alive the Pharaoh, who was also seen as a god, was considered to be the human form of the god Horus. When Pharaoh died, he became the human form of Osiris, the god of the dead.

Horus is often combined with or confused for Ra, the god of the sun, because both gods were said to have the form of the falcon. The similarities between the two gods don’t end there. Both Horus and Ra have symbols of eyes associated with them. While the Eye of Horus is shaped like an actual eye, with markings around it like the markings around the eye of a falcon, the Eye of Ra is a circle, representing the sun, flanked by two cobras. It has been said that the Eye of Ra is actually the right eye of Horus, his sun eye. Another factor that causes the two deities to be confused for one another is that at one point, the two gods were merged together into one god, called Ra-Horakhty meaning Ra, who is Horus of the two horizons.

The Eye of Ra. Image source: Wikipedia.

Horus had four sons, named Duamutef, Hapy, Qebehseneuf, and Imsety, and it is Horus’ sons who guard the sacred canopic jars, along with a counterpart goddess. Duamutef, also called Tuamutef, is a jackal-headed mummy god who represents the east and guards the stomach along with the goddess Neith. Hapy (not to be mistaken with Hapi, the Nile god), the baboon-headed mummy god represents the north and guards the lungs with Nephthys. Qebehseneuf, the god depicted as a falcon-headed mummy, represents the west and guards the intestines with the help of the goddess Serqet. Finally, Imsety, the human-headed mummy god, represents the south and guards the liver with the goddess Isis. Because the Imsety canopic jar contains the liver, which was believed to be the source of emotions, Imsety is not associated with an animal and has a human head.

Set of canopic jars. Image source: Wikipedia.

Tangled and intricate, the myths and legends of ancient Egypt easily captivate the imagination. Given the rich history and fantasy that has been woven into the Eye of Horus, is there any wonder why the symbol has survived through the ages and is still used today?

Jessica McGregor

My name is Jessica McGregor, and I am currently writing my thesis to complete my Ph.D. in bioanalytical chemistry at the University of British Columbia. I plan to use my knowledge and experience in science and my writing skills to become a science writer professionally.

Cite this article as:
Jessica McGregor. Eye Of Horus: Meaning Behind The Egyptian Eye, Science Trends, 2018.
DOI: 10.31988/SciTrends.29568
*Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly and therefore may not work until then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *