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Egyptian mythology is one of the most expansive and well-known across the world, and there are plenty of iconic individuals, settings and stories that many of us know or are at least aware of. One of the renowned gods of Egyptian civilization, religion and mythology is Horus, also known by similar names such as Heru, Hor, Her or Har. Horus is the god behind one of the most iconic images in Egyptian history, The Eye of Horus (also known as the Wadjet or the Eye of Ra). As you might expect, there is a fascinating story behind this legendary image, which is still a staple in modern culture today but particularly so in Egypt. Let’s take a look at the Egyptian god Horus and delve into the story behind that infamous eye.
In mythology, Horus was an ancient god of the sky who had a falcon head, as many people in ancient Egypt would worship the falcon. His image depicted him wearing a crown, the Double Crown of Egypt or a crown adorned with a cobra. You are bound to have seen images of him at some point in time. His falcon head and human body is a well-known image associated with Egypt, and he can be seen in all sorts of places there, from hotel logos to restaurants and more. But who was this iconic god?
Horus was born to two fellow iconic Egyptian individuals: Osiris - the god of many important elements of life such as the dead, life, fertility, agriculture and the afterlife - and his sibling Isis - the goddess of healing, rebirth, magic, motherhood, fertility and death. Awkward family dynamics aside, these were two of the most renowned deities in Egyptian mythology, so Horus was known as a divine child who became part of the “holy family triad”. The name Horus only accentuated this sublime nature, meaning “he who is distant” as well as “he who is above”.
Despite this blessed birth, Horus was subject to trauma and strife at a young age. When he was a child, his father Osiris was brutally murdered by his uncle Seth. His mother Isis hid the child in the dangerous and unforgiving marshlands of the Nile, where she protected him and he eventually grew strong enough to fight Seth thanks to having to deal with the crocodiles and snakes during his time in the marshes. This fight between Horus and Seth is where the Eye of Horus story comes from.
Even before we get into the story behind the Eye of Horus, Horus as a god was well-known for his eyes as people believed that they represented the moon and the sun respectively, even though he was more strongly linked with the sun than the moon. During his battle with his uncle Seth, Horus suffered a severe physical blow. Some stories say Horus had one eye torn out of his head, while others say that it was both eyes. However, he was able to have his eye (or eyes) restored by fellow deity Thoth in some versions of the story and the goddess Hathor in other versions. In fact, there are several different versions of this tale with little changes here and there, such as an account where Seth doesn’t just tear out Horus’s eye. He literally rips it to pieces and Thoth has to reassemble it bit by bit. Unpleasant doesn’t seem like a strong enough word.
No matter how it is told, the story ends with Horus offering his detached eye as a gift to his deceased father, who was now residing in the afterlife. The eye sustained Osiris in the afterlife thanks to its protective reviving powers. The Eye of Horus would go on to become a symbol of protection and healing thanks to Horus’s actions within the story. The eye would be depicted on amulets and used as protective wards. It was also called the “Wadjet” at first, which translates to “healthy” and “whole”. The symbol also became connected to offerings, in both funerals for the dead and in temples for deities.
There is so much fantastic storytelling in Egyptian mythology, creating memorable stories that have lasted for many, many generations. The Eye of Horus story is just one example of the iconic stories and symbols to come from Egypt. If you’re interested in adding the Eye of Horus symbol into your wardrobe, consider a Eye-of-Horus T-Shirt.