The eye of Horus and the Eye of Ra are two very popular symbols which are very similar. However, they also have some important differences.
The eye of Horus is a symbol of health, sacrifice, light and restoration, while the eye of Ra is a symbol of fury, power and violence. Both are symbols of protection, and are identical in appearance, with the exception of the Eye of Horus being a left eye and the Eye of Ra a right eye.
Both are sometimes referred to as the all-seeing eye. Another important difference is that as well as being a symbol, the eye of Ra is actually an entity in its own right in Egyptian mythology, and there are stories in which it actively does things.
Differences in Appearance Between Eye of Horus and Eye of Ra
Before we go into more detail about the differences in symbolism and meaning between the two, let’s go over the actual physical differences in appearance between them.
The most obvious difference is that the eye of Horus is a left eye, and the eye of Ra is a right eye. Although there are many exceptions to this when looking at the amulets and carvings found from ancient Egyptian times. If you want to know which one you are looking at, that is the easiest way to determine it.
Another difference in appearance is the color of the iris, although they are often seen in black in white. The Eye of Horus is sometimes shown with a blue iris, while the Eye of Ra has a red iris.
Who are Ra and Horus?
The next obvious difference is that they are referring to different Egyptian deities. You probably already know that Ra and Horus were amongst the most important gods in ancient Egypt. But let’s review who these two important deities are.
Ra is the god of the sun and the creator god . He is the ultimate source of justice in the cosmos. He is the father of Maat, who is the personification of truth, justice, and cosmic order. Besides being a deity, Maat is also a concept (kind of like the Eye of Ra), and is the idea of divine order. The kings of Egypt were considered the sons of Ra, and it was their duty to uphold Maat.
As the sun god, it was believed that each day and night Ra would embark upon his journey through the sky. Travelling in a vessel called a solar barque, he would appear each morning on the eastern horizon, and would provide light to the world. At night, he would travel to the underworld, where he would be confronted by monsters.
Horus on the other hand is the God of kingship and the sky. He is the son of Osiris and Isis, and is the divine child of the triad. He is portrayed as having the head of a falcon. His role changed over time but in the beginning of the Egyptian religion he was considered the god of war. His left eye is the moon which represents healing, and his right eye is the sun, which represents power.
Horus became the king of Egypt after defeating his uncle Seth in a struggle for the throne. We’ll get more into this important story soon, as it relates to the symbol of the Eye of Horus.
How the Eye of Horus became a Symbol
The Eye of Horus became a symbol in a story that is called the Osiris myth. Osiris was Horus’s father, and he was the king of Egypt. His lineage went all the way back to Ra. Osiris had a brother named Seth, who wanted to be king, so Seth murdered Osiris.
Horus and Seth became enemies, as Horus was the rightful heir to the throne. The two went to war with each other, and Seth ripped out Horus’s eye, ripping it into six pieces. The eye is then recovered by Thoth, who is able to restore the eye to its original condition and return it to Horus.
Rather than continuing to use his eye like before, Horus instead gives the eye to his father, who after being murdered went to the underworld. Osiris consumes the eye and is restored, and he becomes the king of the underworld. As a result, the eye is a symbol of life and resurrection. In Egypt, offerings were sometimes called Eyes of Horus, because of the belief that the gifts became divine when given to a god.
The eye of Horus is a symbol of protection, health, sacrifice, light and restoration.
The Eye of Horus is Sometimes Called the Wedjat Eye
Another name for the Eye of Horus symbol is the Wedjat eye, which is a name that came into use during the New Kingdom (16th century BC to 11th century BC) era of ancient Egypt. The name means ‘uninjured’, ‘whole’, or ‘completed’ eye.
Origins of The Eye of Ra
While the origins of the Eye of Horus is probably the most well-known story in all of Egyptian mythology, the origins of the Eye of Ra is a little less clear. According to one myth, Ra in human form had become a frail old man, and his people began to not respect his laws. He then sent his daughter, who was the eye of Ra, to punish them and reclaim his respect. The eye went on a rampage and began destroying humanity, so much so that the other gods feared she would completely wipe out humanity. In order to pacify her, Ra drank beer which made her drunk, and she passed out, stopping her destruction of the humans.
This myth highlights a very important difference between the two symbols, as the Eye of Ra is not just a symbol of Ra, but a being in its own right. She is the feminine counterpart to Ra, sometimes called the daughter of Ra. She is a powerful and destructive force that Ra could use to assert his authority over his people, and against his enemies. But she is like the heat of the sun, which could get out of control. The Eye of Ra is protective, yet violent and difficult to control.
The Eye of Ra and the Children of Ra
In another myth, Ra loses his children, so he sends the eye out to find them. While the eye is out searching for them, Ra grows a new eye. The first eye then returns with the children, and when she sees that Ra has a new eye, she feels betrayed. To make up for it, Ra turns the returning eye into a Uraeus symbol, which is a rearing cobra with a flared hood, and starts wearing it on his forehead.
The Eye of Ra is the feminine counterpart to the sun god. It is a protective symbol that represents violent force and power.
The Syncretism of Ra and Horus
The Egyptian pantheon of gods and their meanings evolved over time. The roles of the various deities changed, as well as the manners in which they were worshipped. This continued throughout ancient Greece as well, and beyond.
This was especially true during the Hellenistic age, which came after ancient Greece. They had a different perspective and as they compiled and studied the great cultures that came before them, they synthesized the ancient teachings in new ways. For example, the recognition of Thoth from Egypt and Hermes from Greece as being the same deity, meant that he became known as Hermes Trismegistus.
At various times in history, Ra and Horus have been combined into a singular deity, known as Ra-Hoor-Khuit, or Heru-ra-ha. He plays an important role in the religion of Thelema, which was created in the beginning of the 20th century by Alistair Crowley. The name means “Ra (who is) Horus of the Horizon. Ra-Hoor-Khuit is considered the Crowned and Conquering Child, and the Lord of the Aeon.
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