Egyptian God Ra – The Sun God
At the head of the Great Ennead of Heliopolis lies the Egyptian God Ra. Lord of heaven and earth, creator of the universe, pilot of the solar boat. Ra is not as old as some of the other important gods of ancient Egypt, but the priests assimilated him with other gods.
And so he took many forms. It’s actually difficult to find descriptions of his role as a sole entity.
The role that he is most known for though is that, as the Sun God, he traveled across the sky every day taking the warmth and light of the sun over the land and creatures.
As the creator god, he was seen as the great father of all deities, even after he resigned as the ruler.
The mythical story is called – The Eye of Ra and the Destruction of Mankind.
Forms of the Egyptian God Ra
Khepri – This is the form he took in the morning, when he becomes the God of the Scarab beetle. The mythology behind thiscame from observing the dung beetle laying its eggs in the dung, then rolling into a ball.
The ball was round, radiated heat, and then gave life to the new beetles. In the eyes of ancient Egyptians, it resembled the sun.
When Ra was Khepri, he was depicted as having a Scarab as a head! On the solar boat, he was shown as the Scarab and as the Sun.
Ra of Midday – He was his own self at this time, which is usually depicted in the shape of a man with a falcon head.
This can be confusing since Horus was also depicted as a man with a falcon head…
…but Ra wore a sun disk encircled by a cobra on his head, while Horus wore a crown.
This was his most common form, though he was also sometimes depicted as other animal forms or an animal-head with a man’s body.
Atum – In the afternoon, Ra took the shape of the God Atum who is the original creator of the universe.
Other than these three manifestations, Ra was also crossed with other deities such as:
- Horus – to form Ra-Herakhty
- Amun – to form Amun-Ra
- Khnum – the ram-headed god which was his evening manifestation
The Underworld Journey of Ra
The Book of Gates and the Book of Amduat, together called Guides to the Hereafter, give an interesting account of the Egyptian God Ra’s nocturnal journey through the underworld. The texts are from the New Kingdom.
The Egyptian God Ra’s journey had two main parts:
- On the barque Mandjet – on which he traveled through the sky during the day
- On the barque Mesektet – which would then take him during the evening and night through Duat (the underworld)
The texts describe how Ra would go down with the setting sun into the underworld and then rise again the next day on the opposite side.
This also symbolizes the same journey that the deceased would take right after burial.
The journey was divided into 12 hours, with each hour representing an obstacle that Ra had to complete in order to move onto the next. Each area has gods and monsters that Ra meets along the way.
Throughout his journeys and adventures, the serpent-god Apep is his greatest enemy. Apep would hide below the horizon waiting to attack Ra, and they would fight many battles.
Many gods and goddesses were involved in defending Ra, including the god Seth.
At some point, Ra would take the form of a great cat and slay the serpent Apep.
Function & Worship
One of Ra’s main roles was that of creator. He is said to have created the gods and universe out of the dark waters of chaos.
Another important role was steering the solar boat that carried the souls of the dead through the underworld.
His cult center was at Heliopolis, where his assimilation with the god Atum was at the head of the Great Ennead of Heliopolis. The Temple at Karnak, one of the most impressive ancient temples, is dedicated to Amun-Ra.
All in all, his worship was one of the strongest and longest – with a prominent place in tombs and religious scripts such as The Pyramid Texts and The Book of the Dead.
The worship of the Egyptian God Ra, which began sometime around the 4th and 5th dynasties, finally came to an end when Christianity came to Egypt during the time of the Roman Empire.
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