Egyptian Eye – Eye of Ra, Eye of Horus
The ancient Egyptian eye is a very important protection symbol that has many myths and legends. It is associated with two powerful sun-gods, the god Ra and the god Horus, whom each have myths that revolve around their eyes. Both the eye of Ra and the eye of Horus have similar functions and symbolize similar things, but with some interesting variations we’ll get into as well.
But the Egyptian eye is not limited to these two gods. In fact, many deities are associated with it. The eyes are linked to either the sun or moon, with the left eye usually being the lunar one and the right eye being the solar one. Also, each eye is associated with certain deities. For example, the lunar eye is associated with the god Thoth and the god Horus.
Another very interesting thing you’ll notice as you read some of the myths is these divine eyes have a will of their own, sometimes acting independently from that of the god they are a part of. This independence of the eyes is wonderfully illustrated by a few myths, especially those related to the god Ra…
Eye of Ra
In one version of the creation myth of Heliopolis, the god Ra had only one eye at first. But then Nun, the deity that represents the primordial waters from which the god Ra arose, bestowed Ra a second eye. This made the first eye angry and put Ra in a difficult position. He had to cajole them in order to keep them both happy, dividing their duties.
That’s where the division of solar and lunar comes from, with one eye taking on the responsibilities associated with daylight and the other with nighttime. The lunar eye became associated with Tefnut, daughter of Ra. To read more about this myth, check out my page on the goddess Tefnut.
The eye of Ra has been associated with many goddesses, and in each case will take on a specific quality. For example in its protective role, which is prone to turn into aggression and destruction, the eye is associated with the goddesses Hathor, Sekhmet, Tefnut and Wadjet. A very interesting myth showcasing this protective-aggressive tendency is told on my page The Eye of Ra and the Destruction of Mankind.
You might be wondering why the Egyptian eye is always part of a god, like Ra, but then when acting independently it is associated with a goddess.
Some have hypothesized, and I agree with their theories, that the protective-aggressive qualities that keep coming up in these myths are the way the ancient Egyptians viewed the divine feminine, and this perhaps comes from the way they observed female animals becoming very aggressive when they were protecting their young. Lionesses and cats in particular, hence the way the Egyptian eye takes on feline forms in these myths.
The Egyptian eye has other qualities and roles. As the solar eye, it is a source of heat, light and fire. The lunar eye is associated with the god Horus, but how it became his is another interesting myth.
Eye of Horus
In a myth called The Secret Name of Ra, the goddess Isis was envious of the glory and power of the god Ra. As a skilled magic practitioner and powerful goddess in her own right, she devised a plan to have him transfer some of his powers to her by telling her his secret name.
The secret name was the most potent and powerful name that a deity or mortal could have, and in order to keep these powers, the name had to remain secret. In fact, the secret name was so important that it made up part of the anatomy of the ancient Egyptian soul. Take a look at my video below to find out more:
So Isis waited for the opportunity to trick Ra into giving her his secret name. After aeons of traveling the skies every day, he had grown old and tired, and one day a little bit of his spit dribbled down the corner of his mouth and fell onto the earth.
Isis took this spit and mixed it with some earth and molded it into the shape of a cobra, which came to life. Though a god was usually immune to mortal dangers, since this snake was made from his own spit, its poison could penetrate his being and harm him. She hid the cobra on his daily path.
When Ra was bitten and the poison made its way through his body, he was in severe pain and cried out for help. None of the other deities could help, but Isis offered to relieve him if he told her his secret name. After negotiating the terms, Ra agreed to give Horus, the son of Isis, his eyes. And so the Eye of Ra became the Eye of Horus, and Ra was saved from the poison.
The “Wadjet” Egyptian Eye
Of course, this myth was not the exclusive explanation for how the Egyptian eye went from being the Eye of Ra to the Eye of Horus. When Horus was assimilated with Ra, Ra’s second eye, the lunar eye, became the Eye of Horus.
This Eye of Horus was became the object of Seth’s hatred for Horus. Seth captured the Eye of Horus during one of their many battles and threw it into the darkness where it broke into pieces. Thoth had seen where the eye had landed and went to look for it. He found the eye broken, but managed to restore it back to its original form.
As he did, he also restored the moon back to its full light, as this eye was lunar. This eye came to be known as the wadjet eye.
The wadjet can be taken apart into pieces and is also used to represent fractions in ancient Egyptian mathematics.
The eyeball is round like the moon, with a teardrop coming from it. In general, the ancient Egyptian eye resembles that of a falcon, which is another symbol for the sun’s travels across the sky, as well as the falcon’s association with the god Horus.
A lot of ancient Egyptian jewelry such as pendants, bracelets, earrings and amulets had the wadjet symbol.
If you also notice in paintings of ancient Egyptians, their eye make-up resembled the look of the Egyptian eye, with the long line at the outer corner extended to be in line with the eyebrow.
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