- Pronunciation: RAY
- Origin: Egyptian
- Role: God
- Symbol: Sun Disk
- Siblings: Apep, Thoth, Sobek, Serket
- Children: Shu, Tefnut, Bastet, Ma’at, Hathor
- Other Names: Re
Who Is Ra?
Ra was an Egyptian god. His believers considered him to be the god who created everything. He was also known as the sun god and was an incredibly powerful and important central god of the Egyptian pantheon. He was worshipped more than any other god by the ancient Egyptians. He represented sunlight, warmth and growth.
Egyptian myths have ben sourced from pyramid texts and tomb writings and decorations. The religion of ancient Egypt centered around many gods, with Ra being the most worshipped. Ra did not have parents and was self-created.
Legends and Stories
Ra was the center of Egyptian mythology and several myths and legends are either focused on the god entirely or include an appearance. He was often combined with the god Amun while other myths depict Ra as the leader of all gods. Other myths make the claim that he was the only god and all other gods were an extension of him.
Ra did not have parents. He is considered to be self-created and there are many myths that suggest how this came to be. It is said that before there was any land or recognizable landscapes, there was a body of water called Nun. The water was powerful and a shining egg arose from the darkness. Inside this egg was Ra. Sun rays landed on his body and gave him the power of sunlight. He then created all other elements of life by speaking their secret names. He spent his days traveling across the sky on a boat, where he carried prayers and blessings for the living.
At night, he would travel to the Underworld where Set and Mehen would help him defeat demons and monsters. He would leave the moon in the sky while traveling to the Underworld so that the living would still have light. It is said that he was reborn each day as the sun would rise over the horizon.
The Birth of Humans
One myth tells us that Ra first came to power during the golden age. Everything was perfect and just as it should be. The earth had not been tainted in any way. The sight of such perfection moved Ra to tears and they fell to the earth. The tears grew into humans. At first, Ra was infatuated with watching humans interact and grow. But then he became angered with them as they ended the golden age that he had loved so much. They were cruel to each other and were ruining the earth. He summoned the goddess Hather and transformed her into a savage lioness. He then sent her to earth to kill every human. Hather attacked every human she came across, killing most. But before she could eliminate all humans, Ra had a change of heart. He decided he needed to stop Hather and did so by giving her enough beer to intoxicate her. She forgot her mission but the damage she had caused was permanent. Humans had been introduced to death and now all faced their immortality.
The Power of a Name
A goddess by the name of Isis knew that Ra had a secret name. This secret name possessed immense power and would allow her to perform magic spells whenever she desired to. She knew that Ra wouldn’t tell her the name without a plan though so she quickly got to work.
Ra had begun to age and Isis visited with him one day. She collected the spit that dribbled down his chin and mixed it with dirt and clay. She shaped her mixture into a poisonous snake. When Ra was out for a walk, the snake bit him and he immediately felt the poison rushing through his body. He was in tremendous pain and asked the other gods to help him. Isis promised to help Ra but only if he would tell her his secret name. He was resistant at first but as the pain got worse, he told Isis what she wanted to know. She then performed her first spell and removed the poison from Ra’s body and healed him.
Ra had several siblings, including Apep, Thoth, Sobek and Serket. He also had many children, including Shu, Tefnut, Bastet, Ma’at and Hathor. It is said he had relationships with Hathor, Sekhmet, Bastet and Mut.
Ra is usually shown in his human form with a falcon head crowned with a sun disc. The famous sun disc was surrounded by a sacred cobra named Uraeus. In some artistic representations of the god, he is shown as “a man with the head of a beetle” or sometimes as “a man with the head of a ram”. Some ancient drawings of the god show him in a complete animalistic form, such as a snake, heron, lion, ram, cat, beetle, hawk or phoenix.
There are three main symbols of Ra. The first is the most obvious and well known. The sun disk that surrounded his head symbolizes what the god represents, including sunlight, warmth and growth. As he was the god of creation, the sun disk represents the light and energy needed for life.
The Tree of Life is also a symbol of Ra, though it is an important religious symbol overall to the ancient Egyptian religion. The Tree of Life was considered sacred and located in Ra’s sun temple. It is said that fruit grew from this tree but it was not available to humans. Instead, it was reserved for pharaohs and was said to prevent aging. It was believed that eternal life could be achieved by eating the fruit from the Tree of Life.
The final symbol connected to Ra is the Bennu, the name for a bird that represent the god’s soul. The bird was a phoenix and is sat in the Tree of Life. Sometimes, Ra is depicted as a phoenix, showing the connection between the two.