Who Is Horus?
Horus is one of the most well-known Egyptian gods. During his time of worship, he was one of the most important gods to Egyptians and there are many variations of his origins and legends. There is still a preserved temple located in Upper Egypt dedicated to Horus.
Horus was known as the god of the sky. But there is one unique take on his purpose. It was said that the pharaoh of Egypt was the living image of the god. Whenever a new pharaoh would command the throne, he would become the physical representation of Horus. The pharaoh would be protected by Horus, as he was also a protector god. He fought evil and represented righteousness and justice.
Horus was worshiped in all corners of Egypt but especially in Bendet, Khem, and Pe. He wasn’t the first falcon god but he eventually represented all of the similar gods before him. He was especially worshiped as a guide to the pharaohs and had several temples built in his honor. He was worshipped up until the end of the Pre-Dynastic period.
Legends and Stories
The text that tells the legends and stories of Horus has been preserved through hieroglyphics, providing extreme confidence in the details and legitimacy of the following myths.
The Birth of Horus
Set was an evil god and the brother of Osiris, Horus’ father. Before Horus was born, Set murdered Osiris and scattered the pieces of his body throughout Egypt. Isis, Horus’ mother, was devastated at the loss of her husband and set out to gather the pieces of his flesh. She found every piece except for his penis. She constructed a new one out of pure gold and reassembled Osiris’ body. Some interpretations of the text say that she laid down with Osiris and conceived Horus while others say that she conceived her son on her own.
She then approached Ra and intoxicated him with wine. Because of his drunkenness, Ra told Isis his secret name, Horus. She knew that if she named her son the same name, he would have the power of the visible sun and the blood of the hidden sun. This combination would make him victorious in everything.
Set found out about Isis’ pregnancy and swore to kill any male newborns he came across. When the time came for Horus to be born, Isis hid him in a lotus flower. She told the baby to stay quiet and think only of her voice. She left him, telling him that she would return only when it was safe for him to emerge. Though Isis feared that Set would find the baby, Horus had no fear as he only focused on the voice of his mother, hoping to hear it again.
The Battle with Set
Horus grew and the time came for his father to be replaced. The other gods were searching for an heir when Isis told them of Horus and that he was the only rightful heir to the throne. This infuriated Set, who said that Horus was too young and that the honor should go to him instead. The gods debated amongst each other. Thoth believed that Horus was the rightful heir while Ra believed Set was the right choice. They consulted with Neith, who determined Horus was the rightful heir. To make up for his loss, she said she would double everything Set owned. But this wasn’t enough for Set and he demanded that he and Horus battle for the throne.
There were several contests held to determine who would be the better king. In one contest, both Set and Horus turned themselves into hippopotamuses and saw who could hold their breath the longest. Several similar challenges followed and in one, Set plucked out Horus’ left eye. Thoth restored the eye and told the boy it was the Light of the Moon. In another challenge, Set cast darkness over Horus’ right eye. Hathor dripped milk into the eye and told the boy it was the Light of the Sun.
After Set was unable to conquer Horus, the gods declared the boy to be the new king. Set asked for just one more contest and invited Horus to battle. Horus eventually returned, dragging Set behind him in chains. He bound Set to a spike before the gods and sought revenge for his father’s murder.
Horus is part of the Holy Family of Egypt. His parents were Isis and Osiris but he was magically conceived by only his mother. His father was murdered before his birth by Set, his uncle.
He had numerous lovers and wives and several children. His most well-known children made up the “four sons” and included Hapi, Imsety, Qebehsenuef, and Duamutef. They were all born from a lotus flower and considered to be solar gods. Each son was protected by a goddess and they became known as the protectors of internal organs of the deceased. Each son had their own organ to guard for the afterlife.
Horus was known as a handsome god but most artistic representations of him depict him as a falcon or a man with the head of a falcon. There are also pictures of him shown as a crocodile with the head of a falcon. In some forms, he is shown with his left eye as the moon and his right eye as the sun. His breast feathers are shown as stars and his wings are positioned in a way to represent the wind. He is often shown with a copper knife and a double crown, which signifies his rule of the country and his direct ties with the pharaoh.
Horus’ main symbol is a falcon. He is usually represented by a falcon or the head of a falcon. There is another symbol though that is well-recognized even today. Known as the Eye of Horus, this symbol has been used in protective amulets as it represents protection.
The symbol is made to look like an eye and eyebrow with two lines extending from the bottom portion of the eye. This possibly mimics markings found on falcons local to Egypt.