image Gods and Goddesses

Horus

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Key Facts
Other names Heru/Har, Nekheny
Year of origin 2800 BCE
Location
Parent(s) Osiris, Isis
Partner(s)
Children
Aspect(s) Sky
Major Centre(s) Nekhen
Period of worship 2800 BCE - 300 BCE

 

 

Background

Horus is an ancient god of the Ancient Egyptian religion. The most well known name is the Greek Horus, representing the Egyptian Heru/Har, which is the basic element in most of the other names of Horus. Horus was so important that the Eye of Horus became an important Egyptian symbol of power. Horus is the god of the sky, and the son of Osiris. His mother is Isis. Horus was also said to be a war god and a hunter's god.

He had a man's body and a falcon's head. He only had one eye because after Osiris was murdered by his brother Set, Horus fought with Set for the throne of Egypt. In this battle Horus lost one of his eyes and later this became a sign of protection in Egypt. Horus united Egypt and bestowed divinity upon the pharaoh. The pharaohs were viewed as the reincarnation of Horus.

Horus is recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs as hr.w and is reconstructed to have been pronounced *hāru, meaning "Falcon". By Coptic times, the name became Hōr. The original name also survives in later Egyptian names such as Har-Si-Ese literally "Horus, son of Isis".

Since he was god of the sky, Horus became depicted as a falcon, or as a falcon-headed man, leading to Horus' name, (in Egyptian, Heru), which meant The distant one. Horus was also sometimes known as Nekheny (meaning falcon), worshipped at Nekhen (city of the hawk), that became identified as Horus very early on. In this form, he was sometimes given the title Kemwer, meaning (the) great black (one).

Mythology

Since Horus was said to be the sky, it was natural that he was rapidly considered to also contain the sun and moon. It became said that the sun was one of his eyes and the moon the other, and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. Thus he became known as Harmerty - Horus of two eyes. Later, the reason that the moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as the contestings of Horus and Set, originating as a metaphor for the conquest of Upper Egypt by Lower Egypt in about 3000BC. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually the gods sided with Horus.

As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as Harsiesis, Heru-ur or Har-Wer (hr.w wr 'Horus the Great'), but more usually translated as Horus the Elder. In the struggle Set had lost a testicle, explaining why the desert, which Set represented, is infertile. Horus' left eye had also been gouged out, which explained why the moon, which it represented, was so weak compared to the sun. It was also said that during a new-moon, Horus had become blinded and was titled Mekhenty-er-irty ( 'He who has no eyes'), while when the moon became visible again, he was re-titled Khenty-irty ( 'He who has eyes'). While blind, it was considered that Horus was quite dangerous, sometimes attacking his friends after mistaking them for enemies.

Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as Neferhor. This is also spelled Nefer Hor, Nephoros or Nopheros meaning 'The Good Horus'.

Horus battled Set as a result of Set killing his father Osiris. One scene stated how Horus was on the verge of killing Set; but his mother (and Set's sister), Isis, stopped him. Isis injured Horus, but eventually healed him.

By the Nineteenth dynasty, the previous brief enmity between Set and Horus, in which Horus had ripped off one of Set's testicles, was revitalized as a separate tale. According to Papyrus Chester-Beatty I, Set is depicted as trying to prove his dominance by seducing Horus and then having intercourse with him.

However, Horus places his hand between his thighs and catches Set's semen, then subsequently throws it in the river, so that he may not be said to have been inseminated by Set. Horus then deliberately spreads his own semen on some lettuce, which was Set's favorite food (the Egyptians thought that lettuce was phallic).

After Set has eaten the lettuce, they go to the gods to try to settle the argument over the rule of Egypt. The gods first listen to Set's claim of dominance over Horus, and call his semen forth, but it answers from the river, invalidating his claim. Then, the gods listen to Horus' claim of having dominated Set, and call his semen forth, and it answers from inside Set.[6] In consequence, Horus is declared the ruler of Egypt.

This myth is seen as an explanation of how the two kingdoms of Egypt (Upper and Lower) came to be united. Horus was seen as the God of Upper Egypt, and Set as the God of Lower Egypt.