Egyptian deities that protected Ra during his journey through the underworld
In Egyptian mythology, the journey of the sun god Ra through the underworld, known as the Duat, was a crucial aspect of the daily cycle. As Ra traveled through this perilous realm during the nighttime hours, he faced various challenges and threats from chaotic forces and hostile beings. To ensure his safe passage and eventual rebirth at dawn, several protective deities were invoked and revered.
In the article below, World History Edu provides a detailed explanation of the mentioned protective deities of Ra:
Sia was a personification of perception and insight. He was often depicted as a deity with a human head and a feather or an emblem of perception on his head. Sia’s role during Ra’s journey was to accompany the sun god and provide him with intellectual and spiritual guidance.
Basically, his presence allowed Ra to navigate the complex and mysterious challenges of the Duat with clarity and understanding. Essentially, Sia represented the wisdom and knowledge necessary for Ra’s successful journey.
Heka was the god of magic and medicine in Egyptian mythology. His name, which means “magic” or “enchantment,” reflects his significance in providing magical protection to Ra during his nightly journey.
This deity was believed to have the power to ward off malevolent forces and ensure Ra’s well-being. Additionally, as a god of medicine, Heka could heal Ra from any harm or injuries he might encounter on his journey. The use of magic and healing was vital for Ra to maintain his strength and vitality throughout the night.
Mehen was a protective serpent deity often depicted as a coiled serpent encircling Ra’s solar barque. This coiled serpent acted as a formidable barrier against threats from the underworld.
Mehen symbolized the protective aspect of the cosmos, forming a shield around Ra to safeguard him from hostile forces, chaos, and malevolent spirits that lurked in the Duat. Mehen’s role was akin to that of a guardian, ensuring Ra’s safe passage through the underworld.
Bastet was a goddess with the appearance of a lioness or a domestic cat. While she was primarily associated with home and domesticity, Bastet also possessed attributes of a fierce protector.
In times of need, especially when Ra faced adversaries or enemies during his journey, Bastet was invoked to defend him. Her fierce and warlike qualities made her a powerful guardian and a symbol of protection against threats to Ra’s cosmic order.
READ MORE: Relationship between Bastet and Sekhmet
Serqet (sometimes known as Serket) was a goddess often depicted as a woman with a scorpion on her head or as a scorpion itself. Her primary role was to guard against venomous creatures and the perils of the desert.
As Ra traversed the Duat, he encountered various dangers, including venomous serpents and scorpions. Serqet’s protective qualities extended to countering poison, which was a significant threat in the ancient Egyptian worldview. She played a crucial role in ensuring Ra’s safety from these dangers.
Although primarily known as the goddess of the sky, Nut also had associations with the underworld. Her arched body was believed to encompass the cosmos, with her body representing the sky and her belly symbolizing the underworld.
During Ra’s journey through the Duat, Nut could be seen as a maternal and protective figure. Her presence overhead during the nighttime hours symbolized a motherly embrace, sheltering Ra from harm and chaos as he sailed through the underworld.
In Egyptian mythology, Seth (also spelled Set) is typically not seen as a protector of Ra; rather, Seth is often portrayed as a rival or adversary to Ra. Seth is associated with chaos, disorder, storms, and violence, while Ra is the sun god and a symbol of order and light.
However, there have been some discoveries of ancient Egyptian artworks that show Seth riding along with Ra on the solar barque. In those depictions, Seth can be seen piercing the serpent Apep (also known as Apophis).
Hathor, in Egyptian mythology, is primarily associated with maternal and nurturing qualities, music, dance, love, and joy. While she is not typically depicted as a protector of Ra in the same way as deities like Sia, Heka, Mehen, or Bastet, she does play a significant role within the broader context of Egyptian cosmology.
Hathor is often regarded as a benevolent goddess, and her presence was believed to bring happiness and well-being. She is sometimes associated with the Eye of Ra, a protective symbol representing the sun’s power and the destructive aspects of the goddess Sekhmet. In this context, Hathor could be seen as providing balance and calming influences to the more aggressive and destructive forces, helping to mitigate the destructive aspects of the Eye of Ra when they threatened to harm Ra or the world.
Additionally, Hathor had a role in the rejuvenation of Ra. According to some myths, she could take the form of a cow and provide milk to Ra, which symbolized her nourishing and life-giving qualities. This act of nourishment could be seen as a form of protection by sustaining Ra’s strength and vitality.
READ MORE: Differences between Hathor and Sekhmet