Horus: Birth Story, Family, Eye of Horus, Powers, & Symbols

Horus is most known as the ancient Egyptian falcon-headed god of the sky and the sun. He was also most known for being the protector of the Egyptian people and pharaohs.

In the Egyptian pantheon, the god Horus was a very formidable and important deity. It was believed that his realm of control was the sky and the sun. As a result, Horus was commonly referred to as “The One Far Above”. The Greeks, on the other hand, called him Heru or Har – which means “the Distant One”.

In some cases, Horus was also venerated as the god of war, hunting, and kingship. Largely considered as the chief protector of the land of Egypt, he was depicted by ancient Egyptians as a stoic man with the head of a hawk (or sometimes a lion). He became known in some spheres as the hawk god of Egypt.

It’s been known that ancient Egyptian pharaohs typically identified themselves with the god of the sky. Thus, the pharaohs were adored and even worshiped because their subjects believed that they were the manifestations of Horus in human form.

READ MORE: The conflict between Horus and Seth over the throne of Egypt

Quick Facts about Horus God in Egyptian Mythology

The birth of Horus

Horus Story | Horus’ Family: From to Left to Right – Horus, Osiris, and Isis

Depending on the era and place, the birth story of Horus takes different forms. All in all, there are three main forms of Horus in Egyptian mythology: Horus the Older; Horus the Child; and Horus the Younger. For example, Horus the Older (also known as “Har wer”, the god of the kingdom) was largely seen as the last born of deities Geb (earth) and Nut (sky). What this means is that he was the brother of Isis, Osiris, Set (Seth), and Nephthys. However, in the birth story of Horus the Younger, the goddess Isis was his mother.

READ MORE: The Myth of Osiris and Isis

Death of Horus’ father (The Osiris Myth)

In terms of the myths, Horus the Younger is the most popular of the three. His story largely comes from the Osiris Myth. According to the myth, Horus’ parents – Osiris and Isis- were supreme rulers of a very orderly and harmonious land of Egypt. Osiris was responsible for inculcating ideals of harmony, order (Ma’at) and truth into the human population. As king, Osiris was wise, helping the people of Egypt to prosper and live happily together.

However, this paradise condition in the land of Egypt was interrupted by the Osiris’ brother, Seth, the god of chaos and the desert regions. Seth had grown very envious of his Osiris’ reign. Filled with hate and angst, Seth proceeded to unleash chaos in the kingdom of Egypt.

Seth was also angry because his wife, Nephthys, had had an affair with Osiris. Seth then killed his brother and thereafter cut the body into several pieces. He scattered those pieces across the earth.

The death of Horus’ father, Osiris, is a central element in Egyptian mythology and is intertwined with themes of betrayal, resurrection, and the eternal battle between order and chaos. Image: The gods Osiris, Anubis, and Horus. Wall painting in the tomb of 18th Dynasty pharaoh Horemheb

With Osiris out of the picture, Seth took over the throne of Egypt. His rule was not as pleasant as Osiris’ rule; the land and the people were often blighted by famine and civil chaos as the people of Egypt longed for the return of Osiris.

With the help of the jackal-headed god Anubis, Osiris’ wife Isis was able to find Osiris’ dismembered body parts and put him together. Subsequently, she used her magical powers to bring Osiris from the dead. However, Osiris did not come back to the land of the living; instead, he was reborn in the afterlife. Osiris then became the god of the underworld (i.e. the afterlife). Prior to Osiris departing to the underworld, he and Isis went on to have a child named Horus.

Owing to the absence of his penis, Osiris could not get Isis pregnant through the conventional means. It is believed that Isis transformed herself into a kite-like object and flew past Osiris’ body in order to absorb Osiris’ seamen.

READ MORE: The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys

Horus and Isis go into hiding

When word of Isis pregnancy with Horus reached Seth, the usurper king was filled with absolute disgust and anger. He knew that should Horus survive he would come to claim his birth right, which was the throne of Egypt. Seth dispatched his thugs and evil spirits to hunt down the pregnant Isis.

In the meantime, Isis went into hiding. The goddess all alone had to endure the pain of child birth in the vicinity of a swampy area, most likely the Nile Delta. Once Horus was born, Isis did everything in her power to keep the baby Horus safe and away from the evil eyes of Seth. Periodically, the mother and baby had to move from one place to another in order to evade Seth’s henchmen.

A few of the gods and goddesses in the Egyptian pantheon took pity on the nursing mother and sent her a number of protective amulets and spirits. For example, the goddess Selket (Serket) gifted the baby Horus seven scorpions to protect and guard him at all times. Horus also received training in several disciplines from the likes of Anubis, Neith, and Thoth (the god of knowledge and wisdom). Many gods and goddesses came to the aid of Horus because they backed him to one day face off with Seth and reclaim the throne of Egypt.

Horus would grow into a fine young god, skilled in a host of battle and fighting techniques. He also benefited a lot from the wise teachings of the god Thoth. Gradually, the young god started venturing out of hiding. He became the atypical hero for people that were plagued by Seth’s henchmen and evil agents. Towing the path of honor and truth, he vowed to take the fight to Seth and bring an end to his uncle’s tyrannical reign.

Mother goddess

Egyptian goddess Isis depicted nursing her son Horus. Depictions of such nature most likely inspired the classic Christian portrait of the Madonna and Child. Image: Egyptian goddess Isis nursing Horus, a sculpture from the 7th century BC.

READ MORE: Anubis’ Role versus Osiris’ Role in the Underworld

Horus and Seth battle for the throne of Egypt

Much of what we know about the numerous battles between Horus and his uncle Set comes from Osiris Myth and “The Contendings of Horus and Seth”. In the latter book, it is stated that Seth and Horus appear before a panel of judges made up of nine Egyptian gods and goddesses (the Ennead), including the likes of the sun god Ra, Tefnut, Shu and Osiris.

Horus makes a very sound case against the usurper king, Seth resulting in majority of the judges on the panel ruling in favor of Horus. However, Ra (Amun-Ra) – supreme creator god – sort of uses his veto on the panel and states that Horus is too young and untested to be crowned king of Egypt. Ra votes in favor of Seth.

Set and Horus adore Pharaoh Ramesses II in the small temple at Abu Simbel in Upper Egypt

After the proceedings, the panel of judges put Horus and Seth through a series of battles (in some version of the story, the two gods engage in an actual physical race). The judges proclaim that whoever wins the most battles would be crowned ruler of Egypt.

During one test that involved armed combat, Seth was close to overpowering Horus. The younger of the two combatants gets injured. It is even believed that Seth plucked out one of Horus’ eyes.

Horus, in turn, inflicts severe damage on Seth – he had the genitals of Seth cut off. Although the two gods seem evenly matched, Horus always came out tops in every battle. It is believed that he received lots of training and help from his mother, as well as Thoth. The battles between Seth and Horus for the throne of Egypt would last for at least 80 years, according to ancient manuscripts.

Read More:

Isis tricks Seth

Even though, Horus won every single battle he had with Seth, the supreme Egyptian god, Ra, continues to cast his vote in favor of Seth. Amid the contending of Horus and Seth,  the people of Egypt continue to be in severe distress due to Seth’s tyrannical reign over Egypt.

Isis proceeded to disguise herself as an old looking widow and thereafter approaches the palace of Seth. Isis, still in her disguise, complains about how her husband’s brother had seized all her dead husband’s properties. She goes on to say that her only child and her now live a poor and miserable life. Seth takes pity on the woman and vows to bring justice to this said brother-in-law of the woman.

Upon hearing Set’hs vows, Isis pulls down the disguise that she was wearing. Unable to go back on his words, Seth is left with no other option than to comply with his very vows. After witnessing this, Ra eventually gives into the claims of Horus.

Horus is crowned ruler of land while Seth is banished to spend the rest of eternity in the desert regions beyond Egypt.

The people of Egypt welcome Horus’ coronation with immense joy and jubilation. He chooses his mother, Isis, as his queen consort. Together, Horus and Isis bring about a years of lasting peace and prosperity to the land of Egypt, just like it was during the reign of his father Osiris.

To show their appreciation, the ancient Egyptians bestowed upon Horus several titles, including “Horu-Sema-Tawy”, which translates into “the Unifier of Upper and Lower Egypt”.

READ MORE: Egyptian Deities Responsible For Protecting Ra in the Underworld

Importance of Horus in Ancient Egypt

Horus represents the sky, protection, and royal power, often symbolizing the living pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. Image: Relief of Horus depicting the falcon-headed god as sphinx.

Horus claiming his birth right, i.e. the throne, meant that he became the first pharaoh of Egypt. And from then onward future pharaohs of ancient Egypt would go on to be revered as the human manifestation of the god Horus himself. This practice started during the era of the First Dynastic pharaohs of Egypt.

Divine pharaohs, like Horus, were worshiped as people who brought order to a world that was once turbulent. They had the power to vanquish over and over again chaos from agents of Seth. Therefore, while the pharaoh was alive, the Egyptians regarded him/her as the reincarnation of Horus, and when the pharaoh died, he/she went on to become Osiris, the Lord of the Underworld.

Ancient Egyptians believed that Horus and the pharaohs were the shield that protected the land of Egypt from evil spirits and foreign invaders.

In simple terms, Horus was seen as a deity that enforced the principles of Ma’at – law and order. This made him and his places of worship very important facets of the Egyptian society.

As a result his association with the Four Sons of Horus (Imsety, Duamutef, Qebehsenuef, and Hapi) – Egyptian gods that protected the organs of a deceased person – Horus also played a vital role in the afterlife. Thus his role was not only confided to the land of the living but also the land of the dead.

The four sons of Horus

The four Sons of Horus – (L-R) Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi, and Qebehsenuef – were once rescued by the crocodile-headed god Sobek, thus preventing them from drowning in the Nile River.

READ MORE: Major Events in Egyptian Mythology

Where was Horus worshiped?

His worship centers and temples were one of the most frequented places in ancient Egypt. His temples and cults only had male priests and clergy.

Due to his widespread worship across the land, Horus cult and worship centers varied in terms of practice, rituals and sacrifices.

The most famous Horus worship centers were at Khem, Pe, and Behdet (around the Nile Delta). For example, the town of Pe was a very a special place to the Egyptians in the sense that it was the exact spot Egyptians believed Horus lost his left eye as he fought with Seth.

Other worship sites of Horus were at Edfu, Nekhen, and Kom Ombos.

Depictions and symbols of Horus

Horus story: Depictions and Symbols

Horus is often depicted with a scepter in one hand and an ankh (the symbol of life) in the other. He usually dons the white and red color crown – a symbolism of the fusion of the two lands of Egypt- Upper and Lower Egypt.  The white crown is for Upper Egypt while the red is for Lower Egypt.

Some Egyptian sculptures and paintings have shown the god Horus as a hawk or a lion with the head of hawk. In some cases he is painted as a pharaoh, however, instead of a human head, he is given the head of a hawk.

Due to Horus being a national Egyptian god, his depictions and the symbols for him varied across time and place.

As a matter of fact, the god “Horus” was often used as a general term for several number of falcon deities in Egypt.

The ankh symbol was believed to be the gods way of promising an eternal life | Image: Ankh – The god Horus offers life to the king, Ramesses II.

The Eye of Horus

Horus Story: the Eye of Horus was seen by the ancient Egyptians as a symbol for protection and kingship.

Known as the “Wedjat”, the origin story of the Eye of Horus can be traced to a Pre-dynastic deity called Wadjet – a solar deity. Wadjet was worshiped as the protector god of the people of ancient Egypt. Hence his symbol – the Wedjat – became associated with protection of not just the people, but the pharaohs as well.

As time went on, the symbol found its way into the temples of Ra and Horus. Thus, at some point in time, the Eye of Horus was also called the “Eye of Ra”.

Basically the symbol represented the protection granted from the gods. This means that the Eye of Horus was also associated with other gods and goddess such as Isis and Hathor.

The Eye of Horus was very much loved by sailors, who put the symbol on their boats/ships in order to ward off evil spirits at sea.

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Frequently asked questions about Horus in Egyptian mythology

Horus, born posthumously, was raised with the purpose of avenging his father’s death and reclaiming the throne from Seth. The ensuing battles between Horus and Seth are emblematic of the struggle between order (ma’at) and chaos (isfet). Image: Horus spears Set, who appears in the form of a hippopotamus, as his mother the goddess Isis looks on.

Who is Horus in Egyptian mythology?

Horus is a sky deity in Egyptian mythology, represented as a falcon-headed man and associated with war and hunting.

What does Horus represent?

Horus represents the sky, protection, and royal power, often symbolizing the living pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt.

Depictions of Horus in Egyptian mythology (Left to right): Horus represented as a crowned falcon; Har-em-akhet, a form of Horus in which he had the body of a lion; and Hor-imy-shenut, a form of Horus in which he had the body of a crocodile

Who are the parents of Horus?

Horus is the son of Isis and Osiris.

What is the Eye of Horus?

The Eye of Horus is a symbol of protection, royal power, and good health in ancient Egyptian culture.

Why is Horus often depicted with a falcon head?

The falcon head represents the sky and is a symbol of divine kingship, highlighting his role as a protector and ruler.

Relief of Horus in the temple of Seti I in Abydos

What is the significance of the battle between Horus and Seth?

The battle represents the struggle for the throne of Egypt and the triumph of order over chaos.

How is Horus related to the Pharaohs of Egypt?

The ancient Egyptians believed the pharaoh was the living embodiment of Horus on Earth, solidifying their divine right to rule.

Where was Horus worshiped?

Horus was worshiped across ancient Egypt, with notable temples dedicated to him, such as the one in Edfu.

The Statue of Horus in the Temple of Edfu is a significant ancient Egyptian artifact, symbolizing protection and royal power.

Did the worship of Horus change over time?

Yes, the forms and attributes of Horus evolved over time, reflecting different local beliefs, traditions, and periods.

How is Horus different from Ra?

While Horus is primarily a sky and war deity, Ra is the sun god, although they merge in the form of Ra-Horakhty.

What are the different forms of Horus?

Horus has several forms, including Heru-ur (Haroeris to the Ptolemaic Greeks) (the elder Horus), Harsiesis (Horus, son of Isis), and Ra-Horakhty (Horus as the rising sun).

Who was Heru-ur?

Heru-ur, also known as Horus the Elder or Haroeris in Ptolemaic Greek, is a form of Horus and is considered one of the oldest gods of ancient Egypt. He was worshipped in the influential Predynastic town of Nekhen and, by the Old Kingdom, had become the first national god and the patron of the Pharaoh.

Born to Geb and Nut, he was known as the “son of truth,” upholding Maat, representing truth, balance, and order in ancient Egyptian belief. He is symbolized with the Sun as his right eye and the Moon as his left.

He is sometimes depicted fully as a falcon and is referred to as Kemwer, meaning “the great black one.” This deity, representing various aspects of the cosmos and kingship, had several variants, including Hor Merti and Horkhenti Irti, emphasizing his multifaceted nature in ancient Egyptian mythology.

Horus the Elder (Her-ur, Herwer)

Is Horus connected to any other gods or goddesses?

-Yes, Horus is connected to a range of deities, including his parents, Osiris and Isis, and his uncle, Seth. He is also connected to deities like Wadjet, Nephthys, Serket, Hathor, Bastet, and Sekhmet. Many of those deities are associated with the Eye of Ra (or the Eye of Horus).

READ MORE: Differences between Sekhmet and Hathor

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  1. Cherimoya Spirit says:

    That was helpful

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