Difference Between the Eye of Ra & the Eye of Horus

Difference Between the Eye of Ra & the Eye of Horus
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  • 0:03 Background on Egyptian Eyes
  • 0:57 The Eye of Horus
  • 2:12 The Eye of Ra
  • 3:08 Ra and Horus Differences
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Moran
The eye of Horus and the Eye of Ra were both used frequently in ancient Egypt, most notably in drawings and jewelry. This lesson will examine the myths behind both symbols and their context within the Egyptian culture.

Background on Egyptian Eyes

You've probably seen a drawing of an eye that you immediately associate with ancient Egypt. What is this eye, and what does it mean? Well, it can have two names, the Eye of Ra, and the Eye of Horus, as they became linked under the common title of the 'all seeing eye' in the ancient Egyptian belief system.

While these titles may be used interchangeably at times, they harbor very different meanings, taking on the flavor of the legends behind them. The legend behind the Eye of Horus is one of regeneration and healing, promoting a more positive symbolism that promises divine intervention and protection from the gods. In contrast, the Eye of Ra has a legend of hate and destruction, therefore its a symbol of protection borne of power, fury, and violence. It's important to note that while this lesson will summarize the two most widely accepted legends behind the symbols, there are many more versions and details that remain unclear.

The Eye of Horus

If you were an ancient Egyptian, you probably spent some time studying the sky for any sign of the mighty god Horus. He was the god associated with the heavens, his eyes were even accepted as being the sun and moon. The ancient Egyptians explained the waxing and waning of the moon with a legend about Horus and his fight with the god Set over who would inherit the throne to the netherworld. During the fight, Horus lost his right eye and even more dramatically, Set lost his testicles. Different tellings of the story have Horus losing his right eye or both eyes, unfortunately for Set he loses his testicles in every version!

The moon god, Thoth, was able to restore Horus' eye along with 15 or 30 other gods, depending on the version. These thirty gods represent the days of waning, when the moon appears to be disappearing from the sky, and waxing, when it slowly returns to the sky.

The newly restored eye of Horus was given the name Wadjet, which translates to 'whole' or 'healthy.' It is popularly divided into six pieces while used as a protective amulet, representative of the broken pieces of the damaged eye. Interestingly, it was also used as a tool of measurement, particularly in medicines and dyes. It was even thought that each piece was tied to a particular one of the six senses.

The Eye of Ra

The Eye of Ra actually refers to the daughter of Ra, the all important sun god of ancient Egypt. Ra, who had at one point been the pharaoh, was a jealous being and to disobey him meant swift and harsh punishment. According to the myth, Ra became so angry with his followers, he sent his daughter in his stead to punish his wayward followers. She got a little carried away after she took the form of a lion, and began to slaughter people indiscriminately.

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