Horus, Egyptian God: Myth & Concept

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the Egyptian god of the sky, Horus. We discover the myths surrounding his birth and life, leading to his incredible popularity in ancient Egyptian society.

No matter how much you love your parents, it is doubtful you would spend 80 years trying to avenge their death. A year or two, sure, but let's face it: you are a person with things to do and you don't have 80 years to spend hunting down your dad's enemies. But Horus, the Egyptian god of the sky whose father was murdered by his uncle, had no such time constraints.

Horus, meaning 'one who is above,' was commonly worshipped as the god of the sky, the son of Osiris and Isis. Many historians believe that Horus' eyes, one dark and one light, represent the moon and the sun. Often represented wearing a double crown, representing the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, Horus' popularity throughout the kingdom made him the subject of many cults of worship.

The ancient Egyptian god Horus was often depicted as a falcon or as a man with a falcon head. While at first the god of the sky, Horus' importance grew until he eventually became the most revered god in ancient Egypt. The Pharaohs were intimately connected with Horus, and often an image of Horus was carved above the doors of the Pharaohs' palaces. Since the Pharaohs were also closely connected to the sun god, Ra, the mythology and importance of Ra and Horus became increasingly interconnected.

Horus, depicted as man with falcon

Birth of Horus

Horus, according to Egyptian myth, had a rocky conception. His father, Osiris, had been king of all Egypt, and had taken for his wife his sister Isis. Osiris' brother Set was jealous of Osiris, and was always attempting to undermine Osiris and take the throne of Egypt for himself. When Set finally succeeded and killed Osiris, he either cast down Osiris' body or cut it into pieces and distributed them throughout Egypt, depending on the interpretation of the text.

With the help of Set's wife, Nepthys, Isis searched tirelessly for the body of her late husband. When the body was found, Isis momentarily resurrected Osiris in order to have his child. The hawk she gave birth to became Horus.

Horus and Set

The birth story just related introduces one of the more important stories in ancient Egyptian mythology. Due to the circumstances surrounding Horus' birth, Horus made it his life's work to avenge his father's death at Set's hands. In fact, Horus' juxtaposition with Set is partially what made him so popular in ancient Egypt.

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