The Eye of Horus: Definition, Symbol & Mathematical Meaning

Instructor: Eve Levinson

Eve has taught various courses of high school history and has a master's degree in education.

The Eye of Horus is a sacred symbol from ancient Egypt that originated when the gods battled for supreme power. It was said to protect from evil, but only the Egyptian pharaohs were permitted to use it.

The Eye of Horus

So much of ancient mythology traces back to family squabbles that tore the gods apart. One such squabble took place in ancient Egypt between powerful siblings and their descendants, the results of which affected various aspects of Egyptian life. In this lesson, we will explore the origins of the Eye of Horus and the mathematical meaning incorporated in the symbol.

The Story of Horus

Osiris, the god of the afterlife, and Isis, the supreme goddess, ruled over all aspects of life in ancient Egypt. But Osiris's brother, Set was jealous of their realm and devised a plan to gain power for himself. He tricked his brother into climbing into a perfectly sized, decorative trunk and threw them together into the Nile River. Set proclaimed Osiris' death and assumed his brother's role.

Isis doubted Osiris' death and set to searching for his body, which she ultimately found. She used her power and potions to try to bring Osiris to life, hiding the body until she could succeed. But Set found Osiris and dismembered him, scattering his 42 parts around Egypt. On Isis' journey to recover her husband, she buried each part on sight and blessed the area, creating the provinces of the country.

Horus depicted as a falcon
Horus depicted as a falcon

Osiris was incomplete and lacking in power, which left him only able to rule the underworld. He also fathered Isis' son, Horus. Just as she tried to do with Osiris' body, Isis hid Horus away to protect him from his uncle. When Horus was older, he attacked Set out of revenge and desire to control the world. They fought for 80 years, with Horus losing an eye in battle. Ultimately, Horus succeeded in banishing Set and ruled with Isis by his side.

Symbolism

The image of Horus' eye took on the symbolism of incredibly powerful protection, so much so that it was only permitted to adorn the person or possessions of the pharaohs, or kings. Some notable features of the Eye of Horus include:

- As Horus was the god of the sky, the eye is reminiscent of a peregrine falcon, one of the world's fastest animals and an incredible hunter.

- A teardrop marking, as was often seen on the falcons.

- An association with Ra, the sun god.

- Occasionally a blue iris.

- The parts of the symbol correlate with the six senses - sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch, and thought.

The Eye of Horus
The Eye of Horus

Evidence of The Eye of Horus has been found on or alongside mummies and within hieroglyphics, or the ancient Egyptian pictorial language. It was believed to not only provide magic to living users but also as an item that the dead could show to Osiris as they entered the underworld.

Fractions

One of the more interesting, somewhat hidden, aspects of the Eye of Horus is its mathematical qualities. Each of the six parts of the eye described above also represents a fraction.

- The teardrop represents touch and the fraction 1/64

- The curl beneath the eye represents taste and the fraction 1/32

- The outer part of the eye represents hearing and the fraction 1/16

- The brow represents thought and the fraction 1/8

- The Iris represents sight and the fraction 1/4

- The inner part of the eye represents smell and the fraction 1/2

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