The Eye of Ra: Meaning & Symbolism

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  • 0:03 The Eye of Ra
  • 0:19 Who Was Ra?
  • 0:57 Visualization of Ra
  • 1:34 Mythology of the Eye of Ra
  • 2:25 Meaning and Symbolism
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Rasmussen

Mr. Ras teaches college History and Education courses and has a BA and MA in History and a MA in Education.

Learn some background on the Egyptian sun god Ra and why the image of his eye became a symbol of worship and fear. The meaning and symbolism of the Eye of Ra tell the story of a god betrayed and both his anger and compassion for mankind.

The Eye of Ra

When studying ancient Egyptian history, you'll frequently come across the image of the Eye of Ra, which is a symbol used to represent Ra, the sun god. But what was the meaning of this image, and what did it represent to the ancient Egyptian people?

Who Was Ra?

Known by some as the creator, the father, or the beginning of all things, the Egyptian sun god, Ra, was worshiped by his people. Ra, in his daily mission, protected mankind from the cosmic forces of evil who looked to disturb order and balance in the universe. Without the protection of Ra, the rational and structured order of humanity would be thrown into chaos. During the evening, when the sun disappeared in the West, people believed that Ra traveled through the heavens on a heavenly boat before reappearing in the East. While he was away, he continued his fight against the forces of evil and darkness before reappearing at sunrise.

Visualization of Ra

Although Ra took many forms, one of the most common was that of a human with the head of a falcon. Other appearances included Ra with the body of a human but instead of a falcon, he had the head of a beetle or a ram.

While the form of the animal that Ra took on was a big factor in recognizing him, his most discernible trait was the image of a sun-disk above his head. Oftentimes, this sun-disk was encircled by either one or two sacred cobras, known as Uraeuses, which represented the Egyptian goddess Wadjet. The Uraeus was often associated with divine leadership that protected humanity.

Mythology of the Eye of Ra

The image of the Eye of Ra has a somewhat gruesome background story. According to mythology, the sun god, who had been being undermined and ridiculed by his people as he entered old age, took the right eye of his daughter, Hathor, and sent it to Earth to punish mankind. In revenge for his worshipers openly mocking him, the Eye of Ra, his daughter, took the form of a lion and slaughtered thousands of humans.

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