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The Egyptian God Horus

Horus is the Latin name of one of the most ancient Egyptian deities, the falcon god hr, whose name probably means "the one who is above" or "the one who is distant". The cult of Horus can be traced back to prehistoric times, as the list of Royal Turin Papyrus describes Followers of Horus, the legendary kings who ruled Egypt after the reign of the gods (We note here that Horus of Serekh earliest Egyptian king who can be identified). In early historic times, the sacred falcon is depicted on the palette of King Narmer and from then on it it will be consistently associated with the Pharaonic monarchy.

Horus is a god with many faces, so that one wondered if the name does not refer in fact separate deities:

It is the heavenly falcon whose right eye is the sun and the moon the left eye. This aspect of the god was worshiped at Nekhen, the Greek Hierakonpolis.

Statue of Horus
A statue of the god Horus, at the temple of Edfu.
Picture taken circa 1912.
The man standing next to the Horus statue is Arthur Weigall,
Inspector General of Upper Egypt, Department of Antiquities.

At Heliopolis, he was revered as Horahkty, Horus of the Horizon, in conjunction with Re. As such, Horus was both the morning sun and evening sun. In the Pyramid Texts, the deceased king revived under the appearance of solar falcon. In a syncretism common in Egyptian religion, Horakhty eventually merged with the demiurge Heliopolis, in the form of Re-Harakhti.

Horus and the Osiris Myth

In the myth of Osiris, Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis. Osiris, murdered by his brother Seth, was brought back to life, through the combined efforts of Isis and Nephthys. Osiris and Isis mated and produced Horus the Child, that the Greeks will call Harpocrates or Harsiesis, Horus, son of Isis.

To avenge the death of his father Osiris, Horus fights his uncle Seth and is awarded his heritage, the throne of Egypt; hence his nickname "avenger of his father." Horus was regarded as the first of the Pharaohs after his father. However, his legitimacy will be constantly challenged by Seth. During the battle that pitted him against Seth, Horus lost his left eye, which is restored by the god Thoth. The Egyptians wore a symbol of the Eye of Horis as a magical amulet that they believed could ward off evil and disease.

In contrast to Seth, who represents the violence and chaos, Horus represents order and, like Pharaoh, is one of the guarantors of universal harmony, but one should not be reduce the complex theology of the Egyptians to a dualistic conception of Good and Evil, because, in another myth, Seth is the indispensable aid of Re in its fight against the serpent Apophis, Night. Good and evil are complementary aspects of creation, both present in any deity. (See personification of the principle of evil). The "four son of Horus.

Whatever its appearance and its role -- hawk, celestial creator god, or son of Osiris - Horus is the god of dynastic excellence. Since the days of the Pharaoh Narmer, the king was referred to as the "finger of Horus." This is the first element of the Pharaonic royal titles and name by which Pharaoh defined his nature. Under the first three dynasties, the name of Horus was part of a rectangle surmounted by a sacred bird, the serekh, whose lower register showed the stylized facade of the royal palace. The significance of Serekh is obvious: the king's palace is the Horus land, both the incarnation of the god and his legitimate successor to the throne of Egypt. From the days of Cheops, the royal title is increased by another title, the name of Horus of Gold, whose interpretation is uncertain.

The "four sons of Horus" are lesser divinities represented on the canopic jars:

  • Amset (head man);
  • Hapi (baboon-headed);
  • Duamutef (jackal-headed);
  • Kébehsénouf (with head of falcon).

An Endless Struggle

Horus regained the crown of Egypt, but Seth was jealous and seized it by force. Horus, supported his mother Isis, is convened the tribunal of the gods for the purpose of resolving this dispute. Ra chaired, while Thoth had the role of the clerk.

Eighty years passed, however, without the debate having progressed. The court was divided between supporters of the legitimate royalty (Horus), and Ra, who saw Seth as his perpetual defender againts Apophis (the serpent god who has always been the enemy of Ra). The debates, which go round and around, require external advice. So Toth seeks the counsel of Neith, goddess of Sais (a place in Egypt), who famous for her infinite wisdom. Her answer is unambiguous: give the crown back to Horus. However, to avoid penalizing Seth, Neith proposes to offer the goddesses Anat and Astarte as wives.

If the court is delighted with this solution, Ra, he remains skeptical. Isn't Horus a bit young to assume the leadership of the kingdom? Isis, exasperated by so much procrastination, proposes to move the debate to Atum in Heliopolis and Khepri. Seth is furious and opposed the move. He orders that the debates be conducted in the absence of Isis. But he does not count on the tenacity of the goddess.

Isis reintroduced herself into the courtroom under the guise of a beautiful young woman who quickly attracted the attention of Seth. Seth and Isis converse. Troubled by such beauty, Seth loses his focus and compromises his claim,g even acknowledging the legitimacy of Horus. The cunning Isis then reveals herself. The dramatic turn of events leaves Seth speechless. The crown is then returned to Horus from the hands of Ra himself.

But Seth, forever jealous, is determined not to stop there. He proposes to Horus that the issue be settled by games including a water test where the two gods become hippos. The one who stays the longest under water can become king. But Isis, protective of her son, disrupts the game and earns the displeasure of the two protagonists and the three gods are torn by violent disputes.

Ra, desperate to finally achive a reconciliation, invites them to make peace around a banquet. But again, the fights continue to multiply. Seth even tries to feminize Horus to make him unworthy of power in the eyes of the other gods by masturbating and ejaculating on the thighs of his nephew. (Ancient Egyptian religious myths are not family friendly!)

Osiris, who had remained silent, now intervenes. As a god of vegetation, Osiris threatens to cut the life blood of Egypt. The gods, seeing the reality of the threat now render a verdict in favor of Horus. But Seth is not forgotten. Placed alongside Ra, he became "the one who screams in the sky" to be carried up to the creator god.

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