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The Eye of Ra

The Eye of Horus or Ra.
The Eye of Horus or Ra.

In ancient Egyptian religious lore, the Eye of Ra is an entity representing a female analog to Ra Egypts sun god.

When unleashed it is a violent force able to subdue Ra’s enemies.

The Eye is likened to the sun’s disk and is a manifestation of Ra’s power through an autonomous form.

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The Eye goddess is the sun god’s mother, sister, wife and daughter. She partners Ra in the eternal cycle of creation where Ra is reborn at sunrise. The Eye’s violent facet shields Ra against the many agents of chaos threatening his rule.

The uraeus or cobra, symbolic protector of royal authority typically depicts this savage attribute of the Eye goddess. Alternatively, the Eye is portrayed as a lioness.

The Eye of Ra resembles the Eye of Horus and indeed stands for many of the same attributes.

The catastrophic effects of the Eye goddess running amok and the endeavours of the gods to return her to a benevolent aspect are a recurring theme in Egyptian mythology.

Facts About The Eye of Ra

  • The Eye of Ra is a powerful entity representing a female version of Ra Egypt’s sun god
  • Unleashed it transforms into a terrible force capable of destroying Ra’s enemies
  • Egyptian goddesses, such as Mut, Wadjet, Hathor, Bastet and Sekhmet personify it
  • It was depicted as a sun disc encircled by two uraeus cobras
  • The Eye of Ra was also painted on amulets and walls for protection.

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The Eye’s Religious Influence

The Eye of Ra’s influenced numerous goddess cults shaping ancient Egypt’s religious beliefs. Egyptian priests held rituals at the New Year to honour the Eye’s return to Egypt and the arrival of the annual Nile floods.

Temple rituals venerated its life-affirming powers and its predilection for violence was summoned to protect the pharaoh, the royal family; Egypt’s sacred sites and the common Egyptian people together with their homes.

Egyptian queens were seen as the earthly manifestation of the goddesses associated with the Eye of Ra. Subsequently, queens often wore headdresses similar to those worn depicted as being worn by the goddesses.

Ra The Sun God

Depiction of Ra The Sun God.
Depiction of Ra The Sun God. Image Courtesy: ArtsyBee via pixabay.com

Termed the beginning of all things, the father or the creator, Ra was Egypt’s sun god.

Ha was widely worshiped for in his daily role in protecting the people from cosmic agents of chaos, evil and disorder in the eternal quest to upend balance and harmony in the universe.

Without Ra’s protection, humanities structured and rational order of would be cast into disarray.

During the night, after the sun set in the West, Ra was believed to travel across the heavens on an ethereal boat to continue his perpetual battle before with the forces of darkness and evil before triumphantly reemerging at sunrise in the East.

Eye of Ra’s Symbolism

Depiction of Ra’s sun-disc encircled by two uraeus cobras.
Depiction of Ra’s sun-disc encircled by two uraeus cobras. Image Courtesy: KhonsuTemple-Karnak-RamessesIII-2.jpg: Asavaaderivative work: A. Parrot [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Today, Egyptologists believe the Egyptians portrayed the Eye of Ra with similar imagery to that employed to represent the Eye of Horus.

Some scholars contend Ra’s sun-disc encircled by two uraeus cobras came to represent the Egyptian symbol for the Eye of Ra.

The ancient Egyptians attributed several major goddesses as personifying of this icon, including Wadjet, Hathor, Mut, Bastet, and Sekhmet.

Eye of Ra’s Essence

To the ancient Egyptians, the Eye of Ra symbolized the sun. It was frequently associated with the sun’s awesome destructive power, although ancient Egyptians also employed it to protect themselves, their homes and important buildings such as royal palaces, temples and shrines.

The Eye of Ra also came to represent royal authority.

Reflecting On The Past

The Eye of Ra represents another manifestation of how destruction and protection together with the eternal struggle between the forces of balance and harmony and those of chaos and evil lay at the heart of ancient Egyptian belief systems.

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Header image courtesy: Polyester Kompak [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

David Rymer BA MBT

David is a freelance writer, non-fiction and fiction author and university lecturer in journalism, marketing and law. He has been based in the Middle East for over a decade travelling extensively in the region, including Egypt indulging in his passion for archaeology. He amuses himself in his down time by writing.

David can be found at @daviddoeswords and www.zaharablu.com

Cite this article

David Rymer BA MBT, "The Eye of Ra," Give Me History, March 18, 2019, https://givemehistory.com/the-eye-of-ra.

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