The eye symbol, prominently featured in ancient Egyptian iconography, is a potent symbol embodying protection, health, and restoration. It is most commonly associated with two specific forms: the Eye of Horus and the Eye of Ra, each carrying its unique connotations and insights into the ancient Egyptian belief system.
The Eye of Horus: Symbol of Protection and Healing
The Eye of Horus, also known as the Wadjet, is one of the most recognizable symbols from ancient Egypt. Horus was a sky god, often depicted as a falcon, and his right eye was considered the sun and his left eye the moon.
The myth associated with the Eye of Horus tells of how Horus lost his left eye in a battle with Seth, the god of chaos, who killed Horus’s father, Osiris. The eye was subsequently restored by either Hathor or Thoth, symbolizing healing and restoration. This made the Eye of Horus a powerful amulet, believed to provide health, protection, and rejuvenation. It was often used in jewelry and protective charms and painted on boats and in tombs.
The Eye of Ra: Symbol of Divine Wrath and Power
The Eye of Ra represents a slightly different aspect of the eye symbolism. Ra, the sun god, was among the most important deities in the ancient Egyptian pantheon. His eye, personified as a separate entity, often by goddesses such as Sekhmet, Hathor, or Bastet, is a symbol of divine wrath and destruction.
According to one myth, the Eye of Ra ventures forth to destroy the enemies of Ra but loses control, causing indiscriminate chaos. Ra, regretting his decision, devises a plan to calm the Eye by coloring beer as blood. The Eye drinks it, falls asleep, and humanity is saved. This myth emphasizes the Eye of Ra as a protector of the sun god and an upholder of maat, the cosmic order.
Shared Meanings and Usage
Despite the differences, the Eye of Horus and the Eye of Ra share commonalities. Both are associated with protection, but while the Eye of Horus leans more toward healing and restoration, the Eye of Ra conveys power and wrath.
Both symbols were widely used in ancient Egypt. They appeared in architecture, texts, protective amulets, and royal regalia. The ancient Egyptians also used these symbols in medicine, with different parts of the eye representing fractions and used in measurement.
The Legacy of the Eye Symbol
The eye symbol in ancient Egypt provides deep insights into the civilization’s belief systems and values. Today, the Eye of Horus continues to be a popular symbol of protection, featured in various forms of jewelry and art. This enduring legacy underscores the lasting impact of ancient Egyptian culture and its rich symbolic language.
Wikipedia: Ancient Egypt
History Channel: Ancient Egypt
Live Science: Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt for Kids
British Museum: Ancient Egypt