RA
Sun


   The single most important, symbolic, and venerated symbol among the Egyptians was that of the sun. Most of the principal gods of Egypt were associated with the sun in some phase of its journey through the sky or its journey through the underworld at night. The sun itself was revered as a god, first under the name Horus (the sun was the eye of Horus), later as Re, and then Amun-Re. Both Horus and Re were falcon-headed gods; the sun is the Horus's eye, but Re wears the sun on top of his head. The Egyptians represented the sun several different ways: as a falcon's eye, as a disk giving off life-giving rays, as the vagina or womb of the sky-goddess Nut, or with a cobra's (iaret) head, called a uraeus , wrapped around it and extending out from it. The sun represented many things to the Egyptians: it was a giver of life (and so Re is often depicted holding an ankh, a symbol of eternity and life), and a very powerful and potent symbol of the underlying regularity and rationality of the universe, a stable and enduring symbol that the gods were ruled by Ma'at. For the universe to the Egyptians was above everything else a highly rational and stable place, full of predictable events (the flooding of the Nile, the passing of the seasons) and astonishing regularity. Nothing symbolizes this rationality and regularity quite as powerfully as the daily course of the sun. The sun in its everlasting and regular journey passed through two worlds: during the day, it passed through the upper world, bringing life and light with it, and during the night, it passed through the Underworld, bringing renewal and life to the dead souls.

Back to the Egyptian Underworld

World Cultures

World Cultures Home Page


1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 4-8-97