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Horus


Horus is one of the most universally important gods of the Egyptian pantheon, which is attested to by the earliest records. According to legend he was born at Khemmis in the Nile delta region, his father Osiris was already dead, murdered by his brother Seth (Set), and his mother Isis conceived Horus by magical means; a complex genealogy recognizes him as Horus, Horus the child (Harpokrates) and Horus the elder. In legend, he was the first ruler of all Egypt after an eighty-four year struggle with his uncle Seth.

He was the falcon-headed sky god, usually depicted wholly as a hawk, or in human form having a falcon's head. According to tradition his mother raised him in secrecy in the papyrus marshes of the delta; therefore also is recognized and depicted as a falcon standing atop of a column of papyrus reeds. As Horus the child he is drawn naked with fingers in his mouth.

Horus is a form of the sun god; the alternative name Harakhte (or Harmakhis) translates "Horus of the horizon" and he is occasionally depicted as a sun disc mounted between falcon's wings. He once symbolized the kings of Egypt, and in early dynastic times the ruler was a "follower of Horus," but by 3000 BC he became Horus in life and Osiris in death.

As Harpokrates, Horus is depicted naked and being suckled on Isis' knee, and he often appears on amulets extending protection against lions, crocodiles, snakes and other dangerous animals. As the adult son of Isis, "Haroeris" he performed the "opening of the mouth" ceremony on his dead father, Osiris, and revenged his father's death, regaining the throne of Egypt from Seth. Horus can also be the son of Horus the elder, Haroeris, and Hathor.

The significance of the "Eye of Horus" arises from the legend of Isis, sister and wife of Oriris, who conceived Horus by magical means. According to this Egyptian legend Isis took refuge in the marshes of the delta where she gave birth to Horus and raised him in almost complete secrecy. When reaching maturity Horus sought to avenge the death of his father in a single combat with Seth, his murderous uncle, and lost an eye. Seth was either killed or emasculated and therefore judged the loser by the assembly of gods. Although Seth restored the eye, Horus gave it to Osiris, and replaced it with the divine serpent, thenceforth served as the emblem of royalty. Horus, the falcon-headed sky god, succeeded the anthropomorphic god of vegetation, Osiris, as the king, the pharaoh of all Egypt.

This legend possesses archetypal significance: just as Isis was the archetype of the dutiful and mourning wife, so is Horus that if the dutiful son. Originating in Upper Egypt as a solar deity he was perhaps identified with Re. On death pharaoh was thought to become Osiris, and his successor Horus and Re. A.G.H.


Sources:

Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman's Sons, 1980, p. 35
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 107