Egyptian Symbols: Eye Of Horus

The Eye of Horus is a symbol of protection, good health and royal authority bestowed upon the pharaoh and his people. It is known as the udjat from the goddess Wadjet, who is often seen protecting the king and his subordinates. Later on, it became associated with several other goddesses including Sekhmet, Isis, Bastet, Mut, Nekhbet, Tefnut and Hathor.

This symbol appears as human eye with the eyebrow seen in a full-faced person. It is surrounded by markings that are similar to that adorned in the hawk’s eye. More commonly, the right eye represents the udjat but the left eye seen representing it is not uncommon. The reason behind this is that in a connected myth, the sky god’s eyes represented two separate entities: the sun for the right and the moon for the left. Often, the sun is seen as the more powerful eye.

The Eye of Horus is symbolic of Horus’ stature as the son of Osiris and Isis as well as his role as a god of the sky and the sun. In one of the Egyptian lore, in Horus’ battles with Set to avenge his father’s death, he lost his right eye, which was torn by Set into pieces. It was discovered by Thoth lying around so he assembled it restoring the full moon. This relates to the waning and waxing of the moon that happens every lunar month. Each piece of the lost eye was representative of a fraction of descending halves starting from one half (1/2) until one over sixty-four (1/64). When added, the sum of all the parts equaled 63 over 64 (63/64) or close to one but never perfect because perfection is not possible.. After Thoth magical reassembly, he gave the eye back to Horus, who gave it to his deceased father, Osiris, thus bringing him back to life.

The eye of Horus is very popular in amulets. Because of its protective characteristics, even the common people fashion their funerary amulets in udjats using different kinds of precious to semi-precious stones. In fact, the udjat found in the mummy of Shoshenq II was the central element of the several bracelets made from lapis lazuli, gold, carnelian, and faience the mummy wore. The use of the amulets is symbolic of the story of Horus and his reverence to his father and mother. The udjat amulet is believed to be the perfect replacement for any gifts offered everyday by the eldest son in his father’s tomb. Similarly, it is thought of to ward sickness away the same way it brought Osiris back to life. It is also placed on the wrappings above the incisions (where the internal organs were removed) made by the embalmers on the mummy’s body. It is based on the ancient belief that maiming or wounding the body of the deceased signified bad luck. The role of the amulet is to prevent such fate from happening.

There are several stories that involve the eye. It is said to be representative of the principles of Ma’at as it restores the world to order from chaos. It is also assumed that when the eye was given to Osiris, it was used to help him rule the underworld. In this aspect, it became a symbol of life and resurrection. The six parts of the eye was also symbolic of the senses especially in medicinal concoctions and amulets where one half represented the sense of smell, one fourth for the sight, one eighth for the thought, one sixteenth for the hearing, one thirty-second for taste, and one sixty-fourth for the touch.