Ra

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Ra
Re-Horakhty.svg
In one of his many forms, Ra, god of the sun, has the head of a falcon and the sun-disk inside a cobra resting on his head.
Name in hieroglyphs
Ra
Ra
Ra
Ra
Ra

or
Ra
Ra
Ra

or
RaRa
Major cult center Heliopolis
SymbolSun disk
Personal information
Consort Hathor, Sekhmet, Bastet and sometimes Satet
Offspring Shu, Tefnut, Hathor, Sekhmet, Bastet, Satet, Ma'at and sometimes Serket
ParentsNone (self-created), alternatively Neith (in some accounts) or Ptah (in others)
Siblings Apep, Sobek and sometimes Serket

Ra ( /rɑː/ ; [1] Ancient Egyptian : rꜥ or ; also transliterated rˤw; cuneiform: 𒊑𒀀ri-a or 𒊑𒅀ri-ia) [2] or Re ( /r/ ; Coptic : ⲣⲏ, ) is the ancient Egyptian deity of the sun. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries BC, he had become one of the most important gods in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun. Ra was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the Earth, and the underworld. [3]

Coptic language Latest stage of the Egyptian language

Coptic or Coptic Egyptian, is the latest stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century as an official language. Egyptian began to be written in the Coptic alphabet, an adaptation of the Greek alphabet with the addition of six or seven signs from Demotic to represent Egyptian sounds the Greek language did not have, in the 1st century AD.

Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals that formed an integral part of ancient Egyptian society. It centered on the Egyptians' interaction with many deities believed to be present in, and in control of, the world. Rituals such as prayer and offerings were provided to the gods to gain their favor. Formal religious practice centered on the pharaoh, the rulers of Egypt, believed to possess a divine power by virtue of their position. They acted as intermediaries between their people and the gods, and were obligated to sustain the gods through rituals and offerings so that they could maintain maat, the order of the cosmos. The state dedicated enormous resources to Egyptian rituals and to the construction of the temples.

Solar deity Sky deity who represents the Sun

A solar deity is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and Sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms. The Sun is sometimes referred to by its Latin name Sol or by its Greek name Helios. The English word sun stems from Proto-Germanic *sunnǭ.

Contents

Ra was portrayed as a falcon and shared characteristics with the sky god Horus. At times the two deities were merged as Ra-Horakhty, "Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons". In the New Kingdom, when the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra into Amun-Ra.

Falcon genus of birds

Falcons are birds of prey in the genus Falco, which includes about 40 species. Falcons are widely distributed on all continents of the world except Antarctica, though closely related raptors did occur there in the Eocene.

Horus Egyptian war deity

Horus is one of the most significant ancient Egyptian deities. He was worshipped from at least the late prehistoric Egypt until the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Roman Egypt. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists. These various forms may possibly be different manifestations of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner falcon or peregrine falcon, or as a man with a falcon head.

Amun is a major ancient Egyptian deity who appears as a member of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad. Amun was attested from the Old Kingdom together with his wife Amaunet. With the 11th dynasty, Amun rose to the position of patron deity of Thebes by replacing Montu.

The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, had its center in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city.

Mnevis deity

Mnevis is the hellenized name of an ancient Egyptian bull god which had its centre of worship at Heliopolis, and was known by ancient Egyptians as Mer-wer or Nem-wer.

Heliopolis (ancient Egypt) City of ancient Egypt

Heliopolis was a major city of ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptian name of the city was I͗wnw or Iunu. It was the capital of the 13th or Heliopolite Nome of Lower Egypt and a major religious center. It is now located in Ayn Shams, a northeastern suburb of Cairo.

All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra. In some accounts humans were created from Ra's tears and sweat, hence the Egyptians call themselves the "Cattle of Ra". In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them.

Book of the Heavenly Cow

The Book of the Heavenly Cow, or the Book of the Cow of Heaven, is an Ancient Egyptian text thought to have originated during the Amarna Period and, in part, describes the reasons for the imperfect state of the world in terms of humankind's rebellion against the supreme sun god, Ra. Divine punishment was inflicted through the goddess Hathor, with the survivors suffering through separation from Ra, who now resided in the sky on the back of Nut, the heavenly cow.

Sekhmet Egyptian deity

In Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet, also spelled Sakhmet, Sekhet, or Sakhet, among other spellings, is a warrior goddess as well as goddess of healing. She is depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. It was said that her breath formed the desert. She was seen as the protector of the pharaohs and led them in warfare.

Religious roles

The sun as a creator

The sun is the giver of life, controlling the ripening of crops which were worked by man. Because of the life giving qualities of the sun the Egyptians worshiped the sun as a god. The creator of the universe and the giver of life the sun or Ra represented life, warmth and growth. Since the people regarded Ra as a principal god, creator of the universe and the source of life he had much influence over the people which led to him being one of the most worshiped of all the Egyptian gods and even considered King of the Gods. At an early period in Egyptian history his influence spread throughout the whole country, bringing multiple representations in form and in name. The most common form combinations are with Atum (his human form) Khepra (the scarab beetle) and Horus (the falcon). The form which he usually appears as is that of a man with a falcon head which is due to his combination with Horus another sky god. On top his head sits a solar disc with a cobra which in many myths represents the eye of Ra. At the beginning of time, when there was nothing but chaos the sun god existed alone in the watery mass of Nun which filled the universe. [4] "I am Atum when he was alone in Nun, I am Ra when he dawned, when he began to rule that which he had made." [4] This passage talks about how Atum created everything in human form out of the chaos and how Ra than began to rule over the earth where humans and divine beings coexisted. By having sexual intercourse with himself he spat out of his mouth the god Shu god of air and the goddess of moisture Tefnut. [5] The siblings symbolized two universal principles of humans: life and right (justice). Ra was believed to have created all forms of life by calling them into existence by uttering their secret names. In some accounts humans were created from Ra's tears and sweat. [4] According to one myth the first portion of earth came into being when the sun god summoned it out of the watery mass of Nun. In the myth of the Celestial Cow (the sky was thought of as a huge cow, the goddess Meht-urt) it is recounted how mankind plotted against [6] Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them. Extensions of Ra's power were often shown as the eye of Ra, which were the female versions of the sun god. Ra had three daughters Bastet, Sekhmet, and Hathor which were all considered the eye of Ra who would seek out his vengeance. Sekhmet was the Eye of Ra and was created by the fire in Ra's eye. She was violent and sent to slaughter the people who betrayed Ra, but when calm she became the more kind and forgiving goddess Hathor. Sekhmet was the powerful warrior and protector while Bastet, who was depicted as a cat, was shown as gentile and nurturing.

Bastet Egyptian deity

Bastet or Bast was a goddess of ancient Egyptian religion, worshiped as early as the Second Dynasty. Her name also is rendered as B'sst, Baast, Ubaste, and Baset. In ancient Greek religion, she was known as Ailuros.

In the underworld

Ra was thought to travel on the Atet, two solar barques called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years) or morning boat and the Mesektet or evening boat. [7] These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the Duat, the literal underworld of Egypt. While Ra was on the Mesektet, he was in his ram-headed form. [7] When Ra traveled in his sun boat, he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command), as well as Heka (magic power). Sometimes, members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set, who overcame the serpent Apophis, and Mehen, who defended against the monsters of the underworld. When Ra was in the underworld, he would visit all of his various forms. [7]

Atet Solar barge of the sun god Ra in Ancient Egyptian mythology

The Atet was the solar barge of the sun god Ra in the mythology of the ancient Egyptians. It was also known as the Mandjet, the Boat of Millions of Years, and, during the night, as the Mesektet.

Sia or Saa, an ancient Egyptian god, was the deification of perception in the Heliopolitan Ennead cosmogony and is probably equivalent to the intellectual energies of the heart of Ptah in the Memphite cosmogeny. He also had a connection with writing and was often shown in anthropomorphic form holding a papyrus scroll. This papyrus was thought to embody intellectual achievements.

Hu (mythology) Egyptian deity

The Egyptian god Hu was one of the minor gods in some respects, but he was one of the most important gods for those serious about Egyptian deities. Hu is the power of the spoken word. He personifies the authority of utterance.

Apophis, the god of chaos, was an enormous serpent who attempted to stop the sun boat's journey every night by consuming it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare. During the evening, the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum or in the form of a ram. The night boat would carry him through the underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth. These myths of Ra represented the sun rising as the rebirth of the sun by the sky goddess Nut; thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god as well. [8]

When Ra was in the underworld, he merged with Osiris, the god of the dead. [7]

Iconography

Figure of Ra-Horakhty, 3rd century BC Figure of Re-Horakhty, 305-200 B.C.E., 71.40.jpg
Figure of Ra-Horakhty, 3rd century BC
Ra-Khepri (solar disc and scarab beetle). Ra-Khepri (solar disc and scarab beetle).svg
Ra-Khepri (solar disc and scarab beetle).

Ra was represented in a variety of forms. The most usual form was a man with the head of a falcon and a solar disk on top and a coiled serpent around the disk. [7] Other common forms are a man with the head of a beetle (in his form as Khepri), or a man with the head of a ram. Ra was also pictured as a full-bodied ram, beetle, phoenix, heron, serpent, bull, cat, or lion, among others. [9]

He was most commonly featured with a ram's head in the Underworld. [7] In this form, Ra is described as being the "ram of the west" or "ram in charge of his harem. [7]

In some literature, Ra is described as an aging king with golden flesh, silver bones, and hair of lapis lazuli. [7]

Worship

The chief cultic center of Ra was Iunu "the Place of Pillars", later known to the Ptolemaic Kingdom as Heliopolis (Koinē Greek : Ἡλιούπολις, lit. "Sun City") [3] and today located in the suburbs of Cairo. He was identified with the local sun god Atum. As Atum or Atum-Ra, he was reckoned the first being and the originator of the Ennead ("The Nine"), consisting of Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys. The holiday of "The Receiving of Ra" was celebrated on May 26 in the Gregorian calendar. [10]

Ra's local cult began to grow from roughly the Second Dynasty, establishing him as a sun deity. By the Fourth Dynasty, pharaohs were seen as Ra's manifestations on earth, referred to as "Sons of Ra". His worship increased massively in the Fifth Dynasty, when Ra became a state deity and pharaohs had specially aligned pyramids, obelisks, and sun temples built in his honor. The rulers of the Fifth Dynasty told their followers that they were sons of Ra himself and the wife of the high priest of Heliopolis. [7] These pharaohs spent much of Egypt's money on sun temples. [7] The first Pyramid Texts began to arise, giving Ra more and more significance in the journey of the pharaoh through the Duat (underworld). [7]

During the Middle Kingdom, Ra was increasingly affiliated and combined with other chief deities, especially Amun and Osiris.

Ra on the solar barque. Ra Barque.jpg
Ra on the solar barque.

At the time of the New Kingdom of Egypt, the worship of Ra had become more complicated and grander. The walls of tombs were dedicated to extremely detailed texts that depicted Ra's journey through the underworld. Ra was said to carry the prayers and blessings of the living with the souls of the dead on the sun boat. The idea that Ra aged with the sun became more popular during the rise of the New Kingdom.

Many acts of worship included hymns, prayers, and spells to help Ra and the sun boat overcome Apep.

The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire put an end to the worship of Ra. [11]

Relationship to other gods

Fragment of a limestone stela of Djiho (Djedher), the God's Father of Min. Ptolemaic, 27th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London Fragment of a limestone stela of Djiho (Djedher), the God's Father of Min. Ptolemaic, 27th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London.jpg
Fragment of a limestone stela of Djiho (Djedher), the God's Father of Min. Ptolemaic, 27th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

Gods merged with Ra

Ra and Amun, from the tomb of Ramses IV. Horus and Amon - Ramses IV tomb.jpg
Ra and Amun, from the tomb of Ramses IV.

As with most widely worshiped Egyptian deities, Ra's identity was often combined with other gods, forming an interconnection between deities.

Amun and Amun-Ra
Amun was a member of the Ogdoad, representing creation energies with Amaunet, a very early patron of Thebes. He was believed to create via breath and thus was identified with the wind rather than the sun. As the cults of Amun and Ra became increasingly popular in Upper and Lower Egypt respectively they were combined to create Amun-Ra, a solar creator god. It is hard to distinguish exactly when this combination happened, but references to Amun-Ra appeared in pyramid texts as early as the fifth dynasty. The most common belief is that Amun-Ra was invented as a new state deity by the Theban rulers of the New Kingdom to unite worshipers of Amun with the older cult of Ra around the 18th dynasty. [12] Amun-Ra was given the official title "king of the gods" by worshippers, and images show the combined deity as a red-eyed man with a lion's head that had a surrounding solar disk. [12]
Atum and Atum-Ra
Atum-Ra (or Ra-Atum) was another composite deity formed from two completely separate deities, however Ra shared more similarities with Atum than with Amun. Atum was more closely linked with the sun, and was also a creator god of the Ennead. Both Ra and Atum were regarded as the father of the deities and pharaohs and were widely worshiped. In older myths, Atum was the creator of Tefnut and Shu, and he was born from ocean Nun.
Imentet and Ra from the tomb of Nefertari, 13th century BC Maler der Grabkammer der Nefertari 001.jpg
Imentet and Ra from the tomb of Nefertari, 13th century BC
Ra-Horakhty
Pyramidion of Khonsu, with the image of Ra-Horakhty in the middle. Pyramidion of Khonsu font.jpg
Pyramidion of Khonsu, with the image of Ra-Horakhty in the middle.
In later Egyptian mythology, Ra-Horakhty was more of a title or manifestation than a composite deity. It translates as "Ra (who is) Horus of the Horizons". It was intended to link Horakhty (as a sunrise-oriented aspect of Horus) to Ra. It has been suggested that Ra-Horakhty simply refers to the sun's journey from horizon to horizon as Ra, or that it means to show Ra as a symbolic deity of hope and rebirth. (See earlier section #The sun).
Khepri and Khnum
Khepri was a scarab beetle who rolled up the sun in the mornings and was sometimes seen as the morning manifestation of Ra. Similarly, the ram-headed god Khnum was also seen as the evening manifestation of Ra. The idea of different deities (or different aspects of Ra) ruling over different times of the day was fairly common but variable. With Khepri and Khnum taking precedence over sunrise and sunset, Ra often was the representation of midday when the sun reached its peak at noon. Sometimes different aspects of Horus were used instead of Ra's aspects.
Raet-Tawy
Raet or Raet-Tawy was a female aspect of Ra; she did not have much of importance independently of him. In some myths she was considered to be either Ra's wife or his daughter. [13]

Gods created by Ra

Bastet
Bastet (also called Bast) is sometimes known as the "cat of Ra". [14] She is also his daughter and is associated with Ra's instrument of vengeance, the sun-god's eye. [14] Bastet is known for decapitating the serpent Apophis (Ra's sworn enemy and the "God" of Chaos) to protect Ra. [14] In one myth, Ra sent Bastet as a lioness to Nubia. [14]
Sekhmet
Sekhmet is another daughter of Ra. [15] Sekhmet was depicted as a lioness or large cat, and was an "eye of Ra", or an instrument of the sun god's vengeance. [15] In one myth, Sekhmet was so filled with rage that Ra was forced to turn her into a cow so that she would not cause unnecessary harm. [15] In another myth, Ra fears that mankind is plotting against him and sends Hathor (another daughter of Ra) to punish humanity. While slaughtering humans she takes the form of Sekhmet. To prevent her from killing all humanity, Ra orders that beer be dyed red and poured out on the land. Mistaking the beer for blood, Sekhmet drinks it, and upon becoming intoxicated, she reverts to her pacified form, Hathor. [16]
Hathor
Hathor is another daughter of Ra. [17] When Ra feared that mankind was plotting against him, he sent Hathor as an "eye of Ra". [15] In one myth, Hathor danced naked in front of Ra until he laughed to cure him of a fit of sulking. [17] When Ra was without Hathor, he fell into a state of deep depression. [18]

Other gods

Neith, Brooklyn Museum Neith Generatrice (Athene, Physis, Minerve), N372.2 C35.jpg
Neith, Brooklyn Museum
Ptah
Ptah is rarely mentioned in the literature of Old Kingdom pyramids. [19] This is believed by some to be a result of the Ra-worshipping people of Heliopolis being the main writers of these inscriptions. [19] While some believed that Ra is self-created, others believed that Ptah created him. [20]
Isis
In one myth, Isis created a serpent to poison Ra and only gave him the antidote when he revealed his true name to her. Isis passed this name on to Horus, bolstering his royal authority. [21]
Apep
Apep, also called Apophis, was the god of chaos and Ra's arch-enemy. He was said to lie just below the horizon line, trying to devour Ra as Ra traveled through the underworld.

See also

Related Research Articles

Khepri Egyptian deity of the rising sun

Khepri is a god in ancient Egyptian religion who represents the rising or morning sun. By extension, he can also represent creation and the renewal of life.

Atum Ancient Egyptian creator deity

Atum, sometimes rendered as Atem or Tem, is an important deity in Egyptian mythology.

Tefnut Ancient Egyptian goddess

Tefnut is a deity of moisture, moist air, dew and rain in Ancient Egyptian religion. She is the sister and consort of the air god Shu and the mother of Geb and Nut.

Ennead group of nine deities in Egyptian mythology worshipped at Heliopolis

The Ennead or Great Ennead was a group of nine deities in Egyptian mythology worshiped at Heliopolis: the sun god Atum; his children Shu and Tefnut; their children Geb and Nut; and their children Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys. The Ennead sometimes includes the son of Osiris and Isis, Horus. It rose to importance in Dynasties V and VI and remained prominent in Egypt into its occupation by the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty established by Alexander the Great's successor in the area, Ptolemy I.

Hathor Egyptian goddess of love, joy, childbirth, heaven, music, and women.

Hathor was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion who played a wide variety of roles. As a sky deity, she was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra, both of whom were connected with kingship, and thus she was the symbolic mother of their earthly representatives, the pharaohs. She was one of several goddesses who acted as the Eye of Ra, Ra's feminine counterpart, and in this form she had a vengeful aspect that protected him from his enemies. Her beneficent side represented music, dance, joy, love, sexuality and maternal care, and she acted as the consort of several male deities and the mother of their sons. These two aspects of the goddess exemplified the Egyptian conception of femininity. Hathor crossed boundaries between worlds, helping deceased souls in the transition to the afterlife.

Meretseger Egyptian deity

Meretseger was a Theban cobra-goddess in ancient Egyptian religion, in charge with guarding and protecting the vast Theban Necropolis — on the west bank of the Nile, in front of Thebes — and especially the heavily guarded Valley of the Kings. Her cult was typical of the New Kingdom of Egypt.

Index of Egyptian mythology articles

This is an index of Egyptian mythology articles.

Eye of Ra

The Eye of Ra or Eye of Re is a being in ancient Egyptian mythology that functions as a feminine counterpart to the sun god Ra and a violent force that subdues his enemies. The Eye is an extension of Ra's power, equated with the disk of the sun, but it also behaves as an independent entity, which can be personified by a wide variety of Egyptian goddesses, including Hathor, Sekhmet, Bastet, Wadjet, and Mut. The Eye goddess acts as mother, sibling, consort, and daughter of the sun god. She is his partner in the creative cycle in which he begets the renewed form of himself that is born at dawn. The Eye's violent aspect defends Ra against the agents of disorder that threaten his rule. This dangerous aspect of the Eye goddess is often represented by a lioness or by the uraeus, or cobra, a symbol of protection and royal authority. The Eye of Ra is similar to the Eye of Horus, which belongs to a different god, Horus, but represents many of the same concepts. The disastrous effects when the Eye goddess rampages out of control and the efforts of the gods to return her to a benign state are a prominent motif in Egyptian mythology.

Iusaaset or Iusaas is a primordial goddess in Ancient Egyptian religion. In Egyptian texts, she is described as "the grandmother of all of the deities". This allusion is without any reference to a grandfather, so there might have been a very early, but now lost, myth with parthenogenesis as the means of the birth of the deities from the region where her cult arose near the delta of the Nile. There are many alternative spellings of her name, including Iusaaset, Iusaas, Juesaes, Ausaas, and Jusas, as well as in Greek Saosis.

Ancient Egyptian deities gods and goddesses worshipped in ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian deities are the gods and goddesses worshipped in ancient Egypt. The beliefs and rituals surrounding these gods formed the core of ancient Egyptian religion, which emerged sometime in prehistory. Deities represented natural forces and phenomena, and the Egyptians supported and appeased them through offerings and rituals so that these forces would continue to function according to maat, or divine order. After the founding of the Egyptian state around 3100 BC, the authority to perform these tasks was controlled by the pharaoh, who claimed to be the gods' representative and managed the temples where the rituals were carried out.

Werethekau Egyptian deity

Werethekau was an Ancient Egyptian deity. She served as the personification of supernatural powers.

Horned deity

Deities depicted with horns or antlers are found in many different religions across the world.

Egyptian mythology

Egyptian mythology is the collection of myths from ancient Egypt, which describe the actions of the Egyptian gods as a means of understanding the world around them. The beliefs that these myths express are an important part of ancient Egyptian religion. Myths appear frequently in Egyptian writings and art, particularly in short stories and in religious material such as hymns, ritual texts, funerary texts, and temple decoration. These sources rarely contain a complete account of a myth and often describe only brief fragments.

Ancient Egyptian creation myths

Ancient Egyptian creation myths are the ancient Egyptian accounts of the creation of the world. The Pyramid Texts, tomb wall decorations and writings, dating back to the Old Kingdom have given us most of our information regarding early Egyptian creation myths. These myths also form the earliest religious compilations in the world. The ancient Egyptians had many creator gods and associated legends. Thus the world or more specifically Egypt was created in diverse ways according to different parts of the country.

Ancient Egyptian deities that have appeared in popular culture include Set, Thoth, Khonsu, Ra and Horus.

Gate deities of the underworld

The Gate deities of the underworld were ancient Egyptian minor deities charged with guarding the gates of the Egyptian underworld.

References

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Further reading