Who was the ancient Egyptian god Horus?
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Who was Horus?

Good luck charm of the eye of Horus
(Old Kingdom, ca. 2000 BC)

Horus was an Egyptian god, originally from Upper Egypt(Southern Egypt). In the Old Kingdom, people thought of Horus as having the head of a falcon, and his name means "falcon" in Egyptian. The Pharaoh was the human form of Horus, and then when he died, the dead Pharaoh was the human form of Osiris. More generally, Horus was a sky god,the son of the sun god, Re. He was the god of war and the god of protection against evil. A lot of people carried good luck charms in the shape of the eye of Horus, to watch out for their safety.

Hatshepsut and Horus
The Pharaoh Hatshepsut worships falcon-headed Horus
(Temple of Amon, ca. 1500 BC)

But all that gradually changed with the Middle Kingdom. Now people thought of Horus as the son of Isis and Osiris. Horus was born when Isis brought Osiris back to life after Seth killed him. So Horus became a god of new life and rebirth, like the Greek Persephone or Dionysos, or the West Asian Attis or Tammuz, or the Christian Jesus.

In some stories, Horus also had sons of his own. Their mother was usually the same as his own mother, Isis. Mostly what Horus' four sons did was to protect the internal organs of mummies, just as Horus himself protected living people.

Learn by doing: Egyptian afterlife project
More about ancient Egyptian gods

Bibliography and further reading about the Egyptian gods:

Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, by Leonard Fisher (1999). For younger kids.

Isis and Osiris, by Geraldine Harris (1997). A retelling of the story for kids.

The Egypt Game (Yearling Newbery), by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (reprinted 1985). A great kids' story about kids who pretend to be Egyptian gods and goddesses.

Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice, by John Baines, David Silverman, and Leonard Lesko (1991). Pretty hard going, but it will tell you everything you need to know about Egyptian religion.

Isis in the Ancient World, by R.E. Witt (1997). Mostly about the spread of Isis worship to Greece and the Roman Empire.

More about the Egyptian gods
More about ancient Egypt
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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