In Ancient Egypt, the Sun God Ra was believed to rule in all parts of the created world; the sun, the sky, the earth, and the Underworld. He was commonly depicted with the head of a falcon. Some people mistake the images of Ra with Horus. You can tell them apart from their headdress. Ra is shown with a sun disk on its falcon head, while Horus is depicted with having a Pschent headdress, which is a double crown worn by rulers in ancient Egypt.
The Creator of all Things
Mainly believed by the cult members of Heliopolis, all forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra after he called each of them by their secret names. Man was believed to be created by Ra’s tears and sweat, many Egyptians call themselves the Cattle of Ra. Cult followers believed that Ra was self-created, but followers of Ptah believed that Ra was created by Ptah.
Ptah is the demiurge of Memphis, God of Craftsmen and God of Architects. In the Trait of Memphis, he is the husband of Sekhmet, a warrior Goddess depicted as a lioness and the father of Nefertum. Originally depicted as a lotus flower that had risen from the primal waters during the creation of the world.
He was also believed to be the father of Imhotep, a high priest of the sun God Ra in Heliopolis and Chancellor to the Pharaoh Djoser. In a passage taken from the Book of the Dead, Ra cuts himself, and his blood transforms into two intellectual personifications. Hu, (Authority), and Sia, (Mind).
The Sun God
The sun represented light, warmth, and the possibility of growth to the Egyptians. This made the sun deity essentially important, Ra was the ultimate ruler of all that he created. The sun disk seen on Ra’s head was the body or eye of Ra. Ra created by his own power, Shu and Tefnut. Shu was the God of the wind, and Tefnut was the Goddess of the rain.
Sekhmet was the Eye of Ra and was believed to be created by the fire in Ra’s eye. She was depicted as a violent lioness sent to slaughter the people who betrayed Ra, but in mythology she was later turned into the more peacefully depicted sky deity, Hathor.
The Egyptians believed that in the Underworld, Ra traveled on the Atet or the solar barge of the sun god Ra. Also known as the Mandjet, which is Egyptian for The Boat of Millions of Years. During the night, it was known as the Mesektat.
It was believed that Ra traveled through the sky on the barge, providing light to the world and that each Twelfth of his journey formed on of the welve Egyptian hours of the day. Each hour was over seen by a protective deity, like Amun and Hathor.
Ra rode the Atet through the Underworld, with each hour of the night considered a gate overseen by twelve more of these protective deities. These deities were Sia (Perception), and Hu (Command), as well as Heka (Magic Power.) Sometimes members of the Ennead helped him through his journey.
The Ennead was a group of nine deities in Egyptian mythology worshiped at Heliopolis, which members included, sun god Atum; his children Shu and Tefnut; their children Geb and Nut; and their children Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys and later sometimes includes son of Osiris and Isis, Horus. Set sometimes helped Ra on his journey and is known to have overcame The Serpent Apophis, the God of Chaos.
The Serpent Apophis, the God of Chaos was an enormous serpent who attempted to stop the sun boat’s journey every night by consuming it or stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare.
The Egyptians believed that Ra took the form of a Ram in the Underworld and is known as The Ram of the West, or The Ram in Charge of his Harem. He awaited his rebirth, which was when the sun rose. Apophis was believed to have been created from Ra’s umbilical cord and is indicative of ho evil in Egyptian religion is the result of free will rather than a primordial force.
When Ra was in the Underworld, he merged with Osiris, the god of the dead, and became the God of the Dead as well. Passing through all of these while fending off various destructive monsters, Ra reappeared each day on the eastern horizon. Egyptians conceived the idea as Ra’s daily growth, decline, death, and resurrection and is found in the mythology of Egyptian mortuary texts.
Worshiping the Sun Deity
The Place of Pillars, which was later known as Heliopolis, is located today in the suburbs of Cairo. He is commonly identified with the local sun god Atum. As Atum or Atum-Ra, He was the originator of Ennead which included the members, Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.
The Receiving of Ra was celebrated on May twenty-sixth in the Gregorian Calendar. The local cult began to grow during the Second Dynasty, establishing him as a sun deity. It was believed during the Fourth Dynasty that Pharaohs were Ra’s manifestations on earth, and were called The Sons of Ra.
Worshiping the sun deity increased by the masses during the Fifth Dynasty. Pharaohs commanded that pyramids, obelisks, and sun temples be created in Ra’s honor, this made him a state deity. Most of Egypt’s money was spent creating Sun Temples. This was when the first Pyramid Texts were created, this gave Ra more significance in the journey of the Pharaoh through the Underworld.
During the New Kingdom of Egypt, the worship of Ra had become complicated yet grander. Walls of tombs were dedicated to detailed texts that depicted Ra’s journey through the Underworld. It was believed by Egyptians that Ra carried prayers of the living with the dead of the sun boat. The new idea that Ra aged with the sun became more popular and dominant during the New Kingdom.
The End of Ra
The Egyptians time of worship for Ra stopped abruptly during the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. The Rise of the Roman empire put an end to the worship of Ra by the citizens of Egypt and instead of studying texts and prayers of the sun deity as a religion, the study of Ra became purely an academic interest even among the Egyptian priests.
I believe that the study of mythology needs to be rigorously studied to understand and taught with passion to others like any other religion, whether academically or spiritually. I believe it gives us hope and teaches us that even though the world is ever changing, our history including mythology remains in this world today.
Ra was a representation of growth, and light in a time that Egyptians needed something, or someone to raise their hopes and believe that there was a life after death and a life worth living while alive. While reading Archaeological News, almost every Egyptian discovery they find wall paintings depicting Ra, or Horus as well as statues depicting these Gods among many others.
The most recent news I am following is the well-preserved mummy found in Aswan, Egypt. While it is exciting that they have found a well-preserved mummy, it is also extremely exciting for any archaeological, or mythology fanatic, like me, to read about the findings they found outside of the sarcophagus. In this news report, they state they have found a sandstone sarcophagus containing a mummy which dates to 712-332 B.C. on the western bank of the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt.
One of the chambers held the head of a sandstone statue, amulets made of colored stones, a small wooden statue of the god Horus, and wall paintings depicting the gods Hathor, Isis, and Anubis.
– Archaeological News
These four Gods, as mentioned above, were part of the nine members of the Ennead who were worshiped at Heliopolis by Egyptians, Heliopolis is almost ten hours away from the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt and is located today in Cairo. Whether you read them as bed time stories or you love the exciting news of uncovering the past, mythology never gets old.
May Your Stories Be Written in the Stars,
-The Cursed Author