Eye of Horus

Eye of Horus | All seeing eye | Courtesy of Wikipedia |

Since ancient times, the Eye of Horus, which is also referred to as the “all seeing eye,” is one of the most recognized symbols of ancient Egypt. The Egyptian symbol for the goddess Wedjat was used for protection, for healing, as well as for mathematical and medicinal calculations. The word Wedjat means sound, and it is the name of a cobra goddess often depicted as a rearing cobra. The all seeing eye continued in Egyptian civilization and was in use for thousands of years and still continues to be used today.1

According to Egyptian mythology, the god Horus lost his left eye in one of his struggles with the god Set, the brother of Osiris, for the right to rule Egypt, and to avenge the death of his father Osiris. The eye was later restored by the god Hathor, and his restoration came to symbolize the process of making whole and healing. Some other versions of the story indicate that the god Thoth restored the eye and not Hathor. The story states that the restored eye became a symbol of light, and represented protection, strength, and perfection. Although another version of the myth states that it was in fact the right eye and not his left, and that it represented the sun that was torn out again by Set during one of their battles.1

System parts of eye assigned fractional equivalents | Courtesy of Wikipedia |

Thoth then restored all of the eye except a small piece that became the origin of the Horus-eye fractions. The right side of the eye equaled 1/2, the pupil 1/4, the eyebrow 1/8, the left side of the eye 1/16, the curved tail 1/32, and the teardrop 1/64. Once these fractions were added, they total 63/64, known in mathematical circles as the reciprocal 2N series and a complementary fraction. The Horus eye fractions were used for measuring grains and medicines.3

The right eye is said to be symbolic of the sun, the day, and its power. The left eye represents the waxing and waning properties of the moon–the Horus or light of the night. The two-winged eyes represent the two divisions of heaven: north and south, and sun and moon.  The image uraeus was a symbol of kingship and power and said to be worn on top of the forehead. The Wedjat was also depicted as a leonine form known as the Eye of Ra. The Eye of Horus survived beyond ancient Egypt in various cultural, mystic, esoteric, and, more recently, neo-Egyptian traditions. The masonic symbol of the eye of Providence, which appears on U.S. currency, is said to derive from the Eye of Horus, as does the Rx symbol used by the pharmaceutical industry. Although some people believe the evil eye is part of the Wedjat tradition, it’s not, even though some sources may link the two. Therefore, the Wedjat is still popular as both a symbol and an amulet, either for protection or for its association with ancient Egyptian culture.4

  1. Encyclopedia of African Region, 2009, s.v. “Eye of Horus, ” by Denise Martin.
  2. Encyclopedia of African Region, 2009, s.v. “Eye of Horus, ” by Denise Martin.
  3. Edward Hincks, “On the Age of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Manetho,” The Transaction of the Royal Irish Academy Vol.21 (1864): 3-10.
  4. Edward Hincks, “On the Age of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Manetho,” The Transaction of the Royal Irish Academy Vol.21 (1864): 3-10.
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51 Comments

  • The Eye of Horus is one of the most famous and well known religious symbols from the ancient world. It was interesting to hear more about where the origins of this symbol are. I was really into mythology as a kid and this was one symbol that I saw often and I was curious about what it symbolized and where it came from. I did not realize that the parts of the eye represented different fractions and that they were used for measuring things in Egypt. I am glad that I was able to learn about the more practical parts of this ancient symbol.

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