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Home > Egyptian Symbolism

Egyptian Symbolism
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Green glazed stone from Amenhotep III, used to dispatch news. This one announces the opening of a lake and pleasure garden for Queen Tiy.

In some stories, the scarab is a symbol of the sun, and linked with Ra. In an Egyptian creation legend the lotus rises from the sea, and opens to reveal a scarab which transforms itself into a boy who weeps - his tears become mankind.

In this way, men are children of Ra. It also symbolizes self-creative power. As Khepri, "He who becomes" he was the aspect of the rising sun. Ra was associated with the sun at its' zenith.

Scarabs were believed to be all males, and represented virility and the generative power of life.In burial rites, the scarab was an important symbol, and was placed over the heart as a symbol of renewed life, to stimulate the rebirth into eternal life. They were meant to be weighed against the feather of truth during final judgement, and were often inscribed with a spell from the Book of the Dead.

bastBast, or Bastet, was originally a lioness-goddess, (sometimes confused with Sekhmet) personifying the fertilizing warmth of the sun. Her sacred animal later became the cat. She is the goddess of pleasure and joy, and a lover of music and dance.

She is also the goddess of love and the moon, with an alert cat - its pupils mimicking the waxing and waning of the moon.

Her temple at Bubastis was one of the most elegant in Egypt, and the location of joyous festivals.

There were huge celebrations in her name, attracting hundreds of thousands. In return, Bast bestowed mental and physical health. She also protected against contagious disease and evil spirits.

Bast was related to the sun-god; he was either her father or her brother-husband.

bast with kittens sekmet
Bast with her sacred animals. In her right hand she holds a sistrum, a musical instrument which drove away evil spirits Sekhmet, the goddess of war and battle. "By thy life when I slay men my heart rejoices."

The Ankh is an ancient symbol of life. In Egypt dieties were shown carrying the ankh as a symbol of the gift of eternal life promised to their royal or priestly servants. The ankh is formed of the combined male and female symbols of Osiris and Isis, the union of heaven and earth. It was also the "Key of the Nile" as a symbol of the mystic union of Isis and Osiris which initiated the annual Nile flood, the source of so much of Egypt's fertility and life. It also signifies immortality, "Life to come", "Time that is to come' with its keylike shape symbolizing the ability to unlock the doors of the underworld.
ankh mirror case
scarab god
scarab bracelet
scarab and baboons
A wooden mirror case found in Tut's tomb. It is overlaid in sheet gold. The inlay is colored glass, carnelian and quartz. The word "ankh" also means "mirror". This may be a representation of Ra due to the association of the scarab to the sun. Bracelet from Tutankhamun - Gold and Lapis Lazuli Pendant of gold, with lapis scarab and carnelian sun. The baboons are worshiping the sun. The strips of lapis above and below represent the sky and sea.

tutankhamun golden shrine wall
statue of married couple

Husband and wife.
Their childrens' names are also engraved on the seat.

goddess bowl Bowl with the face of the goddess Hathor. At each side are three lotus flowers and two lotus buds. The bowl is covered in turquoise enamel.
Tutankhamun and his queen Ankhesenamun are shown in relaxed,
informal poses on the golden shrine found in his tomb.


isisIsis pictured nursing her son, Horus. She is often shown in this guise.

Isis-Hathor were originally two separate goddesses, but through time and confusion of their aspects, they were combined. Isis' cult grew in importance until she absorbed nearly all other goddesses, and now Nut, Hathor, and Isis are virtually interchangeable as mother-goddess.

Hathor had many forms. She was the patron of foreigners and mother of the Egyptians. She was sometimes pictured as the winged cow of creation who gave birth to the universe. Because she was the mother, she owned the bodies of the dead, making her queen of the underworld. She was also patron of bodily pleasures - her festivals were carnivals of intoxication.

Isis was eventually identified as the primary - the mother-goddess. She was the mother of the divine child, Horus. She was the sister-wife of Osiris, and was instrumental in the civilizing of Egypt by teaching how to grind corn, spin flax, weave cloth, cure disease, and instituted marriage.

According to legend, after their brother Set killed Osiris, she went in search of his body. Set had cut Osiris' body into fourteen pieces and scattered them so he would be forever destroyed. She eventually recovered all but the phallus. Isis then performed the first rites of embalmment, which restored Osiris to eternal life. Her powers allowed her to reanimate Osiris in order to conceive Horus. Isis raised Horus in the marshes, hidden from Set, who was on the throne.

Isis' symbol is the throne - pharohs were often shown seated on her lap and protected by her wings.Isis, in Osirian myth, represents the rich plains of Egypt, made fruitful by the annual inundation of the Nile (Osiris), separated from her by the arid desert (Set)


Old Kingdom


Old Kingdom


New Kingdom

Hathor was sometimes seen as a sky goddess, represented as a vast cow who straddled the heavens with her four legs marking the four cardinal points. The king was often depicted as being suckled by the cow form of Hathor.

Isis promised - "You shall live in blessing, you shall live glorious in my protection; and when you have fulfilled your allotted span of life and descend to the underworld, there too you shall see me, as you see me now, shining. And if you show yourself obidient to my will know that I alone have permitted you to extend your life beyond the time allocated you by your destiny."

I will overcome Fate.


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