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Ancient Egyptian Symbols

Travel pictures from Egypt

by Dr. Günther Eichhorn


There were many symbols that the ancient Egyptian used extensively. Many of them had one version associated with Upper Egypt, and another with Lower Egypt. The most obvious were the crowns. The Hedjet or White Crown was the crown of Upper Egypt. The Deshret or Red Crown was the crown of Lower Egypt. After the two parts of Egypt were united, the Pshent, or Double Crown was used by the Pharaohs of both Egypts. Another was the Khepresh or Blue Crown, the war crown that was used by the Pharaoh in war. The Atef was the crown worn by Osiris. It is made up of the white crown of Upper Egypt, the red feathers are representative of Busiris, Osiris's cult center in the Delta.

The Ankh was the key of eternal life. The Gods are often seen holding an ankh to the Pharaoh's lips. This is considered to be an offering of "The Breath of Life", the breath you will need in the afterlife.

The Was Scepter was the symbol of power and dominion. It has the head of a Jackal on top. The Was Scepter is carried by deities as a sign of their power. It is also seen being carried by kings and later by people of lesser stature in mortuary scenes.

The Eye of Horus or Eye of Ra was called the Udjat. It represents the right eye of the Sun God Horus and was also associated with the Sun God Ra. According to legend, the left eye was torn from Horus by his brother Seth. It was magically restored by Thoth, the God of Magick. After the restoration, some stories state, Horus made a gift of the eye to Osiris, which allowed this solar deity to rule the underworld. The Eye of Horus was believed to have healing and protective power, and it was used as a protective amulet, and as a medical measuring device, using the mathematical proportions of the eye to determine the proportions of ingredients in medical preparations) to prepare medications. The Egyptians did write prescriptions. Those prescriptions were first magical verses, and then the real prescription. The Eye of Horus was an important part of the magical part of the prescription. With time the magical part became smaller, and the real prescription more important. Eventually, all that was left of the magical verse was the Eye of Horus. It remained in prescriptions to this day as the R at the beginning of each prescription: Egypt Eye of horus

The Uraeus or Cobra and the Vulture were symbols of protection, the Cobra for Lower Egypt, and the Vulture for Upper Egypt.

The Lotus was the plant symbolizing Upper Egypt, the Papyrus the plant symbolizing Lower Egypt.

The Reed or Su plant and the Bee are another set of symbols representing Upper and Lower Egypt respectively.

The Cartouche was used to highlight the Pharaohs name. Every time the name of a Pharaoh appears, it is enclosed in a Cartouche. These Cartouches were instrumental in the deciphering of the Egyptian Hieroglyphic writing from the Rosetta Stone. Scientists could identify the names of the Pharaohs in the different scripts and translate them from there.