The Eye of Horus is one of the most popular ancient Egyptian symbols in the world which is often confused with the Eye of Ra. But what exactly is the difference between the Eye of Ra and the Eye of Horus? The answer to that question is in this post drawing a comparison between the […]
Ancient Egyptian Symbols And Their Meanings
Here is the ancient Egyptian symbols section of SymbolsAndMeanings.Net where you can find detailed articles about all Egyptian symbols including the Eye of Horus, Ankh, the key of life, scarab, the sacred beetle and many others.
But first, let us introduce you to them with this post giving you the extensive list of ancient Egyptian symbols along with their meanings.
If you would like to read more on each symbol, you will find the links to their individual in-depth articles within and at the end of this post.
Ankh, The Symbol of Life and Key to the Gates of Death
First on our list of Egyptian symbols is the ankh, which signified life and the power to give life or take it away. Because of its significance, it is believed that ordinary Egyptians were not allowed to use or carry it.
The true meaning of the symbol is still being debated. Some suggested that it was either a magic knot or a sandal strap.
As a hieroglyph, ankh means life. It also symbolizes eternal and divine existence.
It was believed that the ankh was an attribute to the Egyptian gods, which is why it was given to the pharaoh. Furthermore, when held to a dead pharaoh’s nose, the ankh was thought to ensure everlasting life beyond death.
Sphinx, The Sun God’s Beast and Symbol of Mystery
The Sphinx is one of the most important and popular ancient Egyptian symbols. It comes in slightly varied forms, although it is more commonly depicted in Egypt to have a pharaoh’s head and a lion’s body.
The sphinx is believed to be the beast of the Egyptian sun god, Ra. The symbolism carried by the Sphinx further stressed the pharaoh’s role as Ra’s son.
The sphinx also symbolizes mystery and the hidden secrets of centuries past. Representing royal power, it was seen as a benevolent guardian.
Lotus, The Symbol of Rebirth
The lotus flower is a common sight on the Nile’s riverbanks. The flower’s huge petals opens as the sun rises, which is why it was used to represent the sun.
The blue lotus was also the sacred flower of the cow goddess of fertility, magic, and healing, Hathor.
The lotus is the only plant native to Egypt that continuously bloom throughout the year. Because of this, it came to symbolize creation and rebirth. It is also believed to have protective and restorative properties.
The Eye, The Symbol of Protection, Action, and Anger
The eye is among the most significant ancient Egyptian symbols. It was typically seen in amulets, in the form of wedjat-eye.
The Pyramid Texts mentioned two “evil eyes” that sealed door catches.
The symbol also represented the sun and the moon. The ancient Egyptians believed that the sun and moon are Horus’ eyes and when he opens them, the universe is filled with light and darkness comes when he shuts them.
Until the 18th Dynasty, coffins were decorated with a pair of eyes on the left-hand side. The ancient Egyptians believed that the eyes will help the deceased find their way to heaven.
Protective eye amulets were also commonly worn for protection.
Crook and Flail, Egyptian Symbols of Divine Authority
The crook and flail were often carried by Egyptian Pharaohs when attending important state events and ceremonies, such as coronations.
Originally symbols of crops and livestock, the crook and flail were attributed to the minor deity of agriculture, Anedijti. Later on, the duo were adopted by followers of Osiris to represent the Khons, Anubis, and Harpocrates.
The crook was a long staff curved at the end, like the one used by shepherds. Because of this origin, it symbolized that the pharaohs were the shepherds of people. The flail, on the other hand, symbolized the pharaoh’s role of giving provisions to the people.
Later on, the crook and flail also became ancient Egyptian symbols for purification and divine guidance.
‘Was’ Sceptre, The Symbol of Authority and Magic
The ‘was’ sceptre is among the Egyptian symbols linked to majesty and divine authority.
Typically depicted with a forked end and decorated with an animal head at the top, the long staff was believed to possess magical powers. It was commonly depicted being held by Egyptian gods and goddesses, as well as priests.
As an ancient Egyptian symbol, the ‘was’ sceptre was an emblem of authority. It widely appeared in many Egyptian relics, art, and hieroglyphics related to ancient Egyptian religion.
The ‘was’ sceptre, in general, represented power. It was also associated with Egyptian gods Seth or Anubis.
Crocodile, Representing the God of Strength and Power
To the ancient Egyptians, the strength of a crocodile was a subject of awe and fascination. Because of this, crocodile cult centers were formed.
The crocodile represented Sobek, the Egyptian crocodile god of power and strength. Sobek was the patron of the Egyptian royal warriors and army.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped a 2,500-year-old mummified crocodile and believed it to be the embodiment of Sobek. Many other crocodiles were also mummified and revered in the same way.
Falcon, Symbol of Divine Kingship
Next on our list of Egyptian symbols is the falcon, which symbolized divine kingship. The ancient Egyptians associated the bird falcon with the sun god Ra and the Eye of Horus.
The falcon was commonly mentioned in written text in the Pyramid Age and was considered as the king of air.
The bird was also believed to be the sacred animal of Horus, the god of the sky and king of gods. Furthermore, Horus was also believed to assume the form of a falcon-headed god who sees everything.
When used to represent Horus, the falcon wears a dual crown. Meanwhile, when representing Ra, it has a disc on its head.
Uraeus, Egyptian Symbol of Royalty
Uraeus was the serpent worn by the king on a diadem in his crown during the Middle Kingdom. The uraeus depicted the legitimacy of the king’s rule.
A symbol of royalty and divine authority, it was represented by a rearing cobra with an inflated hood. It was also believed to be the personification of the protective goddess of Lower Egypt and one of the earliest deities of Egypt, Wadjet.
Scarab, The Sacred Beetle
One of the most popular Egyptian symbols is the scarab. Also known as the sacred beetle, the scarab symbolized self-creation as the beetle was believed to have come into being from a ball of dung.
The scarab was also associated with the Egyptian god Khepri, who was believed to roll the sun across the sky. The sacred beetle was often depicted in the form of amulets that had the name of a pharaoh carved on them.
Ouroboros, The Symbol of Rebirth and Recreation
The Ouroboros is widely popular because of its appearance: a snake eating itself. It is seen in the Book of the Dead.
It was one of the several symbols that represent the sun. It also depicted the travels of Aten, as well as infinity, rebirth, perpetuity, and recreation of life.
Tiet, The Knot of Isis
Tiet is an ancient Egyptian symbol that looks similarly with ankh and as such, it was also used to symbolize life. The primary difference between tiet and ankh is that the former was associated with the Egyptian goddess Isis.
Djed, The Column Representing the Presence of the Gods
Djed, one of the Egyptian symbols associated with the Egyptian gods, is represented by a column that starts with a broad base and narrows down as it rises. It has four parallel lines inside.
Djed is widely recognized to represent stability. It also serves as a reminder of the presence of the gods.
Also associated with Osiris, Djed is also linked to eternal life and resurrection.
Shen, The Knot of Infinity
One of the most common Egyptian symbols found in hieroglyphics, the shen is a knotted circle of rope. The unbroken circle represents protection, completeness, and fertility.
Ben-Ben, The Primordial Hill
Ben-ben is believed to be the primordial mound where the god Atum stood when he created the world. Ben-ben is one of the most popular Egyptian symbols, although not everyone knows its name.
The pyramids of Egypt are actually modeled after the ben-ben.
Seba, The Star Symbol
Seba is the popular Egyptian star symbol. As such, it represented constellations and star-gods.
When drawn with a circle, the Seba was associated with Duat, which is the Underworld in Egyptian religion.
Menat, The Symbol of Fertility and Fortune
Here’s another of the Egyptian symbols that represent the gods. Menat is closely associated with the goddess Hathor and her son, Ihy. This symbol represents fertility, life, rebirth, and joy, as well as potency.
Ancient Egyptians wore Menat amulets that they believed brought joy, prosperity, and fertility.
Pschent, The Double Crown
Pschent is the combination of Hedjet and Deshret. It is also known as the Double Crown of Egypt.
Pschent represents Lower and Upper Egypt and as such, shows the unity of Egypt. It also represented the king or pharaoh’s rule over the entire Egypt.
Hedjet, The White Crown
Hedjet is the White Crown that represents Upper Egypt. It is one part of the Double Crown of Egypt, the Pschent.
Deshret, The Red Crown
Deshret if the Red Crown that represents Lower Egypt. When combined with Hedjet, the two become the Double Crown of Egypt.
The Feather of Maat, Egyptian Symbol of Justice
Last, but definitely not the least on our list of Egyptian symbols is the Feather of Maat or Ma’at. It is associated with the Egyptian goddess Maat, who represented justice in Egyptian religion and culture.
The Egyptians believed that when a soul enters Duat, his heart will be weighed against the Feather of Maat.
If the heart was as light as the Feather or lighter, the soul will enter the Osiris-ruled paradise, Aaru (the equivalent of heaven). Otherwise, the heart will be eaten by the soul-eating goddess Ammit, and the soul will remain in Duat forever.
If you want to read more about individual Egyptian symbols, please kindly check out our other articles below.
In this part of our ancient Egyptian symbols series, we are going to examine the Eye of Horus symbol in detail. What does the Eye of Horus represent? How does it relate to the Third Eye concept? The answers to all these questions and much more is in this post. Here is all you need […]