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Eye of Horus

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An Eye of Horus pendant.

The Eye of Horus personified in the goddess Wadjet also written as Wedjat[1][2][3],Uadjet, Wedjoyet, Edjo or Uto [4] and as The Eye of Ra[5] or "Udjat"[6] is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and royal power. The name Wadjet is derived from 'wadj' meaning 'green' hence 'the green one' and was known to the Greeks and Romans as 'uraeus' from the Egyptian 'iaret' meaning 'risen one' from the image of a cobra rising up in protection.[7]

Wadjet was one of the earliest of Egyptian deities who later became associated with other goddesses such as Bast, Mut, and Hathor. She was the tutelary deity of Lower Egypt and the major Delta shrine the 'per-nu' was under her protection.[8] Hathor is also depicted with this eye.[9] Funerary amulets were often made in the shape of the Eye of Horus. The Wedjat or Eye of Horus is "the central element" of seven "gold, faience, carnelian and lapis lazuli" bracelets found on the mummy of Shoshenq II.[10] The Wedjat "was intended to protect the king [here] in the afterlife"[11] and to ward off evil. Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern sailors would frequently paint the symbol on the bow of their vessel to ensure safe sea travel.[12]


Horus was the ancient Egyptian sky god who was usually depicted as a falcon. His right eye was associated with the sun Ra. The eye symbol represents the marking around a Peregrine Falcon's eye that includes the "teardrop" marking sometimes found below the eye. The mirror image, or left eye, sometimes represented the moon and the god Djehuti (Thoth).[13]

wedjet - Eye of Horus
in hieroglyphs

The eye as a hieroglyph and symbol

There are seven different hieroglyphs used to represent the eye, most commonly 'ir.t' in Egyptian, which also has the meaning 'to make or do' or 'one who does.'[14] In Egyptian myth the eye was not the passive organ of sight but more an agent of action, protection or wrath.

In arithmetic

In the Ancient Egyptian measurement system, the Eye Of Horus defined Old Kingdom number one (1) = 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 + 1/64, by throwing away 1/64 for any rational number. Eye of Horus numbers created six-term rounded-off numbers. The Old Kingdom definition had dropped a seventh term, a remainder 1/64, that was needed to report exact series. During the Middle Kingdom that included the eleventh through fourteenth dynasties, exact series definitions and applications were often written by 6-terms, or less. The Egyptian fraction notation scaled to volume unit remainders to 1/320 hekat. For example, the Egyptian Mathematical Leather Roll, the RMP 2/n table and the Akhmim Wooden Tablet wrote binary quotients and scaled remainders. The metaphorical side of this information linked Old Kingdom fractions 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, and 1/64, to separate parts of the eye, as noted by:

  • 1/2 was represented by smell, symbolized by the right side of the eye in a form of the nose. The pyramid text says: "Behold [the fire] rises in Abydos and it comes; I cause it to come, the Eye of Horus. It is set in order upon thy brow, O Osiris Khenti-Amenti; it is set in the shrine and rises on thy brow."
  • 1/4 was represented by sight or the sensation of light, symbolized by the pupil. The pyramid text says: "Perfect is the Eye of Horus. I have delivered the Eye of Horus, the shining one, the ornament of the Eye of Ra, the Father of the Gods."
  • 1/8 was represented by thought, symbolized by the eyebrow. The pyramid text says: "...the Eye of Horus hath made me holy...I will hide myself among you, O ye stars which are imperishable. My brow is the brow of Ra."
  • 1/16 was represented by hearing, symbolized by the left side of the eye in the form of an arrow pointing towards the ear. The pyramid text says: "That which has been shut fast/dead hath been opened by the command of the Eye of Horus, which hath delivered me. Established are the beauties on the forehead of Ra."
  • 1/32 was represented by taste, by the sprouting of wheat or grain from the planted stalk, symbolized by a curved tail. The pyramid text says: "Come, the Eye of Horus hath delivered for me my soul, my ornaments are established on the brow of Ra. Light is on the faces of those who are in the members of Osiris."
  • 1/64 was represented by touch, symbolized by a leg touching the ground, or what can also be thought of as a strong plant growing into the surface of the earth. The pyramid text say: "I shall see the Gods and the Eye of Horus burning with fire before my eyes!"

In the Middle Kingdom the 1/64 symbol denoted 'rest' and 'healing' as connected to the hekat, with the word dja being attached.

The 'Eye of Horus' fractions were further discussed in the Egyptian Mathematical Leather Roll following elementary definitions that built the Egyptian fraction system. Weights and measure subunits of a hekat were also connected to Eye of Horus numbers in the quotient, and as an exact remainder, the remainder including an Egyptian fraction and a ro unit, correcting the Eye of Horus 1/64 roundoff error. The ro unit, 1/320 of a hekat, is cited in the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus and applied in the medical texts, i.e. Ebers Papyrus in two ways. The first replaced the hekat by a unity, 64/64 (in RMP 47, 82 and 83), and the second by 320 ro (in RMP 35–38). Exact divisions of 64/64 by 3, 7, 10, 11 and 13, written as 1/3, 1/17, 1/10, 1/11 and 1/13 multipliers, are also found in the Akhmim Wooden Tablet.


  1. Pommerening, Tanja, Die altägyptischen Hohlmaße (Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, Beiheft 10), Hamburg, Helmut Buske Verlag, 2005
  2. M. Stokstad, "Art History"
  3. Chapter 14, Egyptian Art in David P. Silverman, Ancient Egypt, Duncan Baird Publishers, 1997. p.228
  5. Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache 1, 268.13
  6. Alessandro Bongioanni & Maria Croce (ed.), The Treasures of Ancient Egypt: From the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Universe Publishing, a division of Ruzzoli Publications Inc., 2003. p.622. According to the editors, 'Udjat' was the term for amulets which used the Eye of Horus design.
  7. The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, George Hart ISBN 0-415-34495-6
  8. The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, George Hart ISBN 0-415-34495-6
  9. Lady of the West at
  10. Silverman, op. cit., p.228
  11. Silverman, op. cit., p.228
  12. Charles Freeman, The Legacy of Ancient Egypt, Facts on File, Inc. 1997. p.91
  13. Eye of Horus, Eye of Ra (Udjat, Wedjet)
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Eye of Horus. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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