For thousands of years, the Eye of Horus has been a revered symbol in Egyptian culture. Representing power and protection, this elegant glyph was associated with Horus–an ancient deity held in high regard among the ancient Egyptians.
History of the Eye of Horus
The Eye of Horus, also known as the wedjat eye or udjat eye, is a symbol and concept within the ancient Egyptian religion that symbolizes protection, healing, and well-being.
Horus was represented as a falcon or sometimes a man with a falcon head. The Eye of Horus is thus a stylized falcon eye where the downward spiraling element which starts at the forward corner is taken from the distinctive facial markings of hawks.
The Horus symbol has its origins in the legendary conflict between the god Horus and his adversary Set, during which Set plucked out Horus’s left eye (which was the moon–his right eye was the sun).
Subsequently, the eye was restored to Horus with the assistance of the god Thoth, which explained to the ancient Egyptians the reason for the waxing and waning of the moon.
The Egyptian word wedjat means “the sound one” and the restored Eye of Horus is thus also known as the wedjat eye.
Horus then presented the eye to his deceased father Osiris, whose rejuvenation in the afterlife was sustained by the eye’s revitalizing power.
The Eye of Horus was thus associated with offerings made to the gods during temple rituals, particularly those made in honor of the dead.
Use Among the Ancient Egyptians
The stylized Eye of Horus held great magical power and was a frequent motif in ancient Egyptian artwork. This symbol was commonly used for amulets and remained popular from the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BCE) until the Roman era (30 BCE – 641 AD).
During the First Intermediate Period (c. 2181–2055 BC) and the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC), pairs of Horus eyes were painted on coffins. The symbol also appeared in other contexts, such as on carved stone stelae and the bows of boats.
Large numbers of them were often placed among the wrappings of mummies in addition to being worn as pendants and rings.
As Horus came to symbolize the forces of good and light, while his vanquished brother Seth came to represent the forces of evil and darkness, the wedjat eye also grew to stand for the constant struggle between the two.
Symbol of Royal Power
In ancient Egypt, the Eye of Horus was much more than a religious symbol. It was associated with immense political power. The pharaohs were the physical embodiments of Horus on earth, divine rulers who were worshipped as gods themselves
The Eye of Horus held mathematical significance as well. Each fraction was represented by a unique part of the eye: the pupil represented 1/4, while the eyebrow represented 1/8, etc.
From majestic temples to humble tombs and even everyday objects, this incredibly popular motif was and still is used everywhere. Protective amulets of the Horus Eye were particularly widespread.
From fine jewelry to kitsch art, this time-honored icon continues to make its way into our lives. Tattoos ancient and modern have drawn on its protective and life-generating symbolism, where both the living and the dead derive strength from it.
Connection to Other Egyptian Symbols
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the Eye of Horus was closely associated with important symbols such as the Ankh (symbolizing eternal life), Djed pillar (representing stability and strength) and Scarab beetle (signifying creative transformation). Together these powerful icons encapsulated ancient Egypt’s profound beliefs– from rebirth to eternity.
Believed to possess protective powers against evil as well as the ability to provide healing, it’s no wonder that the Eye of Horus has also come to encompass spiritual awakening, and endless positivity.
Symbol of Protection
Wearing the Eye of Horus is believed to be a powerful protection against evil forces. Based on its mythological origin, it has become an emblem of strength and defense for those seeking safety from harm and keeping misfortune at bay.
Symbol of Healing
From its inception, the Eye of Horus was a powerful symbol imbued with special properties to restore physical and spiritual health, especially when it came to sight. But its energy also promised remedy from all kinds of afflictions, including spiritual ones.
Symbol of Rebirth and Regeneration
Because Horus was able to sustain his father, the god Osiris, in the afterlife, with the offering of his eye, the Eye of Horus has been associated with regeneration. It is also an agent for new life and spiritual renewal, as well as a symbol of immortality.
Connection to Ra
According to Ancient Egyptian mythology, the Eye of Horus’s power became entwined with that of Ra, the god ruling over all. Represented by a sun disk encircled in a cobra or symbolized as an individual snake crowned by a solar eye, the two famous symbols were sometimes seen together.
The Third Eye
While the Eye of Horus comes from ancient Egypt, the third eye is a Hindu concept. Located between the eyebrows, the inner eye provides insight, spiritual awareness, and intuition. Both are steeped in positive themes of well-being and both have to do with eyes, an overlap that has not escaped notice from modern interpreters.
What Does An Eye of Horus Tattoo Mean?
People believed that the Eye of Horus had special powers that could protect them. Getting a tattoo of the Eye of Horus on your body can symbolize protection for you.
Because the Eye of Horus was believed to help with healing, people will have it tattooed in order to help with healing physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
If someone has Egyptian Heritage or is interested in the culture and myths of Egypt, getting an Eye of Horus tattoo can be a way for them to show their pride or to express their interest in ancient Egypt.
The Eye of Horus was inherently a sign of new life and hence spiritual awakening and enlightenment. People who get this tattoo may be on their own spiritual journey toward knowledge and wisdom.
Strength and Power
The Eye of Horus was a symbol linked to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt and the god Horus, including their strength and power. The Eye of Horus tattoo might be a manifestation of your inner strength or power–or your quest for the same.
Eye of Horus Tattoo from 3,000 Years Ago
The amazing staying power of the Eye of Horus tattoo could have no more eloquent testimony than the discovery of tattoos on ancient Egyptians.
Discovered in Deir el-Medina, a village that was home to ancient artisans who worked in the tombs of the nearby Valley of the Kings, a female mummy from 1300 to 1070 BCE was recovered that had tattoos of cows (associated with the godess Hathor) and two seated baboons around an Eye of Horus.
Like the Eye of Horus tattoo today, there could have been a number of meanings to her ink. Certainly she might have been hoping for physical or spiritual protection. But she might also have showing her piety, or even adding some strength to whatever rituals she might have performed in honor of Hathor.
Ultimately, the Eye of Horus tattoo has an important and powerful history that spans many centuries and, now, different countries. It’s a popular choice with many tattoo enthusiasts due to its simple yet complex design. It can be bold or small, ornate or minimalistic. But whatever style of Eye of Horus tattoo you choose, you can count yourself among a very long lineage of tattooees who have connected to its life-affirming symbolic meaning and timeless design.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. But as with all tattoos that come from other cultures, it’s important to understand the meaning of the tattoo, in terms of its Egyptian symbolism and also its cultural legacy. Treated in a respectful way, there’s no reason you can’t make this symbol your own.
The Eye of Horus is typically depicted as the left eye, although both can be used.
Because the design is so versatile and can be so many different sizes, virtually any Eye of Horus tattoo placement could work well.