Heru-ur; Horus the Elder

Hrw Wr
Hrw Wr

Heru-ur (Hrw Wr, Har-wer, Haroeris, Horus the Elder) was one of the oldest gods of Ancient Egypt. He was a sky god, whose face was visualised as the face of the sun. As a result his name (“Heru”) was sometimes translated as “face”, rather than “distant one”, and was sometimes modified to “Herut” (“sky”).

Horus the Elder

Horus absorbed a number of local gods including Nekheny the Nekhenite (a hawk god) and Wer (a god of light known as “the great one” whose eyes were the sun and moon) to become the patron of Nekhen (Heirakonpolis) and later the patron god of the pharaohs. Nekhen was a powerful city in the pre-dynastic period, and the early capital of Upper Egypt. By the Old Kingdom he was simply referred to as Horus, and had become the first national god and the patron of the Pharaoh.

He was originally considered to be the counterpart and enemy of Set. While Horus represented Lower Egypt, Set represented Upper Egypt, and the two were locked in a battle which would not be won or lost until the world ended and everything slipped back into chaos. This myth evolved and soon it was thought that Horus and Set fought for eighty years before the Council of the Gods ruled that Horus should rule Egypt. It may seem strange that Horus was associated with Lower Egypt and yet he is associated with Nekhen, in Upper Egypt.

Horus the Elder

It has been suggested that Horus actually originated in Upper Egypt (as Horus Behedet in Behedet) and that his cult spread north with the unification of the country under Narmer or Hor Aha. He was worshipped in the composite temple of Kom Ombo with Sobek (who was in turn associated with Set).

He was described as either the son or husband of Hathor and was considered to be a creator god and the archetypal king. His right eye was the sun and his left eye was the moon and images of the “Eye of Horus” were considered to be powerful protective amulets. His speckled feathers formed the stars and his wings created the wind.

  • Bard, Kathryn (2008) An introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
  • Goodenough, Simon (1997) Egyptian Mythology
  • Kemp, Barry J (1991) Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation
  • Pinch, Geraldine (2002) Handbook Egyptian Mythology
  • Redford Donald B (2002) Ancient Gods Speak
  • Watterson, Barbara (1996) Gods of Ancient Egypt
  • Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003) The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt
  • Wilkinson, Richard H. (2000) The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt

Copyright J Hill 2008