Horus of Behdet (Edfu)

Hor Behedety (Horus of Behedet)Hor-sema-tawy (Horus Uniter of the Two Lands, Harsomptus)Hor-iwn-mwt-f (Horus pillar of his mother)

Horus of Behdet (often known as Behdety) was a god of the midday sun. The name Behedet is rather problematic. The first time that the god “Horus of Behedet” is mentioned it is on a carving in the Step Pyramid of Djoser and the reference makes it clear that Behedet is associated with Upper Egypt. However, Behedet is also a place in Lower Egypt. In any case, Behedet soon became associated with Edfu (Upper Egypt) the location of a major cult of Horus.

Hor Behedety (Horus of Behedet)

Horus of Edfu was locked in a perpetual battle with Set and his army of darkness to make sure that the sun rises every morning. In Edfu, he was considered to be the husband of Hathor and the father of Hor-sema-tawy (“Horus Uniter of the Two Lands” also known as Harsomptus). After eighty years of battle, he was awarded the kingship of Upper and Lower Egypt by the tribunal of gods. In Edfu and Kom Ombo he was also known as Panebtawy (“lord of the two lands”) and in Behedet he was worshipped as Hor-Iwn-Mutef (“Horus pillar of his mother”).

Horus Behdety was represented as a winged sun disk on temples all over Egypt, just as Ra had apparently decreed. However, he was also depicted as a lion, a lion with the head of a hawk and as a hawk hovering over the pharaoh during battle carrying a flail (representing royal power) and the shen (representing eternity) grasped in his claws. As a hawk he was given the epithet “Great God, Lord of Heaven, Dappled of Plumage”. In addition, he was frequently depicted as a man with the head of a falcon wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. In this form he often carries a falcon-headed staff, representing the form he took when he killed Set.

Horus at Edfu copyright Hajor

According to myth it was discovered that the followers of Set were plotting against Ra during his earthly reign. Ra sent his son, Horus, who flew into the sky in the form of a winged sun disc. From the sky he could see all of Ra´s enemies and he swooped down like a falcon and attacked so ferociously that they ran away. Horus was then given the town of Edfu for his efforts. The plotters then changed themselves into crocodiles and hippopotami and attacked Ra’s solar boat. Horus (and friends) drove them away with harpoons. To protect the solar boat, Horus took the form of a winged-sun disk and perched on the ships prow. This began the superstition that it was good luck to paint eyes on the bow of your ship. Horus chased the fleeing army and beheaded the leader (named as Set) before dragging him by the feet throughout Egypt.

Horus Behdet

It should be noted that this was rather a late myth, which places Set as an all out evil character and confuses Horus Behedet with Horus son of Isis. The leader was considered to be the god Set reborn and therefore the murderer of Horus´ father Osiris. The myth continues by stating that Set continued to fight in lower Egypt in the form of a serpent while Horus defended Egypt in the form of a falcon-headed staff. Horus was, of course, victorious and continued into Upper Egypt quelling rebellion as he went. Ra decreed that the winged-sun disk would hence forth be inscribed on every temple and shrine in recognition of Horus’ victory.

copyright J Hill 2010