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Isis holds a similar object but with the traditional fork representing duality. The was scepter of Ra-Horakhty 'Horus in the Horizon' , god of the rising and setting sun, was blue to symbolize the sky while that of the sun god Ra was represented with a snake attached to it symbolizing rebirth, as the sun rose again each morning. Each god's was scepter denoted their particular dominion in one way or another.

The god Ptah, from the Early Dynastic Period, holds a was scepter which combines all three symbols, the ankh , djed , and was , with a circle at the bottom symbolizing unity. The combination of the symbols, naturally, combined their power which was only fitting for this god who was associated with creation and known as the 'sculptor of the earth. The combination of the symbols always had a specific meaning.

Wilkinson writes, "One of the most important principles for understanding the numerical symbolism of Egyptian representational works is that of the extension of numbers" A two-dimensional work of art, such as an image of a god or goddess, is often depicted in such a way that the number four is implied and this practice applies to many numbers so that, as Wilkinson notes, "the number actually depicted must be mentally 'extended' in order to properly understand its significance in the composition" An example of this is representations of the djed as four columns each rising behind the other.

Although the number four represents completeness, the multiplication of four extending toward the horizon would add the equally important concept of eternity. The djed symbol used throughout the pyramid complex of Djoser at Saqqara is a prime example of this. At Djoser's complex, the djed appears on temple lintels appearing to hold up the sky. If the djed is interpreted as four columns multiplied infinitely then the concept of eternity is emphasized through the architecture.

The ankh , djed , and was in architecture are frequently employed in such a way as to double, triple, or quadruple their number for just this kind of emphasis. Wilkinson writes:. A common example of the principle where two represents four is found in the pair of was sceptres which were used to depict the pillars of the sky and which were shown standing on the ta or earth hieroglyph , and supporting the pet or sky hieroglyph. Because these representations are only two-dimensional, however, an abbreviated view of the various elements is given.

Isis - Wikipedia

These symbols, singly or together, adorned the items the Egyptians used regularly in their daily lives. Amulets were worn by every class of Egyptian society with the djed among the most popular followed by the scarab, the ankh , the tjet , the shen , the was , and others. These other potent symbols were frequently paired, or associated, with the three most often used. The scarab is the famous beetle image seen in Egyptian art and iconography which represents the Scarabaeus sacer , a species of the dung beetle.

The dung beetle was associated with the gods because it rolled dung into a ball in which it laid its eggs; the dung served as food for the young when they hatched. In this way, life came from death. They were closely identified with the god Khepri who was thought to roll the ball of the sun across the sky, keep it safe in its travels through the underworld, and push it up into the dawn the next day.

When Ra became the pre-eminent sun god, Khepri continued in this role as an assistant. Scarabs became popular amulets during the First Intermediate Period BCE and remained so for the duration of Egypt's history until the rise of Christianity.

The tjet tiet, tyet , also known as 'the Knot of Isis' and 'the Blood of Isis' resembles an ankh with the arms at its side. The symbol dates to the Old Kingdom of Egypt c. The tjet has been interpreted as female genitalia, the folds of a woman's dress, and the knot of a girdle but, in every case, is associated with the goddess Isis.

It represented protection and security and was often paired with the ankh , thus offering the dual security of both Isis and Osiris. The tjet was frequently carved on bed posts and the walls of temples and was most popular during the time of the New Kingdom of Egypt when the cult of Isis was at its peak. The crook and flail are among the most famous symbols from ancient Egypt symbolizing the power and majesty of the king. Both these items were associated with Osiris and symbolized his early rule of the land. The symbols appear in the Early Dynastic Period during the reign of the first king, Narmer c.

According to the myth, Osiris' kingdom was usurped by Set, who murdered him, but he was resurrected by his sister-wife Isis. She bore him a son, Horus, who defeated Set and restored order to the land. The king was associated with Horus with some exceptions during life and with Osiris in death. Once Horus avenged his father and defeated Set, he took the crook and flail of his father to represent the legitimacy of his reign, and so it was for the kings of Egypt who identified with these gods.

The crook was an early tool used by shepherds while the flail was a means of herding goats and also harvesting an aromatic shrub known as the labdanum.

The s hen is a circle of rope, knotted, to form an unbroken, circle symbolizing completeness, infinity, and serving as protection. The name comes from the Egyptian word for 'encircle. The god Horus and the goddesses Nekhbet and Isis are frequently seen holding the shen but other gods are also associated with the symbol. The shen appears on sarcophagi and in temples and tombs as well as personal inscriptions. The Egyptians greatly valued symmetry and completeness, and so the shen was quite popular and often represented.

The udjat is another well-known symbol from Egypt: the Eye of Ra. The symbol of the eye is associated with the protective goddess Wadjet during the Predynastic Period and continued to be even though it was later more regularly linked to Horus, Ra, and others through the motif of the Distant Goddess. The udjat either represented the goddess or was sent to retrieve her and could take many forms. As the Eye of Ra it was understood to symbolize his watchful presence over creation and is frequently depicted in myths like those of the distant goddess being sent forth to gather information for Ra.

The udjat remained a consistently potent symbol throughout Egypt's history. The sesen is the lotus flower which appears so often in Egyptian art and symbolizes life, creation, rebirth and, especially, the sun. The flower also represented rebirth for the same reason and was associated with the god Osiris.

The Four Sons of Horus, regularly represented on canopic jars, are often depicted standing together on a lotus in the presence of Osiris.

Definition

The lotus flower appears in many different types of Egyptian art from faience statuary to sarcophagi, temples, shrines, and on amulets. It was the symbol of Upper Egypt as the papyrus plant symbolized Lower Egypt and the flower is sometimes depicted with its stem entwined with that of the papyrus plant. The ben-ben was the primordial mound upon which the god Atum stood at the beginning of creation. It is easily the best-known symbol from ancient Egypt, after the ankh , even if one does not recognize the name.

The pyramids of Egypt, wherever one finds them and from any age, represent the ben-ben as they rise from the earth toward the heavens. According to one version of the Egyptian creation myth, in the beginning of time, there were only the dark waters of chaos in constant motion until the ben-ben rose as the first dry land.

Atum or in some stories Ptah or Ra stood on the ben-ben to begin the work of creation. The pyramids and other similar structures symbolized both creation and eternity by invoking the imagery of this myth.


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The ben-ben as a symbol dates from the Early Dynastic Period but became more widespread during the Old Kingdom, the time of the great pyramid builders when the monuments at Giza were constructed. It may have been worn as an amulet but more likely was among the works of art mass produced during the First Intermediate Period as a statuette. The ben-ben appears in many inscriptions from the Old Kingdom through the Late Period c.

There were many other important symbols throughout Egypt's history. The bennu bird, for example, was the model for the Greek phoenix, and symbolized resurrection. The white ostrich feather symbolized the goddess Ma'at but also the concept of balance and truth she stood for. The Tree of Life stood for knowledge, purpose, and destiny. Snakes and serpents represented transformation and change.

The cobra was a protective image, associated early with the goddess Wadjet, who drove off the enemies of Ra; with hood extended and rearing to strike, the cobra became the insignia of kings and was worn on the uraeus, the royal headdress. The crowns of Egypt in art also have distinct meaning and symbolism. Images of the king in battle show him in a blue crown a Khepresh invoking the power of the Nile River and the heavens through its color.

The god Osiris had his own crown, the Atef , a tall hedjet crown adorned on each side with ostrich feathers and topped by a gold sun disc. All of these symbols contributed to the rich culture of ancient Egypt and, although they were religious in nature, were never considered 'religious symbols' as a modern mind would interpret the term. In the present day, especially in western countries, religion is considered a separate sphere, distinct from one's role in secular society, but in Egypt, there was no such separation.

The priests and priestesses of the Egyptian deities, the kings, scribes, and nobility made use of these symbols regularly, of course, but they appear as amulets, inscriptions, and on statuary of every class of Egyptian society from the greatest king to the most modest member of a community.


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Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Become a Member. The sibyl or Pythia told prophecies after inhaling volcanic fumes from the center of the world guarded by the divine Python.

There was a serpent shrine at Epirus, dedicated to Apollo, but in effect a pre-Hellenic Aegean shrine. The snakes at this shrine were said to be the descendants of the great Python of Delphi. In some traditions she was a serpent of the Libyan Amazons and represented female wisdom. In other traditions she was an Anatolian Sun Goddess. This Medusa is very similar to the destroyer aspect of the dark Egyptian goddess Nieth. She was also one member of the triple personae of the North African goddess An-Ath. She was imported by the Greeks as patroness of Athens, and her fierce visage was embossed on Athena's shield.

We find the best statues of Medusa at Corfu. In Greece we also discover the cult of Dionysos, the god of wine and the vine. Dionysos was born to Persephone, daughter of Ceres, and Zeus , and was born in the form of a serpent. This serpent-god is, therefore, half brother to Apollo.

After being slain and swallowed by two Titans sent by Hera, Dionysos is reborn in human form. The Greek Daemons [ daemonae] were the invisible divine beings which were assigned by Zeus to every god and every important human being as sort of a guardian angel creature to give good advice and lead them properly. The Daemons.

Uraeus from a royal crown, Dyn. 18

It is Greek mythology which gives us the most memorable heavenly divine serpent. By heavenly, I mean literally, since I am speaking of the constellation Draco or the Dragon. One only has to look at this constellation to realize that this "dragon" is a serpent in every aspect. Draco is the pet of Zeus.

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The Crowns of the Pharaohs

Cadmus was trying to find his sister, Europa. After Cadmus slew Draco, he was told by Athena who understood serpents and their powers to plant the dragon teeth into the soil. An army arose, who fought a great war until only five men were left. With these five men Cadmus founded the famous Greek city of Thebes. Then Cadmus married Harmonia and assumed the Illyrian throne.