Originally the sky-god of the Nile Valley, whose eyes were the sun and moon, the falcon deity Horus was soon assimilated into the Osirian myth as the child of Isis and Osiris. Raised in the swamps of the Delta by Isis and Hathor, Horus set out to avenge his father’s murder by his uncle Seth. During their titanic struggle at Edfu, Horus lost an eye and Seth his testicles. Despite this, Seth almost prevailed until Isis intervened on her son’s behalf and Osiris pronounced judgement upon them from the netherworld, exiling Seth back to the wilderness and awarding the throne to Horus. Thus good triumphed over evil and Osiris “lived” through his son.

All pharaohs claimed to be the incarnation of Horus the “living king” and reaffirmed their divine oneness in an annual Festival of Coronation. A live falcon was taken from the sacred aviary, crowned in the central court and then placed in an inner chamber where it “reigned” in the dark for a year as the symbol of the living king. Another event, sometimes called the Festival of Triumph, commemorated the Contendings of Seth and Horus in a series of Mystery Plays. At the equally lavish Feast of the Beautiful Meeting, his wet nurse and wife Hathor sailed from Dendara aboard the Lady of the Lake to be met near Edfu by his own barque, The First Horus.

To complicate the cult of Horus still further, he was also associated with the Divine Ennead of Heliopolis and another variant of the Creation myth. The Egyptians, having distinguished the Osirian Horus from the Heliopolitan deity by terming the latter Horus the Elder, split him into archetypes such as Herakhte (often conjoined with Re), Hariesis (stressing his kinship to Isis) and Haroeris. His priesthood asserted a place for Horus in the Creation myth by crediting him with building the first house amid swamps at the dawn of the world, or even laying the Cosmic Egg whence the sun-god hatched. In rituals associated with the Myth of the Great Cackler, they launched a goose onto the sacred lake near Edfu temple, whose egg contained air and the potential for life – crucial elements in the world’s creation.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Egypt features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
7 amazing African journeys

7 amazing African journeys

Africa is a continent of wild open savannahs, terracotta sunsets, thousands of vibrant green hills and rugged coastlines. Here, you can be chugging along on …

06 Jul 2016 • Harriet Constable insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook