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Uraeus from mask of King Tutankhamon

The Uraeus (plural Uraei or Uraeuses) is the stylized, upright form of an Egyptian spitting cobra, used as a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, deity, and divine authority in ancient Egypt.


Etymology

From the Greek οὐραῖος, from Egyptian jʿr.t (iaret) rearing cobra.


Powers

The pharaoh was recognized only by wearing the uraeus, which conveyed legitimacy to the ruler. There is evidence for this tradition even in the Old Kingdom during the third millennium B.C. Several goddesses associated with, or being considered aspects of Wadjet are depicted wearing the uraeus also.


History/Beliefs

The Uraeus is a symbol for the goddess Wadjet, one of the earliest of Egyptian deities, who often was depicted as a cobra. The center of her cult was in Per-Wadjet, later called Buto by the Greeks. She became the patroness of the Nile Delta and the protector of all of Lower Egypt, so her image was worn by the pharaohs as a head ornament, first as the body of Wadjet atop the head or as a crown encircling the head, always remaining in effect part of their crown, indicating her protection and as a claim over the land.

At the time of the unification of Egypt, the image of Nekhbet, who was represented as a white vulture and held the same position as the patron of Upper Egypt, joined the image of Wadjet on the Uraeus that would encircle the crown of the pharaohs who ruled the unified Egypt. The importance of their separate cults kept them from becoming merged as with so many Egyptian deities. Together they were known as, The Two Ladies, who became the joint protectors and patrons of the unified Egypt.

Gold wadjet eye pendant: the eye of Horus, featuring Nekhbet the vulture goddess on the left, and Wadjet the cobra goddess on the right.

Later, the pharaohs were seen as a manifestation of the sun-god Re, and so it also was believed that the Uraeus protected them by spitting fire on their enemies from the fiery eye of the goddess. In some mythological works, the eyes of Ra are said to be uraei. Wadjets existed long before the rise of this cult when they originated as the eye of Wadjet as cobra and are the name of the symbols also called the Eye of the Moon, Eye of Hathor, the Eye of Horus, and the Eye of Ra—depending upon the dates of the references to the symbols.

As the Uraeus was seen as a royal symbol, Horus and Set also were depicted wearing one. In early mythology, Horus would have been the name given to any king as part of the many titles taken, being identified as the son of the goddess. According to the later mythology of Re, the first uraeus was said to have been created by the goddess Isis who formed it from the dust of the earth and the spittle of the then current sun deity. In this version of the mythology, the uraeus was the instrument with which Isis gained the throne of Egypt for Osiris. Isis is associated with, and may be considered an aspect of Wadjet.


References

  • Budge, Sir E.A.Wallis. An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, in Two Volumes, Sir E.A.Wallis Budge, (Dover Publications, Inc, New York), c 1920, Dover Edition, c 1978. (Large categorized listings of Hieroglyphs, Vol 1, pp xcvii-cxlvii (97-147, 50 pgs.)
  • Hagen, R. Hagen, R. Egypt; People, Gods, Pharaohs, Rose-Marie & Rainer Hagen, (Barnes and Noble Books, New York), c 2003, (originally: Taschen, GmbH, Koln), c 2003, 1999, pg 202.
  • Reeves, Nicholas. Ancient Egypt, The Great Discoveries, a Year-by-Year Chronicle, Nicholas Reeves, (Thames and Hudson Ltd, London), c 2000. See "1920, The Golden Uraeus of Sesostris II from el-Lahun", pg. 157.


Source

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.