The Eye of Ra, the Divine Feminine Power in Ancient Egypt
The Eye of Ra, the divine female power in ancient Egypt?
In the Hindu pantheon Mahadevi refers to the great goddess, a sort of sum of all the goddesses (Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, Parvati…), a generic term. It is the one with 1,000 names, with an infinite number of aspects. We can ask ourselves, if we do not find a concept close to the epithet of “Eye of Re”. This one is carried by many goddesses in the Egyptian tradition. Indeed, this title is used to designate for example: Nut, Hathor, Sekhmet, Tefnut, Maat, Mout, Ouadjet, Bastet, Isis (Aset), Pakhet, Iousâas… etc. We find it mentioned in the hymns engraved on the walls of temples to designate different goddesses, although it is often associated with Hathor and Sekhmet because of the myths of “the cow of heaven” and “the distant”.
SOME MYTHS ABOUT THE EYE OF RA
The myth of the eye of Ra
The divine eye of Ra or Udjat designates in this myth one of the aspects of his daughter Hathor. Following a dispute between Re and his daughter, she ran away. Ra charges the divinities Shu and Thoth to bring her back. The quest is taking longer than expected. The solar god gets impatient, he then decides to replace him, The eye of Re, learning that she has been replaced, gets angry. To soothe him, Re places his eye on his forehead, like a third eye. She then became the uraeus, the female cobra with a burning and devastating breath, who is also the goddess cobra Ouadjet, her power and protection against her enemies.
The myth of the distant
The myth takes place in very distant times, when Re still ruled on earth. Her eye, Hathor, left the palace in a moment of anger to go to Nubia, where she turned into a bloody lioness, the terrible Sekhmet. Ra charged Shou and Thoth with persuading her to return to Egypt where her absence overwhelms both the demiurge and the population. They approach her in the form of monkeys, and after many tricks, the tale of fables, Thoth succeeded in persuading her to return home. On the way, he threw her into the waters of a Nile cataract to calm her down. It emerges from it according to the soothed versions in its Hathor form and in a late narrative in the form of Bastet. Arriving in Philae, Domaine d’Aset (Isis), his return is celebrated with great pomp and circumstance. His return signals the return of flood, joy and fertility. The country is celebrating.
The myth of the cow of heaven
We are still at the time when Re reigns on earth. But he is getting old and men are rebelling against him. He asks the other deities for advice. The gods propose by Noun’s voice to send his eye against humans since “there is no higher eye than this one”. Thus the eye of Re – “oudjat” (which is complete) in the form of Hathor/Sekhmet is sent to Earth. She went into the desert – refuge of humans – as a bloodthirsty lioness goddess where she exterminated a large part of the rebels. But Re takes pity on men. To save humanity from the goddess’ bloodthirsty fury, he devised a plan to appease it. The god sends messengers to Elephantine to bring him “large quantities of didi” (blushing substance), which mixed with a lot of beer becomes similar to blood. When Hathor/Sekhmet arrived at dawn in front of the lake of red beer prepared for her and similar to blood, he thought he was discovering the blood-soaked fields. In ecstasy, she gets drunk on this substance, and forgets about men. But Re is tired of men and their quarrels. He decided to abdicate and entrusted Thot with the task of teaching men how to write. To ascend to heaven, Nut turns into a “cow of heaven” and carries the solar god on his back, and in the early morning takes him to the heavens. Nout, feeling dizzy, doesn’t like his situation. Re then creates eight geniuses, who two by two, will support the cow’s four legs. He asks Shou to place himself under Nut’s belly to support her with his arms.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RA EYE
As we have seen in the myths above, the title of Eye of Re is often associated with Hathor and its aspects, or associated goddesses (Sekhmet, Ouadjet, Bastet). What do these goddesses have in common, what are their characteristics?
The eye of Ra is generally a title of his daughter (see daughter/wife) and his protector, i. e. the power, that punishes his enemies. There is, however, one male exception, the lion Maahes son of Bastet, in his role as protector of Re, he may wear the title of eye of Ra.” The “Eye of Re” is Re’s destructive force, the one he delegates to punish rebellious humans for example or the cobra spitting flames at his forehead, who repels his enemies. Soothed, it becomes his creative force, thus Iousâas stimulates the sexual desire of the demiurge Tem to proceed to creation. In the Osirian myth, when the clashes of Horus and Set weary Re, Hathor lifts his skirts to reveal his vulva and give his father back manhood and joy. Thus, it stimulates him, so that he can emerge from his torpor and return to arbitrate the conflicts between Set and Horus. The return of Ra’s eye is also associated with the annual return of the flood and therefore with the fertility of the land.
Ra’s eye is ambivalent. That is, it has two different or seemingly contradictory aspects. Violent and peaceful, destructive and creative.
If this title is closely associated with Hathor, it is, as we said earlier, nevertheless carried by many other goddesses, who are not necessarily cited as its aspects. This title indicates that the goddess who wears it, possesses the characteristics of the eye of Ra. That is to say, she is his daughter and/or lover, who stimulates his desire and participates in creation, but also his destructive and terrible power. The eye of Re thus seems to be a generic term to designate an idea of the divine in the Egyptian pantheon, the female power companion of the demiurge without whom he cannot create, as for example the term “shakti” in Hinduism can be.
Shakti means power, power or energy. She is the female counterpart of all the gods of the Hindu pantheon. It is the dynamic feminine energy, or active principle, of the deities of the Indian pantheon, the male principle being perceived as passive in its role as seed or essence.
From the eye of Ra to the anatomical eye
Let us move away a little from ancient myths and testimonies to reflect on the role and functioning of the eye for the human being. It is the organ of vision. It captures light and then analyses it through the brain and creates a representation of its environment. Here we find some ideas that permeate ancient testimonies, light and the creation of the world (or environment). The eye of Ra as the anatomical eye, whose role the elders had perhaps understood or guessed, is that “organ” or “entity” which receives light and analysis, to create an image or representation of the world. It creates a representation of our environment. Without the eye of Re, there is no longer any creation or synthesis of light to create an image of the world. In a way, the creation of Re cannot take shape. This idea of reflecting or capturing Re’s light is also found in a feminine toilet article, but also in a cult object, the mirrors decorated with a Hathor head. The mirror was one of the offerings made to Hathor.