ANCIENT NILE'S
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN SYMBOLS / SYMBOLISM



Below are some of the more common symbolic signs


BOOKS


SYMBOL


QUALITIES


IMAGE


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ankh
Sign for Life

Believed to unlock the mysteries of heaven and earth. Hence, why it is often referred to as, 'The Key of Life'. Its design appears to combine the symbolic cross of Osiris and the oval of Isis. It is often shown being carried by the gods and pharaoh.


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Crook (Sceptre. Was Sceptre)
Symbol of Guardianship.

The symbolism of the crook is similar to that of the stick and its derivatives, namely; power and authority. The royal Egyptian symbol was called heka when it was in the shape of a shepherd's crook, and was when it had the head of a canine animal and a two-pronged base. The triple sceptre was made up of a whip, a staff and stick, representing domination over matter, control of feeling and domination of thought. It is a symbol of the central axis, like the king himself, the intermediary between god and his subjects, a guarantee of peace and justice. The royal symbol of the kings was adopted from the god Osiris and the ancient shepherd deity, Andjeti. It denoted Pharaoh's role as guardian of the People of the Nile. The crook and flail were used in all royal ceremonies and were part of the mortuary regalia of the kings, ensuring the continued welfare of the diseased in the Afterlife.


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Djed Pillar
Symbol of Osiris, god of the Dead.

In the book of the dead it is described as Osiris' backbone. It seems to have come to represent stability. Other gods that have been associated with it are Sokar and Ptah. It was at Memphis that probably the ceremory known as, Raising the djed pillar was first carried out by Pharaoh, which represented the stability of the monarchy and the resurrection of Osiris. The best depiction of this act is in the Osiris Hall at Abydos.


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Cartouche
Sign for Encircling Protection

In the form of a knotted rope it was used to enclose the royal name of the pharaoh. As with the Shen hieroglyph (see below), the cartouche signified the concept of encircling protection. The cartouche may also have symbolised the universe being circled by the sun. Even the sarcophagus of some of the 18-19th dynasty pharaohs take on this shape and some tombs are also cartouche shaped, eg Tuthmoses III, affording the king that extra protection.


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Eye of Horus (Wedjat, Udjat)
Sign for Healing

During his confrontations with the god Seth, Horus is said to have lost his left eye, which represented the moon. However his wife, the goddess Hathor, restored it. That is why the wedjat symbolises healing. Extremely common as an amulet it represented strength, protection, perfection, and the act of 'making whole'. The literal translation of the word udjat is, sound.


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Flail ( Flabellum )
Symbol of Guardianship.

The flail has long associations with the gods Osiris, Min, and several sacred animals. And like the crook (Sceptre), it was one of the important insignias of royalty. Some scholars believe it to be a whip, maybe derived from a fly whisk. Whilst others think it represents the ladanisterion, an instrument used by very early goatherders. As such, it would symbolise, past traditions and the shepherding aspects of Pharaoh's role as king. The ancient Egyptian name for a flail was nekhakha .


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Frog
Symbol of Fertility and Regeneration.

The frog had several Egyptian names but the most commonly used was kerer which represented the sound of a frog. The life cycle of the frog, which of course included the tadpole (hefner) stage, became the hieroglyph for 100,000, and it often decorated the shen ring (see below) thereby wishing Pharaoh a 100,000 year reign. Heket, the goddess of childbirth, particularly in the final stages of labour, was the diety most closely associated with the frog. Plus four of the eight gods connected with the creation legend were said to have frog faces. These were Heh, Kek, Nun and Amun. As such, the frog was also thought of as 'the emblem of chaos', of primal matter, wet and unformed - the symbol of unformed man. Frogs were carried as talismans and were often placed within the wrappings of mummies as magical amulets to ensure rebirth for the deseased.


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Lotus
Sign for Rebirth

The emblem of Upper Egypt. Temple pillars often have lotus carved capitals. The lotus was symbolic of rebirth, since one of the creation myths describes how the newborn sun god rose out of a floating lotus. To celebrate this occurrence there was a hymn sung in the temple on festival days, the Lotus Offering, especially at the cult centre of Edfu. The blue lotus was also the emblem of the god Nefertem; 'The Lord of Perfume'. The lotus also appears to have been strongly connected with enjoyment and sensuality.


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Ouroboros ( Auroboros )
Sign of Totality

The snake swallowing its own tail represents; rebirth, immortality, the round of existence, evolution, continuity, and perpetual movement of the universe. It symbolises unity and infinity, with no beginning and no end. The cycle of day and night, life and death, heaven and earth, good and evil are all represented by the endless turning on itself. A symbol in both Egyptian and Greek mythology.


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Pyramid
Symbol of Ascension

As a certain amount of astronomical observation was involved in the building of the pyramids, in particular the precise alignment with the cardinal points, it is believed the pyramid was a representation of the world's axis, with the body of the structure symbolising man's ascent to the heavenly skies - in particular, Pharaoh's ascension to Heaven and the Afterlife. It has also been proposed that the pyramid may have symoblised the sloping rays of the sun as a source of eternal strength and energy. Or it could have been designed to represent the Primeval Mound of Creation on which the sun-god was said to have been born.


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Scarab
Sign of Resurrection

The scarab was a favourite charm / amulet becoming associated with renewal and regeneration. It personified the god, Khepri, a sun god associated with resurrection. From the middle kingdom, they was often used by pharaoh as a royal seal and would also be produced to celebrate certain events during his reign. There are various funerary types, for example, the large winged scarab and the heart scarab which would be included within the linen wrapping of the mummy.


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Shen
Sign for the Eternity of the Universe

Circle of rope denoting infinity, often associated with the god, Horus. It was commonly used decoratively in pendants, earrings, rings and necklaces. The cartouche is the elongated form of the shen symbol.


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Sphinx
Sign of Wisdom and Protection

With a human head, body of a beast, the sphinx had access to all wisdom and strength and symbolised the riddle of human existence.




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