The Uraeus (plural Uraei or Uraeuses) is a stylized upright cobra (or snake / serpent), used as a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, deity and divine authority in ancient Egypt. Uraeus is a Greek word that may have its origins in ancient Egyptian, meaning "she who rears up".
The Uraeus originated from the goddess Wadjet, who was seen as a cobra. She became the patron of the Delta, Lower Egypt, and so was worn by the Pharaohs as a head ornament, in effect part of the crown, as a claim over the land. There is evidence for this even in the Old Kingdom (3rd millennium BCE). The pharaoh was seen as a manifestation of the sun-god Re, and so it was also believed that the Uraeus protected the Pharaohs by spitting fire on their enemies. In some mythological works, the 'eyes' of Re are said to be Uraei.
As the Uraeus was seen as a royal symbol, Horus and Set were also depicted wearing one.
Another name for this is the term "Totaf" found also in the Bible.
Golden Uraeus of Senusret II
In 1920, the Qufti worker Hosni Ibrahim held in his hands the solid Gold, Golden Uraeus of Sesostris II, (after only a half-hour excavation). It had been decided to make a (follow-up) complete clearance of the El-Lahun Pyramid's rooms, at Saqqara. The start in the rock-cut offering chamber, leading from the sepulchre, on the south, immediately revealed in the turnover of the 6 inches of debris, the Golden Uraeus, crown ornament.
Prior to the 1922 find of Tutankhamun's tomb, this Golden Uraeus was the only ornament ever known to be worn by a Pharaoh.
The Golden Uraeus is of solid gold, 6.7 cm, black eyes of granite, a snake head of deep "ultramarine" lapis lazuli, the flared cobra hood of dark carnelian inlays, and also inlays of turquoise. For mounting on the Pharaoh's crown, two loops in the rear-supporting tail of the cobra, provide the attach points. See Reeves Ref, pg. 157 (1920). See Hagen Ref, pg. 202.
Uraeus, as a hieroglyph
Besides, the Uraeus being used as an ornament for "Statuary", or as an adornment on the pharaoh, it was also used for jewelry and in amulets. However another important usage is as the Hieroglyph.
The simplest hieroglyph is the "Cobra" (the Uraeus), however there are subcategories, referring to: goddess, priestess, the goddess Mehnit, shrine of goddess (àter), goddess Isis, and lastly goddess: (Cobra (uraeus) at base of God (ntr).
The Rosetta Stone uses the plural of the last example, "3-god 'Flags' with Cobra at each base of flag ". The story of the Rosetta Stone has the Pharaoh (the Priests of the pharaoh), listing His reasons for being honored, and in return, "The Gods and Goddesses (plural)" reward Him. The last (2/3) of the Rosetta Stone relates how He will be honored, including erecting the Rosetta Stone, for all to read. Uraeus on buildings in hieroglyphs
Another example of the hieroglyph usage, is as adornments upon the hieroglyph for "shrine" itself, and also for 'buildings'.
Reference: Budge, Sir E.A.Wallis. An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary
The human genetic experiment links with snake symbology, DNA, Sumerian Gods and for some a feeling of connection with an alien race, reptilian or other.
Symbolism of the snake:
- psychic energy, or the power of Nature; intuitive wisdom
- the unconscious
- Kundalini Rising
- new life, rejuvenation and healing
- Rebirth - the snake sheds its skin and grows new skin; shedding the old, new growth. In ancient times snakes were associated with Goddess, rain and fertility symbolism.
- sexual symbol, or a symbol of temptation - phallic symbol
In Eastern Europe during the time period of 6500 - 3500 BCE. Snake and Bird Goddesses were often combined into one figure, though not always. Both were associated with the Great Cosmic Egg, from which came forth the Universe. Symbols associated with these Goddesses were parallel or zigzag lines, dotted bands (like a snake's skin), meander shapes, and mazes. These symbols are also associated with water and rain, making these deities ones which brought the rains in times of drought. Such symbols appear on pottery more often in the areas where rain was scarce.
The caduceus/rod of Hermes creates balance. It is thought to be, among other things, the representation of the Egg-creating Snake God and Goddess.
The snake is also associated with psycho-sexual energy. Those who do Tantra refer to the "Kundalini Snake", which is coiled three and a half times around the base of a person's spine. This is not literal truth, but an image of the sexual energy which starts at the base of the spine and coils upward during specific Layayoga exercises.
Breasts are symbolic of fertility and nurturing but are also a symbol for rain, again making the connection between Water and Life. The Snake Goddess figurines from Crete show a woman with elaborate skirts and headdress who is bare breasted and clutching a snake in each hand. It may well be that Crete was the inheritor of the Snake/Bird Goddess symbolism that existed in Eastern Europe a millennium before. Avebury and its nearby mounds and dolmens make the shape of a snake guarding a Cosmic Egg, which contains two circles representing Day and Night (i.e. Time) with the breast-like Silbury Hill not far away; again, more symbols regarding creation, rain and fertility, concepts very much related in the ancient mind.
The Snake Dance uses this symbolism. It the Dance of Life, of the twining strands of DNA, of Creation, bringing rain and new growth to the Earth.
The cobra is an ancient symbol of power and protection from danger. In Hindu the cobra is associated with Lord Shiva the 'Creator'. The cobra, a symbol of fertility, is often shown together with Shiva in stone sculptures and paintings.
The cobra was a symbol of upper Egypt. Cobra was the symbol of the Pharaoh. The cobra was used for the low g in hieroglyphics. The cobra was also on the double crown of Egypt. Cobras were a sign of new life and resurrection.
The cobra was almost always portrayed rearing up and with its hood dilated. The Greek word uraeus is typically used to describe the cobra in this pose. The word may have its origins from the Egyptian words which meant she who rears up. The species of cobra represented as the uraeus is the Naja haje.
The king is portrayed wearing the royal nemes head cloth, the royal beard and the double crown, symbolizing his rule over Upper and Lower Egypt. The royal uraeus on his forehead protects him against all evil.
The uraeus was a symbol for various things from early times including: the sun, Lower Egypt, the king and a number of deities. Ancient Egyptian Dynasties.
Uraeus is a mythic Egyptian snake. This painting symbolizes the power of the original snake well known by so many cultures The snake is also a symbol of transformation and evolution. The snake finds its place in the human body in the spine. The spine is most important as a nervous center but as a carrier of spiritual energy too, called by some oriental people Kundalini.
The uraeus is a rearing cobra that connotes protection. The uraeus was associated from as early as the predynastic Period with the Delta region, or Lower Egypt, and was featured prominently above the brow on the royal crown or the royal head cloth. The uraeus is often combined with the sun disk.
The cobra, with its dilated hood framing the disk of the sun, was said to represent the fiery eye of Re. The two symbols were also depicted with various solar-linked deities, in particular Sekhmet, who is represented in the exhibition as a lion-headed goddess carrying the solar disk and uraeus above her head. The uraeus in its protective function is often incorporated into scenes from the Book of the Dead, associating uraeus with the underworld.
Uraeus Symbol at Djoser's Step Pyramid in Saqqara, Egypt
The uraeus is a symbol of kingship in Egypt represented by a cobra in an upright position worn as a head ornament or crown. The symbol protected the king and was an agent of his destructive powers, spitting fire and associated with the goddess Wadjit.
The Uraeus - From Kircher's Oedipus Egyptiacus
The spinal cord was symbolized by a snake, and the
serpent coiled upon the foreheads of the Egyptian
initiates represented the Divine Fire which had crawled
serpent like up the Tree of Life.
According to the Story of Re, the first uraeus was created by the goddess Isis who formed it from the dust of the earth and the spittle of the sun-god. The uraeus was the instrument with which Isis gained the throne of Egypt for her husband Osiris.
As the sacred creature of the Delta city of Buto, the reptile was known by the same name. She soon became an emblem of all of Lower Egypt. The uraeus was often depicted with the vulture Nekhebet who served the same function for Upper Egypt. Together they symbolized the unification of the two lands. The creatures also appear together in the pharaoh's nebty or 'Two Ladies' name.
The cobra was also called the 'fiery eye' of Re. Two uraei were sometimes depicted on either side of the solar disk.
A gilded wooded cobra called netjer-ankh ("living god") was found in the tomb of Tutankhamon. It is representative of the cobra's associations with the afterlife. In funerary works, the cobra is often depicted spitting fire. Two cobras doing just that were said to guard the gates of every "hour" of the underworld. During the Late Period, uraei were also shown towing the barque of the sun in funerary papyri. In all of these examples, the cobra's protective nature is clearly demonstrated.
The antechamber to the King's Chamber is highlighted by the blue circle. This small but very important room can be linked to the ancient ceremony of 'opening of the mouth'. Rather than being lowered as a 'last line of defense' against intruders, the portcullis stones may have been ritually opened during the ceremony of activating the deceased pharaoh's spiritual components.
At the top of the ascent of the Great Pyramid's Grand Gallery, the path of the corridor becomes constricted as it enters into the antechamber to the King's Chamber. In the anatomical model guided by the Egyptian canon of proportion for the human figure the Great Step at the south end of the Grand Gallery coincides with the juncture of the shoulders and the base of the neck.
The north wall of the antechamber is positioned to indicate the lower line of the jaw, providing an indication that this area within the pyramid may have pertained to the rituals performed in the ceremony of 'opening of the mouth'.
Two of the several instruments employed in this process of magically activating the ka and the ba of the deceased pharaoh were the sebur and the urheka.
The design of the handles of both of these devices appears to have been inspired by the curvature of the spinal medulla as it passes through the vertebral canal. The enlarged end of the urheka is comparable to the human brain stem.
The inclusion of an uraeus (enraged cobra symbol) on the 'head' end of some representations of the urheka demonstrates that this tool was used to magically activate the Eye of Horus, which is the psychic energy field focused at the center of the brow.
Unlike the rather elegant appearance of the urheka, the adze-like, utilitarian design of the sebur signifies that this tool was symbolically representative of forcefully breaking open a previously sealed aspect or component of the deceased's spiritual body. That a forceful, as opposed to gentle, intent was involved in the ritual use of the sebur is clearly emphasized by the presence of an iron cutting edge mounted with bindings onto the wooden handle.
In Old Kingdom Egypt, iron was very rare and highly valued because of its strength and hardness.
Two of the
several magical tools used
during the ceremony of 'Opening of the Mouth'.
The urheka is on the left and the sebur is on the right.
Given this backdrop, the seemingly incongruent design features of the antechamber to the King's Chamber coalesce into a consistent theme. In this regard, for every design element in the portcullis arrangement of the antechamber which is supportive of the mechanical closing of the passageway there is a feature which obviates the functionality of the scheme.
This is clearly evident in the discrepancy between the design of the east and west walls of the chamber, the equivalents of polarized reference points of birth and death. While the west wall appears to allow for the closure of the passageway the east wall lacks the features needed to make the setup mechanically viable.
Underscoring this motif of inconsistency, the masonry of the antechamber is a composite of white limestone and red granite. White limestone may be seen as representing the brilliant light of the noon-time sun while red granite is indicative of the darkening glow of the setting sun. In this reading, the design of the antechamber encapsulates the symbolism of a convergence of opposites, an ineluctable crossing point between states of being.
Contrary to the problematic and unconvincing assertion that the antechamber's portcullis stones were intended to be lowered as a 'last defense' against tomb robbers, I submit that they were intended to be raised or possibly even ritually broken open while in a lowered position. This opening would have taken place during the ceremony of 'opening of the mouth', comparable to and perhaps even simultaneously with the symbolically forceful acts involving the sebur tool.