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Egyptian Symbols

Egyptian Symbols - Egyptian Meanings

Egyptian symbols hieroglyphics are arguably one of the most famous examples of symbolism across history. Created by the ancient Egyptians, this served as their formal writing system. Hieroglyphics can be dated back to the 32nd century BC, and perhaps even earlier. Evidence demonstrates that this writing system continued into the Roman period of the 4th century AD. However, much of the knowledge of hieroglyphics and their meanings were lost after the end of pagan temples in the 5th century. There was no existing knowledge of what these symbols meant, how they were meant to be read and their significance.
Hieroglyphics were decoded in the 1820s with the aid of the Rosetta Stone by Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion. These symbols are not just phonetic sounds or symbols. In fact, they are a combination of different elements. As Jean-François Champollion discovered, hieroglyphics are a “complex system” that encompasses “figurative, symbolic, and phonetic all at once.” For many Egyptians, this form of writing was seen as the “words of God” and thus used by priests.
Generally, hieroglyphics in cursive form were used for religious texts and engraved into wood or written on papyrus. They are written in rows or columns and can be read either left to right or right to left. The direction can be established by seeing which way the human or animal figure faces at the beginning of the line.

Lotus Egyptian symbol

Lotus

One of the more well-known ancient Egyptian symbols. The Lotus is representative of the sun and creation. It is a depiction of the process of rebirth and new beginnings. The Lotus is also associated with the god of healing and medicine, Nefertem.

Tyet Egyptian symbol

Tyet

Some scholars describe Tyet as a variation of the Ankh symbol. Others describe this as a knotted piece of cloth. However, its meaning is very similar to the ankh. Often translated as life or welfare, and also appears with the ankh and djed symbol. Tyet is associated with Isis, which is why it is also known as the “knot” or “blood” of Isis.

Crook and fall Egyptian symbol

Crook and fall

A symbol often used by Pharaohs, the crook and fall are representative of two aspects of royalty. The crook, similar to that used by a shepherd, is a symbol of the king’s authority. The fall depicts fertility and land. This symbol is usually seen on tombs and crossed over the chest. This is to demonstrate both the ruler as a shepherd and his strength in ruling.

Menat Egyptian symbol

Menat

Menat is the name of the goddess Hathor. A major goddess, she was a deity of the sky. She is known as a patron of music, dance, love, joy, and maternal care. Menat is a representation of femininity in ancient Egyptian culture. She is also a guide in the afterlife, helping guide deceased souls across the boundaries of the two worlds.

Ha Egyptian symbol

Ha

Ha depicts a clump of papyrus. This symbol originates from Lower Egypt. Its variant is a swamp of papyrus. The green symbolizes the vitality of life.

Sedge Egyptian symbol

Sedge

The Sedge symbol is representative of the King of the South of Egypt. It is also visible in Sma hieroglyph as half of the union. It is a representation of the different regions of Egypt individually. The sedge is most often seen as part of the Sma/Sema hieroglyph.

Sema Egyptian symbol

Sema

The Sema, or Sma, is a symbol indicating a union. It depicts the lower and upper kingdoms of Egypt and their unity. It is often described as a pair of lungs attached to a windpipe, genitalia, and sometimes both simultaneously. The Sma was often placed on a mummy’s chest in order to give it life in the underworld.

Netra Egyptian symbol

Netra

In its most literal form, the Netra symbol can be seen as a weapon. The general agreement is that it depicts either an ax or a hatchet. However, Netra is also the word for God in ancient Egyptian. The symbol can be found engraved on the tombs of rulers to indicate that their soul has joined the gods.

Duat Egyptian symbol

Duat

The importance of stars is not just relegated to mortal life, but also the afterlife. Duat is the land of the underworld, and it was believed that stars were present there as well. Its symbol is meant to depict the star itself, but also its surroundings by the circle. They were also seen as a symbol of the souls dwelling in the underworld.

Seba Egyptian symbol

Seba

Seba is a representation of the star. For Egyptians, stars were how they designed their calendars. It also influenced their beliefs in the afterlife. The starfish symbol is representative of the stars they found in the Red Sea. However, while its design resembles a starfish, Seba itself is connected to religion and the afterlife.

Ka Egyptian symbol

Ka

The Ka is a representation of life and soul. It refers to the spiritual double that each person possesses. The Ka lives on even when the individual dies and needs somewhere to live. To give it somewhere to live and attain eternal life, the Ka needs to survive. Because the Ka needs a body, Egyptians mummified their dead to give its spiritual double the chance to live.

Was - Sceptre Egyptian symbol

Was – Sceptre

Was-sceptre denotes power. The was-scepter was used as a representation of power. It was associated with deities such as Anubis and pharaohs. The symbol is also a representation of chaos by the deity Set. It also has meaning in the context of death, as it was seen as a protective tool for the deceased.

Amenta Egyptian symbol

Amenta

Amenta is a symbol for the underworld. It depicts the horizon where the sun sets. It was also used as a representation of the Nile’s west bank. The latter is where Egyptians buried their dead, leading it to become a symbol for the land of the dead.

Sa Egyptian symbol

Sa

Sa symbolizes protection. The symbol is shaped to resemble a rolled-up reed mat and has a dual meaning. Sa could either be seen as a shelter for herdsmen, or a protection device for boatmen. This is also the symbol for ancient Egyptian deities Bes and Taweret.

Shu Egyptian symbol

Shu

Shu is a symbol for the god of light and air. Literally translated, Shu means emptiness. The feather is its symbol, as Shu is often depicted as a human with feathers on his head. Shu is associated with warm and dry air and the Earth’s atmosphere. A god of light, he is a representation of day and night and the separation between the two.

Shen Egyptian symbol

Shen

The Shen, on the outset, looks like a circle with a line at the bottom. However, when examined closely, it is actually a loop of rope. Both ends are visible, yet tied together. The sun disc in the middle is a representation of the eternity of life, as the sun is central to life. The Shen is derived from the word shenu, which means to encircle. The Shen is a representation of infinity and permanence. It also served as a protection device for rulers and deities.

Ieb Egyptian symbol

Ieb

Ieb is the heart and it has a special role in ancient Egypt. There was an early realization of the connection between the heart and the pulse and its importance. It was believed that the heart contained both the mind and soul of a person. It was seen as a center of life force. The heart also plays an important role in the afterlife, as a lighter heart (i.e. not burdened with sin) would enjoy the happiness of eternal afterlife.

Ahket Egyptian symbol

Ahket

If Djew is the mountain, Ahket represents the horizon. Stylistically, it is seen as the sun rising. It is also known as “the place in the sky where the sun rises.” It is also a word for one of the seasons experienced in ancient Egypt. Known as the inundation season, this is when the Nile would flood farmland and start bringing nutrients to the plants.

Djew Egyptian symbol

Djew

Djew symbol depicts the mountain ranges of Egypt. It shows its peaks, with a valley running in between. This is a representation of the cosmic beliefs ancient Egyptians held, rather than being seen as a literal mountain. Djew is an image of the two peaks of a mountain that keep the sky up. These are guarded and have their own protector, Aker.

Djed Egyptian symbol

Djed

A common symbol, Djed is a sign of stability. Its resemblance to a pillar is meant to represent permanence and eternity. Many associate this symbol with the spine of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead. The pillar of Djed has its roots in a myth wherein Osiris is tricked and killed, with his body thrown into a river. Eventually, Isis extracts his body and consecrates the pillar that it was used to construct, thereby giving it its title.

Wedjat Egyptian symbol

Wedjat

Wedjat eyes are a symbol of protection against the evil eye. It is a representation of the falcon god Horus. These can often be found on coffins and tombs as a way to protect the dead and ward off evil spirits. The lines underneath the eye are an association of similar markings on a falcon’s face.

Uraeus Egyptian symbol

Uraeus

Symbol of the goddess Wadjet. Uraeus depicts an upright cobra in a threatening pose. It is seen as a symbol of divine authority, royalty and was often adorned on crowns and head ornaments of ancient Egyptian rulers and gods. Uraeus is associated with deities and pharaohs, and therefore holds great significance. The cobra symbolizes Wadjet’s protection and a sign that the ruler was her chosen one and under her patronage.

Khepra Egyptian symbol

Khepra

Also known as Khepri, Khepra symbol refers to a god that is often associated with scarabs and dung beetles. He is the god of sunrise, creation, and a representation of dawn. A creator god, he plays an important role in Egyptian life and is worshiped. He is mainly associated with the rising sun. This is because ancient Egyptians connected the action of a scarab beetle rolling its dung, and Khepri rolling the sun to bring light to the Earth as similar and therefore made his symbol the scarab.

Ankh Egyptian symbol

Ankh

The Ankh is a symbol of life and is often referred to as “The Key of Life” or the “Cross of Life.” It is viewed as a symbol of the earthly journey, and a reminder of mortal existence and what comes after death. One of the more ancient and well-known symbols, the ankh is often seen on temple walls and jewelry. Many also see it as a good luck charm. However, its main association is with the afterlife.

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