Who was Horus and why is this blog named after him when it's mostly about his mum?
Updated: May 26
Um, there's a lot to unpack here. Can you start by telling me who Horus is, please?
Sure thing! Horus was an Egyptian deity, a god worshipped by the people of Ancient Egypt. You’ve probably seen statues or carvings of him in photos of Ancient Egyptian monuments or artefacts. He can take on the form of a falcon. Which, let’s face it, is pretty pooping cool!
Awesome! So can he fly and stuff?
Definitely! The older version of Horus was known to fly back and forth from the supreme god Ra bringing him messages. Also, his eyes were thought to be the sun and the moon so he could watch everybody all the time. Which, granted, sounds a bit creepy. But he was a nice guy. If he saw somebody was upset, he’d pop down to help out.
Aww, what a gent! So what was he the god of?
Horus was known as the god of the sky but he was also worshipped as the god of war because of his 80-year-long battle with his uncle.
80 years of battle? With his own uncle? Talk about a stormy family relationship!
Absolutely! The story starts when Horus’ dad, Osiris, ruled over the world with his wife, Isis. This was shortly after the world had first been created and Horus hadn’t even been born yet. Osiris and Isis were great rulers and their kingdom was known to be a paradise where mortal human beings lived happy lives.
Sounds like a dreamland! But, let me guess, it didn’t stay that way.
You got it. Osiris had a brother, called Set. It was sibling rivalry at its best. Set saw how successful his brother was and immediately got jealous. Set was filled with so much hatred for his brother that he tricked Osiris into laying down inside a big wooden chest. Once inside, Set slammed the lid shut on Osiris and threw him into the River Nile!
I know, right! Then Set ruled over Osiris’ kingdom instead. But he was an awful ruler. People were dying from hunger. And then things got even worse.
Worse?! How could things get worse?
Osiris’ wife, Isis found the chest with her husband’s dead body inside and vowed to bring him back to life. But while she was searching for the ingredients to revive him, Set turned up to cause more mischief.
Set wanted his brother gone. For good this time. So he hacked up Osiris’ dead body into tiny pieces and spread them across each distant corner of Egypt.
Isis searched the entirety of the kingdom to find the severed chunks of her husband’s body. She finally brought Osiris back to life but now he could no longer exist in the living realm. He had to return to the underworld where he became the ruler of the dead. A now pregnant Isis had to go into hiding from Set, where she gave birth to her son, Horus.
Finally! Horus has arrived!
I know. For a story about Horus, he doesn’t actually feature in a lot of it. Anyway.
Once Horus was all grown up, he decided to challenge Set and get his father’s kingdom back. Horus went to the Ennead, a collection of very important gods, and claimed that Set had unlawfully taken the kingdom from his father, Osiris. Horus asked the gods to remove Set from power and return the throne to Osiris’ rightful heir, Horus himself.
Most of the gods agreed with Horus, except for Ra, who thought that Horus was too inexperienced to rule the kingdom. So Horus and Set must compete to prove which of them would be the best ruler.
Oh cool! Is this where that 80-year-long battle turns up?
Indeed. This battle involved a number of contests that were sometimes vicious, sometimes humiliating and sometimes just downright weird. Horus and Set had to build boats and race them. But stupidly, Set built his boat out of stone, which sunk like a… well, like a rock! The two also had to transform themselves into hippos and see who could hold their breath underwater for the longest. During one of the contests, Horus even lost an eye!
So who won?
Horus won every contest but he was helped by his mother Isis at every turn. In the end, the gods weren’t sure who to choose. So it was up to Isis to save the day again.
Isis tricked Set into admitting his wrong-doing by disguising herself as a grieving young woman. When Set asked the disguised Isis why she was crying, she told him about a wicked man who had killed her husband, stolen their lands and now wanted to kill her son. Convinced by Isis’ performance and outraged at her plight, Set declared that this wicked man should be punished. With a great deal of satisfaction, Isis then revealed who she really was.
Set had condemned himself! The gods declared Horus as the king and then banished Set to the desert. Take that, Set, you big poop-tortoise!!
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