|The Four sons of Horus were a group
of four gods in Egyptian
mythology, who were essentially
the personifications of the four canopic
jars, which accompanied mummified
bodies. Since the heart was thought
to embody the soul, it was left inside
the body, and the brain was thought
only to be the origin of mucus, so
it was reduced to liquid, syphoned
off, and discarded. This left the
stomach (and large intestines), liver,
(small) intestines, and lungs, each
being stored in their own jar.
Since Pharaoh himself was mummified, and since he was seen
as a manifestation of, or especially protected by, Hor, these
parts of the deceased pharaoh were seen as parts of Horus,
or rather, his children, since Horus
was not any lesser in his association with each next Pharoah.
Since Horus was therefore their father,
so Aset (Isis), Horus'
original wife (i.e. his wife in early mythologies), was usually
seen as their mother.
As the sons of Horus were representative
of the jars, they were said to guard the contents against
would be attackers. However, the jars, as jars, needed something
to protect them themselves. Thus each of the jar deities was
said to have a protector, which, since the jar deities were
considered male, in a manifestation of the principles of male-female
duality, also used in the Ogdoad,
made the protector's female. Naturally, as protectors of the
protectors of the dead, they were goddesses associated with
Later, over time, the four sons gained names - Hapi,
Since suffocation would be the form of death that made the
lungs the victim, the main form of suffocation, namely drowning,
became attributed to the deity protecting the lung jar. Consequently,
he first gained the name geese, in reference to floating on
water, and then later gained the more sarcastic name runner,
in reference to river currents (some of the glyphs involved
represent water), which is Hapi (also
spelt Hapy and Apephi) in Egyptian. This association with
water lead to his protector being the goddess Anuket,
goddess of the source of the Nile (the main, and in most places,
only, river in Egypt), and later, when Anuket
was identified as Nephthys, so
his protector became Nephthys.
Since the liver was thought of as the seat of emotion, so
a broken heart was the form of death attributed to the deity
protecting the liver. Thus the name of this deity, sarcastically,
became the kindly one, which is Imsety
(also spelt Amset, Imset, Amsety, Mesti, and Mesta) in Egyptian.
Likewise, the cause of such emotion would likely be that of
a beautiful woman, thus his protector was the goddess Aset
In war, in ancient times, the most
significant weaponry was the bow and
arrow, able to hit targets at a distance,
but due to the distance, required
aiming at the most visible part of
the body the centre of the
torso. Whereas in hand to hand combat,
the torso was also the most aimed
for region, in particular, the stomach.
In this manner, the deity protecting
the stomach was associated with death
by war, gaining the sarcastic name
(also spelt Tuamutef), meaning Adoring
his mother, in reference to his motherland.
His protector became the goddess Neith,
who was originally a war goddess,
associated with the bow & arrow.
The remaining canopic jar carried the intestines, which were
often used, when from sacrificed animals, by soothsayers,
to predict the future, whereas, on the other hand, the intestines
were also noticeably the victims of poison. These twin associations
with magic, and death by poison, lead to the protector of
this deity being Serket, the scorpion
goddess, associated with poison and magic. With death by poison,
the canopic jar deity was given the sarcastic name my brother's
libation, which is Qebehsenuf
(also spelt Kebechsenef, and
Kebehsenuf) in Egyptian, in reference to the poisoner.
Jackal, baboon, falcon and human
The Egyptians associated jackals and baboons with graveyards,
since baboons were seen approaching them when humans were
not around at night, and jackals often were seen out looking
for easy prey. So these creatures, together with the falcon,
symbol of early forms of Horus, and
the symbol of a mummy itself, became the four symbols associated
with the jars.
Because the baboon was known for its loud call, it became
associated with the jar for the lungs, and consequently Hapi
was usually depicted with a baboon's head. Because the Egyptians,
like the Chinese, saw the liver as the seat of personality,
so it was that the (mummified) human was the one associated
with the jar of the liver, making the depiction of Imsety
one of a mummified human.
|There was no strong reason for associating
the jackal or the falcon with either
of the remaining two jars, one for
the stomach and one for the intestines,
so these were often interchanged.
However, due to the relative sizes
of the creatures, and what they would
be more likely to take away from a
corpse, the falcon was more often
associated with the jar for the intestines,
and the Jackal the jar for the stomach.
was usually depicted falcon-headed,
with the head of a Jackal.
The Four Sons of Horus
continued to be depicted on funerary equipment into the Ptolemaic
and Græco-Roman eras, and the last known instances are
found as late as the 4th century AD, well into the Christian
and Goddesses Menu
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