Top Important 30 Ancient Egyptian Symbols
Ancient Egyptian symbols has effected life in ancient Egypt which was a fusion between the spiritual and the physical aspects that became the foundation of their culture that showed in the form of artistic architecture, symbols, amulets, and many objects that were used to bring good fortune and protection. These ancient Egyptian Symbols played a vital role in passing the culture from one generation to another, as they were written on temple walls & obelisks and used in magical and religious rituals for both the living and the dead. The Egyptiian symbols were depicted in the form of hieroglyphs and treated as “The Words of Gods” which was used to document the most important events in ancient Egyptian History, their spiritual beliefs, and culture. Here are the top 30 ancient Egyptian symbols:
1. The Ankh
One of the most famous and used symbols of ancient Egypt and the world the Ankh which showcases the concept of internal like and divine protection. It’s a cross with a looped top in a key- like a shape, which represents eternal life, the morning sun, purifying, the life-giving power of water, clairvoyance, and the union of opposites like earth and heaven and male and female “Isis and Osiris“. The Ankh symbol appeared in the Early Dynastic Period (3150 -2613 BCE) and by the old kingdom (2613-2181 BC) the ankh became a powerful symbol of eternal life and was known as Neb-Ankh. The symbol is associated with “The Knot of the Goddess Isis” and her powerful cult between (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE). It’s also known as crux ansata by Coptic Christians which represent life and immortality. That symbol appears in paintings, on temples walls, and in tombs as it was the key to existence, and used as an amulet to provide divine protection.
2. The Djed
Known as “The Backbone of Osiris“, it represents strength and stability and linked to Osiris god of the underworld and Ptah god of creation which makes it a symbol for resurrection and eternal life. Ancient Egyptians believed the Djed pillar was the combination of four pillars that held the four corners of the earth. It was also used as a fertility pole that rose during festivals which emphasized balance in life and hope in the afterlife, provided by the great gods of Ancient Egypt. In the old kingdom of Egypt (2613-2181 BC), the symbol was featured on many temples, in the book of the dead in various versions and used as an amulet. A Djed column is often on the bottom of coffins where the backbone of the deceased would lay in order for the soul to stand up and walk into the afterlife.
3. The Was Scepter
It was a symbol of power and dominion of the god and the king in ancient Egyptian history and culture. The ancient Egyptians believed the sky was supported on four pillars in the shape of a Was specter. It is known as “Sculptor of the Earth” which presented the absolute meaning of completeness and totality. The staff is topped with the head of a canine which was developed in the time of king Djet (c. 3000 – 2990 BCE) of the first dynasty. Each god had his own was specter-like Hathor, Isis, Ra, and many others. The god Ptah was able to combine the Anka, Djed and the Was into his scepter, that was the only thing that fit his holiness.
4. The Scarab
One of the most well-known symbols of ancient Egypt during the first intermediate period (2181-2040 BCE) until the rise of Christianity was the Scarab. This symbol is seen in Egyptian art and iconography which is a species of the dung beetle. The shape of the scarab amulet came from the act of rolling the dung into a ball and laying its eggs in it and the dung served as food for the young when they hatched. Ancient Egyptians saw life coming from nothing which represented transformation, the recreation of life, and resurrection. The scarab was identified with the God Khepri who was more like Ra’s assistant that roll the ball of the sun across the sky. The scarab hieroglyph letter refers to the ideas of existence, transformation, growth, effectiveness, and divine manifestation which explain why the symbol was used in describing the titles of officials, governmental places, and creating official royal seals. The most common scarab amulets were the hardstone made from amethyst, green jasper, and carnelian.
5. The Tyet
Also known as Tiet/Tyet, known as the knot of Isis or the blood of Isis, that looks a lot like the Anka symbol except for its arms curved down. The symbol dates to the old Kingdom (2613 – 2181 BC) and represents the female genitalia. It was used as a funerary amulet made of a red stone or glass and was associated with many goddesses as well as Isis. It symbolizes the ideas of eternal life and resurrection. It often paired with the Ankh offering the protection and security of both Isis and Osiris. In the new kingdom of Egypt (1570 – 1050 BC) when Egypt reached its full glory and the cult of Isis reached its peak the symbol became very famous.
6. Lotus Symbol
The lotus symbol is considered to be a true icon in Egyptian mythology and ancient Egyptian art. The flower a.k.a “Water Lily” closes at night, sinks underwater then wakes up in the morning, that’s why it became a symbol of the sun, creation, and regeneration. The Lotus has been associated with Atum-Ra the sun god as a giant lotus emerging from the primordial waters of Nun when the world was born and from which the sun-god appeared. The cult of Osiris also used the symbol related to funeral imagery and with the deceased entering the underworld which symbolizes reincarnation. The symbol was commonly used in art to represent Upper Egypt. It was found in honored and sacred places all over Egypt, on the architecture of the capital tops of Egyptian pillars representing the tree of life, plus in the tombs, in Hieroglyphics, written in papyrus, found on thrones and the headdresses of the divine pharaohs.
7. The Shen
A circle of rope that has no beginning and no end, in order to form an unbroken bond which symbolizes infinity, completeness, eternity, and divine protection which made its symbol extremely popular and well – presented. The word “Shen” comes from the Ancient Egyptian word which means “Encircle“, the amulet of Shen was worn by everyone including kings. It was often linked to the greek symbol omega which symbolizes infinity. Many deities like Horus and Isis are seen holding the Shen which made the ancient Egyptians honor the Shen as a symbol of symmetry and perfection as shown on countless personal objects, temples, tombs.
8. Wadjet (The Eye of Horus)
Also Known as “Uto, Udjat, Wedjat” the Eye of Horus represents healing, protection, good health, royal power, sacrifice, curative qualities, and the most famous of ancient Egyptian symbols. The left eye belonged to the sky god Horus who gave it away to save his father Osiris who became the ruler of the underworld, the eye was later restored to save the life. The left eye of Horus represents the magical abilities and powers of Thoth. This symbol is extremely famous and powerful at that time as it had healing powers and was used as a medical tool to measure the ingredients while making the medicine plus it was believed the eye of Horus had mathematical knowledge and power. The Amulets of the eye were made out of Gold, Lapis Lazuli & carnelian and found with both the dead and the living. The eye represents the moon and considered a symbol of sacrifice. The Eye of Horus symbol corresponds to the location of the Third Eye the key to clairvoyance. His right eye is known as the eye of Ra the sun god.
9. The Udjat Eye (The Eye of Ra)
The Eye of the Ra is a famous amulet capable of repelling all negative energy and creating total harmony. The origin of the symbol can be traced to a number of connected tales like the time when he sends his eye as a loving father to look for his lost children. During the absence of Ra’s original eye, another one grew. When the first eye successfully returned with the children, the eye was used as a weapon by other gods.
The sun god Ra does his routine of sailing his boat across the sky at day then went to the underworld at night when he was weak and vulnerable. The myth says the daughter of Ra used the power of the eye to punish the humans who ignored his instructions and laws but many gods feared the eye would destroy mankind so they capture and calmed the eyes then returned to Ra.
The symbol represents royal power & authority, regeneration, and peace. The eye of Ra is associated with the destructive power of the sun, but the Egyptians also used it to protect buildings and themselves. The amulets were painted with a dark red color and worked to protect against evil entities or spells and create good health. Another representation of the eye of Ra is the symbol of a cobra wrapped around a solar disk.
10. Hekha and Nekhakha “Crook & Flail”
The Crook and the Flail was considered a symbol of the state’s power and the king’s absolute might and control over his subjects. The word “Hekha” is an epithet of Osiris which means “To Rule” and considered a symbol for royal power and dominion. The symbols appear in the Early Dynastic Period during the reign of the first king Narmer (c. 3150 BCE). The crook and the flail were first used as two emblems of the god Osiris which symbolized the authority of the Pharaohs. The Staff represents kingship, the Pharaoh as the shepherd of his people while the flail stood for the fertility of the land and the Pharaoh as the provider of food for his subjects. It was made out of wood as the ancient Egyptians believed it was scarce but the kings always used ones made of decorated gold.
Ouroboros is one of the symbols of the sun which represents the travels of Aton and one of the aspects of the sun god. It represents rebirth, perpetuity, and recreation plus showcases the beginning and end across time. The symbol was created when Atum came out of the dark primordial waters of Nun in the form of a serpent renewing itself every morning. The symbol appeared for the first time in the tomb of King Tutankhamen when he was buried in the 14th century BC which showcases the unified Ra-Osiris. It is known as an infinity symbol, it’s used in many different cultures like in the Greek and Norse mythology.
One of the most ancient and classical symbols of the ancient Egyptian civilization, it is a clear connection and powerful symbolism to the sun which showcases the divine protection against evil spirits within this life and the afterlife. It is an oval with a line at one end at right angles oval with a horizontal bar with a royal name in the middle. They were written on tombs and coffins to show who was located inside to help the body find its way across the afterlife.
The Uraeus is an ancient symbol that represents the cobra the animal representation of the goddess Wadjet of royalty. The symbol is the embodiment of sovereignty, royalty, and divine authority. The ancient Egyptians believed that the Uranus symbol can provide magical powers and protection according to the myth of the cobra that was given to the pharaohs from the god Geb of the earth as a sign of kingship. The Uraeus was used as an ornament for statuary, was found on the top of his crown, and as an adornment on the pharaoh plus for jewelry and in amulets. It was also used in hieroglyph that represents shrine or a building.
14. The Ka
The symbol of the Ka means spirit and soul as it was believed to represent the souls of the newly born and resurrected in the afterlife. The Ka is the most complicated part of ancient Egyptian symbolism and mythology which was viewed as the gateway to the heavens that affects every single aspect of their lives. The ka was the reception of the life powers of each man from the holy gods. It was also the source of these powers and the spiritual double that resides with every man plus the ultimate symbol for the sustaining and creative power of life. The Ka was part of the soul which was a person’s double that lives inside his body until death. After a person died the spiritual aspect of every human being will would the body but it needs to return back so that’s why the ancient Egyptians mummified to maintain it as long as possible so they could win their chance to enjoy eternal life.
The ancient Egyptians viewed the ka as the conscience or guide of each person plus kindness, honor, compassion, and quietude. The hieroglyph for the ka was the shoulder and arms bent upwards at the elbow. The Ka statues and images are depicted in an idealized state of vigor, youth, and beauty. The Egyptians believed that all mankind was made from clay by the ram-headed god named Khnum.
15. The Feather of Maat
The ancient Egyptians believed that the passage to the afterlife equaled the weight of a feather. One of the most recognized and famous ancient Egyptian symbols is the feather of Maat that was one of the forms of the goddess Maat who represented the ancient Egyptians concepts of order, harmony, law, balance, morality, truth, and justice. The process of judgment in the afterlife was heavily dependent on the feather of Maat. When the body of the deceased was delivered by Anubis to the hall of Truth to stand in front the ruler of the underworld Osiris then the judgment begins by weighing the feather of Maat against the heart of the deceased and the weightlessness of the heart. If the weight of the deceased heart is lighter than the feather then the person entry to the eternal land of the field of the reeds but if the heart of the deceased was heavier than the feather of Maat then he would be devoured by Ammit a soul-eating monster that makes you vanish from existence.
One of the most unique symbols in ancient Egypt is the Amenta which represents the land of the dead and the underground also known as Duat. The symbol was originally created to represent the horizon where the sun sets and a representation of the Nile’s west bank which was the place where the ancient Egyptian buried their dead.
17. The Tree of Life
Every ancient civilization across the world has had its own version of the tree of life which was linked to the strong presence of water. All across Egypt, the three of life was an important symbol that has a deep effect on their way of mythology. Many Egyptians believed that the three provided eternal life and full knowledge of the cycles of time. The symbol of the tree of life was connected to the sun and believed it has the shape of a palm and sycamore tree which was believed to grow at the gates of heaven. The first appearance of the tree of life was in Heliopolis at the temple of the sun god Ra. The tree of life also known as the sacred Ished tree was the seat of the Bennu bird a.k.a the phoenix.
The Menet symbol is a strong religious symbol that comes in the shape of a necklace with a characteristic shape and counterweight. The Name Menet was also the name of the goddess Hathor of love, joy, and celebration. The symbol came in the shape of a necklace that was connected to Hathor & Apis Bulls as a protective amulet. The Menet was shown as a symbol of Birth, life, fertility, and regeneration. The Necklace was very popular in the new kingdom as it brought good & fortune and provides divine protection against evil spirits in this life and the afterlife.
The ancient Egyptians were very creative in every aspect of their lives including music as they constructed musical instruments such as the sistrum that consists of a handle and a U shaped metal frame made of bronze or brass, between 30 to 70 cm in width, plus it carried small moveable rings that produced a sound. It was used in religious ceremonies in the worship of Hathor plus the shaken of it was to avoid the flooding of the Nile. Isis the goddess of motherhood and Bast the cat goddess of protection was also featured with a sistrum.
The Star amulet also is known as Seba is an ancient Egyptian symbol that represents the stars which had a deep effect on architectural elements as it was used to decorate a number of temples and tombs plus their advances in astrology that developed their calendar and their beliefs in the afterlife. The symbol is associated with gates and doorways and the concepts of learning and discipline. The Egyptians believed that the stars represent the souls of the dead and the followers of Osiris.
21. The Bennu Bird
One of the most famous ancient creatures and symbols in Ancient Egypt mythology and religion is the Bennu bird which is also known as the Phoenix. The bird represents the concept of resurrection and the rising sun. The Bennu was known to represent the soul of Ra the sun god and took the city of Heliopolis as the headquarter. The tree of life also known as the sacred Ished tree in the city of Ra Heliopolis was the seat of the Bennu bird.
22. Canopic Jar
The most spiritual and religious item in ancient Egyptian mythology is the canopic jar that played a vital role in the process of mummification, resurrection, and judgment. The ancient Egyptian believed that life was immortal and death was a door to the other side. The ancient Egyptians have four jars that were used to hold organs like intestines, lungs, the stomach, and liver after being removed from the body, embalmed, anointed then wrapped in linen. The heart remained inside the body contained the soul. The jars were placed inside a canopic chest then buried inside the tombs with the sarcophagus of the deceased. They were carved from limestone or pottery and used from the old kingdom till the Ptolemaic period. The heads of the jars wear carved to resemble the “Four Sons of Horus” who were also considered the cardinal compass points; the baboon-headed Happy, the jackal-headed Duamutef, the human-headed Imsety, and the falcon-headed Qebehsenuef.
23. The Crescent
The Goddess of Motherhood, healing, magic, and fertility Isis was the inspiration behind a number of symbols and amulets such as the Crescent moon symbol which is believed to bring good fortune to all mothers and their children.
The Ajet symbol was used in the writing of hieroglyphs which meant representation of the horizon and the sun. The Ajet represents the natural phenomenon of sunrise and sunset plus the concepts of creation and rebirth. The symbol means the horizon or the mountain of light. The circle in the middle of the center represents the sun and the figures found at the base are mountains. The symbol is protected by the god of the underworld Aker who comes in the shape of two lions on each side, each one representing the eastern and western horizons of the Egyptian underworld and also Yesterday & Today.
The Headdress was a crown worn by the ancient Egyptians kings and queens to identify them as the official rulers. They show authority and took part in religious ceremonies and festivals as shown at the temple of Abydos. The crowns were also worn by a number of deities as well to showcase a certain significance and symbolic meaning. The crown wears made of soft and delicate materials made from fabric, leather, or woven fibers like papyrus. Some of the most important crowns are:
25.The Red Crown “Deshret”
It was worn by the rulers of Lower Egypt located in the north of Egypt around the Nile delta. The crown is worn by a number of gods and goddesses that showcases the role of the rulers who were blessed with the divinity of the gods themselves. Found on the forehead of the kings on the crowns is a Uranus dedicated to the cobra goddess Wadjet the protector of lower Egypt.
26.The White Crown “Hedjet”
It was worn by the kings of Upper Egypt and gods like Osiriswho lived in southern Egypt south of Memphis all the way near modern Aswan. The Crown was protected by the Vulture goddess Nekhnet protector of Egypt shown on the forehead of kings on the crown.
27.The Double King “Pschent”
It is a mixture of the Deshret and the Hedjet that symbolizes the unification of upper and Lower Egypt under a single ruler. Horus was seen featured with is crown all the time and Menes was the first Pharaoh to ever wear it.
28.Blue Crown “Khepresh”
It is also known as the war crown as it was worn by kings of the 18th dynasty of the new kingdom who used to wear it at the time of battles. Ramses the Great was seen many times across his temples like Abydos wearing the crown.
The Nemes is not really ahead crown but rather a striped fabric headcloth reaching the shoulders worn by the rulers of ancient Egypt such as the boy king Tutankhamun who is seen wearing one on his golden mask.
30. Egyptian Winged Sun
One of the oldest symbols in ancient Egypt is the winged sun that dates all the way back to the old kingdom to showcase the concepts of divinity, royalty, and power. The symbol was known also as Bendety that was featured across a number of temples to represent the god of the midday sun Behedti which was connected to the sun god Ra and Horus. It is used as an amulet to provide protection.
Journey Among the Symbols of the Ancient
Egyptian mythology includes an infinite number of great stories to discover plus you can explore these memorable Egyptian symbols by booking unforgettable Egypt tour packages or enjoying one of incredible Nile cruises to observe the majestic temples of Egyptian pharaohs and witness the myths of gods and goddess.