"Hail to you Ra, perfect each day. – Litany of Ra II 87"

Out of the myriad of gods the ancient Egyptians worshipped, the great sun god Ra would be a strong contender for the god they held to be the most important deity. He was so important that the Egyptians often merged him with other deities such as Ra-Horakhty (Ra + Horus)

Ra-Horakhty and Hathor
Ra-Horakhty with Hathor are pictued seated to the right : Tomb of Nefertari, QV66, Valley of the Queens

During the early ages of the earth, RA ruled until he became too old to reign on Earth. Nun then ordered Nut to transform into a cow and raise RA up into the sky. Nut became the sky and Ra became king of the heavens. Ra is the word for sun, and the sun is the body of Ra. Ra then began making his way across the great celestial ocean in his Mandjet or day barque and was accompanied by various deities including Pharaoh.

Each day Ra was seen crossing the sky, but at night Ra made the perilous journey through caverns beneath the earth. The Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts place an increased emphasis on this dangerous journey. The forces of chaos attack the barque, including a ferocious creature named Apophis. While Ra’s barque journeyed through the underworld, he was protected by a multitude of deities and the ritual acts of the Pharaoh. During his underworld journey, Ra is frequently depicted as a ram-headed man or scarab within a solar disk, residing in the cabin of the barque.

Ra in cabin of solar barque
Ra is pictured with a ram head in the cabin of his barque, Tomb of Sety I : Tomb of Nefertari, QV66, Valley of the Queens
Ra at Deir El-Bahri
Ra at Deir El-Bahri : Egypt-4B-027

During the New Kingdom in particular, the fate of the deceased became linked to Ra’s sun voyage. The morning light awakens the living so the passing sun god reanimates the mummies of the virtuous dead. The sun also provided warmth, light and caused the growth of plants further cementing Ra’s importance to physical and supernatural existence.


Wilkinson, R. H. (2017). The complete gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt. NY, NY: Thames & Hudson.

Shaw, I., Nicholson, P. T. (2003). The dictionary of ancient Egypt (p. 239). New York: Harry N. Abrams.

Pinch, G. (2004). Egyptian mythology: A guide to the gods, goddesses, and traditions of ancient Egypt (pp. 182-185). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Photo Credits

"Tomb of Nefertari, QV66, Valley of the Queens" by kairoinfo4u is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

"KV17, The Tomb of Sety I, Side chamber Jb" by kairoinfo4u is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

"Egypt-4B-027" by archer10 (Dennis) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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