Basic Information

Type/Species: Great Serpent or Amphiptere
Origin: Egyptian Mythology
Other manifestations: Greek Mythology, Persian Mythology, Chinese Mythology, Hindi Mythology, Mexican Mythology

Origin and Etymology

The Greek word uraeus comes from the Egyptian word iaret, meaning "the one who rears up." [10] The symbol, or hierogram, consistently contains components of a circle, wings, and a serpent. [1] The circle, or solar disc, represents the divine aspect. The wings show omnipresence, and the serpent depicts the world quality of the Divine Line. [1]

There are several accounts of the Egyptian myth of Atum's Lost Children, particularly found in the Bremner-Rhind Papyrus, but many allusions are made to this story in such sources as the Coffin Texts. [5] When the creator deity Atum lost his children, [10] sometimes specifically named as Shu and Tefnut, [7] in the dark primeval waters before creation, [10] he sent the Eye, also called the Solar Eye, [7] his Sole Eye, or Eye of Ra, to find them and to give light to the dark. This act has been interpreted as the first sunrise; later stories that combined the deities of Atum and Ra to Atum-Ra also attribute this as the moment of his transformation into the creator and sun deity. [7]

When she returned with the lost children, she discovered that Atum-Ra had grown a new solar eye: [10] the Glorious One. [7] From the tears of rage from the Solar Eye or the tears of joy of Atum-Ra, human beings sprang up. [7] Atum-Ra placated his angry daughter, the Solar Eye, by transforming her into the first serpent, the Uraeus cobra, and placed her upon his forehead, a place of honor. [5] Atum-Ra also gave her power over all the other deities, [7] as her fiery poison destroyed anyone who dared challenge the sun deity or his appointed heirs. [10]

About Uraeus / Uraeon

The Uraeus was found in the symbolism and mythology of Persia, Egypt, Mexico, China, Greece, and sometimes Italy. The symbol has also appeared in Hinduism. [1] In ancient Egypt, the Uraeus was the sacred and terrible cobra that rears up upon the heads of the gods and kings. [3]

While the Uraeus can be described as a poison-spitting serpent, [2] many other sources describe the serpent as a flame-breathing [4] or fire-spitting. [8] All snake goddess could be identified with the Uraeus, no matter their other abilities and positions, [10] such as the deities Renenutet [8] and Buto of Lower Egypt. [4] Even deities like the powerful Sekhmet was identified with the Uraeus by the Coffin Texts, calling the serpent, 'the serpent who is upon her father.' [9] The Uraeus is sometimes the special protector of the goddess Hathor. [2]

Uraeus, the fire-breathing asp, protected those who bore her image. [4] These separate depictions of Uraeus could be seen as invoking the original serpent or as separate entities of protection. As a guardian and protector, a Uraeus threw fire (or in some accounts, spat poison) to destroy all who dared to oppose the wearer. [3] Other accounts claim that the Uraeus would kill all those who invaded the tombs of the dead. [4]

The Uraeus's power over the Egyptian deities was manifest in many stories. In one legend, Ra left Uraeus in a casket with some of his hair and a staff. The deity Geb and his followers opened the casket and received a potent blast of poison from the guardian serpent that killed all of them except for Geb, who was badly injured in the encounter. [2] In the case of Atum-Ra, who first bore her image, the Uraeus destroyed anyone who opposed the deity with fire. [4] Among the Egyptian pantheon, only Isis was clever enough to win the throne of Egypt for her future son through the Uraeus, by turning her power against her father Ra. [10]

Physical Description

The Uraeus was a huge, spitting serpent, [2] usually referred to as a cobra, [3] that coiled around the solar disc [2] holding its hood erect with the burning eye of Ra, the Egyptian sun god. [3] In representations of solar deities, the Uraeus is shown in front of or coiled around the solar disc. [6]

Crowns and headdress of many of the deities of Egypt have the image of the Uraeus. [4] Even Atum-Ra, the powerful sun deity, is sometimes depicted with the Uraeus on his head. [4] Thus, the Uraeus is an emblem of the deity as creator and preserver, [1] as well as a symbol of royalty and power. [4]


  1. Howey 1
  2. Rose [Dragons] 377
  3. Stevens [Clue] 378
  4. Turner 484
  5. Pinch 64
  6. Pinch 95
  7. Pinch 129
  8. Pinch 186
  9. Pinch 188
  10. Pinch 199

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.