The Great Heru (Horus) & the Meaning of the Winter Solstice

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

The Great Horus

“Everything the light (the sun) touches is our kingdom. A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day Simba, the sun will set on my time here and rise with you as the new king.” – Mufasa

Heru (Horus) is the son of Ausar (Osiris) and Auset (Isis). His name means he who is above. Horus’ symbol is the falcon and he is associated with kingship. He is a sun god and is Ausar (Osiris) reborn. Moreover, Heru (Horus) is known as Horakhty, i.e. the rising sun. In later times in the history of Egypt, the sun god Ra would be merged with Horakhty and would be called Ra-Horakhty, which means Ra as Heru (Horus) on the horizon.

Heru (Horus) had many forms. At midday he was known as Horus of Behdety or Heru Behdety; the midday sun. It is Heru Behdety, who is victorious in avenging his father’s death (Osiris).

During the Ptolemaic period, Heru Behdety was worshipped at Edfu and was known as the Heru Ur, which is Horus the Elder, the great Horus. The Egyptian word Ur means great. This is the sun at the height of its power. As the day continues, the sun is weakened. As the evening approaches, the sun begins to set. This is the setting sun. The light of the sun is diminishing and darkness (night) approaches. As the night continues, the Kamites (ancient Egyptians) say, Ausar (Osiris) is dead. This brings about chaos, trials and tribulations. Darkness has set in. Remember Heru (Horus) is Ausar (Osiris) ready to be reborn. Now it is night time; Ausar (Osiris) is dead and Set is ruling. Auset (Isis) is searching for her husband Ausar (Osiris). As the night continues, Isis finds him and gets impregnated magically with the help of Tehuti. As we get beyond midnight, the seed of Ausar (Osiris) is growing in Auset (Isis). As the dawn approaches she is getting ready to give birth to her son Heru (Horus); Ausar (Osiris) reborn. Now he must grow and gain strength and avenge his father Ausar’s (Osiris’) death and the cycle of the sun continues. The sun had lived, died, and was buried in Amenta (the Underworld), but the sun rose again. This was the death, burial and resurrection of the sun. The sun of today (Horus) is the same sun of yesterday (Osiris). Therefore when you see the son (Horus), you have seen the father (Osiris). Because the sun rises and sheds its light, life will continue on earth. Thus the sun was known to give everlasting life.

The Egyptian mythos was not only explaining the daily cycle of the sun, it was also eloquently articulating the yearly cycle of the sun. After the sun is at its height and longest day of the year (Heru Behdety), which is the summer solstice, the day light hours become shorter and night hours longer. Horus (the day hours) is battling Set (the night hours). Though Horus still has the upper hand, Set is gaining ground. The day hours are getting shorter and shorter and the night hours are getting longer and longer. At the Autumnal (Fall) Equinox, Horus has lost ground and Set has gained. It is at this point, the day hours (Horus) and the night hours (Set) are equal. However from this day, Set becomes tremendously dominant and the night hours are ruling. The light is dying.

On December 21, sometimes the 22nd, the shortest day of the year occurs. This is the Winter Solstice. The word solstice is sol, meaning sun and stice coming from sistere meaning to stand still. Therefore the word solstice means sun standing still. In antiquity, cultures were able to tell time of day based on the shadow of the sun on the sundial. The sundial was an instrument (a flat plate) that told the time of day based on the position of the sun’s shadow. On December 21/22, not only was it the shortest day of the year, but something magically occurred. The shadow on the sundial did not move for three days. Thus the ancients said the sun (Osiris) had died. Since the Summer Solstice, the sun had gradually fallen south. At this point the sun had completed its southerly journey. On midnight of December 24, (early morning of the 25th) the constellation of Virgo could be seen rising in the eastern sky. On the 25th of December the sun starts its journey back north and the shadow of the sun moves once again on the sundial. This was a time of celebration. The sun (Osiris) that had died has now risen through is son (Horus). Moreover, due to the constellation of Virgo being in the eastern sky when the sun rose, the ancients said the sun was born of a virgin.

The word Virgo is virgin. You can see a connection of Virgo and Osiris with Osiris having stalks of wheat coming out of his coffin. Virgo is represented with a stalk of wheat in her hand and is called the House of Bread. House of Bread translates to Bethlehem in the Hebrew language. Thus we get the phrase, the son (sun) was born of a virgin (Virgo) in Bethlehem (House of Bread). In Egypt, Osiris was the Lord of Bread and Isis was the baker, i.e. the bread maker. Virgo was associated with Isis and was depicted as a woman suckling an infant, i.e. the baby Horus, who also was known as the Lord of Bread.

This is the ancient Egyptian Holy Family in their role as neteru (gods) of agriculture. Bread is made through the use of flour that is made from grains, which in most cases from wheat. It is Isis who gathers the raw materials or ingredients (wheat, Osiris) and nurtures (bakes) and brings the ingredients to life (bread). This is transformation. Hence it is Isis that gives birth to transformation (Horus), the Lord of Bread. Therefore the well-known phrase, “I am the bread of life” takes on a new meaning.

The cycle of life: growth, decay, and renewal not only represent the cycle of the sun but all cycles of nature and life itself. This is Osiris; the green one, the god of vegetation, god of the dead and renewal. He is the evergreen.

In the Ausarian drama it says Osiris’ coffin was enclosed in the trunk of tamarisk tree. The tamarisk, an evergreen tree, was chopped down and became a pillar that supported the king of Byblos’ palace. The pillar, which came from the trunk of the tamarisk, was called the djed. The djed was a representation of Osiris, along with the tamarisk (the evergreen), came to be associated with the tree of life and the axis mundi (world pillar, world tree). In essence, the tree of life is the axis mundi, and it is what connects heaven and earth.

The tree of life is rooted in the underworld and Osiris is the god of the underworld. When Auset (Isis) gathered the pieces of Ausar’s (Osiris’) dismembered body, she found thirteen (13) out of the fourteen (14) parts. The one body part unrecovered was the penis. This was important because it is the penis that the sperm (the seed) ejaculates out of. It is the seed that is needed for the rebirth (the renewal) to occur. With the help of Tehuti, she was able to create one and awakened Ausar (Osiris).

Stone-pillar monuments were placed at different temples throughout Egypt commemorating the resurrection of Ausar (Osiris). These monuments were called tekhenu by the Egyptians and obelisks by the Greeks. The word obelisk means little spit, referring to the sperm, i.e. the seed. Thus Ausar (Osiris) is the seed and Horus is the fruit. The fruit being the result of the seed. However, the seed must be nurtured in the ground (virgin soil), i.e. the underworld. The tree sprouting from the ground is the extension of the earth, which is Isis, the mother. The tree (the mother) then bears the fruit, which is Horus, the manifestation of the seed. Hence Ausar (Osiris) being link to cycles.

The Life Cycle of Tree

The life cycle of a tree is made up of several stages:

  1. Seed (Conception),

  2. Sprout (Birth),

  3. Seedling (Infancy),

  4. Sap