Ra (/rɑː/; Ancient Egyptian: rꜥ or rˤ; also transliterated rˤw /ˈɾiːʕuw/; cuneiform: 𒊑𒀀 ri-a or 𒊑𒅀ri-ia) or Re (/reɪ/; Coptic: ⲣⲏ, Rē) was the ancient Egyptian deity of the sun. By the Fifth Dynasty, in the 25th and 24th centuries BC, he had become one of the most important gods in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon-day sun. Ra was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the Earth, and the underworld. He was the god of the sun, order, kings and the sky.
Ra was portrayed as a falcon and shared characteristics with the sky-god Horus. At times the two deities were merged as Ra-Horakhty, “Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons“. In the New Kingdom, when the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra.
All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra.
The sun as a creator
The sun is the giver of life, controlling the ripening of crops which were worked by man. Because of the life-giving qualities of the sun the Egyptians worshiped the sun as a god. The creator of the universe and the giver of life, the sun or Ra represented life, warmth and growth. Since the people regarded Ra as a principal god, creator of the universe and the source of life, he had a strong influence on them, which led to him being one of the most worshiped of all the Egyptian gods and even considered King of the Gods. At an early period in Egyptian history his influence spread throughout the whole country, bringing multiple representations in form and in name. The most common form combinations are with Atum (his human form), Khepri (the scarab beetle) and Horus (the falcon). The form in which he usually appears is that of a man with a falcon’s head, which is due to his combination with Horus, another sky-god. On top of his head sits a solar disc with a cobra, which in many myths represents the eye of Ra. At the beginning of time, when there was nothing but chaos, the sun-god existed alone in the watery mass of Nun which filled the universe. “I am Atum when he was alone in Nun, I am Ra when he dawned, when he began to rule that which he had made.” This passage talks about how Atum created everything in human form out of the chaos and how Ra then began to rule over the earth where humans and divine beings coexisted. He created Shu, god of air, and the goddess of moisture, Tefnut. The siblings symbolized two universal principles of humans: life and right (justice). Ra was believed to have created all forms of life by calling them into existence by uttering their secret names. In some accounts humans were created from Ra’s tears and sweat.According to one myth the first portion of Earth came into being when the sun god summoned it out of the watery mass of Nun. In the myth of the Celestial Cow (the sky was thought of as a huge cow, the goddess Meht-urt) it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye, as the goddess Sekhmet, to punish them. Extensions of Ra’s power were often shown as the Eye of Ra, which were the female versions of the sun-god. Ra had three daughters Bastet, Sekhmet and Hathor, who were all considered the Eye of Ra, who would seek out his vengeance. Sekhmet was the Eye of Ra and was created by the fire in Ra’s eye. She was violent and sent to slaughter the people who betrayed Ra, but when calm she became the more kind and forgiving goddess Hathor. Sekhmet was the powerful warrior and protector while Bastet, who was depicted as a cat, was shown as gentle and nurturing.