The Journey of the Sun God Re

The scene shows the journey of the sun god Re, in his falcon form, seated in his shrine. On the prow, we see the god Hor-nedj-it-ef, Horus the avenger of his father, harpooning the evil snake Apep or Apophis, symbol of chaos and destruction. By the end of the barque, we see the steer holder simply called ntr-aa or the Great God.

At the far end we see the sign Shems, which means follower referring to the crew of the barque. At the top, we see the god Thoth, lunar god, in his baboon form, followed by Shu, the air god, and finally the figuration of the god Heka, the god of magic.

Detail in the inner coffin of Nespawershefyt. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. E.1.1822
The journey of the sun god Re. Detail in the inner coffin of Nespawershefyt. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. E.1.1822

Wooden anthropoid coffin set of Nespawershefyt comprising a mummy board, inner coffin and outer coffin complete with lids and boxes. The mummy board, which once had a wooden rim support fixed to the underside of the head, would have been placed over the mummy, before being interred in the smaller inner coffin, which nested inside the larger outer one.

Re, the personification of the sun, is one of the oldest and most important deities of ancient Egyptian culture: in mythology, after being given birth by the goddess of the sky Nut, Re crossed the sky every day with his boat, while in the evening he was eaten by his mother and thus returned to her body to be born again the next morning.

Depending on the different hours of the day, Re was worshipped in different forms: he was the Khepri beetle at dawn, the Horakhty falcon ‪at noon‬ and the ram or the old man Atum at sunset.

Re, The Sun King of the Egyptian Gods

The sun god Re was undoubtedly the most important deity in the Egyptian pantheon, although perhaps not as ancient as the falcon god Horus. Re possessed some very unique titles: he was considered the creator of the world (human beings are said to have been born from his tears), but also the divine father and protector of the king.

According to the creation myth, Re was the first ruler in the land of Egypt; when he became too old to rule, he went to heaven, leaving the kingship in the hands of his successors: the kings. To formalize this mythical relationship, the names adopted by the crowned king included the epithet ‘Son of Re’.

Detail in the inner coffin of Nespawershefyt depicts the journey of the sun god Re in his solar barque. Third Intermediate Period, 21st Dynasty, ca. 990-969 BC. Plastered and painted wood. Now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. E.1.1822