Heka (god)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Engraving of Heka at Esna Temple

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Heka (ḥkꜣ)

Heka (/ˈhɛkə/; Ancient Egyptian: ḥkꜣ(w);[1] Coptic: ϩⲓⲕ hik;[2] also transliterated Hekau) was the deification of magic and medicine[3] in ancient Egypt. The name is the Egyptian word for "magic". According to Egyptian literature (Coffin text, spell 261), Heka existed "before duality had yet come into being." The term ḥk3 was also used to refer to the practice of magical rituals.


The name Heka is identical with the Egyptian word ḥk3w "magic". This hieroglyphic spelling includes the symbol for the word ka (kꜣ), the ancient Egyptian concept of the vital force.

Heka, holding two serpents crossing each other with the hind of a lion on nome standard represent his name on his head in the magical form


The Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts depict ḥk3w as a supernatural energy that the gods possess. The "cannibal pharaoh" must devour other gods to gain this magical power. Eventually, Heka was elevated to a deity in his own right, and a cult devoted to him developed. By the time of the Coffin Texts, Heka is said to have been created at the beginning of time by the creator Atum. Later Heka is depicted as part of the tableau of the divine solar barge as a protector of Osiris capable of blinding crocodiles. Then, during the Ptolemaic dynasty, Heka's role was to proclaim the pharaoh's enthronement as a son of Isis, holding him in his arms.[4][5]

Heka also appears as part of a divine triad in Esna, capital of the Third Nome, where he is the son of ram-headed Khnum and a succession of goddesses. His mother was alternately said to be Nebetu'u (a form of Hathor), lion-headed Menhit, and the cow goddess Mehetweret, before settling on Neith, a war and mother goddess.[6]

Other deities connected with the force of ḥk3w include Hu, Sia, and Werethekau, whose name means "she who has great magic".

As Egyptologist Ogden Goelet (1994)[7] explains, magic in The Egyptian Book of the Dead is problematic: The text uses various words corresponding to 'magic', for the Egyptians thought magic was a legitimate belief. As Goelet explains:

Heka magic is many things, but, above all, it has a close association with speech and the power of the word. In the realm of Egyptian magic, actions did not necessarily speak louder than words – they were often one and the same thing. Thought, deed, image, and power are theoretically united in the concept of heka. — O. Goelet (1994)[7]


  1. ^ "Projet Rosette - Dictionary detail". projetrosette.info. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
  2. ^ "Coptic Dictionary Online". corpling.uis.georgetown.edu. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
  3. ^ "Heka, god of Egypt". landofpyramids.org. Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  4. ^ Hart, George (2005). The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Psychology Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0415344951. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  5. ^ Dunand, Françoise; Zivie-Coche, Christiane (2004). Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801441653.
  6. ^ Najovits, Simson R. (May 2003). Egypt, Trunk of the Tree. Vol. I: A Modern Survey of and Ancient Land. Algora Publishing. ISBN 9780875862347.
  7. ^ a b Ani; et al. (1994) [1250 BCE]. Goelet, Ogden Jr. (ed.). The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day. Translated by Faulkner, Raymond. preface by Carol Andrews (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. p. 145. ISBN 0811807673. being the Papyrus of Ani (royal scribe of the divine offerings), written and illustrated circa 1250 BCE, by scribes and artists unknown, including the balance of chapters of the books of the dead known as the Theban recension, compiled from ancient texts, dating back to the roots of Egyptian civilization