Egyptian sun god and creator god. He was usually depicted in human form with a falcon head, crowned with the sun disc encircled by the uraeus (a stylized representation of the sacred cobra). The sun itself was taken to be either his body or his eye. He was said to traverse the sky each day in a solar barque and pass through the underworld each night on another solar barque to reappear in the east each morning. His principal cult centre was at Heliopolis (“sun city”), near modern Cairo. Re was also considered to be an underworld god, closely associated in this respect with Osiris. In this capacity he was depicted as a ram-headed figure.
By the third millennium B.C. Re’s prominence had already become such that the pharaohs took to styling themselves “sons of Re”. After death, the Egyptian monarch was said to ascend into the sky to join the entourage of the sun god. According to the Heliopolitan cosmology, Re was said to have created himself, either out of a primordial lotus blossom, or on the mound that emerged from the primeval waters. He then created Shu and Tefnut, who in turn engendered the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut. Re was said to have created humankind from his own tears and the gods Hu and Sia from blood drawn from his own penis. Re was often combined with other deities to enhance the prestige of the latter, as in Re-Atum, Amun-Re, or in the formula “Re in Osiris, Osiris in Re”.