7 fun facts about Snakes in Egyptian Mythology

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

A symbol of royalty and divinity is snakes in Egyptian mythology. It protects the Egyptians from chaos, as it’s a symbol of protection. Pharaohs used to wear crowns which are decorated with a Cobra to show power and seek protection.

The story of the protective snakes begins with the protective “Mehen”, who encircled “Ra” in his boat through his journey to the underworld. However, ancient Egyptians drew snakes by separating their heads from their bodies (in Hieroglyphs) to prevent them from doing magical damage to the tomb owner.

When the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of Egypt unified, an image of Nekhbet, the vulture goddess and patron of Upper Egypt, joined the image of Wadjet as the Uraeus on the pharaoh’s crown. The two goddesses were known as the Nebty and were seen as joint protectors of the newly unified kingdom.

When the sun god Ra rose to prominence during the Middle Kingdom, and the pharaohs began to be seen as manifestations of Ra, the Uraeus were believed to protect them by spitting fire from the sun onto their enemies. This God serves as an important cornerstone for the importance of Snakes in Egyptian Mythology.

Snakes are shown in Papyrus, walls of tombs, and ancient artifacts because they are not only a symbol of protection and were respected by ancient Egyptians but also a sign of the union of two kingdoms (upper and lower). Plus, snakes combined “Ra” (the god of the sun) to the underworld, so they are divine.

Snakes in Egyptian Mythology: Who is the Egyptian God of Snakes?

Nehebkau (Nehebu-Kau) was the main serpent god; although it was initially considered an evil spirit, it was later considered a funerary god associated with the afterlife. Nehebkau was also considered a powerful, protective, and benevolent deity. 

Apopis (Apep), or Perek, was an Egyptian demon of chaos who got the shape of a serpent and, as the enemy of the sun god, Ra, symbolized all that was outside the called “world”. Although many serpents represented divinity and royalty, Apopis threatened the underworld and symbolized evil.

Geb was considered the father of serpents. It is the mythological snake of Nehebkau in primitive times.


Snakes in Egyptian Mythology: What is the Snake on the Pharaoh’s Headdress Called?

The serpent on the pharaoh’s headdress is called Uraeus, a symbol of loyalty. The Uraeus was an ancient Egyptian symbol of a reared serpent (generally a cobra). It appears throughout Egyptian art, but the Uraeus was most notably attached to the very front of pharaohs’ crowns. The serpent in this form symbolized the goddess Wadjet, an ancient protective deity of Lower Egypt.

The Uraeus represented divinity, domination, and royal authority in ancient Egypt. The pharaoh wore a Uraeus symbol on his crown to represent his authority in Lower Egypt.

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beautiful gold sarcophagus of a Mummified Egyptian Pharaoh

Snakes in Egyptian Mythology: What is the Sacred Snake of Egypt?

Uraeus is a sign for the diva Wadjet; she was one of the earliest Egyptian goddesses and was often described as a cobra, as she is the serpent goddess. The center of her devotees was called Buto by the Greeks. She became the directress of the Nile and the protector of all of lower Egypt. The pharaohs wore the Uraeus as head decoration; this demonstrated Wadjet’s protection and reinforced the pharaoh’s affirmation of the land. The Uraeus was shown upon the pharaoh’s head as a part of the crown. The pharaoh was acknowledged only by wearing the Uraeus, which gave lawfulness to the ruler. Several goddesses associated with or considered aspects of Wadjet are also drawn wearing the Uraeus.

Pharaohs believed that Uraeus protected them by spitting fire on their enemy; Uraei also is the eye of “Ra”.

Snakes in Egyptian Mythology: Did the Ancient Egyptians Worship Snakes?

Ancient Egyptians worshiped serpents, especially the Cobra; the Cobra was associated with “Ra” and many deities like Wadjet, Renenutet, Meretseger, and Nehebkau.

In ancient Egyptian culture and mythology, Snakes were also seen as the holders of strength, renewal, and knowledge.

Snakes in Egyptian Mythology: What Do Snakes Symbolize?

Snakes are one of the most symbolically significant animals in mythology, literature, and religion. Although many people associate serpents with sinister, dangerous, and even evil senses, in reality, the symbolism of the snake is far more ambiguous and wide-ranging than this.

They present a creative life force and fertility; snakes remove their skin through sloughing, indicating healing, rebirth, immortality, and transformation.

Snakes in Hieroglyphs
Old Egypt Hieroglyphs carved on the stone

Snakes in Egyptian Mythology: What are the Most Interesting Fun Facts about Snakes?

Snakes are very amazing animals and deserve protection. However, there are some fun facts about snakes which can make you like them:

  1. They have a large family: The latest calculation shows more than 3000 snake species, making them the second most immense serpents after lizards. They are split into 30 various families and multiple subfamilies. Australia is home to around 140 of them.
  1. They are “solar-powered” and depend totally on external heat or light sources: serpents sometimes get tagged ‘cold-blooded’, but this is incorrect as their blood isn’t cold. The proper term is ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is unstable and controlled by external sources. Unlike mammals and birds that can internally regulate their body temperature, reptiles need to use heat sources, like the sun, to warm up.
  1. They smell with their tongues: serpents have developed to smell with their tongue and use the roof of their mouth. Their smell is incredible and has also been known as “smelling in stereo”. They have a flexed tongue and multiple receptors to pick up different amounts of chemical signals.
  2. They don’t have eyelids: Ever wondered why serpents might give you an eerie feeling? This is because they don’t have eyelids! So they don’t blink and have to sleep with their eyes wide open. Rather than eyelids, they have a thin membrane connected to each eye to protect them. The membrane is called the ‘brille,’ in German means glasses.
  3. Not all serpents lay eggs: Snakes differ from mammals because they lay eggs. While we like to categorize and classify everything around us, nature has its own rules. While around 70% of them lay eggs, others can’t. They in significantly colder climates have live births because the eggs wouldn’t survive outside.
  4. Their table manners are different from ours: When serpents eat, they can’t help but swallow their food whole because they can’t chew. Instead, they have very flexible lower jaws, allowing them to eat animals 75% – 100% larger than their own head. The chemicals in their digestive tract will break down the food once consumed.

Snakes in Egyptian Mythology: What are the Most Extraordinary Abilities of Snakes?

  1. They strike at black-out speeds: Serpents are adept at shooting very fast. However, in reality, they strike much faster than that. The human eye takes about 202 milliseconds to complete a blink. On the other hand, a serpent can strike out and reach its target within 50 to 90 milliseconds. The strike is so fast that we would black out if humans attempted to accelerate even less than one-quarter as quickly as a serpent. While serpents like rattlesnakes and cobras are well-known for being quick strikers, a recent study revealed that nonvenomous snakes are just as fast as or faster than venomous snakes.
  2. They are exceptional when it comes to mimicry: Over 150 species have the venomous coral snake’s black, yellow, and red warning colors. So have nonvenomous mimics picked up on this suitable hiding trick? A study has shown that a case for coral snake look-alike more than just a theory. Researchers from the University of Michigan utilized genetic data from 300,000 snake samples from museums worldwide to prove that coral snake mimicry is an evolutionary strategy.
  3. Some types of serpents can fly: Serpents don’t need wings to fly. Or at least glide. The flying serpents of Southeast Asia prove that. These species have found a way to move from one tree to another without connecting to the ground. When they jump from a branch, they can twist their skeleton to spread their ribs and flatten their bodies like an airplane wing. They don’t glide aimlessly, either. Instead, these “flying” ones can use their heads to guide them, reversing direction mid-glide to land wherever they want. Through this technique, they can reach anywhere as far as 80 feet away in a single takeoff.
  4. They can’t show affection like other pets: Serpents don’t have the intellectual capability to feel emotions, but this lack of brain ability doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy spending time with humans. However, they cannot create a bond with humans as a dog or cat does.


Snakes are unique animals; they have extraordinary abilities that can make them very special, like; smelling and hearing from the mouth, they have a very high speed while moving, and some of them can fly! and they master the art of mimicry. All these and more abilities made ancient Egyptians see these characteristics as divine abilities, so they embraced serpents, respected them, and even worshiped them.

Snakes in Egyptian mythology refer to fertility and are a symbol of protection. They are shown in Papyrus, walls of tombs, and ancient artifacts. The cobra is the most popular type of serpent, and it was placed on the pharaoh’s head as a part of the crown to protect him from enemies.

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