Ancient Egyptians had a good reason for considering the sun as an important resource of power; successful crop depended directly on the sun and yearly Nile flood. God Ra was the most significant sun god.
His cult centre was Heliopolis (called Iunu by ancient Egyptians, nowadays a suburb of Cairo), were was very powerful priesthood. Since the rule of Djedefre, the king of 4. dynasty (approximately 2566-2558 BC) was other of pharaoh's five names set - the title "Son of Ra", which emphasized the king's identification with the god.
The most important item of Ra's cult was an obelisk or stone benben (derived of the verb weben - to dawn). It the myth Mankind destruction Ra is described with the bones, body and hair of an old man, but his divinity is obvious, because the bones are silver, the body gold and hair from lapis lazuli (it was very valueable in Egypt, because it was imported from distant Badakhshan in the north-eastern Afghanistan).
This description probably correspond with a cult statue found in nau, a box no in every temple, where the divine essence itself was placed. The myth also presents, that Ra created himself out of primordial waters Nun.
God Ra was often depicted as a man with a ram's or hawk's head decorated with the sun disc. The Egyptians believed, that he travelled in a sun barge through the sky during the twelf hours of daylight and wandered about the underworld in the night. The sky goddess Nut swallowed him allegedly in other version of this myth and then Ra wandered through her body and was reborn every morning.
There is hour after hour description of his journey in the Book of the dead, which Ra have to cover in twelf night hours:
- First hour - An hour of sailing past. Ra's barge comes under the horizon.
- Second hour - God Ra purifies himself and transfers to other barge.
- Third hour - God Ra is welcomed in Osiris' kingdom
- Fourth hour - God Ra is in a hostile territory of the hawk head god Sokar of Memphis' necropolis (identified with Osiris)
- Fifth hour - Ra's barge is changing to a serpent in the same area to slide more easily in the sand. There is total darkness there, but God Ra will come regenerated out of there.
- Sixth hour - The barge get on the river finally and crosses the area, where Osiris is resting. A real journey to life begins there for Ra.
- Seventh hour - This is the most dangerous hour of the whole journey. Apep - a bloodthirsty serpent rules there. God Ra avoids his traps, but the water his barge is sailing on, dissapeared. Ra escapes out of this danger thanks to the goddess Isis.
- Eighth hour - God Ra sails past the territory, where the whole mankind lives. The inhabitants of this area turn behind the Sun, which they didn't see for a long time.
- Ninth hour - Mystic rowers leave Ra's barge at this hour and they come back home in Duat - the underworld. God Ra won't need there services any more.
- Tenth hour - Ra's transformation begins - a scarab appeares, the symbol of rebirth.
- Eleventh hour - The eye are opening to the truth, all enemies are defeated and the hauling rope of the barge is changing back into a serpent.
- Twelfth hour - Ra's transformation is completed, his body will be born again in heaven's world in the final form of a scarab Khepri. Ra settles in his new barge and draws close to Nut's breast (Sky goddess). Now Ra can start a new life cycle.
The sun god was omnipresent and very powerful. God Ra was connected with other deities thaks to merging, e.g. Amun (Amun-Ra) and Horus – (Ra-Horakhty). Ra could be identified with other gods as well; One of tomb's texts in King's valley from New Kingdom period is called "Ra's litany" Ra plays the role of Osiris, the god of deads.