It is sometimes proposed that the pyramids represent the rays of light extending from the sun and thus these great monuments connected the king with Ra. The Egyptians also built solar temples in honor of Ra. Unlike the standard type of Egyptian temple, these temples were open to the sunlight and did not feature a statue of the god because he was represented by the sunlight itself. Instead the temple centered on an obelisk and altar. The most significant early solar temple is thought to be the one erected in Heliopolis, sometimes known as “Benu-Phoenix”. Its location was thought to be the spot where Ra first emerged at the beginning of creation, and the city took its name (“Iwn”) from the word for a pillar.
Ra was often described as the father of the gods. He was sometimes thought to be married to Hesat or Hathor although the latter is usually referred to as his daughter. As his worship was pre-dated by that of some of his “children” (such as Hathor and Horus) it seems likely that he took on this role when he was associated with the creator god Atum.
According to the Pyramid Texts, Ra (as Atum) emerged from the waters of Nun as a benben stone (an obelisk-like pillar). He then spat forth Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture), and Tefnut in turn gave birth to Geb (earth) and Nut (sky). Ra tried to separate Geb and Nut by placing Shu between them and decreed that Nut could not give birth on any day of the calendar. However, Thoth won an extra five days from the moon so that Nut could give birth to Osiris, Set, Isis, Nephthys and Horus the Elder.
It was thought that Ra “died” or was swallowed by Nut every evening as the sun dipped below the horizon. He traveled through the world of the dead by night and was then reborn in the morning (making Nut both his granddaughter and his mother). At sunset he was linked to Horakhty (Horus on the Horizon) and Atum and at dawn he was linked to the scarab beetle, Khepri (“the Emerging One”) and Nefertum
Ra-Horakhty-Atum was associated with Osiris as the manifestation of the sun at night. When Osiris was murdered by his brother Set, he became the God of the Underworld. Thus the Pharaoh was the son of Ra who ruled as the living Horus and who became Osiris on his death.
According to another myth, Ra ruled on earth as Pharaoh until he became old and weary. The people had lost respect for him and no longer obeyed his laws and so Ra decided that they should be punished. He sent his “Eye” to teach them a lesson, but then had to arrange to get her drunk to prevent her killing everyone. Once the danger had been averted, Ra decided it was time for him to leave the world to Horus ( who took his place as the king) and travel across the sky on Nut’s back.