In Ancient Egyptian culture and mythology Harpocrates, also knowns as Harpa-Khruti (Horus the Child), was the son of the goddess Isis and her husband Osiris. The deity was often depicted as a small boy, with a side-lock of youth and the index finger held to the lips or the chin, a typical Egyptian gesture symbolising childhood and also the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for “child”. However, the gesture is also linked to the action of eating porridge, which was one of the traditional children’s food in Ancient Egypt. The deity was later adopted by the Greeks and the misinterpretation of the gesture of the finger to the lips led to the association of Harpocrates with silence, hence making him the god of silence, secrets and confidentiality in Ancient Greek and Roman mythology.
To discover more about religious syncretisms in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Religious Syncretisms in the Ancient Mediterranean Region.