9/15/2008

Goddess of the week - Neith

Name: Neith
Sphere of influence: War, among others
Location: Egypt
Famous portraits: There are several statues and paintings made of her in ancient Egypt

Neith is one of the oldest Egyptian gods, the worship of her goes back to about 3000 B.C. - predynastic times. Her cult started in the city of Sais in the Nile delta. Her symbols are the red crown of lower Egypt and a shield with two arrows. She was both a goddess of war and hunting. She was an important deity from the start.

Her name was initially also connected with the word for water which made people see her as a connected with the primordial waters and as such as a mother-goddess, the goddess of creation. But over time the focus slided from the water aspect to the fact that her hieroglyph resembled a loom and she was instead connected with weaving - and weaving the whole world into being.

Her connection with weaving made her connected with death too, as the deity of mummy-wrappings and the shrouds worn by those who had died - especially of warriors fallen in battle, a suitable thing for a deity connected with wars too. Since she was worshipped for so long - from predynastic times to the Ptolemeic era - it was inevitable that the myths would change around her, it is after all a time-span of 3000 years. It was not just the shift from water to weaving, it was also her bonds with other gods. As a water goddess she was seen as the wife of Khnum, a creation god connected with the Nile, and the mother of the crocodile god Sebek. Later on she was considered to be the mother of Re, the sun god.

Her cult had a special revival in the 26th dynasty (664-525 BC) when the capital was located to Sais.

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