Apr. 23rd, 2014 12:41 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (lioness)
One of the forty-ish lioness goddess of Ancient Egypt (one of these days I'm going to write a little booklet about them :), Shesmetet first pops up at the start of the Fourth Dynasty, with two of the pharaoh Snefru's sons acting as her priests. From the Fifth Dynasty, she was seen as a form of Bastet, and represented as a lioness-headed goddess.

Her name means "she of the Shesmet-girdle", and she was probably first worshipped at a town with the same name, a few miles away from Bubastis, now called Saft el Henneh. She had a staff of priests with an overseer, perhaps including "the Shesmet-girdle man", who probably wore the girdle - "a leather belt from which were suspended narrow strips of hide ending in tassels", sometimes with ornaments like beads or shells. (The gods Horus, Set, Thoth, Amun, and the centipede god Sepa could also be depicted wearing it.)

Shesmetet is grouped with other lioness goddesses in the Pyramid Texts (Utt 262 - "King Unis is conceived by Sekhmet, born of Shesmetet"), on a monument of the Thirteenth Dynasty pharaoh Sobekhotep IV, on Eighteenth, Twentieth, and Thirtieth Dynasty monuments (with Bastet and Wadjet), and as a form of Mut on an Eighteenth Dynasty statue.

(ETA: Newberry footnotes the Sobekhotep monument as "Louvre C. 11.", but that reference took me to one of the stelae of Ameniseneb. Confusion.)

Apparently Nubian and other African women wear an identical girdle to this day. I'm interested in ways African cultures outside of Egypt might have influenced Egypt; given its antiquity, I wonder if this might possibly be an example. (Or perhaps it was simply an item of clothing common throughout the area.)

Newberry, Percy E. The Shesmet-girdle or Apron. Egypt Exploration Society. Studies presented to F. Ll. Griffith. Milford : Oxford University Press, 1932.

CT 331

Feb. 29th, 2012 05:41 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Spell 331 of the Coffin Texts is awesome. (I found my way to it via a discussion in The Coffin of Heqata.) The deceased identifies him or herself with Hathor, and gives us one of those glorious bursts of self-praise: she is "the Primeval, the Lady of All", from whom all the others gods flee (Cf the Exaltation of Inanna: "O my lady, the Anunna, the great gods, fluttering like bats fly off from before you to the clefts"). She calls herself "that Eye of Horus, the female messenger of the Sole Lord", and identifies herself with the Eye of Atum or Re, who set out to find and return Shu and Tefnut to their father. She also identifies herself with the goddesses Shesmetet and Wadjet.

Looks as though Willems translates CT 331 differently to Faulkner - for example, compare respectively "She claims to have the heart of a lion - a reference to the Destruction de Hommes? - and to have the lips of an executioner" and "my heart is the lion-god, my lips are the [sytyw]" ("the meaning of this last word is not known"). (Faulkner notes that one version has "my heart is the lion-god(s)" - Shu and Tefnut?)

Hathor remarks, "I have given my tears", which Willem interprets as a reference to the myth spelled out in Papyrus Bremner-Rhind XXVII,1-3, in which the Eye returns with Shu and Tefnut, "only to discover that Atum had made a new Eye... Distressed by this discovery, the eye wept (rmi), and humanity (rmt) originated in its tears." So Hathor is claiming to have created the human race.

(This self-praise continues in CT 332, but without explicit reference to the Eyes. There's a lot of Hathoric sky and light imagery, and an intriguing reference: "I am the third one, mistress of brightness, who guides the great ones who are languid on the paths of the wakeful." Willems suggests this Third One is Sothis.)

As Willems points out, here Hathor is the sun-god's protector and supporter, as befits his Eye. Discussing the prominent role of eyes in Egyptian myth, he remarks, 'First and foremost, there is the myth about the Eye of Horus, which was torn out by Seth but restored later by Thoth... Via the connection with Thoth, but also as the Left Eye of Horus, it was identified with the moon... but because Horus was sometimes interpreted as a solar deity, the 'Eye of Horus' could equally well be the sun." Then there's the myth of the Distant Goddess, in which the sun-god's eye departs for Nubia, and is brought back by another deity. Different versions of the myth involve different sun-gods, different Eyes of Re such as Hathor, Tefnut, and Wepset, and, as the god who brings her home, Onuris ("who brings back the distant one"), Shu, Thoth, or "forms of Horus". (And there's one where "a Hathor-like goddess went into the Libyan desert". Blimey.) Since the sun god can appear as Horus, Willem remarks, "it is not surprising that there was a degree of interference between the myth complexes concerning the Eye of Horus and the Onuris legend."

So, as Willems sees it, this spell combines the various eye myths, allowing the person reciting it to identify "with the solar eye in as many capacities as possible". (p 352)
ikhet_sekhmet: (lioness)
A footnote in Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven gives a list of "almost forty [Egyptian] goddesses with leonine associations". Using the footnote's spelling, they are:

Matit ("The Dismemberer")
Mehit ("The Seizer")
Pakhet ("The Mangler")
the lioness of Athribis

Blimey, I've never even heard of some of those! What a find! Hmm, I count 34, and I think some of those might be the same goddess with different names. OTOH, there's one missing - Henut-Mestjet or Mestjet (known from just one stela). ETA: And another - the goddess Ai!

("Leonine associations" is a bit vague. Many of these goddesses are routinely represented as a lioness-headed woman - but what's the connection for the others?)

I'll add more stuff to this posting as I go along:
  • Djedet is "a protective goddess" in The Book of Traversing Eternity, although not in a liony way.

  • Geraldine Pinch notes that "Hathor, Lady of Mefkat... appears in lioness-headed form on a stela from Serabit el-Khadim."

  • Another addition: Seret is attested by an inscription on a 5th Dynasty statue. (Note to self: Le Role et le Sens p 386; Reallexikon der Religionsgeschichte p 199, Fisher 200.932 2 )

  • Here's Matit in the Lexikon. She was worshipped alongside the falcon deity Anty at Deir el Gebrawi in the Twelfth Nome of Upper Egypt. Here she is in Constant de Wit's Le Role Et Le Sens Du Lion Dans Legypte Ancienne. She had a male counterpart, the god Mati.

  • Wepset appears in the Coffin Texts (CT I, 376/7a-380/1a), in which fire is given "several different names, including Wepset and w3w3.t-flame." (Willems 1996.) She is the Eye of the Sun and the Distant Goddess ("Wawat" is Lower Nubia). "Shu is regularly identified with Onuris" and in this spell Shu is said to "extinguish the flame, to cool Wepset and extinguish the w3w3.t-flame which dispels the mourning of the gods." Willems also notes that a female w3w3.t-flame, personifying "the burning poison in a person's body" is cooled "in a magical text on the Socle Béhague (h25-26)". (p 317)

  • Seems like a reasonable place to throw in these snippets from The Life of Meresamun: "The multiple flexible strands of the menat are represented as a broad collar with falcon terminals around the neck of a female deity, most commonly Hathor but sometimes also Isis or the feline-form goddesses Tefnut, Sekhmet, Menhit, and Bastet." (p 37) "Among deities, Hathor, Mut, Sekhmet, and Tefnut are shown wearing them and, for unknown reasons, the menat was the characteristic emblem of the male god Khonsu." (p 39) Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven notes that lioness-headed goddesses "are known in relief as early as the Old Kingdom and in three dimensions from the New Kingdom." (p 138)

  • A statue of Prince Hetep-Seshat and his missus lists amongst his titles "prophet of Khentichemi [Khenti-kheti?], prophet of Banebdjedet, prophet of Horus and Seth... prophet of Bastet, prophet of Shesemtet." He was a busy lad.

  • Aperet-Isis formed a triad at Akhmim with Min and Kolanthes. (ETA: Aha! Henadology reports that Arepet-Isis is actually an epithet of Repyt.)

  • Isis was depicted with a lioness head on Sidonian amulets.

Capel, Anne K. and Glenn E. Markoe. Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: women in ancient Egypt. New York, Hudson Hills Press in association with Cincinnati Art Museum, 1996.

Pinch, Geraldine. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Oxford, Griffith Institute, 1993.

Teeter, Emily and Janet H. Johnson (eds). The Life of Meresamun : a temple singer in ancient Egypt. Chicago, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2009.

Willems, Harco. The Coffin of Heqata (Cairo JdE 36418) (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 70). Peeters Publishers and Department of Oriental Studies, Leuven, Belgium, 1996.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
I'm very curious about the identification of the Eye of Re with the Eye of Horus, and what this has to do with the identification of goddesses like Bastet and Wadjet. First stop: the Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen, a huge dictionary listing every deity name and giving their attestations. In German. It's very educational, especially when there are words like "Kopfschmuck" to be learned.

Anywho, the Lexikon lists numerous instances of Bastet being conflated with another goddess:

ETA: Bastet-Sothis

And, amongst various titles:

Bastet, Eye of Horus

Not to mention... )

That gives me plenty to go on. But something I'm not clear on is how Egyptologists know to use a hyphen - that is, when the name is a conflation of the goddesses and when it isn't. Why is Mwt-Tm "the mother of Atum" and not "Mut-Atum"? Mostly the conflations are just long strings of names, but in some cases, such as Bastet-Sekhmet and Menhit-Neith, they're unmistakenly a single word, with all the determinatives coming together at the end instead of ending each individual name. And does the order of the names carry any meaning?

Leitz, Christian. Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen. Dudley, MA, Peeters, 2002-2003.


May. 29th, 2010 07:40 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
In March last year I began a long-term project of taking notes from all the photocopies and downloads I'd gathered on the goddess Bast or Bastet. I think I've finally finished. :)

Here, as threatened, is my brief (and very much not comprehensive!) summary:

Bastet's name becomes common in the Second and Third Dynasties, but isn't attested before then. She was the protectress of royalty in the late Old Kingdom.

The Libyan pharoahs of the 22nd Dynasty adopted Bastet as their tutelary deity and rebuilt her temple at Bubastis. It's not until then that the familiar cat goddess appears. Until then, Bastet is a lioness, with similar iconography to Sekhmet (and it can be difficult to tell them and other lioness goddesses apart). Bastet was called "Eye of Re" and "Eye of Atum", the daughter of Atum-Re, or his consort (and, by him, the mother of Mahes or of Horhekenu.) Like Sekhmet, she sent disease in the form of "the slaughterers of Bastet". However, in Dynasties 12 and 18, Bastet could be paired with Sekhmet as the gentler of the two, for example, in descriptions of the pharaoh's beneficence vs his righteous anger; but his ferocity in battle could also be compared with Bastet's.

Cats became house pets during the Middle Kingdom; perhaps this is what changed the cat's image from wild to docile. Votive statues of Bastet are always in cat or cat-headed form, not lioness. The cat version of the goddess is often accompanied by her aegis, a sistrum, and a basket possibly containing kittens. During the 22nd Dynasty, cat necropolises appear, in which mummified cats are left in large numbers as votive offerings, including cats killed for the purpose.
Good grief, when you write it down like that, it doesn't look like anything! And yet, a little over a year ago, I didn't know any of it.

More stuff:
  • Another skerrick: In CT 1186, Heqata addresses a rerek-snake called "traveller of Shu" and "envoy of Bastet". (p 139)

  • You don't want to miss the Henadology entry for Bast!

  • The 30th Dynasty pharaoh Nekhthorheb II did a lot of building work at Bastet's temple in Bubastis, including adding two granite shrines, one of which has been reconstructed, and housed "a processional image of Bastet". The shrine has a tw3-p.t scene showing pharaoh holding up the sky. Daniel Rosenow remarks: "Each primary deity of a temple is interpreted as the creator god, he or she has to support heaven, as every king has to hold up the heaven of the temple." The goddess, seated, holding a lotus sceptre, lion-headed but with no headdress, identifies herself as "Bastet, lady of the shrine and eye of Horus".

  • Also found at Tell Basta: a depiction of the "cult statues" of Shesemtet and Wadjet, probably intended to be carried in barques. Both goddesses are depicted standing with empty hands and lioness heads with no headdress.

  • Bastet's son Mahes (aka Mihos, Miysis, etc) had a little temple of his own next to his mum's big temple at Bubastis - a rectangular structure to the north of the main temple, with "red-granite palm and papyrus bundle columns". There's nothing left now but the foundations. Like the later Ptolemaic mammisis, the temple linked the child-god's birth to that of the king, in this case Osorkon II.

  • Some snippets found in Traversing Eternity. From the Ceremony of Glorifying Osiris in the God's Domain, Graeco-Roman ritual/funerary text: "Hathor will guard you in Hetepet, and Bastet will protect you in Bubastis. She will instil fear of you before all. She will magnify your strength against your foes." (Maybe it's just the translation, but this suggests the "she" is both Hathor and Bastet.) Similarly, in Papyrus Harkness: "Neith the triumphant, Bastet, and Sekhmet will overthrow your enemy."

    Crown, Vanessa. Antecedents to the Ptolemaic Mammisis. Egyptology in Australian and New Zealand 2009: proceedings of the conference held in Melbourne, September 4th-6th. BAR International Series 2355. Archaeopress, Oxford, 2012. pp 9-14.
    Rosenow, Daniela. The Naos of 'Bastet, Lady of the Shrine' from Bubastis. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 94, 2008, pp 248-264.
    Mark Smith. Traversing Eternity: texts for the afterlife from Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
    Willems, Harco. The Coffin of Heqata (Cairo JdE 36418) (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 70). Peeters Publishers and Department of Oriental Studies, Leuven, Belgium, 1996.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
So many photocopies and PDFs... I'm so much better at collecting them than I am at reading them, or posting about them. In this posting I want to gather together a whole lot of notes about the Egyptian goddess Bast or Bastet; when I've finished rummaging through all the research I've accumulated, I'll post again with a summary.

This way to the cumulative note-taking... )And some links:

Bastet, the cat - a report from excavations at Tel Basta, February 2009

Aegis of Sekhmet or Bastet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

ETA: lots of stuff in the Bastet tag in my Tumblr!

Ambers, Janet et al. A new look at an old cat: a technical investigation of the Gayer-Anderson cat. British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 2 2008.
Arnold, Dorothea. An Egyptian Bestiary. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series 52(4) spring, 1995), pp. 1+7-64.
Cartwright, Harry W. The Iconography of Certain Egyptian Divinities as Illustrated by the Collections in Haskell Oriental Museum. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 45(3) April 1929 pp. 179-196.
Review by Henry George Fischer of Tell Basta by Labib Habachi. American Journal of Archaeology 62(3) July 1958, pp. 330-333.
Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Mythology: a guide to the gods, goddesses, and traditions of ancient Egypt. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Raffaele, Francesco. An unpublished Early Dynastic stone vessel fragment with incised inscription naming the goddess Bastet. Cahiers Caribéens d'Egyptologie , 7-8, 2005.
Schorsch, Deborah and James H. Frantza. A Tale of Two Kitties. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, winter 1997/1998, pp 16-29.
Scott, Nora E. The Cat of Bastet. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin ns 17(1) summer 1958, pp 1-7.
Spalinger, Anthony J. "Social and Religious Implications of the New Military System". in War in Ancient Egypt: the New Kingdom. Malden, MA; Oxford, Blackwell, 2005.
Te Velde, H. "The Cat as sacred animal of the goddess Mut." In M. Heerma van Voss et al (eds). Studies in Egyptian Religion. Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1982.
- Some Remarks on the Structure of Egyptian Divine Triads. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 57, August 1971, pp 80-86.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Last bits from Complete Gods and Goddesses:

Bastet )

Sekhmet )


Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson, London, 2003.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Complete Gods and Goddesses has an entire section on cat and lioness deities! Alongside the familiar ones like Mahes and Pakhet, there are gods I've never even heard of: the sphinx earth god Aker, Apedamak, Mekhit, Menhyt, Mestjet, the twin lions called Ruty, Seret, Shesmetet, and Tutu.

Read more... )

Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson, London, 2003.


ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Plaything of Sekhmet

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