Egyptian Gods: Neith
Neith is one of the oldest deities in Egypt and thought of to take a male form despite being predominantly female. She is believed to be self-created at the time of creation. She is the goddess of weaving, and other domestic arts. More importantly, she is the goddess of war dating back as early as the Pre-dynastic period of Egypt. She is also the goddess of the Red Crown in Lower Egypt and the patron of the territory of Sais very close to the delta of Nile. She is also believed to be the protector of men and gods.
Her relations are subject for debate. Her stature as a goddess of the Delta made her the wife of Khnum and the mother of Sobek. In varied times in history, she also became the mother of Ra, Isis, Horus and Osiris. Despite having sired many children, she is believed to be an eternally virgin goddess who can procreate without male assistance. She may also have created the serpent Apep, the enemy of Ra, by spitting into the primordial waters of Nun.
Her name literally meant water that is associated with creation. Thus, this garnered Neith the title, “the Mother of all Gods” and “the Great Goddess”
In Upper Egypt, she was depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness. She was also seen with the head of a snake or the cow linking her to Hathor and Nut. She is also often seen as a woman holding a specter or two arrows or a weaving shuttle while wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. Very seldom, she is illustrated as suckling her son Sobek, a crocodile god.
She is described to be a goddess whose wisdom prevails over her other counterparts. In fact, the Greek goddess, Athena was modeled after her. She is believed to be the only one to have created to the solution as to who would succeed Osiris as king of Egypt. She suggested, to which majority agreed except Seth, that Horus should succeed as king and in consolation, Seth could take two Semitic goddesses.
As a war and hunting deity, she was invoked upon for blessings on weapons for warfare and hunting. This made her attributes of the arrows and the shield. She also blessed the weapons that in early times were placed in tombs as protection from evil spirits. She is also seen as a arbitrary participant in many wars because of her military prowess and impartiality. She gained the epithet “Mistress of the Bow, Ruler of Arrows” because of this.
As a goddess of weaving and domestic arts, she was depicted as a protector of women and guardian of marriage.
Like most Egyptian deities, her roles have evolved throughout the course of history. In the New Kingdom, her funerary functions especially associated with war became most evident. She was seen as protector of canopic jars together with Isis, Nephthys and Serket. She specifically was the guardian of Duamutef who guarded the stomach of the dead. She also guards the funerary bier of the pharaoh together with Isis. It is believed that mummy wrappings were “gifts of Neith”.
Her following is evident in the whole Egypt. In the Old Kingdom, she was an important deity in Memphis. However, she lost relative importance during the Middle and early New Kingdoms. However, in the 19th dynasty, her following was revived and her cult center remained in the Sais near the delta just like her son Sobek. A large temple was built there to her honor. A widely celebrated festival known as the “Feast of the Lamps” was held annually in homage to her. Multitudes of colorful lights were lit at night during this time of the year.
Are you planning a trip to Egypt? Traveling to Egypt can really make the history come alive. As you stand in awe in front of the great Pyramids of Giza, or walk through the temple at Abu Simbel the reality of the ancient Egyptians hits home. Many tours are available to save you time & can make the experience much more pleasant. Due to the current unrest in Egypt, be sure to check travel advisories before purchasing flights or booking any tours.