Egyptian Gods: Nekhbet

Nekhbet is another ancient Egyptian goddess that predates the dynastic period of Egypt. She was particularly revered in the cities of Nekheb and Nekhen, where her cult center and a grand temple to her honor are found. A birth house, a series of small temples, a sacred lake and some early cemeteries were also made for her.

Eventually, she became the patron of pharaoh in their rise as well as his family. This role catapulted her into the position of the great goddess of Upper Egypt and her sister Wadjet, became her Lower Egypt counterpart. Together, they represented the Uraeus – the two ladies (nebty) protecting the pharaoh and all of Egypt. When Egypt became one, these goddesses were believed to be present during the crowning of a pharaoh and their symbols were found the front of the crown itself. In this light, her role as a protector extended to common people as well.

Her name means “she of Nekheb” based on the city where she was originally worshipped as a local deity. Her name may also be spelled as Nekhebet or Nechbet that translates into mother. In this aspect, she became the goddess of motherhood as she is considered a mythical mother of the divine aspect of pharaoh himself. This earned her the title “Mother of Mothers” and the “Great White Cow of Nekheb” – that appears to have humungous breasts. She also became the goddess of childbirth. In this form, she was seen as a woman suckling the royal child or the pharaoh. She the form of an elegant queen and was associated with the goddess Mut.

She takes the form of woman with the head of a vulture, a woman with a vulture headdress or simply just white vulture symbolizing purity. This came from the ancient Egyptian belief that all vultures were females that can adopt children as Nekhbet was chosen to adopt a city. In fact, her priestesses, known as muu, wear robes made of vulture feathers. She may also be represented as a woman wearing the Atef crown – white crown signifying Upper Egypt thus the epithet, “White Crown” bestowed upon her.

As a vulture goddess, she is the goddess of heaven with outstretched wings spread above the royal image believed to be protecting the pharaoh. She is seen as clutching the shem (representing eternity) – a symbol found in the pharaoh’s double crown, and the royal flail (representing the pharaoh’s authority) in her claws.

Like most of the Egyptian deities, she has a fierce side as well. She is often depicted hovering around the pharaoh to protect him during wars. In the story of Horus and Set, when Horus was pursuing his enemies in the form of a winged, burning disc, both Nekhbet and Wadjet were on each of his sides for security.

She also earned the title “Eye of Ra” thus linking her to other goddesses of the same title including Bastet, Tefnut, Sekhmet, Hathor, Isis, and her twin uraeus, Wadjet. She is one of the protectors of Ra in his sojourns across the sky especially from his enemy, the serpent Apep.

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.