Egyptian Gods: Qetesh

Qetesh is originally a Semitic goddess of Syrian or Sumerian origin who has been assimilated into the Egyptian pantheon during 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom. She is the goddess of nature, beauty, sacred ecstasy and sexual pleasure. She was originally the wife of the Syrian god of war and plague, Reshep, who was introduced to the Egyptian pantheon during the Middle Kingdom. However, when she was incorporated as an Egyptian deity, she was associated with the fertility god, Min. Together, these three deities form a triad worshipped by followers. Qetesh may have been the wife of Reshep and mother of Min or the wife of both gods. Her name may also be spelled as Kodesh, Qudshu, Qadashu, Qadesha, Qedeshet, Kedesh, Qadshu, Qodesh or Qadesh that means “holy woman”.

She is known by the following epithets: “Mistress of All Gods” and “Lady of the Stars and Heaven”.

Qetesh was originally depicted as a nude woman standing on the back of a lion (a horse outside of Egypt) with a moon crescent in her head. She may also be depicted as a naked woman in full frontal stance carrying lotus blossoms (a symbol of the female genitalia and in homage to Min) on her left hand and snakes (a symbol of the male genitalia) or papyrus stems (in homage to Reshep) on her right hand thereby solidifying her stature as a goddess of fertility and eroticism. She is often associated with Hathor thus she may also take the form of a woman in a tight-fitting sheath dress with a headdress made of a pair of cow’s horns and a sun disc. This connection made her one of the goddess whose face is facing forward rather than in profile in conventional art forms like that of Bes (god of music and dance) and Hathor(goddess of love and fertility). In some occasions, she may be naked woman flanked by Min on her right and Reshep on her left – both of whom seem to stand on a plinth or shrine because their heights are almost equal that of the elevated goddess.

She was also associated with other Near eastern sensuality goddess like Anat and Astarte (Canaan warrior goddess) who were familiar deities in ancient Egypt as well.

Her name is from the Hebrew word “qedesh” is subject for debate. Her name is often linked with prostitution referring to a class of sacred prostitutes of the cult of Asherah mostly known as Quedeshot. Many scholars believe that such are just misconceptions of early biblical texts. The actual word, they said, meant temple staff and did not connote any sexual reference.

Her Semitic following suggests that feasts to her honor included the simulation of the rites of her marriage with her consort Reshep. However, it was not established whether the same ritual was followed in Egypt. She is a widely venerated deity whose following dates back as early as the 18th dynasty and many votive and funerary stelae were found about her dating as far as 19th dynasty. She is worshipped predominantly in Memphis.