Egyptian Gods: Soqdet
Soqdet is the goddess that personifies the Dog Star, Sirius. Sirius is one of the most important stars in Egypt because its appearance in the July dawn sky signifies the beginning of the annual inundation of the Nile River. Such flooding also means the start of the brand new year for Egyptians. In fact, the New Year Festival is known as the “Coming of Sopdet” that coincides with phenomenon of the heliacal rising of Soqdet. She is also known as a goddess of fertility because each flooding of the Nile would bring about fertile silt into the agricultural lands. She also performs funerary functions as she was linked to the pharaoh’s journey in afterlife. Her name may also be spelled as Sothis, Sopdet, and Sepdet, which means (she who is) sharp, presumably because of the brightness of Sirius.
Soqdet is the wife of the Sha, the deification of Orion and mother of another cosmic deity Sopdu. Both Sirius and Orion are associated with abundant crops. Together, the three form a triad that is closely linked to Osiris, Isis and Horus. In fact, it assumed that they were just aspects of the three more popular deities. In one of the papyrus of the fourth dynasty known as Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys for Osiris, Isis called herself Soqdet, saying that she will follow her husband in heaven. Soqdet is believed to have given birth to the morning star Venus making Sopdu the deification of the planet. She is also associated with another fertility goddess, Satis of Abu Island.
Her earliest depiction is that of a reclining cow with a plant emblem (representative of the year) between her horns. Most of the times, she is a woman wearing the tall conical crown of Upper Egypt with a start on top or a headdress with a plume on each side. She may also be seen simply as a woman standing with her arms on her side or with one arm folded across the lower portion of the breasts. Less often, she is represented as very large dog. By the Roman period, she became the hybrid goddess Isis-Sopdet – a woman who is riding on large dog in its sidesaddle.
As early as the first dynasty, Soqdet has been known as the “Bringer of Flood and New Year”. Her appearance marks the start of the agricultural calendar. She is also one of the known decans in Egyptian astronomy. Decans are groups of stars that divides the night sky, with each cluster appearing for only ten days yearly.
Although Soqdet started as an agricultural goddess associated with the Nile, by Middle Kingdom, her fertility duties expanded. By then, she was considered a mother goddess and nurse goddess solidifying her close connection with the mother-goddess, Isis. Her role as a pharaoh’s assistant was further strengthened. She is believed to guide the pharaoh in his quest to find the imperishable stars as he seeks to become one of them. It may be the reason why the star Sirius disappeared on the dawn skies for seventy days in a year. In afterlife, she further guides the King in finding the Field of the Rushes – the form of Egyptian heaven and afterlife. This guidance is believed to be the reason behind why mummification took seventy days as well.
Soqdet is revered all throughout the country as well as in most part of its history. Her cult center is believed to be situated in the old cities of Per-sopdu, Qesem, Soped, Saft el-Hinna, found in the 20th Nome in Lower Egypt. Her festival is celebrated every twenty-fifth of July.