Egyptian Gods: Wadjet

Wadjet is the one of the oldest deities of ancient Egypt – her following date back as far as the pre-dynastic period. Originally, she is local deity in the area of Per-Wadjet (now Buto).However, over the years; her functions have changed and her responsibility grew as the patron goddess of Lower Egypt. Later on, she became the personification of the whole Lower Egypt. Together with Nekhbet (her twin Sister and representation of Upper Egypt), they are combined as one Egypt and are found in the crown of the Pharaoh’s “nebty” name signifying his rule over the two lands. Her name may also be spelled as Uadjet, Ua Zit, Wadjit, or Wedjet and in Greek as Edjo, Udjo, Uto and Buto, that roughly translates into “the green one” or “the papyrus-colored one” presumably the because of the green shade of the skin of the cobra.

She is often depicted as a woman wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt. She may also be seen as a woman with the head of a cobra, a winged cobra or a woman with the head of a lion. She may also be depicted as a rearing cobra ready to strike symbolic of her protective functions of the pharaoh. Nekhbet and Wadjet form the uraeus (two cobras around the sun disc) in the crown of the pharaoh – a unification emblem and royal insignia of the whole Egypt.

Her sacred animals include the cobra, ichneumon ( a mongoose-like animal), and shrew (tiny mice). The two latter animals were sacred to Horus. In fact, during the Late Period, Egyptians mummified them together inside the Wadjet statuettes. The ichneumon represented day and the Shrew represented night according to traditional Egyptian beliefs.

Wadjet is highly revered all throughout Egypt but her cult centers are found in the twin ancient towns of Pe and Dep where Buto was found. Her temples were created as far back as the old kingdom – a testament to her ancient roots.

Her Many Roles and Myths

Wadjet was believed to be the daughter of Ra and was bestowed the gift of becoming one of the “Eyes of Ra”. In one of the legends, she was the eye that was sent to find Shu and Tefnut lost in the chaos of Nun. Upon their return, she is the same eye that shed tears that brought forth the first human beings. As a reward, her father Ra, placed her in his head (in the form of a cobra), so they can be close together while she is protecting him. This role made her associated with the other goddesses of the same function including Tefnut, Sekhmet, Bastet, Hathor, Isis, and her sister and twin, Nekhbet. In this form, she is a lion-headed woman wearing the headdress of a sun disc surrounded by the Uraeus. Because of this role, she became closely associated with heat and fire.

Sometimes, the “Eye of Ra” is named as wedjat – symbolic of the goddess. It is believed that in one of Wadjet’s effort to avenge her father, she almost destroyed humankind. She just came back to her senses when she was tricked by Thoth to drink beer that has been dyed red with pomegranate juice to resemble blood.

It is believed that in the delta of the Nile, the papyrus plant emerged from her. She also was credited for creating the papyrus swamp. This solidified her association with growth in the earth. This is further supported by her name written in the glyph of a papyrus plant – a heraldic plant of Lower Egypt.

Although most often described as a fierce goddess, she also possesses a gentler side. She is believed to have helped Isis in nursing Horus and helped the mother goddess hide the young king from the clutches of Set in the marshes of the delta. She is seen as the protector of Horus and all of the kings of Egypt.

She is also one of the purport followers of the principle of Ma’at. She was sentimental in the punishment of Geb who raped his mother Tefnut.

She is also believed to provide protection for mothers especially during childbirth.

She was also believed to be the wife of Hapy, the god of the Nile.

She was associated with the fifth hour of the fifth day of the month. She is also linked to the “iput-hmt” (Epipi), the known harvest month of the Egyptian calendar. Festivals held in her homage were done on the 10th day of “rh-wr” (Mekhir) known as “the day of going forth of the Goddess”, on the 7th day of “khnty-khty” (Payni) and on the 8th day of “Wpt-rnpt” (Mesori). These two latter dates correspond approximately to the important days of the winter and spring solstices.

Her other epithets include:

 The Uraeus
 Great Serpent
 She of the Fiery Eyed Cobra
 The Lady of Devouring Flame (the creative force of the sun god)
 Noble Serpent who flowed forth from the Eye
 The Wedjat Eye
 Serpent Mother
 Protector of Horus (and the reigning king)
 She who brings Truth and Justice
 The Lady of the Flaming Waters
 Mistress of Fear
 Goddess of the Placenta
 Mistress of the Atef-Crown
 The Lady of Spells
 Mother of Creation
 Queen of the Gods
 She who loves silence
 The Eye (of Maat Horus, Ra, Ptah, Thoth or Amun depending on the dynasty)