Neith in Egyptian Mythology
Neith, the Egyptian goddess of war, featured in the stories, myths and legends in Egyptian Mythology. She was believed to be self-created and representative of the primordial waters of chaos and is linked with Set, the god of war and hostility who according to one creation myth was her consort and Sobek the crocodile god was their offspring. In another myth Neith was the consort of Khnum the creator ram-headed god of fertility whose offspring was Heka the god of magic who together formed the the Triad of Latopolis. For additional information refer to the Triads of Egyptian Gods.
Neith Hieroglyph - Ancient Egyptian Bow
The hieroglyph and emblem for Neith, the Egyptian goddess of war, is a stylized depiction of a bow. The oldest hieroglyphs depicting bows were curved vertical depictions but as time passed this was changed to a horizontal depiction of a bow consisting of the curving horns of a scimitar oryx (a type of antelope) joined by a wooden centerpiece. The hieroglyph and emblem for Neith is two bows joined together without the centerpiece.
Pharaoh and warriors in battle
The Role of Neith
The role and duties of Neith were
- Warrior Goddess - as a goddess of war Neith was believed to march into battle ahead of the soldiers
- Patron of the military
- Patron of Hunters
- Arbitrator during military conflicts
- Her name was invoked in ceremonies in which weapons were consecrated
- Goddess of weaving in particular the linen used for mummy bandages
- Funerary goddess and protector of Duamutef, one of the Sons of Horus who featured on Canopic Jars
Neith the Funerary Goddess
Neith as a funerary goddess was concerned with the magical protection of the body after death. As the Goddess of weaving in particular the linen used for mummy bandages and shrouds. The bandages and shrouds were considered gifts of Neith by which the deceased received her divine power in the wrappings of mummies. Linen was one of the first fibers used to make cloth. Linen comes from the flax plant, a tall, reed-like plant, with long fibers which made linen easy to spin into thread. Neith was also the powerful protector of Duamutef, one of the Sons of Horus who featured on Canopic Jars. The jackal-headed Duamutef protected the stomach and the upper intestines of the deceased.
The Symbols of Neith
The symbols of Neith included the bow, a shield with crossed arrows and the red crown of Lower Egypt as she was closely
associated with the royal family, primarily with the queens.
Sais the Cult Center of Neith
The principal cult center of Neith was Sais in Lower Egypt. Sais became the seat of power during the Twenty-fourth dynasty (c. 732–720 BC) and had a medical school associated with the city. A great festival was annually celebrated in Sais called the Feast of Lamps or the Festival of Lamps. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian (c. 484 – 425 BC) wrote:
"When they assemble at Sais, on the night of the sacrifice, they all keep lamps burning in the open air round about their houses. These lamps are saucers full of salt and oil, the wick floating thereon, and burning all night. This is called the Feast of Lamps. Egyptians who do not come to this assemblage are careful on the night of sacrifice to keep
their own lamps burning, and so they are alight not only at Sais but throughout all Egypt..."
The Festival of Lamps was part of the Osirian Mysteries in which the light of the lamps mirrored the lights of the stars of heaven believed to be the pathway to the Starry Fields of the Heavens. On the night of the Festival of Lamps the veil between the worlds was drawn aside revealing the path that led the souls of the dead to the ancient Egyptian paradise for righteous souls.
The Triad of Latopolis at Esna
Neith was also a member of the Triad of Latopolis, consisting of Neith, Khnum and Heka. Khnum was the creator ram-headed god of fertility, water and procreation and Heka was the patron of magic and therefore also of medicine. The temple of Esna was dedicated to the Triad of Latopolis.