ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian deities: Bat

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Bat

Menkaure accompanied by Bat Bat with her nome standard on her head on the left of Menkaure, on his right Hathor
Courtesy Jon Bodsworth

    Bat, bA.t [1] was an ancient bovine goddess who, in the course of history, merged with Hathor and lost her individual identity, a process which may have begun as early as the Old Kingdom, as in the Pyramidtexts Hathor is described with bovine features probably inherited from Bat,[2] and was completed by the New Kingdom.[3] She is considered to have been a goddess of the sky, her four legs being the pillars holding up the heavens, her belly the firmament studded with stars.[4]
Narmer Palette     Bat may have played a role in the mythological unification of Egypt.[5] She is apparently displayed on the Narmer Palette, which is thought to commemorate the Upper Egyptian king Narmer's conquest of Lower Egypt, or on a Middle Kingdom pectoral, where she is shown flanked by Seth and Horus, who had been fighting over the rule of Egypt.[6]

The Narmer Palette with two depictions of a cow goddess, probably Bat with her two faces
Source: Wikimedia Commons. License: Public Domain

    Predynastic depictions of cow goddesses, which appear to have had celestial associations as expressed for instance by the five stars above her horns shown on a Gerzean slate palette,[7] are often thought to be of Bat.[6] She is usually shown with a human face, sporting cow's ears and horns.
    She is first mentioned by name in the Pyramidtexts:
Meryre is Bat with her two faces
Pyramidtexts of Pepi I, Recitation 460 [8]
The two faces mentioned may refer to the fact that sistra bore a double image of the goddess's face. Whether a 1st dynasty assembly of a jabiru-stork and a vase bearing the picture of a human face with cow ears and horns should be considered an even earlier hieroglyphic construction of the word bA.t is debatable.[9]

Worship

    Sistrum Bat was the goddess of the 7th nome of Upper Egypt, whose sign was a sistrum, and her cult centre bore the name of Manson of the Sistrum,[6] Hwt zSS.t, just as the cult centre of Hathor at Dendera in the 6th nome came to be known.[10] Locally she was of some importance until the Middle Kingdom, later her cults and attributes were taken over by Hathor and the name Bat became an epithet of that goddess.
Footnotes:
[1] MdC transliteration bA.t, Wb 1, 412.11 probably simply the female form of bA, therefore at times rendered as 'Feminine Power' or 'Feminine Spirit'. (Lesko 1999, p.81)
[2] Lesko 1999, p.82
[3] Lesko 1999, p.267
[4] Lesko 1999, p.23
[5] Hart 2005, p.48
[6] Wilkinson 2003, p.172
[7] Lesko 1999, p.17
[8] Allen & der Manuelian 2003, p.166
[9] Michael Brass, "Origins of the Egyptian Cattle Cult" in Eyma & Bennett 2003, p.107
[10] Wb 3, 487.5-6
 
Bibliography:
Allen & der Manuelian 2003
A. K. Eyma, C. J. Bennett (eds.), A Delta-man in Yebu, Universal-Publishers, 2003
Hart 2005
Lesko 1999
Wilkinson 2003

 
Other cow goddesses:
Hathor, Hesat, Mehet-uret, Nut
 

 
© March 2010

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