ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian deities: Bat

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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]


    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.
[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
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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