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Ancient Egyptian deities: Hatmehit

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also Hatmehyt, Hat-Mehit etc
Mendes donation steka     Hatmehit, HA.t-mH.jt,[1] was the local goddess of Mendes and is attested since the 4th dynasty. She appears also to have had a following at Hibis in the Kharga Oasis.[9] She was Great-in-Magic[8] and symbolized and incarnated the 16th nome of Lower Egypt. With the rise of the ram god Banebdjedet her cult lost much of its importance, and she came to be considered his consort. In the Late Period Osiris myth she helped look for the dismembered god's body parts and became thus associated with Isis. The child god of the Mendesian triad was Horus the Child. As mother goddess Hatmehit was identified with Hathor.[2]

Mendes donation stela, 22nd dynasty
From left to right: Hatmehit, Banebdjedet, Osiris
© One dead president on Wikimedia, GNU Free Documentation License

    Hatmehit means Before-the-Fishes, possibly referring to her being foremost among fish deities. A perhaps less likely interpretation might be that she was a primordial deity preceding marine life.[5] Fish deities were few and far between in ancient Egypt. And while fish were the people's main source of proteine, they were not offered to the gods. There were even times and places, when eating fish would cause ritual impurity. (cf. Fish)
    Only a few artifacts showing the goddess have survived, among them statuettes and amulets, the oldest of which date to the Third Intermediate Period.[7] Hatmehit is depicted as a woman with a fish like animal emblem on her head. The fish cannot be identified; catfish and dolphin have been suggested, the latter is mostly discounted nowadays.[6] Alternatively–generally on amulets–she is shown as a fish,[3] possibly a shilbe [7] or a Nile carp.[4]
[1] MdC transliteration HA.t-mH.jt, HA.t (Wb vol. 3, 24.10-12) meaning before in space or in time.
[2] Turner & Coulter 2001, p.206
[3] Herrmann 1994, p.226
[4] Shaw & Nicholson 1995
[5] Wilkinson 2003, p.228
[6] Hart 2005, p.66
[7] Andrews 1994, p.21
[8] Cauville et al. 1997, p.23
[9] Words spoken by Hatmehyt who dwells in Hibis, for she has made a giving life like Re forever. (Cruz-Uribe 1988, p.156)
Carol Andrews, Amulets of ancient Egypt, University of Texas Press, 1994
Sylvie Cauville, Jochen Hallof, Hans van den Berg, Le temple de Dendara: Commentaire, Volume 2 of Le Temple de Dendara: les chapelles osiriennes, Institut français d'archéologie orientale, 1997
Eugene Cruz-Uribe, Hibis Temple Project: Translations, commentary, discussions and sign list, Van Siclen Books, 1988
George Hart, The Routledge dictionary of Egyptian gods and goddesses, Routledge, 2005
Christian Herrmann, "Hatmehit" in Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East, Electronic Pre-publication revision 20th November 2007, accessed at : on 5th March 2010
Christian Herrmann, Ägyptische Amulette aus Palästina/Israel: mit einem Ausblick auf ihre Rezeption durch das Alte Testament, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994,
Shaw and Nicholson 1995 p.119, p.181
Patricia Turner, Charles Russell Coulter, Dictionary of ancient deities, Oxford University Press US, 2001, p.206
Wilkinson 2003, pp.228f.

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