ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian deities: Hesat

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Hesat

Hesat     A celestial cow-goddess, consort of Mnevis and mother of Anubis [9], of Imiut [6] who became identified with Anubis during the pyramid building period, of the Apis bull [7], and of Mnevis [5]. The Pyramid Texts mention her as mother of the celestial bull:

Hesat, the White Cow, wearing a two feathered crown and a sun disk

Its (i.e. of the ladder used to climb up to the sky) timbers have been hewn by Shu, the lashings which are on it have been drawn tight with sinews of Giswty, Bull of the sky, the rungs have been fastened to its sides with leather of Imy-wt, born of the Cow-goddess [3].
    In the Anti (Nemty) myth this ancient Upper Egyptian hawk god decapitated the cow-goddess (alternatively Hathor or Hesat) and was flayed for his crime. Hesat, referred to as mother of the flayed skin fetish, anointed Anti's skin with a cream containing her milk, restoring it. This skin, supported by a pole became the symbol for Imiut and thus Anubis [9].
    Hesat was identified with Hathor and Isis. In royal birth myths she gave birth to the baby king in the form of a golden calf [4] and suckled him [7]. Thus, in the myth of Hatshepsut's birth she told the baby queen:
I guide your mouth towards my milk.
Urkunden IV, 240
    Hesat provided milk, at times referred to as beer of Hesat [4], to the dead [8] which was loved by the akhu [1]. The 19th dynasty harpist sang for the deceased Ta-nefer:
One guides your mouth towards the tit of the cow Hesat.
A. Varille, Trois nouveaux chants de harpistes, BIFAO 35 (1935), p.157
    Generally speaking she stood for the provision of the loving care a child needs for growing up.
    In Heb-Sed scenes such as that of Osorkon II the Isis-Hesat cow is represented both on the side of the Upper as well as of the Lower Egyptian deities [2].
 
    Her cult centre was at Itjtawy (in the region of modern Atfih).


[2] Guglielmi, 1991, p.41
[3] Faulkner 1910, Utterance 688
[4] Hart, 2005, p.69
[5] Hart, 2005, p.95
[6] Lurker, 1998, p.107
[7] Lurker, 1998, p.123
[8] Assmann, 2005 p.345
[9] Hart, 2005, p.24

 
Bibliography:
Jan Assmann, Death and salvation in ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, 2005
R. O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Clarendon Press Oxford 1910
Louis Herbert Gray et al. , The Mythology of All Races ..., Marshall Jones Company 1918,
Waltraud Guglielmi, Die Göttin MR.T: Entstehung und Verehrung einer Personifikation, Brill, 1991
George Hart, The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Routledge 2005,
Manfred Lurker, Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter, Scherz 1998
Kurt Sethe, Urkunden des ägyptischen Altertums IV
Alexandre Varille, Trois nouveaux chants de harpistes, BIFAO 35 (1935)
 

 
© January 2007

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