ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian deities: Meskhenet
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Meskhenet

(also Meskhent, Mesekhnet)

Birth brick Birth brick
Picture source: University of Pennsylvania Museum website

    Protective goddess of the mother giving birth and her child. She was identified with the birth brick on which the woman crouched when giving birth. Thoth was said to inscribe on it the newborn's end. Meskhenet, after having created the foetus's ka while it was still in the uterus, anounces its destiny at birth.[4]
They (i.e. the many manifestations of Khnum) have placed their four Mesekhnet at their sides, To repel the designs of evil by incantations;
Hymn to Khnum
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.3 p.114.
From the New Kingdom onwards, the God Shay took on this role of prognosticator.

As a funerary goddess she assisted at the Judgment of the Dead in order to facilitate the deceased's rebirth in the afterlife.[1]

Worship and associations

    Meskhenet was a household goddess rather than one of the deities worshipped in temples.[1] Renenutet, mother of Horus by Atem, was identified with Isis and also with Meskhenet as a birth goddess.[2] Meskhenet attended births generally in the company of other birth deities: Isis, Nephthys, Heqet and Khnum. In The Tale of the Birth of the Royal Children they were emissaries of Re.[3] The Four Meskhenet were servants of Isis and in a text found in the temple of Esna (a rare mention of Meskhenet in a temple) they are associated with the god Khnum.

Appearance

    Meskhenet is depicted as a woman with a sign on her head thought to represent the uterus and holding an ankh, the symbol of life, in her hand. More rarely she is wearing a birth brick on her head.[1] Sometimes she is given the form of a birth brick with a female head.
Footnotes:
[1] Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Thames and Hudson 2003, p. 153
[2] Wilkinson 2003, p. 225
[3] Karol Mysliwiec. Eros on the Nile, Cornell University Press, 2004, p.82
[4] Manfred Lurker, Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter, Scherz 1998, p. 81
 

 
© October 2005
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