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Ancient Egyptian deities: Neith
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Neith

    Neith, nj.t (MdC transliteration Nj.t), was an ancient deity of hunt and war, goddess of the Lower Egyptian town of Sais, [2] and mother of Sukhos (Sobek) [1]. Her attributes were bow, arrows and shield. She was also referred to as the Great Radiant One:
Unas is Sobk, green-plumed, wakeful, alert,
The fierce who came forth from shank and tail of the Great Radiant one
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.1, p.40
    She was especially important during the early dynastic Period (c. 3000 BCE), when a number of queens bore her name, such as Narmer's wife Neith-hotep or Den's mother Merneith, who was regent while her son was still a minor.[3] She lost some of her preeminence after the Old Kingdom, but remained one of the foremost deities.[4] Since the New Kingdom Neith was also mother of god who, as celestial cow (the Great Shining One), gave birth to Re. She was a protective deity, joining Isis, Nephthys and Selket in guarding the dead Osiris, but caring also for the safety of mortals:
(Thutmose III) whom Atum reared as a child, in the arms of Neit, Divine Mother, to be king
J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, § 630
    In the Underworld Neith helped the deceased through the dangers that beset them:

Neith On the left: Neith wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt
Centre: Neith wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt

Neith is gracious to you,
Neith who made the world emerge from primordial waters,
she helps you cross the waters of the underworld.
J. Rabinowitz ,Isle of Fire, p. 190
Under the Saite dynasty (664-525 BCE) her standing was enhanced, being the tutelary goddess of Sais. Her name appears again in theophorous royal names, such as that of Nitocris I (656 586 BCE), Divine Adoratrice of Amun for half a century.
    She was the goddess of weaving who gave mankind the linen strips to wrap the deceased, thus creating a layer of protection for the mummies (see also Tait.) Among the rituals of the Great Seat, performed during the Feast of the Earth, are water charms, one of them concerning Neith and her weaver women:
You have washed the face of Neith, you have wiped the faces of her weaver women.
Pap. Brooklyn 47.218.50 [5]
    The Greeks identified Neith with Athene due to the similarities of roles the two goddesses played: they are both warlike and patronesses of weaving and learning.[4]
 
    The etymology of the name is unclear. Neith is often identified with the Red Crown (MdC transliteration n.t) and her name may be derived from nr.t, the Terrible One, which suits a warrior goddess well. Alternatively, Neith has connections with water, and innundation is n.t in Egyptian.[4]


[1] Pyramid of Unas, PT 317, line [627]
[2] pBM EA 10477 (pNu), Tb 042 line [7]
[3] Toby A. H. Wilkinson, Early dynastic Egypt, Routledge, 1999, p.291
[4] Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999, p.616
[5] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => späte Ritualbücher => Tempelbibliotheken => Bibliothek eines Tempels im Delta (Heliopolis?) => Pap. Brooklyn 47.218.50 ("Confirmation du pouvoir royal au nouvel an") => 1. Ritual(handlungen) des 'Grossen Sitzes', die während der Feste der Erde vollzogen werden
 

 
© October 2005
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