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Ancient Egyptian deities: Nemty

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The divine ferryman Nemty

also Nemti, Anti
 
    Nemty, nm.tj,[1] was an ancient falcon god, whose name is interpreted as 'wanderer'. According to the Coffin Texts he was in charge of Sokar's henu-boat. In later writings such as The Contendings of Horus and Seth he was the ferryman of the gods, who plied his trade for gold. Having disobeyed an order of the sun god Re he had to abjure gold and his toes were cut off, which made perching impossible in his avian shape. According to a tale in the Ptolemaic Jumilhac Papyrus Nemty beheaded the cow goddess Hathor, for which he was flayed and defleshed as punishment.[2] Hesat restored him to health by anointing him with her milk.[3]

Appearance

The standard of the 18th Upper Egyptian nome

    His hieroglyph, nm.tj, shows Nemty in the shape of a falcon perching on a crescent-shaped boat, but he was also depicted with his wings spread as on the standard of the 18th Upper Egyptian nome. He is also known in the shape of a man with a hawk's head: a rock inscription at Haridi shows him and Seth flanking Ramses III.[4] Generally a look-alike of Horus, he is depicted at least once with the head of Seth.[2]

Worship

    Nemty was worshipped in Upper Egypt in the 10th nome at Tjebu, Greek Antaeopolis, in the 12th nome at Per-Nemty, Greek Hierakon, and in the 18th nome, but he merged almost completely with Horus and had little individuality after the Old Kingdom. The myths about his having sworn to forego gold and about being defleshed may explain why his cult images at Per-Nemty were made of silver, which was a symbol for the divine bones rather than the usual gold, which symbolized the flesh and skin of the gods.[2] Still of some significance in Old Kingdom Upper Egypt, he became the patron of the 6th dynasty pharaoh Merenre Nemtyemsaf possibly in an attempt to get support from the Upper Egyptian nobility.[5] His name is still part of the occasional theophoric name during the Middle Kingdom.[2]

Associations

    Nemty, one of his epithets was Hor-nubty, Horus of Gold,[6] was early on assimilated by Horus, and may have been identified with the falcon gods Dunanwi (He who extends the claws) and Dunawi (He who extends the arms, i.e. wings) in the Old Kingdom mortuary texts.[7] He was also associated with Seth and was depicted with a Sethian head.[2] This syncretic deity was patron god of Antaeopolis.
    Mati, a local lion goddess in the 12th nome of Upper Egypt at times identified with Hathor, was thought to stand by Nemty's side in warfare.[8]
Footnotes:
[1] MdC transliteration nm.tj
[2] Wilkinson 2003, pp.204f.
[3] Hart 2005, p.24
[4] Bard & Shubert 1999, p.392
[5] Bunson 1991, p.40.
[6] Morkot 2005, p.31
[7] Hart 2005, p.23
[8] Strudwick & Leprohon 2005, p.378
 
Bibliography:
Bard & Shubert 1991
Bunson 1991
Hart 2005
Robert Morkot, The Egyptians: an Introduction, Routledge, 2005
Nigel Strudwick, Ronald J. Leprohon, Texts from the pyramid age, Brill 2005
Wilkinson 2003
 

 
© March 2010

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