Ancient Egypt: Its History and Culture
Ancient Egyptian symbols: the imiut

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Ancient Egyptian symbols: the imiut

Imiut fetish
Imiut standing behind throne of Seti I
temple of Seti I
© S F-E-Cameron on Wikimedia, GNU Free Documentation License. Excerpt
    The imiut,[1] also called the Anubis fetish, was an ancient Egyptian symbol known from as early as the first dynasty.
The Ennead says: "Who is this?"
The hawk of Isis and Osiris. Behold, my father has borne witness, Lord of the
imiut. I have removed the damage done to him. I have brought Tefnut to him. He shall live.
Book of the Dead [2]
The imiut was intimately connected with the Egyptian kingship, a connection which seems to have preceded its association with Anubis. Since earliest times it was placed by the royal throne as a symbol of protection. At the Thirty-Year Feast it gave the king his sceptre of power.[3] The dualism inherent in the Egyptian kingship and state institutions is reflected in the inscriptions of the stela of the stable master Bakaa, on which two jackals symbolizing Anubis are shown facing each other and in front of each of them an imiut. The accompanying captions assign one of them to Upper and the other to Lower Egypt. Between the two symbols is a shen-ring [4] symbolizing completeness.
    The imiut consisted of the stuffed skin of a headless animal, generally a feline but at times of a cow, tied neck down to the top of a pole stuck in a pot.

Divine associations

    The imiut was associated with Anubis since the age of the pyramids and there are pictures of it in chapels dedicated to Anubis at Deir el Bahri and elsewhere. Both the imiut and Anubis were referred to as son of the Hesat-cow. The fact that Anubis was also Lord of the Cattle may have been the reason for the imiut-skin to have been a cow skin occasionally. Imiut became one of the epithets of the god:
A sacrifice which the King gives and Anubis, the One on his Mountain, the Imiut, the lord of the necropolis.
Tomb of Tjeti, Akhmim [5]
    Papyrus Jumilhac 'explains' how the name of Anubis came to be and how the imiut served to protect the Horus child when Isis was hiding him in Chemmis:
Seth went in order to look for Horus the Child in his nest in Chemmis. She (the mother) hid him among the papyrus plants. Nephthys (?) over him. She hid him as crown prince (inpw), who is in his swathings (imi-w.t). Thus his name of Anubis came to be.
mehet of the imiut came to be as an image.
pJumilhac [6]
The mehet-imiut was made with a papyrus stalk. The mehet, the 'filled one', (from mH to be full, to fill,) referred to the skin of the fetish. In the papyrus a connection was made with the goddess Mehit,[6] apparently based on the pun mH.t -     It was also an important symbol of Osiris at Abydos.[7] In the papyrus of Neskhons an imiut is standing in front of the throne of Osiris.[8]


    As a protective deity the imiut was, according to wall paintings, placed near the royal throne. Wooden models of the fetish were put in the tombs of the nobility at times,[3] two of these were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen.[9]
[1] MdC transliteration jm.j-wt, Wb vol. 1, 73.15
[2] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae web site, Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften, B. Backes (ed.): pKairo CG 25095 (pMaiherperi) => Tb 136 B
[3] Lurker 1998, p.106f.
[4] Baines 2007, p.106
[5] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae web site,Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, A. Burkhardt (ed.) =>  Grabinschriften => Achmim => Felsgräbernekropole von El-Hawawisch => Felsgräber => Quadrate H, I, J und K => Grab I49 des Tjeti => Kultraum => Nordwand => Ehepaar vor Tänzern und Opfergabenbringenden => Opferformel
[6] von Lieven 2007, pp.200f.
[7] Baines 2007, p.103
[8] Heerma van Voss, "Ein ägyptischer Papyrus in Houston", in Sybrand et al. 1982, pp.56f
[9] Shaw & Nicholson 1995, p.140
John Baines (ed.), Biographical texts from Ramessid Egypt, Society of Biblical Literature, 2007
Alexandra von Lieven, Grundriss des Laufes der Sterne, Volume 1, Museum Tusculanum Press, 2007
Lurker 1998
Shaw & Nicholson 1995
Matthieu Sybrand, Huibert Gerard, Heerma van Voss (eds), Studies in the History of Religions, Volume 43, Brill, 1982


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