ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian symbols: The tyet
  Origin
  Divine associations
  Uses of the symbol

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The tyet, the "Blood of Isis"

also tjet, tet, tit, thet

Decorations with tyet and djed symbols from the tomb of Tutankhamen Decorations with tyet and djed symbols from the tomb of Tutankhamen
© tedmek on Wikimedia, license: public domain.

    The tyet, tj.t[1] is an ancient symbol known since the Old Kingdom. It often appears in conjunction with the ankh and the djed-pillar. During the New Kingdom, when the djed became closely associated with Osiris, the tyet, possibly in a parallel development, came to be referred to as the Blood of Isis or the Knot of Isis.

Origin

    The origins of the tyet are as mysterious as those of the other ancient symbols, such as the ankh, with which it has some similarities. It is often thought to have represented a divine girdle knot, knots having strong magical properties.[2] Petrie thought of the tyet as a woman's girdle, fuller than the onkh, the man's girdle.[3] It has also been suggested that it was a folded piece of sanitary cloth, used to soak up the menstrual blood of the goddesses,[4] and it has even reminded some people of the female genitalia.[5]

Divine associations

    The tyet was associated with Isis and goddesses identified with her. Thus in the Book of the Dead the tyet is referred to as the name of Mut.[6] At times the loop was replaced by the head of the goddess Hathor, reminiscent of the close connection between Isis and Hathor. A symbol was never merely an inanimate object to the ancient Egyptians. The tyet was a feminine being and had a kind of a life. In the Book of the Dead it helped the deceased on his way:
The tyet gave me her arms. She passed me on to her sister Khebenet and her mother Kehkehet. She set me on this holy path, on which Thoth travelled when he made peace between the two fighters (i.e. Horus and Seth), travelling to Pe and reaching Dep.
Book of the Dead, #075 .[6]

Uses of the symbol

tyet amulet     Tyet amulets came into favour during the New Kingdom. It typically was of the colour red, made of jasper, carnelian, glass or faience, and worn around the neck.

Tyet-amulet on a string of beads. 18th dynasty
Source: Petrie Museum website, cat.no. UC31154

To say over a tyet-amulet of jasper, it being drenched in the juice of the ankh-imi-plant, strung up on a amulet cord of bast of sycomore and placed around the neck of this Glorified One (i.e. the deceased) on the day of his burial.
Book of the Dead, #156 .[8]
    Together with the djed symbol, the tyet is frequently represented on bed frames, sarcophagi and on temple walls.
Osiris NN,justified, erects the djed-pillar and fastens the tyet.
Book of the Dead, #129 .[9]
Jointly, the two symbols invoked the protection of the gods Isis and Osiris and the eternity of ever-flowing life.[10] The loop of the tyet, like that of the shen, the ankh and the sa-loop, was a magical ring, which in popular belief protected from disease and other ill fortune.[11]
Footnotes:
[1] MdC transliteration tj.t, Wb 5, 238.4
[2] Lurker 1998, p.114
[3] Petrie, 2009, p.23
[4] Lesko 1999, p.179
[5] John Anthony West, The traveler's key to ancient Egypt: a guide to the sacred places of ancient Egypt, Quest Books, 1995, p.74
[6] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website, B. Backes (ed.) Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften =>  pTurin Museo Egizio 1791 Tb 114-165 => pTurin Museo Egizio 1791 Tb 114-165, Tb 164, accessed 29th June 2010
[7] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website, B. Backes (ed.) Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften => pLondon BM EA 10477 (pNu) => Tb 075, accessed 29th June 2010
[8] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website, B. Backes (ed.) Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften => pLondon BM EA 10477 (pNu) => Tb 156, accessed 29th June 2010
[9] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website, B. Backes (ed.) Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften =>  pTurin Museo Egizio 1791 Tb 114-165 => Tb 129, accessed 29th June 2010
[10] Lurker 1998, p.109
[11] Lurker 1998, p.166
 
Bibliography:
Barbara S. Lesko, The Great Goddesses of Egypt, University of Oklahoma Press, 1999
Lurker 1998, pp.298f
William Matthew Flinders Petrie, Amulets, reprint BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009
Shaw and Nicholson 1995, p.109
 

 
© June 2010

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