Six Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

My newest print features the six major goddesses of protection, motherhood, love and death from the Ancient Egyptian pantheon; Nephthys, Isis, Amentat, Hathor, Maat and Neith. Though this is my creation, the figures are stylistically based on those seen in the wall reliefs from the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, dating to around 1300 BC.

Nephthys

Nephthys was a funerary goddess associated with mourning, the night and magic. To Egyptians her name was Nebet-Het, which meant “the Mistress of the House”, and she wears the hieroglyphic sign of her name on her head, formed of a basket on top of a plan of an estate. She was the sister of Isis and Osiris, and the sister-wife of Seth and mother to Anubis, the god of embalming.

Isis

Isis was a goddess of women, motherhood, fertility, and royal power. She was the sister of Nephthys and Seth and the sister-wife of Osiris and mother to Horus. Isis played an important role in the resurrection of Osiris after his murder at the hands of Seth and was believed to protect the dead with her husband in the afterlife. Upon her head is the symbol of her name which is the hieroglyph for a throne.

Amentat

Amentat was a goddess of the dead and was believed to have lived in a tree at the edge of the western desert overlooking the gates to the underworld. She met the souls of the recently deceased and offered them bread and water before ushering them into the realm of the dead. Her name means “She of the West” and her crown is the sign representing the west (a semi-circle on top of one long and one short pole) surmounted by a hawk.

Hathor

Hathor was one of Egypt’s earliest goddesses and was worshipped as the divine representation of protection, motherhood, queenship, music, dance, joy, love and sexuality. She was the daughter of Ra, the all-powerful sun god, and wears a solar disk upon her head within a pair of bovine horns. In Egyptian, her name meant “House of Horus”, referring to her role as the wife of Horus, the sky god associated with kingship.

Maat

Maat was the personification of balance and harmony. The Egyptians believed the balance of the universe was determined by the presence or absence of maat, which had the meaning of rightness, truth, justice and order. Without maat, there was isfet or chaos, and Maat regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of mortals and the deities who had brought order from chaos at the moment of creation. She wears an ostrich feather on her head, which could be used alone as the symbol for her name, and is often shown with protective wings.

Neith

Neith was one of Egypt’s earliest goddesses and was worshipped as the original creator of the universe and all it contains, believed to have governed how it functions. She was worshipped from the pre-dynastic period as the divine representation of motherhood, protection in the afterlife and warfare. Her name meant “she is the terrifying one” and she was associated with warfare and weaponry with the symbol on her head depicting two bows.

The Funerary Offering Table of Watetkhethor, a 6th Dynasty Egpytian Princess

My latest reproduction is a wall painting for the tomb of Watetkhethor, daughter of king Teti, dating to Dynasty 6 (around 2290 BC).

It shows Watetkhethor seated in front of a table of offerings, whilst servants bring her legs of meat and birds to add to her piles of bread and gifts of flowers. The offering scene was the most important piece of art in an Ancient Egyptian tomb, as it provided the spells necessary for the deceased to continue eating and drinking in the afterlife.

It comes from the Mereruka mastaba, which contains a complex of three individual’s tombs situated in the northeast section of the Saqqara necropolis, immediately north of the pyramid of Teti. Measuring an impressive 30m x 41m and standing 4.5m tall in its final phase of construction, it is the largest mastaba tomb by chamber count in Egypt. It was constructed for the family of Mereruka, vizier and chief justice under Teti and the second most powerful person in the state at the beginning of Dynasty 6. It contains 21 chambers dedicated to Mereruka himself, as well as 5 for his wife Watetkhethor, “eldest daughter of the king, of his body”, and 5 for their son, Meryteti.

Hieroglyphics

The hieroglyphs give the standard offering formulae:

‘Requirements of Hetepet-offerings and Henek-offerings, a thousand breads, a thousand beer, a thousand oxen, a thousand fowl, a thousand alabaster jars, a thousand clothes, and a thousand of all the good offerings of the year’.

On the opposite side of the table and underneath it are piled items of food, jars and an ewer, above which is written:

‘All the good offerings of the year’.

Atum Repelling Apep, Serpent of Chaos

My reproduction of a scene from the ancient Egyptian Book of Gates features the creation god Atum repelling the serpent of chaos, Apep (Apophis). It is based on a wall painting from the tomb of Ramesses I in the Valley of the Kings (KV16).

The Book of Gates is a funerary text dating from the New Kingdom. It narrates the passage of a newly deceased soul into the next world, corresponding to the journey of the sun through the underworld during the hours of the night.

During the soul’s journey, they face many dangers and challenges, including attack from the serpent god of chaos and evil, Apep. Atum, a creator god, is shown protecting the deceased from the snake, surrounded by the words from the Third Hour of the Book of Gates:

What Atum has done for Ra

to glorify the god

to overthrow the rebel.

(Spoken by Atum) “You are upside down so you can’t stand

You are bewitched so that you can’t find yourselfMy father has triumphed over you,

I have triumphed against you

I have driven you away on behalf of Ra

I have punished you on behalf of Akhty”

𓁹𓏏𓈖𓏏��𓈖𓇳𓏤𓀭

What Atum has done for Ra

𓊃𓅜𓐍��𓏛𓊹𓏤

to glorify the god

𓊃𓐍𓂋𓏏𓀒 𓋴𓃀𓐨𓆙

to overthrow the rebel.

 

𓊃𓐍𓂧𓂻𓎡𓂜𓏏𓅱𓅪 𓊢𓂝𓂻𓎡

(Spoken by Atum) “You are upside down so you can’t stand

𓎛𓂓𓀁 𓎡𓂜𓏏𓅱𓅠𓐝𓎡

You are bewitched so that you can’t find yourself

𓐙𓌳𓂝(𓊤)𓇋𓏏𓆑 𓀀𓀭𓂋𓎡

“my father has triumphed over you,

𓐙𓌳𓂝��𓀀𓂋𓎡

I have triumphed against you

𓂧𓂋𓂡𓀀��𓏲𓈖𓂋𓁚

I have driven you away on behalf of Ra

𓊃𓊃𓃹𓈖𓅪𓀀𓏏𓅱𓈖𓈌𓏏𓏭

I have punished you on behalf of Akhty”

 

𓏏𓍃𓐝 =Atum

𓉻𓊪𓊪 = Apep or Apophis

𓊃𓌉𓆓𓇳𓆑𓎡𓎡𓇰 = he illuminates the darkness

Naqada Pottery of Predynastic Egypt; a 5,400-year-old Representation of a River Festival

This unprovenanced jar in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection dates to between c. 3450 to 3330 BCE. It is a particularly fine example of late Neqada II decorated ware, pottery made of fine marl clay and embellished with recurring motifs representing the Egyptian desert and Nilotic environment.

It depicts three boats travelling in procession within the Nile Valley landscape, with desert ibex shown in close proximity to flying birds and mountains, as well as flamingos surrounded by water plants. The zig-zag decoration is thought to represent water, and indeed, water is later symbolised in hieroglyphs in this way (𓈖). The boats each hold a different set of figures accompanied by individual standards, acting a ceremony or ritual and being observed by groups of people on the land nearby.

The figures on this boat are women, and the dominant character stands atop the cabin with her arms raised above her head in a gesture thought to represent a ritual greeting or dance. In decoration of this type, the women are always shown as the largest figure, often with one or two men on a smaller scale, a device used in later pharaonic art to indicate social status and dominance.

In ancient Egypt, boats were employed for travel, commerce and fishing, and the symbolism of the boat and the river form an intrinsic part of the predynastic material culture. Boats are found in the form of pottery decoration, but also as models in burials, hinting at their ritual significance which develops over time.

The earliest depictions in the late Neqada I period are of simple boats associated exclusively with the ritualistic hunting of crocodile and hippo. When the human form is introduced, it is shown as a victorious hunter, killing or capturing animals and dominating rows of prisoners in the same way that they controlled and tamed the wild.

By the late Neqada II period, boats become more sophisticated and are depicted bristling with oars and having wooden cabins on their decks. The boats link to earlier ritualistic hunting is built upon, with the river becoming a focus for religious activity that eventually culminates during the pharaonic period in the grand river processions associated with ancient Egyptian religious festivals, and the rivers central role in the journey of the deceased into the afterlife.

Further information

The Painted Tomb-Chapel of Nebamun, 1350 BC

My reproduction is based on a wall painting from an 18th Dynasty tomb chapel located in the Theban Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile in Egypt. It belonged to Nebamun, a wealthy, middle-ranking official scribe and grain counter at the temple complex in Thebes.

The tomb’s plastered walls were richly and skilfully decorated with lively fresco paintings, depicting idealised views of Nebamun’s life and activities. One shows a banquet in honour of the deceased Nebamun.

Naked serving-girls and servants wait on his friends, colleagues and relatives, who are entertained by musicians and dancers. Some of the guests are indicated to already be dead, suggesting the scene shows an idealised image of family celebration and support across time.

The women wear elaborate linen clothes painted as if they were transparent to show that they were exceptionally fine as well as unique jewellery, collars, and headdresses. Tall cones of white perfumed unguent sit atop their heads, a visual convention used to indicate they are wearing perfume. The floral garlands in their hair and the lotus flowers and buds they grasp are symbolic of the idea of birth and renewal.

A table is piled high with offerings of food and flowers for the deceased Nebamun which include earthenware wine amphorae, bunches of grapes, a plucked fowl, round and oval loaves of bread, patterned baskets of grapes, a basket of yellow sycamore figs, an animals heart, the skinned leg of an ox and a basket of mandrake fruit.

The original can be seen in Room 61 of the British Museum in London.

Object Number: EA37986

The Goddess Hathor and Seti I

This beautiful relief was part of the decoration of the tomb well-preserved tomb of King Seti I (KV17) in the Valley of the Kings.

It depicts Seti walking towards the still figure of the goddess Hathor, who played an important role in welcoming the dead to the underworld and accompanying them into the afterlife.

Hathor, Lady of the West, is shown welcoming Seti into her domain and holds out her menat necklace as a symbol of her protection. On the goddess’s wig are the horns of a cow, her sacred animal, and a solar disk showing she is the daughter of Ra. She is named in the hieroglyphic text above using the symbol of a falcon in a building or temple, which reads Hwt-Hr meaning ‘House of Horus’.

Seti is distinguishable by the royal uraeus cobra which stands out in front of his forehead, and by two of his royal names given in cartouches. The left reads Men Maat Ra, meaning ‘Eternal is the Truth of Ra’ and the right reads Wesiri Seti, mer en Ptah, meaning ‘Osiris Seti, beloved of Ptah’.

Their jewellery has the colours of the precious materials from which it was made, including gold, silver, lapis lazuli, turquoise and carnelian.

The characters’ finery reflects the refinement and elegance of the art from this period and retains some elements of the Amarna style developed fifty years earlier during Akhenaten’s reign.

The original is now in the Musee de Louvre, Paris.

My Reproductions

Poster: Formula 1 Wall of Champions

Formula One World Champions since 1950I finally completed a little home decorating project; my F1 Wall of Champions.

Every formula one word champion since 1950 proudly displaying their year(s) of victory (Schumacher was a bit of a squeeze!). Stitched together on Photoshop, I had this printed on a large canvas which now graces my living room wall.

If you like this, I updated it to celebrate F1 1000.

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