In Egyptian mythology
(also known as Nit
, and Neit
) was an early
goddess in the Egyptian pantheon
the patron deity of
Sais, where her
cult was centered in the Western Nile Delta of Egypt and attested
as early as the First Dynasty.
The Ancient Egyptian
name of this city
was one of the three tutelary deities of the ancient Egyptian southern city of Ta-senet or Iunyt now known as
Esna (Arabic: إسنا), Greek: Λατόπολις (Latopolis), or
πόλις Λάτων (Polis Laton), or Λάττων (Laton); Latin: Lato), which
is located on the west bank of the River Nile, some 55 km south of
Luxor, in the modern Qena
Name and symbolism
Neith was a goddess of war and of hunting and had as her symbol,
two crossed arrows over a shield. Her symbol also identified the
city of Sais. This symbol was displayed on top of her head in
Egyptian art. In her form as a goddess of
, she was said to make the weapons of warriors and to guard
their bodies when they died.
Her name also may be interpreted as meaning water
time, this meaning led to her being considered as the personification
of the primordial
waters of creation
. She is identified as a
great mother goddess in this role as a creator.
Neith's symbol and part of her hieroglyph
also bore a resemblance to a loom
, and so later
in the history of Egyptian myths, she also became goddess of
weaving, and gained this version of her name,
, which means
. At this time her role as a
creator changed from being water-based to that of the deity who
wove all of the world and existence into being on her loom
In art, Neith sometimes appears as a woman with a weavers’ shuttle
atop her head, holding a bow and arrows in her hands. At other
times she is depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness, as a
snake, or as a cow.
Sometimes Neith was pictured as a woman nursing
a baby crocodile, and she was titled
"Nurse of Crocodiles". As the personification of the concept of the
primordial waters of creation in the Ogdoad
theology, she had no gender. As mother of Ra, she was sometimes
described as the "Great Cow who gave birth to Ra".
As a goddess of weaving and the domestic arts she was a protector
of women and a guardian of marriage, so royal women often named
themselves after Neith, in her honour. Since she also was goddess
of war, and thus had an additional association with death, it was
said that she wove the bandages and shrouds
worn by the mummified
dead as a gift to them,
and thus she began to be viewed as a protector of one of the
Four sons of Horus
, the deification of
the canopic jar
storing the stomach,
since the abdomen (often mistakenly associated as the stomach) was
the most vulnerable portion of the body and a prime target during
battle. It was said that she shot arrows at any evil spirits who
attacked the canopic jar she protected.
In the late pantheon
myths, she became identified as the
mother of Ra
she was identified as a water goddess, she was also viewed as the
mother of Sobek
, the crocodile
. It was this association with water,
i.e. the Nile
, that led to her sometimes being
considered the wife of Khnum
, and associated
with the source of the River Nile. She was associated with the
as well as the goddess of the
triad in that cult center.
As the goddess of creation and weaving, she was said to reweave the
world on her loom daily. An interior wall of her temple at Esna records an
account of creation in which Neith brings forth from the primeval
waters of the Nun the first land ex nihilo.
All that she conceived in her
heart comes into being including the thirty gods. Having no known
husband she has been described as "Virgin Mother Goddess":
Proclus (412–485 AD) wrote that the adyton of the temple of Neith in Sais (of which
nothing now remains) carried the following
In much later times, her association with war and death, led to her
being identified with Nephthys
became part of the Ennead
pantheon, and thus
considered a wife of Set
this, it was said that she interceded in the kingly war between
and Set, over the Egyptian throne
, recommending that Horus rule.
A great festival, called the Feast of Lamps
, was held
annually in her honor and, according to Herodotus
, her devotees burned a multitude of
lights in the open air all night during the celebration.
There also is evidence of an resurrection
cult involving a woman dying and being brought back to
that was connected with Neith.
thought that Neith may correspond to the goddess Tanit, worshipped in north Africa by the early
Berber culture (existing from the
beginnings of written records) and through the first Punic culture originating from the founding of
Carthage by Dido.
symbol for the goddess
Ta-nit, meaning in Egyptian the land of Nit
, also was a
sky-dwelling goddess of war, a virginal mother
and nurse, and, less specifically, a symbol of fertility
. Her symbol is remarkably
similar to the Egyptian ankh
and her shrine,
excavated at Sarepta
in southern Phoenicia,
revealed an inscription that related her securely to the Phoenician
). Several of the major Greek
goddesses also were identified with
Tanit by the syncretic
, interpretatio graeca
, which recognized
as Greek deities in foreign guise
the deities of most of
the surrounding non-Hellene cultures.
royal family ruled over
Egypt for three centuries, a period called the Ptolemaic dynasty
until the Roman conquest
in 30 B.C. Anouke
, a goddess from Asia Minor
was worshiped by immigrants to ancient Egypt. This war goddess was
shown wearing a curved and feathered crown and carrying a spear, or
bow and arrows. Within Egypt, she was later assimilated and
identified as Neith, who by that time had developed her aspects as
a war goddess.
The Greek historian, Herodotus
BC), noted that the Egyptian citizens of Sais in Egypt
worshipped Neith and that they identified her with Athena.
, a Socratic dialogue
, mirrors that identification with
E. A. Wallis
argued that the spread of Christianity in Egypt was
influenced by the likeness of attributes between the Mother of
Christ and goddesses such as Isis and Neith. Partheno-genesis
was associated with Neith
long before the birth of Christ and other properties belonging to
her and Isis were transferred to the Mother of Christ by way of the
apocryphal gospels as a mark of honour.
- Shaw & Nicholson, op, cit., p.250
- The Way to Eternity: Egyptian Myth, F. Fleming & A.
Lothian, p. 62.
- Fleming & Lothian, op. cit.
- Timaeus 21e
- "The Gods of the Egyptians: Vol 2", E. A. Wallis
Budge, p. 220-221, Dover ed 1969, org pub 1904, ISBN