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Bat (goddess)

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Bat was a cow goddess in Egyptian mythology depicted as a human face with cow ears and horns. By the time of the Middle Kingdom her identity and attributes were subsumed within the goddess Hathor.[1]

The worship of Bat dates to earliest times and may have its origins in Late Paleolithic cattle herding. Bat was the chief goddess of Seshesh, otherwise known as Hu or Diospolis Parva, the 7th nome of Upper Egypt.

The epithet Bat may be linked to the word ba with the feminine suffix 't'. Ba means something like personality or emanation and is often translated as 'soul' . The word can also be read as 'power' or 'god'. Bat became strongly associated with the sistrum and the center of her cult, was known as the 'Mansion of the sistrum'.[2]

The sistrum is a musical instrument whose shape is very similar to that of the ankh.[1] This instrument is depicted with her head and neck as the handle and base, with rattles placed between her horns. The imagery is repeated on each side, having two faces. The sistrum was one of the most frequently used sacred instruments in temples.

The Egyptian Pyramid Texts say:

I am Praise; I am Majesty; I am Bat with Her Two Faces; I am the One Who Is Saved, and I have saved myself from all things evil. [3]

Although it was rare for Bat to be clearly depicted in painting or sculpture, two exceptions are displayed below, one in bovine form and the other in human form. In rare instances she was pictured as a celestial bovine creature surrounded by stars. More commonly, Bat was depicted on amulets, with a human face, but with bovine features, such as the ears of a cow and the inward-curving horns of the type of cattle first herded by the Egyptians.

She is found, on a significant Egyptian archaeological find shown to the right. This stone object dates from about the 31st century BCE and contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions. It is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt during the first dynasty under the pharaoh Narmer. Bat appears at the top of each side of the object.

The imagery of Bat as a divine cow was remarkably similar to that of Hathor the parallel goddess from Lower Egypt. The significant difference in their depiction is that Bat's horns curve inward and Hathor's curve outward slightly. It is possible that this could be based in the different breeds of cattle herded at different times.

In two dimensional images, both goddesses often are depicted straight on, facing the onlooker and not in profile in accordance with the usual Egyptian convention.

Hathor's cult centre was in the 6th Nome of Upper Egypt, adjacent to the 7th where Bat was the cow goddess, which may indicate that they were once the same goddess.

In the image to the right a king of the fourth dynasty is flanked by both goddesses, Hathor and Bat. They are remarkably similar in this large sculpture, however, their crowns identify them clearly. The emblem on Bat repeats the sistrum imagery and her zoomorphic face is present upon it (wearing another sistrum). The image on her crown carries the feather of Ma'at.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, p.172 Thames & Hudson. 2003. ISBN 0-500-05120-8
  2. Hart, George. The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, p. 47 2nd Edition Routledge. 2005. ISBN 0-415-34495-6
  3. R. O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Oxford 1969, p. 181, Utterance 506

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Bat (goddess). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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