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Taweret

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Taweret
Goddess of childbirth
Symbol the sa, ivory dagger
Parents Ra ?
Siblings presumably Wadjet and Nekhbet
Consort Set, Sobek (in some account), Bes (in some account)

In Egyptian mythology, Taweret (also spelled Taurt, Tuat, Taueret, Tuart, Ta-weret, Tawaret, and Taueret, and in Greek, Θουέρις "Thouéris" and Toeris) is the ancient Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility. The name "Taweret" means, "she who is great" or simply, "great one".[1] When paired with another deity, she became the demon-wife of Apep, the original god of evil. However, the Egyptians essentially treated Taweret as a benevolent figure and this deity is attested as early as the Old Kingdom period "when she took three principal names: Opet or Ipy ('harim' or favoured place), Taweret ('the great goddess') and Reret (the sow')."[2] While there is a temple of Opet at Karnak, dating to the Late Period and Ptolemaic era, "it was the cult of Taweret that gained particular importance over time."[2]

Early beliefs

As the counterpart of Apep, who was always below the horizon, Taweret was seen as being the northern sky, the constellation roughly covering the area of present-day Draco, which always lies above the horizon. Thus, Taweret was known as mistress of the horizon. Like the dwarf god Bes, Taweret:

"appears to have had no cult temples of her own, although a few statues have survived, and she was sometimes portrayed in temple reliefs. The Egyptian system of constellations connected the hippopotamus with the northern sky, and it was in this role as Nebet-akhet ('mistress of the horizon') that Taweret was depicted on the ceiling of the tomb of Seti I...in the Valley of the Kings (KV15)."[2]

She was "usually portrayed with the arms and legs of a lion and the back and tail of a crocodile (or even a complete crocodile perched on her back), while her pendulous breasts and full belly conveyed the idea of pregnancy."[2] On occasion, later, rather than having a crocodile back, she was seen as having a separate, small crocodile resting on her back, which was thus interpreted as Sobek, the crocodile-god, and said to be her consort.

Later beliefs

Early during the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians saw female hippopotami as less aggressive than the males, and began to view their aggression as only protecting their young--not territorial, as was male aggression. Consequently, Taweret became seen, very early in Egyptian history, as a deity of protection in pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnant women wore amulets with her name or likeness to protect their pregnancies. Because of her protective powers during childbirth, "the image of the hippopotamus-goddess was considered a suitable motif for the decoration of beds and headrests.[2]

In most subsequent depictions, Taweret was depicted with features of a pregnant woman. In a composite addition to the animal-compound she was also seen with pendulous breasts, a full pregnant abdomen, and long, straight human hair on her head. Faience vases in the shape of the goddess "provided with a small pouring hole at the nipple, were sometimes used to serve milk, presumably in an attempt to invoke extra divine potency into the liquid."[3]

As a protector, she often was shown with one arm resting on the sa symbol, which symbolized protection, and on occasion she carried an ankh, the symbol of life, or a knife, which would be used to threaten evil spirits. As the hippopotamus was associated with the Nile, these more positive ideas of Taweret allowed her to be seen as a goddess of the annual flooding of the Nile and the bountiful harvest that it brought. Ultimately, although only a household deity, since she was still considered the consort of Apep, Taweret was seen as one who protected against evil by restraining it.

When Set fell from grace in the Egyptian pantheon, as a result of being favoured by the unpopular Hyksos rulers, he gradually took over the position of Apep, as the god of evil. With this change away from Apep, Taweret became seen only as the concubine of Set. She was seen as concubine rather than wife, as Set already was married to the extremely different goddess, Nephthys, to whom no parallels could be drawn. It then was said that Taweret had been an evil goddess, but changed her ways and held Set back on a chain.

As the goddess of motherhood, Taweret was eventually assimilated into the identity of Mut, the great-mother goddess.

In popular culture

A massive, skyscraper-sized statue of Taweret is a prominent feature of the American television series Lost. The full-sized statue has been seen in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and a ruined foot of the statue was a hint in an earlier season. In the April 2009 issue of the magazine Wired, which was guest-edited by the series' producer J.J. Abrams, one of the coded messages in the issue decrypted to the sentence, "The four toed statue is Taweret."[4]

References

  1. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/taweret.htm
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Ian Shaw & Paul Nicholson, The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, British Museum, Henry N. Abrams Ince. New York, 1995. p.283
  3. Shaw & Nicholson, pp.283-84
  4. Wired, April 2009

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

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