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Neith

by Alan G. Hefner
Neith is a goddess of Lower Egypt particularly associated with Sais but soon incorporated into the national pantheon with a sanctuary at Memphis. According to legend Neith emerged from the primeval water to create the world. She followed the course of the Nile to the sea, and when reaching the Delta she formed the city of Sais.

In the New Kingdom she was regarded as the "god's mother who bore Re," whereby she assumed the position of a primeval goddess who was neither male nor female. She was the first to "create the seed of gods and men." She is the mother of Egyptian rulers. Also she was a mortuary goddess who watched over Osiris' brier along with Isis, Nephthys and Serket. The deceased received her divine power by means of the mummy's wrappings, for the bandages and shrouds were considered gifts of Neith, who was regarded as the patroness of weaving. Possibly there was an earlier proposal that her symbol was the weaver's shuttle.

When depicted in human form she wears the red crown of Lower Egypt, and in ancient times her pre-anthropomorphic symbol was a shield bearing crosses because she also was a local war goddess. This goddess of war also blessed hunters' weapons. The practice of placing weapons around the coffin in ancient Egyptian times could be traced to the goddess' protective functions.

She was sometimes asked to give advice and judgment, as, for example, in the eight-year war of the gods between Seth and Horus, which she advised Re in favor of Horus. In other legends she was the consort of Seth and mother of the crocodile god Sobek, which explains the proximity of her cult center in the Delta.


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