Study Guide

Mut Gossip

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The word Mut means "mother" in ancient Egyptian, but it also means "vulture." Hmmm, not quite peanut butter and jelly. But remember: Ancient Egyptians thought that vultures were all females, because the kind of vultures that lived in Egypt at the time all looked the same, no matter what gender they were. Because of this, they thought that vultures created themselves out of nothing and reproduced without having males to help. This made the vulture an appropriate symbol for Mut, a goddess who created herself.

The Brooklyn Museum has been doing archaeological work at Mut's main temple inside the Karnak temple complex in Luxor, Egypt, since 1976. You can see what they've been doing there since 2005 by checking out the official Mut Precinct website.

Mut is sometimes in a lion form, just like some other goddesses she's often associated with (including Sekhmet, Bast, Wadjet, Isis, and Hathor). She can also be merged with Sekhmet to create Sekhmet-Mut (or Mut-Sekhmet), and with Bast to create Bast-Mut (or Mut-Bast). If that doesn't hurt your head enough, Mut also merged with Isis and Hathor in later times to become the Roman goddess, Isis, a lady said to have "ten thousand names" in the writings of Apuleius. Whew.

Only women were permitted to serve as Mut's priests. Even when the king had to do rituals in her temple, his wife the queen would be the chief priest for them. When Hatshepsut, a female king, worshipped Mut, she had her daughter act as Mut's priestess just to keep the tradition going.

The vulture headdress that queens wore from the Old Kingdom onward is called Mut. You can probably figure out why: (1) because of the word vulture and (2) because of the goddess of the same name who wore one herself. Originally, the vulture was also the goddess Nekhbet, protector of southern (Upper) Egypt, but it became associated with Mut as well over time.

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