Study Guide

Neith Sightings

Sightings

Jan 1, 1970 - Jan 1, 1970

Mysterious Origins?

Yeah, this was a long time ago. See, many scholars think Neith came to Egypt from somewhere else. Some think she started out as a goddess called Ta-nit (or Tanith) in Tunisia or Libya. Others think maybe she came from further south or from Asia. Still others say that Neith is Egyptian, but she showed up there before the Egyptians united themselves. Sounds appropriate for the creator goddess "who has no beginnings," doesn't it?

Jan 1, 1970 - Jan 1, 1970

Shielding Most Ancient Egypt

Neith's shield-and-arrows symbol appears on many predynastic artifacts, including jars and stone palettes used for grinding makeup or medicine. It's one of the earliest known hieroglyphs and appears even before actual writing does!

Jan 1, 1970 - Dec 20, 2019

Sais, city of Neith

Neith's special city, where she had a huge temple, is at least as old as Egypt's First Dynasty (about 3100BCE) and maybe even older. She was worshipped there alongside Osiris and other gods, although the Greeks believed that Athena built Sais herself. They also believed that when Atlantis was destroyed, Sais survived. There was a famous medical school—with female doctors and students—at this temple, and Neith's temple and city were rebuilt several times after war or other problems throughout Egyptian history. During Dynasty 26, around 664BCE, Sais became the capital of Egypt, and so this period is called "the Saite Period."

Dec 21, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

It Started in the Slime: Goddess of the Great Eight

At Hermopolis Magna, called "Khmun" or "Eight" in ancient Egyptian, the main god was Thoth. Thoth was the guardian of a mysterious group of eight gods, the "gods of the slime" or the "Great Eight," who created the universe. They were each in pairs where the male god was a frog and the female god was a snake: Nun (creative power) and his wife Nunet (or Neith); Kek (darkness) and his wife Keket; Heh (eternity) and his wife Hehet; and Amun (hiddenness/mystery) and his wife Amunet (or Mut). According to the myths of Khmun, these eight gods created Ra, and Ra created the world with Thoth's guidance. Later on, this myth becomes the reason why Neith is called "mother of the fathers and father of the mothers" and a creator goddess.

Dec 21, 2019 - Jan 1, 1970

Royal Associations

The royal houses of the Old Kingdom loved Neith and not just for her stylish red crown. A number of queens and even the first female pharaoh (Nitocris, or "Neith is excellent") were named for Neith, and pyramids were built in her name.

Dec 20, 2019

Esna Temple

Neith shares a temple with Khnum, the ram-headed creator god of the southern island of Elephantine (Abu) at the southern city of Esna. There were older temples on this site, but this is the current one standing: one of the newest of Egypt's ancient temples and the last to be built that's still there. It looks very much like a similar temple to Horus the Elder just south at the city of Edfu, but it's unique because it's mostly still buried. Half the temple is underneath the modern city of Esna. If you go there today, in order to get to the part that has been uncovered, you have to go down three long flights of steps. Because this temple was buried for so long, it has much of its original bright paint—ancient Egyptian temples weren't plain white.

Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

Parthenogenesis

From the most ancient times, Neith was alone. She never has a real husband (Seth doesn't count), and if she has children, the myths say she made them herself. Some people think that this parthenogenesis (a big Greek word that means "virgin birth" or "created out of oneself/alone") was the basis of the idea of the Virgin Mary in Christianity. It's more likely that it's just another instance of girl power in world religions. Other famous "virgin" goddesses and spirits include Athena (who was often mistaken for Neith in Egypt), Artemis, Hekate, Quan Yin, the Valkyries, and Durga.

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