Most people think death when they see a vulture. Not so in ancient Egypt! Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of the Nile, protected Egypt's kings and their famous white crown. So, unless you were Pharaoh's enemy, about to be run down with his chariot…not so much vultures and death. (Hm. Maybe we need to rethink this?)
Nekhbet, Nekhebet, Nechbet, Eileithyia to the Greeks and Romans
First of the Two Ladies, Mother of Mothers, Great White Cow of Nekheb, Pharaoh's Protectress, Culture Vulture, Doc Buzzard, Eye of Ra (one of many goddesses with this title)
Nekheb (El Kab, Eileithyiaspolis)
I protect the crown of Egypt and the pharaoh who wears it
Egyptian Royal Academy
Monarchist (you had a doubt?)
Of course I had parents, but nobody knows who they were. Plus, ancient Egyptians thought all vultures were female and created themselves! Weird, huh?
None, though I adopt pharaohs from time to time
Wadjet (Buto), Ra, Sobek, Hapy (when we're not married)
Anyone who'd hurt a pharaoh
It's Complicated with Hapy
Androgynous river gods
The O.C. Is this what you have instead of royalty?
"By what right, then, do royal rulers rule? Whose is the sanction of their state and pow'r?" —Ambrose Bierce
The Song of Ice and Fire series is great reading for my days off. I can't wait for the last book to come out. It'd be exciting to protect any of these kings! Except maybe Daenerys. Do dragons like to eat vultures?
"Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga. It seems like people with cameras have taken my place, hovering over the rich and famous. Buzz off!
I enjoyed the Harry Potter movies and books, and especially Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Just remember: Not everyone you think is bad or dangerous is your enemy.
Genealogy (never know where a royal is hiding!)
Nekhbet's been around a while, so she's well known. It doesn't hurt that she's also a vulture-headed goddess or a full vulture. While sometimes she can be confused with Mut, the easiest way to tell them apart is by their crowns. Nekhbet only gets the White Crown, where Mut will always have the Double Crown (White and Red put together) on her head.
Build: A thin woman with a vulture's head or a human head wearing Pharaoh's white crown (human form); a white vulture (bird form); a cobra wearing the white crown (snake form); very rarely, as a white cow
Complexion: In human form, the same light yellow skin color as all Egyptian women in paintings
Hair Color: Black or dark blue in human form; white and green feathers in bird form; green or black scales in snake form
Facial Hair: None
Jewelry and accessories: The White Crown of Upper Egypt (no, that's not a bowling pin!), a round amulet called a shen, after the hieroglyph for "eternity," and sometimes a long ostrich-feather fan in her vulture claws
Clothing: In human form, a tight-fitting dress
Type of Weapon: None, unless the feather fan counts (or her vulture beak and claws!)
Wadjet, kings and queens, Hapi, Apis
Inside temple and tomb ceilings, if Nut hasn't left her stars strewn all about
Way up in the sky
Jan 1, 1970
At Nekheb, one of Egypt's two oldest cities (across the Nile from the other city, called Nekhen), Nekhbet had a temple where an oracle told people's fortunes. It's the oldest oracle we know of in Egypt, and is much older than similar oracle temples in Greece and Rome. Nekhbet herself, whose name means "She of the city of Nekheb," was so popular and easily recognized that her vulture symbol ended up as the first letter in the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet created during this time.
Jan 1, 1970 - Jan 1, 1970
Nekheb (called El Kab today) was Egypt's largest city and its official capital, until the later city of Memphis (near modern Cairo) became the new capital. As many as 10,000 people lived in Nekheb—a huge city by ancient standards. Think Manhattan, but without any taxicabs.
Jan 1, 1970
Nekhbet's association with the White Crown of Upper (southern) Egypt paired her with Wadjet, the cobra goddess associated with Lower (northern) Egypt's Red Crown. Together, as the Two Ladies, they protected every pharaoh who wore both crowns, and sometimes appeared on the diadems or tiaras the pharaohs wore, as two cobra heads and/or a cobra head and a vulture head, respectively, like the beautiful one on the funeral mask of King Tutankhamun.
Jan 1, 1970
As one sign of a king's divine favor, Nekhbet was shown flying behind him, carrying the ostrich-feather of Ma'at (the goddess of truth and justice and order). The most popular images of Nekhbet this way are flying free above a pharaoh's chariot. Sometimes, Horus takes her place (or just Horus's sacred eye, given Nekhbet's wings, weird as that is). But it's Nekhbet's job to get the king's back.
Jan 1, 1970
The inside ceiling (roof) of many ancient Egyptian temples, palaces, and tombs showed images of Nekhbet in vulture form. Her wings stretched out to protect everything beneath. If you see vultures painted on a ceiling, you know you're in a sacred place!
Dec 20, 1891
Even thousands of years after she stopped showing up on temple ceiling, Nekhbet's vulture sometimes gets added to Egyptian-style buildings. The ceiling at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria is painted to look like most of the ancient ceilings she appeared on. It keeps the mummies from getting homesick!
Dec 20, 2019
Nekhbet gets a new job! The Viscount of Llanteno built a beautiful tomb for himself in Madrid. It's called the Pantheon, and while it's got lots of Greek and Roman imagery, he was thoughtful enough to include Nekhbet on the outside walls! (Nekhbet closeups 1 and 2.)