Study Guide

Nekhbet

  • Profile

    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?)

    Basic Information

    Name

    Nekhbet, Nekhebet, Nechbet, Eileithyia to the Greeks and Romans

    Nickname

    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)

    Sex

    Female

    Current city

    Nekheb (El Kab, Eileithyiaspolis)

    Work & Education

    Occupation

    I protect the crown of Egypt and the pharaoh who wears it

    Education

    Egyptian Royal Academy

    Beliefs

    Political views

    Monarchist (you had a doubt?)

    Family & Friends (& Enemies)

    Parents

    Of course I had parents, but nobody knows who they were. Plus, ancient Egyptians thought all vultures were female and created themselves! Weird, huh?

    Siblings

    None

    Children

    None, though I adopt pharaohs from time to time

    Friends

    Wadjet (Buto), Ra, Sobek, Hapy (when we're not married)

    Enemies

    Anyone who'd hurt a pharaoh

    Relationships

    Relationship status

    It's Complicated with Hapy

    Interested in

    Androgynous river gods

    Favorites

    TV Shows

    The O.C. Is this what you have instead of royalty?
    Gossip Girl. If this and The O.C. are all you have for royalty, you need work.
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer will always be my favorite vampire show. Sorry, Vampire Diaries.
    The ceiling at Hell's Kitchenis the best ceiling to hang out on. Though they'd probably chase me out if they saw me up there.

    Quotations

    "By what right, then, do royal rulers rule? Whose is the sanction of their state and pow'r?" —Ambrose Bierce
    "When vultures watching your civilization begin dropping dead, it is time to pause and wonder." —David Brower
    "I've dined with kings / I've been offered wings/ and I've never been too impressed" —Bob Dylan
    "My crown is called content, a crown that seldom kings enjoy." —Shakespeare, Henry VI
    "In the past, people were born royal. Nowadays, royalty comes from what you do." —Gianni Versace

    Books

    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?
    The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I cried. Did you cry? I bet you did.
    Oedipus the King by Sophocles. This has got to be the most messed-up king story ever. Too bad they didn't have me around for advice!
    A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I bet you wouldn't be upset if I landed in your yard.
    Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. And people wonder why I don't have any children.
    The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan. My name is NOT Neck-butt! And I am NOT an old hag! Grrrrr.
    Early Dynastic Egypt by Toby A. H. Wilkinson. Love reading about the old days.
    Vulture: Nature's Ghastly Gourmet by Wayne Grady. We're not THAT gross… are we?
    Kingship and the Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature (Oriental Institute Essays) by Henri Frankfort. I've been hanging out with kings since before kings existed. This is our story.
    The Complete Tutankhamun: The King, The Tomb, The Royal Treasure (King Tut) by Nicholas Reeves. Lots of pictures of the gold and jewels King Tut wore in my honor. Check out that huge gem-studded neck-vulture!

    Music

    "Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga. It seems like people with cameras have taken my place, hovering over the rich and famous. Buzz off!
    "Down on the Street" by The Stooges. When I looked down, I saw Iggy Pop. He looks like a vulture. Adorable! I've been listening ever since.
    There's nothing at all by Tom Petty (with or without the Heartbreakers) that I can't sing from memory. I love his raspy voice.
    "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison. Would he sing about a brown-eyed vulture girl?
    "Vultures" by John Mayer. Why does everyone think vultures are so bad?
    "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley. The only king for me, since 1935 CE.
    "Remember the Time" by Michael Jackson. Wait a minute. Is that Eddie Murphy, or Rameses? I'm confused.
    "That's What Friends Are For" from The Jungle Book. Everybody's got friends, even vultures!

    Movies

    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.
    The Amazing Spider-Man was fun! I was upset when they said Electro would be in the sequel. Come on, where's the Vulture?
    Kingdom of Heaven. I wonder what the Pharaohs would've thought about the Crusades?
    The Butler. What it's like, living in the shadow of important people.
    The Ten Commandments. Yul Brynner was a better Rameses than Rameses was. Is that possible?
    Cleopatra. Such an opulent court. Such beautiful people. Too bad the real one wasn't like this.
    Ben-Hur. Did someone say chariot races? I love chariot races.
    The Man in the Iron Mask
    . Kingship is more than a crown.

    Activities & Interests

    Likes

    Tennis
    Pugs
    Flying
    Big, shiny earrings
    Babies

    Interests

    Genealogy (never know where a royal is hiding!)
    Magic
    La Leche League
    Palaces and castles
    Muscle cars (modern chariots after all)

    Groups

    Ancient Egyptian Gods 
    Egyptian Mythology 
    Vulture 
    Mothers 
    Royal Baby Watch

    • Spotter's Guide

      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.

      Sex: Female
      Age: Adult
      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
      Scars/marks/tattoos: 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
      Armor: None
      Type of Weapon: None, unless the feather fan counts (or her vulture beak and claws!)

      Typical Companions:

      Wadjet, kings and queens, Hapi, Apis

      Known Hangouts:

      The palace
      Inside temple and tomb ceilings, if Nut hasn't left her stars strewn all about
      Way up in the sky
      Riverbanks
      YouTube

    • Sightings

      Jan 1, 1970

      The Southern Oracle

      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

      The Big Vulture

      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

      One of the Two Ladies

      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

      Freebird

      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

      Dancing on the Ceiling

      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

      Still Dancing on the Ceiling

      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

      Protecting a (sorta) royal?

      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.)