neith.jpg Neith was a goddess of war and of hunting; her symbol consisted of two crossed arrows and a shield.

Her main cult centres were Sais in the Delta (called Sau in ancient Egyptian) and Asyut in Middle Egypt (called Saut). She was sometimes associated with the god Wepwawet, who also had a cult in Asyut.

Her first appearance in Egyptian religion was rather early; her symbol appears already on stelae from the first dynasty. Her name was part of several royal names from this period as well.

As a goddess of war she had to help to king during his battles, and to "open the way" for him, a function she had in common with Wepwawet; through this she also became a goddess who gave protection, and because of this was also incorporated in the group of gods who helped the deceased. Usually together with Isis, Nephthys and Serket she offered protection to the sarcophagus (already in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts) and to the canopic chest, containing the internal organs which had been removed during mummification. More specifically she was linked to Duamutef, one of the children of Horus, who watched over the stomach of the deceased.

Neith was also associated with weaving, possibly because her symbol resembled a weaving loom. Therefore it was only natural to consider her as the one who wove the bandages of the mummy. As the goddess of weaving she was also the protector of women as well as of marriage.

Neith was also associated with the water of the Nile (sometimes she was called the mother of the crocodile god Sobek) and because of this was even considered to be the personification of the primeval waters of creation; she was identified with the goddess Mehetweret ("The Great Flood") and also linked to Khnum as his wife and as the source of the Nile. Neith and Khnum were seen as creator god in the temple of Esna and even melted together into one androgynous creator god.

From her association with Mehetweret Neith could have the form of a cow, thereby resembling other sky goddesses such as Nut and Hathor. She was sometimes called "Great Cow Who Gives Birth to Re".

Neith is usually portrayed as a woman wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt and often carrying a bow and arrows in her hands. Occasionally she is depicted with the head of a lioness, as a cow or as a snake.



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