Why Became the Ancient Egyptian Goddess Neith a Protective of the Dead?

In Ancient Egypt Isis, Nephtys, Neith and Serket formed a team of four goddesses, who protected the caponic jars containing the organs of the dead.

Canopic shrine of Tutankhamun. Serket. Ancient Egypt.

Canopic shrine of Tutankhamun with Serket on the left and Isis on the right. XVIII Dynasty. Cairo Museum. Photo: www.globalegyptianmuseum.org

For that reason Egyptians depicted these four goddesses in the canopic chests and sometimes also in sarcophagi.

We know that the link of Isis and Nephtys with the corpse is related to the Osiris Legend and to their mourning rite for helping him in his final resurrection. But, which attributes did Neith and Serket have for being part of that divine quartet?

In the case of Neith maybe the link would also be related to the Myth of Osiris, and concretely to the incident of the battle between Horus and Seth. This Ancient Egyptian myth tells how Horus had to revenge the death of his father Osiris at the hands of Seth. In the most popular version Horus and Seth battled, with the resulting bloodshed, which ended with the victory of Horus.

Canopic chest of priest of Montu Pady-Imenet. Neith pouring water on Qebehsenuef, the son of Horus who protected the intestines. XXII Dynasty.Luxor Museum. Ancient Egypt.

Canopic chest of priest of Montu Pady-Imenet. Neith pouring water on Qebehsenuef, the son of Horus who protected the intestines. XXII Dynasty. Luxor Museum. Photo: www.ancient-egypt.co.uk

According to another version, a court trial had to resolve the conflict. The gods were assembled in Heliopolis and Horus stated againt Seth. But, due to a lack of information the gods decided to write to Neith, an ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, and ask her for advice. The answer of Neith was clear: Seth was an usurper; Horus was Osiris’ legitimate heir, so he had to be in the throne of Egypt.

It seems quite probably that this mythical defence of Osiris and his son Horus caused the introduction of Neith in the funerary thought of Ancient Egypt as a protective goddess of the organs of the dead.

And…what about Serket?

 

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