Tag Archives: Serket

Nefertiti granted the resurrection of Akhenaten. Part I


Let’s start with that: women were crucial in Ancient Egypt for the dead’s resurrection.

The rite of the professional mourning ritual in ancient Egyptian funerals was based on the Osirian theology.

That happened becasue in the belief of Ancient Egypt the dead (Osiris) was regenerated thanks to aid of his wife/sister Isis (and by extension of his sister/sister in law Nephthys).

She was able to recover many vital functions to the corpse: breath, movement, virility…Not for nothing the image of Isis (and of Nephthys) was present in funerary artefacts (coffins, sarcophagi, caponic chests…)

Goddess Nephthys from a coffin in Brooklyn Museum. Ancient Egypt

Goddess Nephthys from a coffin in Brooklyn Museum

We also know that in some moment of the history of Ancient Egyp that regenerating role was responsibility also of Serket and Neith. They formed with Isis and Nephthys a group of four goddesses who contributed actively to the dead’s resurrection. That is why, their images were present in funerary furniture (sarcophagi, ushabti boxes, canopic shrine…).

Canopic shrine of Tutankhamun with he four goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Serket and Neith. Photo www.globalegyptianmuseum.org. Ancietn Egypt

Canopic shrine of Tutankhamun with he four goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Serket and Neith. Photo http://www.globalegyptianmuseum.org

hat shows how important were women/goddesses for the dead’s resurrection from a professional and official point of view. Their status in this sphere was high enough to become indispensable.

What happened in the Egyptian thought in this regard during the Amarna Period? Under the reign of Akhenaton these divinities disappeared from the pantheon. However, the need of a resurrection did not disappear.

Funerals, mummification, tombs… still existed. But what happened with the concept/image of women/goddesses, who performed a role in the resurrection?

Continue reading in www.mariarosavaldesogo.com

 

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The Ancient Egyptian Goddess Serket. The Water Scorpion that Helped the Dead Breathe.


Serket from the tomb of Nefertari. XIX Dynasty. Ancient Egypt.

Serket from the tomb of Nefertari. XIX Dynasty. Valley of the Queens. Photo: www.jfbradu.free.fr

It has been always thought that the ancient Egyptian deity Serket was the Scorpion Goddess, whose power was in her stings.

 

Scholars considered that, due to the quality of killing with the poison, Serket was in Ancient Egypt an effective divine protection against poisonous bites.

 

Nowadays it is widely considered that in fact Serket was not a scorpion, but a nepid, that is a water scorpion.
Water scorpion

Water scorpion. Photo: www.geoffpark.wordpress.com

The water scorpion is an insect which lives in the marshes and, whose appearance remembers the one of scorpions. The water scorpion looks like an earth’s scorpion due to the shape of its two forelegs and to a long breathing-tube at the end of the abdomen that looks like a sting.

Although morphologically they seem to be very close, the nepid is a harmless insect, while the scorpion is harmful and in some cases can cause death. The bite of a scorpion produces many damages, among them the asphyxiation; on its behalf the waterscorpion presents a breathing-tube at the end of the abdomen which allows t take air while the animal is under the water. So, Ancient Egyptians could have considered the water scorpion as the positive counterpoint of the lethal scorpion. They would be the both side of the same matter:

Serket. scorpion versus nepid

Serket. scorpion versus nepid

Serket.Hieroglyph. Ancient EgyptOn the other hand, Serket is a name which comes from the verb srk:Serket. Name in Hieroglyps. Ancient Egypt

which means “breathe”, “make breathe” (Wb IV, 201). And Serket is the short version of the name of this goddess. Her complete name was srkt Htw:

Serket. complete name. Ancient Egypt

This ancient Egyptian name meant: “she makes breathe the windpipe”.

Among the faculties the dead (assimilated to Osiris) needed for coming back to his new life, was the breath. According to the belief of ancient Egypt, it was Isis the goddess who blew air to the nostrils of Osiris by beating her wings. And Serket was eventually assimilated to Isis.

Isis as a kite flaps wings and put herself over her husband.  Relief from the temple of Seti I in Abydos.  XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.passion-egyptienne.fr

Isis as a kite flaps wings and put herself over her husband. Relief from the temple of Seti I in Abydos. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.passion-egyptienne.fr

This exposure makes us think of the posibility that ancient Egyptians included Serket in the team for protecting the corpse thanks to her faculty for allowing the breathing.

The Ancient Egyptian Goddess Serket, a Dead Protector.


Last week we knew that the ancient Egyptian goddess Neith had her reasons for being part of that team of four goddesses-mourners (Isis, Nephtys, Neith and Serket) protecting the dead.

Serket as scorpion. Statue from Late period. Musée du Louvre. Ancient Egypt

Serket as scorpion. Statue from Late period. Musée du Louvre. Photo: www.museumsart.de

Serket was also a very important divinity in the Egyptian pantheon. She had a great healing power and for that reason she was invoked in ancient Egyptian remedies against scorpion bites.  

 

 

In the funerary sphere of Ancient Egypt Serket helps the Egyptian solar god in his daily rebirth. Re, during his journey in the darkness of the night has to fight against his enemy, the serpent Apophis, which is facing the solar bark.

Serket killing Apophis. Detail from the tomb od Seti I. XX Dynasty. Ancient Egypt

Serket killing Apophis. Detail from the tomb od Seti I. XX Dynasty. Photo: www.bibelwissenschaft.de

The Egyptian the Book of the Amduat from the New Kingdom tells how in the seventh hour, which takes place in the Cavern of Osiris, the power of Serket becomes a great help for defeating Apophis. This great serpent had drunk all the water and the solar bark juts could move thanks to the magic of Isis (the magic of Isis helped also Anubis in the mummification process of Osiris). So, Apophis was in the solar sphere of Ancient Egypt the image of chaos. And among the gods who helped Re against his enemies, was Serket, whose power helped in capturing Apophis and dismembering his body.

Serket from the tomb of Khaemwaset. Valley of the Queens. XX Dynasty. Ancient Egypt.

Serket from the tomb of Khaemwaset. Valley of the Queens. XX Dynasty. Photo: www.corbisimages.com

But Serket appears also associated to the Myth of Osiris. According to a version of the legend Serket helped Isis and Horus the Child when both had to hide from Seth in the marshes. Maybe for that reason Serket appears already mentioned in the Pyramid Texts of Old Kingdom associated with Isis, Neith and “The Two Harmonious Ones” (Pyr. 308).

However, is this link of the goddes with the protection of the dead, which comes from ancient times, related just to these two things we have mentioned?

Next week we will tackle an aspect of goddess Serket, which could make easier to understand her association with the protection of the corpse.

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?

 

Isis, Nephtys, Neith and Serket. Four Divine Egyptian Mourners?


Last week we saw that in some cases Egyptian art offers images, whose meaning seems not clear, but which are based on well known practices from Ancient Egypt.

That was the case of two scenes, one from the Book of the Caverns in the tomb of Ramses IX and the other one from the temple of Osiris in Abydos. In both cases four mourning women appear pulling and shaking a front lock of hair.

Four mourners for Osiris. Temple of Abydos. Ancient Egypt.

Four mourners for Osiris with their front lock of hair falling forwards. Temple of Abydos. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

We know that in Ancient Egypt belief the official mourners who took part in the deceased’s resurrection were two, Isis and Nephtys. However in these two images they are four women making a mourning rite. Can we deduce something more about the identity of this foursome?

These four female figures are categorized in the tomb of Ramses IX  as “goddesses” and they are included in the decorative program of a tomb and the temple of Osiris in Abydos, both belonging to a funerary context. So, for deducing more about them, we have to consider three main aspects: They are four, they have a divinie nature and they are related to the mummy and the  body’s restoration.

Is there a group of four goddesses in Ancient Egypt, who took care of the deceased? Yes, Isis, Nephtys, Neith and Serket. In the Egyptian thought they four formed a team for protecting the dead, or more concreetly, 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 they four were the guardians of the caponic jars which contained the organs of the dead and of the coffin, which contained the mummy. And their image together were usual in these Egyptian canopic chests and sarcophagi.

Coffin of Khonsu, Sennedjem's son, from Deir el-Medina. Neith and Serket at the feet end. XIX Dynasty. Ancient Egypt.

Coffin of Khonsu, Sennedjem’s son, from Deir el-Medina. Neith and Serket at the feet end. XIX Dynasty. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photo: www.drhawass.com

These are the four goddesses who spread their arms over the funeral chest of Tutankhamun. We can see them also in the coffin of Khnonsu (Sennedjem’s son) from XIX Dynasty, Isis and Nephtys are depicted at the head end of the coffin, while Neith and Serket appear together at the feet end.

Coffin of Khnum Nakht. Feet extreme with inscriptions referring to Nephtys. XIII Dynasty. Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. Ancient Egypt

Coffin of Khnum Nakht. Feet extreme with inscriptions referring to Nephtysand also Serket. XIII Dynasty. Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York.

Neith and Serket, together with Isis and Nephtys, were also mentioned in the inscriptions of some coffins and in canopic chests dating from the Middle Kingdom.

Wooden canopic chest of Satipi. Neith is included in the inscription. XII Dynasty. Ancient Egypt.

Wooden canopic chest of Satipi. Neith is included in the inscription. XII Dynasty. Photo: British Museum.

So, the union of these four goddesses was something well established in Ancient Egyptian belief. And the four mourners in the tomb of Ramses IX and the temple of Osiris in Abydos could perfectly be those ones.