In Egyptian mythology, Neith (also known as Nit, Net, and Neit) was an early goddess in the Egyptian pantheon. She was the patron deity of Sais, where her cult was centered in the Western Nile Delta of Egypt and attested as early as the First Dynasty. The Ancient Egyptian name of this city was Zau.
Neith also was one of the three tutelary deities of the ancient Egyptian southern city of Ta-senet or Iunyt now known as Esna (Arabic: إسنا), Greek: Λατόπολις (Latopolis), or πόλις Λάτων (Polis Laton), or Λάττων (Laton); Latin: Lato), which is located on the west bank of the River Nile, some 55 km south of Luxor, in the modern Qena Governorate.
Name and symbolism
Neith was a goddess of war and of hunting and had as her symbol, two crossed arrows over a shield. Her symbol also identified the city of Sais. This symbol was displayed on top of her head in Egyptian art. In her form as a goddess of war, she was said to make the weapons of warriors and to guard their bodies when they died.
Her name also may be interpreted as meaning water. In time, this meaning led to her being considered as the personification of the primordial waters of creation. She is identified as a great mother goddess in this role as a creator.
Neith's symbol and part of her hieroglyph also bore a resemblance to a loom, and so later in the history of Egyptian myths, she also became goddess of weaving, and gained this version of her name, Neith, which means weaver. At this time her role as a creator changed from being water-based to that of the deity who wove all of the world and existence into being on her loom.
In art, Neith sometimes appears as a woman with a weavers’ shuttle atop her head, holding a bow and arrows in her hands. At other times she is depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness, as a snake, or as a cow.
Sometimes Neith was pictured as a woman nursing a baby crocodile, and she was titled "Nurse of Crocodiles". As the personification of the concept of the primordial waters of creation in the Ogdoad theology, she had no gender. As mother of Ra, she was sometimes described as the "Great Cow who gave birth to Ra".
Neith was considered to be a goddess of wisdom and was appealed to as an arbiter in the dispute between Horus and Seth.
As a goddess of weaving and the domestic arts she was a protector of women and a guardian of marriage, so royal women often named themselves after Neith, in her honor. Since she also was goddess of war, and thus had an additional association with death, it was said that she wove the bandages and shrouds worn by the mummified dead as a gift to them, and thus she began to be viewed as a protector of one of the Four sons of Horus, specifically, of Duamutef, the deification of the canopic jar storing the stomach, since the abdomen (often mistakenly associated as the stomach) was the most vulnerable portion of the body and a prime target during battle. It was said that she shot arrows at any evil spirits who attacked the canopic jar she protected.
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