Hecate/Heqet – Ereshkigal, Hel etc.
Posted by Fredsvenn on October 6, 2015
In Greek mythology, Asteria (Ancient Greek: Ἀστερία, “of the stars” or “starry one”) was a name attributed to the following eleven individuals: the daughter of Coeus, an Amazon woman, Heliad, Danaid, Alkyonides, the Consort of Phocus, the consort of Bellerophon, the daughter of Coronus, the daughter of Teucer, an Athenian maiden, and a character in the opera “Telemaco”. Each of these is detailed below.
The Titan goddess of nocturnal oracles and falling stars, Asteria flung herself into the Aegean Sea in the form of a quail in order to escape the advances of Zeus, and became the “quail island” of Ortygia. This then became identified with the island of Delos, which was the only piece on earth to give refuge to the fugitive Leto when, pregnant with Zeus’s children, she was pursued by vengeful Hera. Asteria was the daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe and sister of Leto. According to Hesiod, by Perses she had a daughter Hecate.
Hecate or Hekate (Greek Ἑκάτη, Hekátē) is a goddess in Greek religion and mythology, most often shown holding two torches or a key and in later periods depicted in triple form. She was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, dogs, light, the moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery.
Hecate has been characterized as a pre-Olympian chthonic goddess. She appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and in Hesiod’s Theogony, where she is promoted strongly as a great goddess. The place of origin of her following is uncertain, but it is thought that she had popular followings in Thrace.
Her most important sanctuary was Lagina, a theocratic city-state in which the goddess was served by eunuchs. Lagina, where the famous temple of Hecate drew great festal assemblies every year, lay close to the originally Macedonian colony of Stratonikeia, where she was the city’s patroness. In Thrace she played a role similar to that of lesser-Hermes, namely a governess of liminal regions (particularly gates) and the wilderness.
In the post-Christian writings of the Chaldean Oracles (2nd-3rd century CE) she was regarded with (some) rulership over earth, sea and sky, as well as a more universal role as Saviour (Soteira), Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul. She was one of the main deities worshiped in Athenian households as a protective goddess and one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family.
Hecate may have originated among the Carians of Anatolia, where variants of her name are found as names given to children. William Berg observes, “Since children are not called after spooks, it is safe to assume that Carian theophoric names involving hekat- refer to a major deity free from the dark and unsavoury ties to the underworld and to witchcraft associated with the Hecate of classical Athens.” She also closely parallels the Roman goddess Trivia, with whom she was identified in Rome.
The etymology of the name Hecate (Ἑκάτη, Hekátē) is not known . Suggested derivations include from the Greek word for ‘will’, from Ἑκατός Hekatos, an obscure epithet of Apollo, which has been translated as “she that operates from afar”, “she that removes or drives off”, “the far reaching one” or “the far-darter”, and from the name of the Egyptian goddess of childbirth, Heqet.
Strmiska notes that Hecate, conflated with the figure of Diana, appears in late antiquity and in the early medieval period as part of an “emerging legend complex” associated with gatherings of women, the moon, and witchcraft that eventually became established “in the area of Northern Italy, southern Germany, and the western Balkans.”
This theory of the Roman origins of many European folk traditions related to Diana or Hecate was explicitly advanced at least as early as 1807 and is reflected in numerous etymological claims by lexicographers from the 17th to the 19th century, deriving “hag” and/or “hex” from Hecate by way of haegtesse (Anglo-Saxon) and hagazussa (Old High German).
Such derivations are today proposed only by a minority since being refuted by Grimm, who was skeptical of theories proposing non-Germanic origins for German folklore traditions.
Modern etymology reconstructs Proto-Germanic *hagatusjon- from haegtesse and hagazussa; the first element is probably cognate with hedge, which derives from PIE *kagh- “hedge, enclosure”, and the second perhaps from *dhewes- “fly about, be smoke, vanish.”
In the syncretism during Late Antiquity of Hellenistic and late Babylonian (“Chaldean”) elements, Hecate was identified with Ereshkigal, the underworld counterpart of Inanna in the Babylonian cosmography. In the Michigan magical papyrus (inv. 7), dated to the late 3rd or early 4th century CE, Hecate Ereschigal is invoked against fear of punishment in the afterlife.
Before she became associated with Greek mythology, she had many similarities with Artemis (wilderness, and watching over wedding ceremonies).
Dogs were sacred to Hecate and associated with roads, domestic spaces, purification, and spirits of the dead. They played a similar symbolic role in ancient China, where dogs were conceived as representative of the household sphere, and as protective spirits appropriate when transcending geographic and spatial boundaries. Dogs were also sacrificed to the road.
As Roel Sterckx observes, “The use of dog sacrifices at the gates and doors of the living and the dead as well as its use in travel sacrifices suggest that dogs were perceived as daemonic animals operating in the liminal or transitory realm between the domestic and the unknown, danger-stricken outside world”.
This can be compared to Pausanias’ report that in the Ionaian city of Colophon in Asia Minor a sacrifice of a black female puppy was made to Hecate as “the wayside goddess”, and Plutarch’s observation that in Boeotia dogs were killed in purificatory rites. Dogs, with puppies often mentioned, were offered to Hecate at crossroads, which were sacred to the goddess.
Trivia in Roman mythology was the goddess who “haunted crossroads, graveyards, and was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, she wandered about at night and was seen only by the barking of dogs who told of her approach.” She was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, the three-way crossroads and the harvest moon.
She was an underworld Titan-goddess who assisted Jove in the Titanomachy and was therefore able to keep her powers. She was a friend of Ceres and helped her to find her daughter Proserpina.
As a part of her role as an underworld goddess, she was known as the Queen of Ghosts. Although she helped Ceres to find her daughter, she was also known to steal young maidens to assist her in her powers. These women later became nymphs.
Her association for Romans of the first century BCE with Artemis was so thorough that Lucretius identifies the altar of the goddess at the sacrifice of Iphianassa (Iphigeneia) in Aulis as Triviai virginis aram.
Ka – The Egyptian concept of spirit
The Ka was the Egyptian concept of vital essence, that which distinguishes the difference between a living and a dead person, with death occurring when the ka left the body. The Egyptians believed that Khnum created the bodies of children on a potter’s wheel and inserted them into their mothers’ bodies.
Depending on the region, Egyptians believed that Heket or Meskhenet was the creator of each person’s Ka, breathing it into them at the instant of their birth as the part of their soul that made them be alive. This resembles the concept of spirit in other religions.
The Egyptians also believed that the ka was sustained through food and drink. For this reason food and drink offerings were presented to the dead, although it was the kau (kꜣw) within the offerings that was consumed, not the physical aspect. The ka was often represented in Egyptian iconography as a second image of the king, leading earlier works to attempt to translate ka as double.
Heqet was often referred to as the wife of Khnum, who formed the bodies of new children on his potter’s wheel. Khnum was one of the earliest Egyptian deities, originally the god of the source of the Nile River.
Since the annual flooding of the Nile brought with it silt and clay, and its water brought life to its surroundings, Khnum was thought to be the creator of the bodies of human children, which he made at a potter’s wheel, from clay, and placed in their mothers’ wombs. He later was described as having moulded the other deities, and he had the titles Divine Potter and Lord of created things from himself.
The worship of Khnum centered on two principal riverside sites, Elephantine Island and Esna, which were regarded as sacred sites. At Elephantine, he was worshipped alongside Anuket, the personification and goddess of the Nile river in the Egyptian mythology in Elephantine, at the start of the Nile’s journey through Egypt, and in nearby regions of Nubia, and Satis, the deification of the floods of the Nile River, as the guardian of the source of the Nile River.
Satet means she who shoots forth referring to the annual flooding of the river. She was an early war, hunting, and fertility deity who was seen as the mother of the goddess Anuket and a protector of southern Egypt. One of her titles was She Who Runs Like an Arrow, which is thought to refer to the river current, and her symbols became the arrow and the running river.
Anuket, also Anaka or Anqet, meant the “Clasper” or “Embracer”. In Greek, this became Anoukis (Ανουκις), sometimes also spelled Anukis. In the interpretatio graeca, she was considered equivalent to Hestia or Vesta.
His significance led to early theophoric names of him, for children, such as Khnum-Khufwy – Khnum is my Protector, the full name of Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid.
The temple at Elephantine was dedicated to Khnum, his consort Satis and their daughter Anukis. In Esna (Latopolis), known as Iunyt or Ta-senet to the Ancient Egyptians, a temple was dedicated to Khnum, Neith and Heka, and other deities. The Beit el-Wali temple of Ramesses II contained statues of Khnum, Satis and Anukis, along with statues of Isis and Horus.
In art, he was usually depicted as a ram-headed man at a potter’s wheel, with recently created children’s bodies standing on the wheel, although he also appeared in his earlier guise as a water-god, holding a jar from which flowed a stream of water. However, he occasionally appeared in a compound image, depicting the elements, in which he, representing water, was shown as one of four heads of a man, with the others being, – Geb representing earth, Shu representing the air, and Osiris representing death.
Khnum is the third aspect of Ra. He is the god of rebirth, creation and the evening sun, although this is usually the function of Atum, sometimes rendered as Atem or Tem.
Atum’s name is thought to be derived from the word tem which means to complete or finish. Thus he has been interpreted as being the ‘complete one’ and also the finisher of the world, which he returns to watery chaos at the end of the creative cycle. As creator he was seen as the underlying substance of the world, the deities and all things being made of his flesh or alternatively being his ka.
Atum is one of the most important and frequently mentioned deities from earliest times, as evidenced by his prominence in the Pyramid Texts, where he is portrayed as both a creator and father to the king.
In the Heliopolitan creation myth, Atum was considered to be the first god, having created himself, sitting on a mound (benben) (or identified with the mound itself), from the primordial waters (Nu). Early myths state that Atum created the god Shu and goddess Tefnut by spitting them out of his mouth.
To explain how Atum did this, the myth uses the metaphor of masturbation, with the hand he used in this act representing the female principle inherent within him. Other interpretations state that he has made union with his shadow.
In the Old Kingdom the Egyptians believed that Atum lifted the dead king’s soul from his pyramid to the starry heavens. He was also a solar deity, associated with the primary sun god Ra. Atum was linked specifically with the evening sun, while Ra or the closely linked god Khepri were connected with the sun at morning and midday.
In the Book of the Dead, which was still current in the Graeco-Roman period, the sun god Atum is said to have ascended from chaos-waters with the appearance of a snake, the animal renewing itself every morning.
Atum is the god of pre-existence and post-existence. In the binary solar cycle, the serpentine Atum is contrasted with the ram-headed scarab Khepri—the young sun god, whose name is derived from the Egyptian hpr “to come into existence”. Khepri-Atum encompassed sunrise and sunset, thus reflecting the entire solar cycle.
Atum was a self-created deity, the first being to emerge from the darkness and endless watery abyss that existed before creation. A product of the energy and matter contained in this chaos, he created his children—the first deities, out of loneliness. He produced from his own sneeze, or in some accounts, semen, Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture.
The brother and sister, curious about the primeval waters that surrounded them, went to explore the waters and disappeared into the darkness. Unable to bear his loss, Atum sent a fiery messenger, the Eye of Ra, to find his children. The tears of joy he shed on their return were the first human beings.
He is usually depicted as a man wearing either the royal head-cloth or the dual white and red crown of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, reinforcing his connection with kingship. Sometimes he also is shown as a serpent, the form he returns to at the end of the creative cycle, and also occasionally as a mongoose, lion, bull, lizard, or ape.
Khnum has also been related to the deity Min, (mnw), an ancient Egyptian god whose cult originated in predynastic times (4th millennium BCE). He was represented in many different forms, but was often represented in male human form, shown with an erect penis which he holds in his left hand and an upheld right arm holding a flail, referring to his authority, or rather that of the Pharaohs. As Khem or Min, he was the god of reproduction; as Khnum, he was the creator of all things, “the maker of gods and men”.
His other associations include the eastern desert and links to the god Horus. His importance grew in the Middle Kingdom when he became even more closely linked with Horus as the deity Min-Horus. By the New Kingdom he was also fused with Amun in the deity Min-Amun-kamutef (Min-Amun – bull of his mother). Min’s shrine was crowned with a pair of bull horns.
As the central deity of fertility and possibly orgiastic rites Min became identified by the Greeks with the god Pan. As a god of male sexual potency, he was honoured during the coronation rites of the New Kingdom, when the Pharaoh was expected to sow his seed — generally thought to have been plant seeds, although there have been controversial suggestions that the Pharaoh was expected to demonstrate that he could ejaculate — and thus ensure the annual flooding of the Nile.
At the beginning of the harvest season, his image was taken out of the temple and brought to the fields in the festival of the departure of Min, when they blessed the harvest, and played games naked in his honour, the most important of these being the climbing of a huge (tent) pole.
Both Khnum and Neith (also spelled Nit, Net, or Neit) are referred to as creator deities in the texts at Esna. Khnum is sometimes referred to as the “father of the fathers” and Neith as the “mother of the mothers”. They later become the parents of Re, who is also referred to as Khnum-Re.
I. A. Wallis Budge argued that the spread of Christianity in Egypt was influenced by the likeness of attributes between the Mother of Christ and goddesses such as Isis and Neith. Parthenogenesis was associated with Neith long before the birth of Christ and other properties belonging to her and Isis were transferred to the Mother of Christ by way of the apocryphal gospels as a mark of honour.
Neith was a goddess of war and of hunting and had as her symbol, two arrows crossed over a shield. However, she is a far more complex goddess than is generally known, and of whom ancient texts only hint of her true nature.
In her usual representations, she is portrayed as a fierce deity, a human female wearing the Red Crown, occasionally holding or using the bow and arrow, in others a harpoon. In fact, the hieroglyphs of her name are usually followed by a determinative containing the archery elements, with the “shield” symbol of the name being explained as either double bows (facing one another), intersected by two arrows (usually lashed to the bows), or by other imagery associated with her worship.
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.
As a deity, Neith is normally shown carrying the was scepter (symbol of rule and power) and the ankh (symbol of life). She is also called such cosmic epithets as the “Cow of Heaven,” a sky-goddess similar to Nut, and as the Great Flood, Mehet-Weret (MHt wr.t), a goddess of the sky in Ancient Egyptian religion, as a cow who gives birth to the sun daily. In these forms, she is associated with creation of both the primeval time and daily “re-creation.”
As protectress of the Royal House, she is represented as a uraeus, and functions with the fiery fury of the sun, In time, this 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. As a female deity and personification of the primeval waters, Neith encompasses masculine elements which enable her to function as a creator. She is a feminine version of Ptah-Nun, with her feminine nature complemented with masculine attributes symbolized with her association with the bow and arrow.
It has been theorized Neith’s primary cult point in the Old Kingdom was established in Saïs (modern Sa el-Hagar) by Hor-Aha of the First Dynasty, in an effort to placate the residents of Lower Egypt by the ruler of the unified country.
It appears from textual/iconographic evidence she was something of a national goddess for Old Kingdom Egypt, with her own sanctuary in Memphis indicated the political high regard held for her, where she was known as “North of her Wall,” as counterpoise to Ptah’s “South of his Wall” epithet.
In the same manner, her personification as the primeval waters is Mehetweret, the Great Flood, conceptualized as streaming water, related to another use of the verb sti, meaning ‘to pour’.”
Since Neith also was goddess of war, she thus had an additional association with death: in this function, she shot her arrows into the enemies of the dead, and thus she began to be viewed as a protector of the dead, often appearing as a uraeus snake to drive off intruders and those who would harm the deceased (in this form she is represented in the tomb of Tutankhamun).
An analysis of her attributes shows Neith was a goddess with many roles. From predynastic and early dynasty periods, she was referred to as an “Opener of the Ways” which may have referred not only to her leadership in hunting and war, but also as a psychopomp in cosmic and underworld pathways.
el-Sayed hypothesizes perhaps Neith should be seen as a feminine doublet of Wepwawet, the ancient jackal-god of Upper Egypt, who was associated with both royalty in victory and as a psychopomp for the dead.
The main imagery of Neith was as deity of the unseen and limitless sky, as opposed to Nut and Hathor, who represented the manifested night and day skies, respectively.
Her epithet as the “Opener of the Sun’s paths in all her stations” refers to how the sun is reborn (due to seasonal changes) at various points in the sky, beyond this world, of which only a glimpse is revealed prior to dawn and after sunset. It is at these changing points that Neith reigns as a form of sky goddess, where the sun rises and sets daily, or at its ‘first appearance’ to the sky above and below. It is at these points, beyond the sky that is seen, that her true power as deity who creates life is manifested.
Georges St. Clair noted that Neith is represented at times as a cow goddess with a line of stars across her back (as opposed to Nut’s representations with stars across the belly), and maintained this indicated the ancient goddess represents the full ecliptic circle around the sky (above and below), and is seen iconographically in texts as both the regular and the inverted determinative for the heavenly vault, indicating the cosmos below the horizon.
St. Clair maintained it was this realm Neith personified, for she is the complete sky which surrounds the upper (Nut) and lower (Nunet?) sky, and which exists beyond the horizon, and thereby beyond the skies themselves. Neith, then, is that portion of the cosmos which is not seen, and in which the sun is reborn daily, below the horizon (which may reflect the statement assigned to Neith as “I come at dawn and at sunset daily”).
Neith’s symbol and part of her hieroglyph also bore a resemblance to a loom, and so in later syncretisation of Egyptian myths by the Greek ruling class, she also became goddess of weaving. At this time her role as a creator conflated with that of Athena, as a deity who wove all of the world and existence into being on her loom.
As the goddess of creation and weaving, she was said to reweave the world on her loom daily. An interior wall of the temple at Esna records an account of creation in which Neith brings forth from the primeval waters of the Nun the first land. All that she conceived in her heart comes into being including the thirty gods. Having no known husband she has been described as Virgin Mother Goddess.
The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC) noted that the Egyptian citizens of Sais in Egypt worshipped Neith and that they identified her with Athena. The Timaeus, a dialogue written by Plato, mirrors that identification with Athena, possibly as a result of the identification of both goddesses with war and weaving.
Mehet-Weret (mḥ.t-wr.t) is a goddess of the sky in Ancient Egyptian religion. Her name means “Great Flood”. She is described as having a woman’s body with a cow’s head, and as such, is sometime called the Cow Goddess. A sun disk lies between the horns on her head, which connects her to the creation of the sun.
Mehet-Weret is described as being the mother of Ra, the ancient Egyptian solar deity. As the Goddess of Creation, she gives birth to the sun every day and is the reason the world isn’t in the dark. In her physical description, she is described as having a sun disk between her horns; in typical motherly fashion, she protects her son Ra and keeps him close to her.
“Myth of the Heavenly Cow” by Nadine Guilhou tells the story of a separate goddess that is related to Mehet-Weret who is named Hathor. Hathor is seen as more troublesome than Mehet-Weret, because she creates chaos in the human world.
The title of the story of the “Myth of the Heavenly Cow” is also known as “The Destruction of Mankind” because Hathor was sent to kill the rebels who acted against the sun god Ra and his plans to rearrange the cosmos. While Hathor is the bloodthirsty warrior cow, focused on the destruction of humankind, Mehet-Weret is responsible for creating some of the most basic needs for humankind: sun and water.
She was mentioned in the Pyramid Texts. In Ancient Egyptian creation myths, she gives birth to the sun at the beginning of time, and in art she is portrayed as a cow with a sun disk between her horns. She is associated with the goddesses Neith, Hathor, and Isis, all of whom have similar characteristics, and like them she could be called the “Eye of Ra”.
Mehet-Weret is primarily known as being the “Celestial Cow” or “Cow Goddess” because of her physical characteristics, but she contributes to the world in more ways than that. She is also the Goddess of Water, Creation, and Rebirth; in Egyptian mythology, Mehet-Weret is one of the main components in the making and survival of life.
Mehet-Weret was responsible for raising the sun into the sky every day. Not only did this goddess produce the light for the crops of those who worshipped her, she was also what caused the annual Nile River flood that fertilized each of the crops with her plentiful water. In Patricia Monaghan’s The Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines, she describes Mehet-Weret as the Goddess of Creation because she gives birth to the sun every day, creating life for all those who worship her.
In Egyptian mythology, Mehet-Weret was known as the Goddess of Water and Creation, but Geraldine Pinch also introduces the idea that she was a piece of the nighttime sky. She is referenced as being the river of stars known as the Milky Way, because of her physical traits of being the responsible for the annual flood of the Nile River.
The people of Egypt believe that Mehet-Weret was the Goddess of Creation and Rebirth, so she was featured in one of the spells to help the humans make their way into the afterlife. The Book of the Dead is an important text in the Egyptian culture because it allows the audience to understand the different journeys that the ancient Egyptians believed in to get to the afterlife.
In other locations, such as Herwer (Tuna el-Gebel perhaps), as the moulder and creator of the human body, Khnum was sometimes regarded as the consort of Heket, or of Meskhenet, the goddess of childbirth, and the creator of each child’s Ka, a part of their soul, which she breathed into them at the moment of birth.
Meskhenet features prominently in the last of the folktales in the Westcar Papyrus. The story tells of the birth of Userkaf, Sahure, and Neferirkare Kakai, the first three kings of the Fifth Dynasty, who in the story are said to be triplets. Just after each child is born, Meskhenet appears and prophesies that he will become king of Egypt.
Since she was responsible for creating the Ka, Meshkenet was associated with fate. Thus later she was sometimes said to be paired with Shai, the deification of the concept of fate in Egyptian mythology, who became a god of destiny after the deity evolved out of an abstract concept.
As a concept, with no particular reason for associating one gender over another, Shai was sometimes considered female, rather than the more usual understanding of being male, in which circumstance Shai was referred to as Shait (simply the feminine form of the name). His name reflects his function, as it means (that which is) ordained.
As the god of fate, it was said that he determined the span of each man’s life, and was present at the judgement of the soul of the deceased in duat. In consequence, he was sometimes identified as the husband of Mesenet, goddess of birth, or, in later years, of Renenutet, who assigned the Ren, and had become considered goddess of fortune. Because of the power associated in the concept, Akhenaten, in introducing monotheism, said that Shai was an attribute of Aten, whereas Ramses II claimed to be lord of Shai (i.e. lord of fate).
During Ptolemaic Egypt, Shai, as god of fate, was identified with the Greek god Agathodaemon, who was the god of fortune telling. An agathodaemon or agathos daemon (lit. “noble spirit”) was a spirit (daemon) of the vineyards and grainfields in ancient Greek religion. They were personal companion spirits, similar to the Roman genii, ensuring good luck, health, and wisdom.
Thus, since Agathodaemon was considered to be a serpent, and the word Shai was also the Egyptian word for pig, in the Hellenic period, Shai was sometimes depicted as a serpent-headed pig, known to Egyptologists as the Shai animal.
The original Hebrew term satan is a noun from a verb meaning primarily “to obstruct, oppose”, as it is found in Numbers 22:22, 1 Samuel 29:4, Psalms 109:6. Ha-Satan is traditionally translated as “the accuser” or “the adversary”. The definite article ha- (English: “the”) is used to show that this is a title bestowed on a being, versus the name of a being. Thus, this being would be referred to as “the satan”.
In Islam, the Devil is known as Iblīs (Arabic: إبليس, plural: ابالسة abālisah), Shayṭān (Arabic: شيطان, plural: شياطين shayāṭīn) or Shaitan. In Islam, Iblis is a jinn who refused to bow for Adam. (Some Islamic scholars [Notably Muhammad Asad] believe him to be one of the angels, but this view is hard to reconcile with Iblis’ own statement that he was created from fire).
The primary characteristic of the Devil is hubris. His primary activity is to incite humans and jinn to commit evil through deception, which is referred to as “whispering into the hearts”. The Quran mentions that Satans are the assistants of those who disbelieve in God: “We have made the evil ones friends to those without faith.”
To the Egyptians, the frog was a symbol of life and fertility, since millions of them were born after the annual inundation of the Nile, which brought fertility to the otherwise barren lands. Consequently, in Egyptian mythology, there began to be a frog-goddess, who represented fertility, referred to by Egyptologists as Heqet (also Heqat, Hekit, Heket etc., more rarely Hegit, Heget etc.), written with the determinative frog.
Her name was probably pronounced more like *Ḥaqā́tat in Middle Egyptian, hence her later Greek counterpart Hecate. Heqet was usually depicted as a frog, or a woman with a frog’s head, or more rarely as a frog on the end of a phallus to explicitly indicate her association with fertility.
The beginning of her cult dates to the early dynastic period at least. Her name was part of the names of some high-born Second Dynasty individuals buried at Helwan and was mentioned on a stela of Wepemnofret and in the Pyramid Texts. Early frog statuettes are often thought to be depictions of her.
Later, as a fertility goddess, associated explicitly with the last stages of the flooding of the Nile, and so with the germination of corn, she became associated with the final stages of childbirth. This association, which appears to have arisen during the Middle Kingdom, gained her the title She who hastens the birth.
Some claim that—even though no ancient Egyptian term for “midwife” is known for certain—midwives often called themselves the Servants of Heqet, and that her priestesses were trained in midwifery. Women often wore amulets of her during childbirth, which depicted Heqet as a frog, sitting in a lotus.
In the myth of Osiris developed, it was said that it was Heqet who breathed life into the new body of Horus at birth, as she was the goddess of the last moments of birth. As the birth of Horus became more intimately associated with the resurrection of Osiris, so Heqet’s role became one more closely associated with resurrection.
Eventually, this association led to her amulets gaining the phrase I am the resurrection in the Christian era along with cross and lamb symbolism. A temple dedicated to Horus and Heqet dating to the Ptolemaic Period was found at Qus.
Khnum is sometimes depicted as a crocodile-headed god. Nebt-uu and Menhit are Khnum’s principal consorts and Heka, also spelled Hike, is his eldest son and successor.
Heka was the deification of magic in ancient Egypt, his name being the Egyptian word for “magic”. According to Egyptian writing (Coffin text, spell 261), Heka existed “before duality had yet come into being.” The term “Heka” was also used to refer to the practice of magical rituals. The Coptic word “hik” is derived from Ancient Egyptian.
The word Heka means activating the Ka, the aspect of the soul which embodied personality. Egyptians believed that activating the power of the soul was how magic worked. “Heka” also implied great power and influence, particularly when drawing upon the Ka of the gods.
Heka acted together with Hu, the principle of divine utterance, and Sia, the concept of divine omniscience, to create the basis of creative power both in the mortal world and the world of the gods.
As the one who activates Ka, Heka was also said to be the son of Atum, the creator of things in general, or occasionally the son of Khnum, who created specific individual Ba (another aspect of the soul).
The hieroglyph for his name featured a twist of flax within a pair of raised arms; however, it also vaguely resembles a pair of entwined snakes within someone’s arms. Consequently, Heka was said to have battled and conquered two serpents, and was usually depicted as a man choking two giant entwined serpents. Medicine and doctors were thought to be a form of magic, so Heka’s priesthood performed these activities.
Egyptians believed that with Heka, the activation of the Ka, an aspect of the soul of both gods and humans, (and divine personification of magic), they could influence the gods and gain protection, healing, and transformation.
Health and wholeness of being were sacred to Heka. There is no word for religion in the ancient Egyptian language and mundane and religious world views were not distinct. Thus Heka was not a secular practice but rather a religious observance. Every aspect of life, including every word, plant, animal and ritual, was connected to the power and authority of the gods.
In ancient Egypt, medicine consisted of four components; the primeval potency that empowered the creator-god was identified with Heka, who was accompanied by magical rituals known as Seshaw, held within sacred texts called Rw. In addition Pekhret, medicinal prescriptions, were given to patients to bring relief. This magic was used in temple rituals as well as informal situations by priests.
These rituals, along with the medical practices, formed an integrated therapy for both physical and spiritual health. Magic was also used for protection against the angry deities, jealous ghosts, foreign demons and sorcerers who were thought to cause illness, accidents, poverty and infertility.
As the son of Khnum, the mother of Heka was said to be Menhit, originally a Nubian war goddess in Egyptian mythology. Her name depicts a warrior status, as it means (she who) massacres.
Due to the aggressive attributes possessed by and hunting methods used by lionesses, most things connected to warfare in Egypt were depicted as leonine, and Menhit was no exception, being depicted as a lioness-goddess.
She also was believed to advance ahead of the Egyptian armies and cut down their enemies with fiery arrows, similar to other war deities She was less known to the people as a crown goddess and was one of the goddesses who represented the protective uraeus on royal crowns.
In the 3rd Nome of Upper Egypt, particularly at Esna, Menhit was said to be the wife of Khnum and the mother of Heka. She was also worshipped in Lower Egypt, where she was linked with the goddesses Wadjet and Neith.
As the centre of her cult was toward the southern border of Egypt, in Upper Egypt, she became strongly identified with Sekhmet, who was originally the lion-goddess of war for Upper Egypt, after unification of the two Egyptian kingdoms, this goddess began to be considered simply another aspect of Sekhmet.