Ancient Egypt / Religion / Gods /
Other spellings: Nit; Net; Neit
In Ancient Egyptian Religion, creator and war goddess represented in a human form. In some contexts she is a goddess of strong sexual qualities, being either bisexual or the mistress of the primeval waters, Nun.
From the Tomb of Khaemwaset, Valley of the Queens, Luxor.
Neith is among the oldest gods of Egypt, her veneration goes back to prehistoric times. The oldest portrayal in a sacred shrine of any god, represents her. Through Egyptian history, she would pass through many stages, having her powers redefined several times. She would, however, at all times be thought of as "Neith, the Great".
Originally she was a goddess of war and hunting, although the war aspect may not have been as strong as often thought by earlier research. The oldest representations of Neith, back to the 1st Dynasty, show her with a war-shield and crossed arrows. Her importance appears to have been great, some of the 1st dynastic queens were named after her, like Neithhotep and Merneith.
Neith has a central position in some creation myths, being equated with Nun, the primordial waters of chaos that preceded creation. Neith is said to be mother of many gods, and the creator of mankind, but she was promoted especially as mother of one god. This was first Sobek, but would change to Re.
Despite having the mother role as a central aspect, Neith had in most contexts no male consort, and she was often rendered sexless. In a few contexts, perhaps the original ones, she had a consort: Seth.
She was the protector of women and marriage. She was also linked to the bandages of the mummy.
She was also linked to funerals, protecting the dead together with 3 other goddesses: Isis, Nephthys and Serket, among whom Neith occupied the east side.
With the Greeks, she was associated with the goddess Athene.
In later representations, Neith wore the red crown of Lower Egypt, often holding crossed arrows and a bow. This symbol looked much like a loom, and she was also revered as the inventor of weaving.
Early on, Neith was revered over a large area, and by the Old Kingdom, she had become an important goddess at Memphis.
She lost much of her immediate importance in the Middle Kingdom and early in the New Kingdom. But her importance was revived with the 19th Dynasty. In the Temple of Amon at Karnak, she is placed next to Amon in representations in the Great Hypostyle Hall.
She was perhaps the most important deity of Lower Egypt, being the main goddess of Sais in the Nile Delta, which served as Egyptian capital for together 151 years over two dynasties, the 24th and the 26th, from the 8th until the 6th centuries BCE. During the second of these periods, she became of great importance.
In Roman times, she became part of the triad of the Temple of Khnum at Esna.
She was celebrated with a great, annual festival, the Feast of Lamp, when innumerable lights were burnt all through the night.
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