Mehet-Weret, Celestial Cow, Goddess of Water, Creation and Rebirth

Mehet-Weret, Celestial Cow,
Goddess of Water, Creation and Rebirth

by Caroline Seawright

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Mehet-Weret in Cow Form,  Wearing a Menat around her Neck

Mehet-Weret (Mehetweret, Mehitweret, Mehit-Weret, Methyer, Mehueret, Mehturt, Meh-Urt) was the goddess of streaming water, a goddess related to creation and to rebirth. Her name means "Great Flood" or "Great Tide", linking her with water and the primeval waters of Nun. In the Old Kingdom, she was believed to have helped the pharaoh and Re reach the sky, by way of the Nile in the underworld.

"I behold Ra who was born yesterday from the thighs of the goddess Mehet-Weret; his strength is my strength, and my strength is his strength." Who is this? "Mehet-Weret is the great Celestial Water, but others say that Mehet-Weret is the image of the Eye of Ra at dawn at his birth daily. "[Others, however, say that] Mehet-Weret is the Wedjat (Eye of Horus or Ra)."

-- The Book of the Dead

Mehet-Weret, from the tomb of Tausert and Setnakht

She was pictured as a cow, lying on a reed mat, or as a woman with the head of a cow, or as a beautiful woman. Often she was depicted wearing the sun disk headdress between her horns. She also sometimes is shown wearing a Menat. (The menat, a necklace with a special counterweight, is not actually jewelry - it is a musical instrument sacred to Hathor.)

As a goddess of water, she not only traveled on the water, taking the pharaoh or sun god with her, but she was thought to be able bring life-giving water to Egypt. She was a goddess of the yearly inundation of the Nile River, as indicated by her name, and so was linked to both the Nile in Egypt, and the Nile in the underworld, and the Nile in the sky (the Milky Way). Mehet-Weret was a goddess of the waters of Nun, from which the sun god emerged, and was known as the Mother of Re (Ra).

In the age of the Pyramids, Mehet-Weret represented the waterway in the heavens, sailed upon by both the sun god and the king.

-- Mehet-Weret, TourEgypt

Posts from a Funerary  Bed in the Form of Mehet-Weret

As a goddess of rebirth, she was not only thought to give birth to the sun daily, but she was thought to be able to help with rebirth into the afterlife. There is a funerary bed in the tomb of Tutankhamen, in the form of the goddess Mehet-Weret. The body may have been placed on the bed to ensure a connection with Mehet-Weret and her ability to give birth in the underworld. From the 18th Dynasty onwards, Mehet-Weret was the patron goddess of the necropolis at Waset (Thebes) and was depicted in funerary papyri as a cow standing in papyrus plants at the foot of the mountains of the West, only her head poking out. Hathor was also depicted in the same manner.

She was a celestial cow goddess and, as such, she was linked to both Hathor and Nut, who were also depicted as great cow goddesses of the sky. Like Nut, she was thought to give daily birth to the sun. She was closely linked to Nit, who was depicted as a cow goddess of creation and known as 'The Cow Who Gave Birth to Ra'. When Mehen-Weret gave birth to Re at creation, she was thought to have put him, in the form of a sun disk, between her horns, which is why she is shown wearing the headdress of Hathor. In Tebas a city near Ipet-Resyt (Luxor)/Ipet-Isut (Karnak), she was believed to be the mother of the local deities, known as "the Seven Wise People".

Meheweret as a Woman,  Pouring Water from her Arms

That Hathor is identified with Mehet-Weret is certain by references of the two as one in The Book of the Dead (Spell 186) where both are referred to as the wdjat wdjat (Wedjat, or "Eye of Horus"). However, this ancient cow goddess appears to have had no independent cult of her own, and was likely a conceptual figure of primeval creation; it is presumed that Hathor absorbed most of her sky attributes as early as the Old Kingdom, as exhibited by the many references of the two as identical in both the Pyramid and Coffin Texts.

-- The Guiding Feminine: Goddesses of Ancient Egypt - The Goddess Hathor, InScription - Journal of Ancient Egypt

She was a goddess originally from Zau (Sau, Sai, Sais) and liked to Nit at Iunyt (Esna). She was written about in the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts and in The Book of the Dead. She had no known following, although she was an ancient goddess, possibly from pre-dynastic times. It is possible that any early cult of Mehet-Weret changed to that of Hathor, when she was fused to the goddess of love.

Mehet-Weret as a Cow  seated by her Water, from the Tomb of Irunefer

A goddess of water, of creation and of rebith, Mehet-Weret had a number of attributes connected to other major goddesses of the Egyptian religion. Though the was originally a goddess with her own creation mythos, her attributes were taken over by these other deities. Despite this, she was still important enough to be depicted in Egyptian tombs, on funerary papyri, and written in different books relating to the afterlife and to the course of the sun. Her name was still in use even into the Greek period, and so she had to have been a popular goddess though ancient Egyptian history.