Egypt: Satet, Archer-Goddess of the Inundation and the Nile Cataracts

Satet, Archer-Goddess of the Inundation and the Nile Cataracts

by Caroline Seawright

Satet on the Left, and Khnum on the Right of Senwosret I's Horus Name

sstttgoddess determinative (ssthystt tgoddess determinative) Satet (Setet, Sathit, Satit, Sati, Setis, Satis) was the archer-goddess of the Nile cataracts, her name linking her to Setet Island (Sehel Island) and the area around it. She was also a fertility goddess, due to her aspect as a water goddess and a goddess of the inundation, and a goddess who purified the dead with her water. She was a goddess of the hunt who protected Egypt and the pharaoh with her bow and arrows.

Close Up of the Goddess Satet

Depicted as a woman, Satet was often shown wearing the crown of the south - Upper Egypt - and a pair of long antelope horns. She was originally worshiped as an antelope goddess. She was sometimes shown carrying a bow and arrows. More often she was shown carrying a sceptre and the ankh symbol.

As a goddess of the hunt, she was also believed to be a protector of Egypt and of the pharaoh. It was her arrows that protected the southern border, keeping the enemies at bay. Yet she was more closely linked to water than to the bow and arrow. There may be a connection between water and the bow and arrows she sometimes was shown to wield:

The name probably means 'to pour out' or 'to scatter abroad', so that it might signify a goddess who wielded the powers of rain. She carries in her hands a bow and arrows, as did Neith, typical of the rain or thunderbolt.

-- Egypt, Myths and Legends, Lewis Spence

A Broken Image of Satet, from her Temple on Setet Island (Sehel Island)

Originally, Satet's name was written with the hieroglyph for a shoulder knot (st) and was replaced with a sign of a cow's skin pierced by an arrow (st). This was probably in relation to her function as a goddess of the hunt, giving her the name 'She who Shoots'. The sign was not only used for 'to shoot', but with water related words as well meaning 'to pour'. Satet could also mean 'She who Pours', a link with her guardianship over the Nile cataracts.

...And behold Satet washes him with the water which is in her four vases in Abu (Elephantine).

-- Pyramid Text of Pepi I

To the dead, she was one who washed them to purify them so that they might enter through the gates of the Egyptian heaven. Her water was the water that came up from the underworld, where the Nile was believed to have poured out into the world. It was this water that she used to cleanse the departed so they were washed clean of all impurities for their afterlife.

A Pharaoh Worshiping Khnum, Satet and Anqet on the Setet Island (Sehel Island) Stele

By the New Kingdom she was believed to be the wife of Khnum and the mother or sister of Anqet and made the third member of the Abu triad. Like Anqet, she was originally thought to have been a daughter of the sun god Ra, his protector. As Khnum was related to Osiris, and Anqet was to Nephthys, Satet was connected with Isis, especially at the time of the Nile flood. It was believed that she released the inundation while the star Sirius appeared in the sky. In this, she was also linked to the goddess Sopdet (Sothis), a personification of that star. In Iunyt (Esna) she formed a triad with Khnum and another huntress, the goddess Neith.

The inundation itself was known as the Night of the Teardrop. Every year, Isis would shed a single tear, which would be caught by Satet in her jars, then poured into the Nile.

-- Satet, TourEgypt

A Close-Up of Satet and Khnum

It was due to her link with the inundation that she was a fertility goddess. She gave fertility to the land by releasing the flood and the Nile's silt, allowing the land to be able to grow crops again, and to give the life-giving water back to the Egyptians each year. She was eventually linked with Hathor, and became not just a goddess of the flood, but a goddess of human fertility and love as well.

Her main temple was on Abu Island, in the Aswan area. She was worshiped through the Aswan area, especially on Setet Island, and Upper Egypt, though early items with her name on them were found in Saqqara.

Satet was a goddess of protection, an archer goddess of the extreme south of Egypt. She was linked to the waters of the Nile, and became a guardian of the cataracts and over the inundation itself. She had the power to purify the deceased and to help with their rebirth in the afterlife, which was a connection to her powers of a goddess of fertility. She was a goddess who helped provide life to both the land and the people of Egypt.


Last Updated: Aug 1st, 2011