Egypt: Bat - Ancient Cow Goddess


Bat is one of the cow goddesses, particularly of Upper Egypt. She is hardly ever depicted in Egyptian art, though we find her more often in jewelry such as amulets head is human but the ears are bovine and horns grow from her temples. Her body is in the shape of a necklace counterpoise. In fact, the whole iconography suggests the sacred rattle or sistrum, which is fittingly since her cult center is the district of Upper Egypt known as the "Mansion of the Sistrum".

Without inscriptional evidence there must always be an element of caution but it does seem likely, on stylistic grounds, that she was represented on the top corners of the Narmer Palette, rather than Hathor, making her a very old Egyptian deity. Our earliest written evidence for the goddess is in the Pyramid Texts, which would support this view. Here, the king is Bat "with her two faces". Even earlier, she may be the goddess depicted on a palette on which stars are represented at the tips of her horns, indicating that, like most Egyptian cow deities, she has celestial connections.

It is possible that Bat has a presence that maintains the unity of Egypt, both north with south and the Nile Valley with the deserts. In addition to her pre-eminent position on the Narmer Palette, she is represented in the center of a pectoral of the 12th Dynasty flaked by the two protagonists in the struggle for the Egyptian throne, Horus and Seth, in a state of reconciliation. However, her similarity to Hathor, the cow goddess worshipped in the neighboring southern district, was so close that Bat's personal identity was not strong enough to survive being totally assimilated to her by the New Kingdom.