Nit: War and Motherhood

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An article about Nit/Neith, a Kemetic goddess of war, motherhood, weaving, etc, written by Arisa.

Copied from Beside the Scorpion Lady (my personal group)

Nit: War and Motherhood

By Arisa

Nit/Neith was a goddess who was revered from the early periods of Egyptian history. Although there is some evidence of her from much earlier that her first imagery appears, this evidence cannot be pinned down to her in particular.

Her symbol which she would later come to wear on her head while portrayed as a woman was that of the click beetle. This click beetle would later be forgotten by the ancient Egyptians themselves, as the image of the beetle became more and more obscure. Because ancient Egyptian history lasted so long, it was much like how we look into their past going, "That's a cat! Oh darn, that's a lion." So through this looking back into their own history, they changed the symbol of the click beetle into that of a shield with arrows crossed in front of them. (If necessary just Google, "evolution of Nit's headdress" and look at the pictures.) The click beetle was originally a symbol for her fully, as she appeared as one holding a was scepter which would later become a symbol of authority and power.

Even from these early stages, Nit was associated with warfare, as her click beetle self also held arrows or had them beside/behind her. Within much of Egyptian history they were constantly fighting off foreign invaders or fighting foreign invaders for more land and resources. As Egypt was surrounded by desert, they had the advantage, but they also had the disadvantage of being an oasis in the desert, so many nomadic tribes would give them trouble over resources. It was during these times when smaller battles were waged that Nit rose up in pre-eminence in Upper Egypt which would later become identified as such.

As time went on, the city of Sais was founded, and it was here she would take her place as the Mother and Father of all of the gods. Yes, Nit was identified as a "Father" in that she had the creative powers bestowed to both males and females, could give birth to other deities such as Sobek, Re, and Wesir (Osiris) without the use of a male god. (If I'm remembering correctly, there is even a representation of her somewhere where she is depicted as ithyphallic to stress this point.) She held a role as the divine Creatrix of everything within existence; a role which no other female held though many would be involved in the movement from non-existence to existence such as Nut, Nebethetepet, Ma'at, Tefnut, etc. She is the only female deity who could be said to hold such a high position.

Due to her position as divine Creatrix, she was identified with Meret Waret (Great Flood), a celestial cow who came out of the uncreated waters of Nun and gave birth to the sun Re. In this connection, she was also identified with Nut and Hetheru (Hathor) who are both celestial cow goddesses who involve themselves in the birth of the sun and in creation. Her later icons represented her as Meret Waret, creating firmment beneath her so she could stand, reeds so she could eat, etc. Her cow imagery also showed her motherhood aspects, something which is not normally shown in such a fierce goddess, however she had by this time lost much of her fierceness to goddesses like Sekhmet.

In the story, The Contendings of Horus and Set, Heru and Set as well as all the other gods are made light, ridiculous, and foolish. They do things which make them to seem stupid and childish. Nit also appears in this tale, and it is she alone who is treated with respect. She is lauded as a great lady, young in face, first among the gods, and it is her advice that the Ennead (the council deciding the fate of Egypt's throne) seek. She tells them to give Heru the throne, and give to Set Astarte and Anat (two foreign goddesses), and threatens them that if they do not follow her wisdom, she will cause the sky to fall upon the heads of all.

Nit is paired with Serqet, Aset, and Nebthet (Nepthys) in funerary iconography as protectors of Wesir and as protectors of the dead man (also called/indentified with Wesir). She and her weavers wove the linen that would be used to wrap the embalmed body of the dead man. (She was identified with weaving and weavers as yet again, she turns out to be a goddess of both "male" and "female" roles.) However it was her position as a protectress of the living that was most often stressed.

When paired with Serqet, Nit assists in the protection and uplifting of marriages, as well as promises quite a fierce fight for anyone wishing to disturb the marriage or the marriage bed. This is shown through the image of Hatsheput's mother and Amun-Re being uplifted by Nit and Serqet whilst consorting together in order for Amun-Re to create his heir upon Earth. She is also the mother of Sobek (once more her ferocity showing it's ugly head), and paired with Khnum (as creator to creator rather than as lovers).


The Great Goddesses of Egypt by Barbara S. Lesko
A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses by George Hart
The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anothology of Stories, Instructions, and Peotry edited by William Kelly Simpson, with translations by R.O. Faulkner, E.F. Wente, Jr., and W.K Simpson.
Ancient Egyptian Myths and Legends by Lewis Spence
Egyptian Magic by E. A. Wallis Budge

Added to on Dec 22, 2014
Last edited on Jan 23, 2019
Part of the Acquaintance with Darkness Library.


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