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Amentet wearing a hawk as a headdress
Image © Hans Ollermann

Amentet, Goddess of the Dead, Personification of the West

by Caroline Seawright

Updated: December 3, 2012

 

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Amentet, painted on a coffin, wearing her standard as a headdress Amentet (Ament, Amentit, Imentet, Imentit) was the Egyptian goddess and friend of the dead, and the personification of the Land of the West, Amenty - imnty. It was she who welcomed the deceased to their new dwelling place in the netherworld. She was also a goddess who helped with the rebirthing process, and thus a goddess of fertility and rebirth, who regenerated the deceased with food and water.

She was depicted as a beautiful woman as wearing the hieroglyph of the west - amn - on her head, carrying a sceptre and the ankh of life in her hands. She is occasionally seen as a winged goddess, when linked to the goddesses Isis and Nephthys. The standard of the west is usually a half circle sitting on top of two poles of uneven length, the longer of which is tied to her head by a headband. Often a hawk or an ostrich feather is seen sitting on top of the standard. This hieroglyph was used in words such as 'west' and words relating to the west such as, 'western' as well as 'right' and 'right hand'. Occasionally, she is shown wearing just the hawk on her head. She was believed to live in a tree at the edge of the desert, a place where she could watch the gates to the underworld. She was often shown not only in tombs, but on coffins, being a goddess of the dead. The Lady Anhai, covered in the feathers of Ma'at, being embraced by a smaller-sized Amentet

This feather, the normal ornament of Libyans, who wore it fixed in their hair, was also the sign for the word 'Western' and was naturally suitable to Amentet, who was originally the goddess of the Libyan province to the west of Lower Egypt.

-- The Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology 1994, p. 41

The goddess Amentet protecting Ramses III The word 'Amentet', as used by the Egyptians, was applied to the west bank of the Nile - Egyptian cemeteries and funerary places were all on the west. To the Egyptians, west was a direction linked to death. Amentet was also the name of the underworld - the place where Ra travelled during the night. The place where the sun set was also called by this name, being the entrance to the land of the dead according to Egyptian belief. Amentet - 'She of the West' - was therefor the goddess of not only the land of the dead, but also of the entry to the underworld, and of the west itself.

Amenti or Amentet was originally the place where the sun set, but subsequently the name was applied to the cemeteries and tombs which were usually built or hewn in the stony plateaus and mountains on the western bank of the Nile. Some believe that Amenti was, at first, the name of a small district, without either funereal or mythological signification. The Christian Egyptians or Copts used the word Amend to translate the Greek word Hades, to which they attributed all the ideas which their heathen ancestors had associated with the Amenti of The Book of the Dead.

-- Wallis Budge E.A. 2011, The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani in the British Museum, p. cxxxiii

'Amentet' could also read as 'hidden place' when referring to the underworld. It was also the place where Ra's journey through the 12 night hours of the Duat began. In the 11th Hour of the Duat, Amentet appears alongside two other deities called Herit (hryt) and Sebekhti (sbkhty), at the gate called Shetat-Besu. Amentet wears the crown of Upper Egypt, Herit wears the crown of Lower Egypt, and the god Sebekhti holds an ankh and a sceptre. Together, the three deities were believed to preside over the entrance to the vestibule of the world of light.

A painted depiction of Amentet wearing her headdress Relief of the goddess Amentet, from the tomb of Khaemhat Standing at the entry to the land of the dead, Amentet offers food and drink to the deceased, regenerating them. This is connected to regeneration of the dead - the rebirth of the souls in the afterlife. Thus she is also a fertility goddess, who was often represented by other fertility-related goddesses such as Hathor, Isis and Nit, Mut, and Nut. She was also connected with Nephthys and Ma'at. As the goddess Hathor-Amentet she was a solar goddess of the west, who was believed to regenerate and welcome the newly deceased, and in this form she was paired with Ra-Horakhty. She was sometimes depicted with Iabet, the goddess of the east.

At the gates of the World, at the entrance of the desert, one often sees the dead being welcomed by a goddess who half-emerges from the foliage of the tree she has chosen to live in to offer him bread and water. If he drinks and eats he becomes the 'friend of the gods' and follows after them, and can never return.

-- The Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology 1994, p. 41

There may have been a male version of Amentet. In The Book of the Earth of Ramses VI, there are two male deities who are shown to welcome the sun - i3bbth t mountains determinative iabtht and amnth t mountains determinative amntht. Amenteth may have been the male personification of the west, and maybe a husband or companion of Amentet.

Iabeth and Amenteth welcoming the sun, from the tomb of Ramses VI
Image © Eliot Elisofon

Amentet was worshipped in the western areas of the Delta, and at Mennefer (Hikuptah, Memphis), Abtu (Abydos) and in the Ipet-Resyt (Luxor)/Ipet-Isut (Karnak) region of Egypt, but no temples were dedicated to her. The goddess Hathor eventually supplanted her during the New Kingdom.


Further Information about Amentet


Video of Amentet

A video filled with images of the goddess Amentet (and other deities), by Egyptahotep:


© Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2002 - present

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