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A painting of the goddess Anqet with her feathered headdress

Anqet, The Embracer, Goddess of Fertility and the Nile at Aswan

by Caroline Seawright

Updated: December 17, 2012


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Anqet (Anket, Anuket, Anjet, Anukis) was an Old Kingdom goddess related to the Nile in the Aswan area. She was 'She Who Embraces', a name indicating that she was probably thought to hold the Nile in her arms, and thus was related to the banks of the Nile as well. Originally a daughter of the sun god Ra, she became either the wife or the daughter of Khnum. She was also a goddess of the hunt whose sacred animal was the gazelle. Anqet as a gazelle, on ostracon Cairo, JE 43660

Image © Egypt-Circe

Anqet was generally depicted as a woman wearing a tall headdress made either of reeds or of ostrich feathers, often holding a sceptre and the ankh symbol. The headdress was probably of Nubian origin. Since the New Kingdom, she was linked to the gazelle, and one of her titles was 'Lady of the Gazelle'. There are several instances where Anqet was shown in the form of a gazelle. The water goddess' link to the gazelle was probably because the Egyptians saw these animals always around water. As a huntress, she was probably thought to be fleet of foot and agile like the gazelle.

An ostracon (piece of broken pottery) shows Anqet as a gazelle and gives her titles such as "Mistress of the Gods" and "Lady of Heaven." Most often Anukis is portrayed as a woman holding a papyrus scepter and an ankh and wearing a tall headdress made of ostrich feathers or reeds.

-- Remler, P. 2010, Egyptian Mythology, A to Z, p. 18

As 'She Who Embraces' she represented the banks of the Nile and the islands in the Aswan area. Her specific islands were Setet Island (Sehel Island) and Abu (Elephantine) island. It is probable that she was of Nubian origin and that she was a goddess of everything south of the Egyptian border, but she had been worshipped by the First Cataract since the Old Kingdom. It is to be noted that she was also worshipped throughout northern Nubia, and was not a goddess confined to Egypt itself. Because of this, she was given the title of "Mistress of Nubia".

A pharaoh worshiping Khnum, Satet and Anqet on the Setet Island (Sehel Island) Stele Despite being the daughter of Ra, during the New Kingdom she was placed in the Abu triad with Khnum and Satet, as either the daughter or wife of the god. It is probable that she was already linked with the goddess Satet - inscriptions from earlier times had her name along side that of Satet - and when Satet was paired with Khnum, naturally Anqet went with her. Together the three water-related deities were thought to protect the Nile's cataracts, especially near the First Cataract and the islands in the Aswan area. This was the area that the Egyptians believed was the source of the Nile, where it flowed up from the underworld and into the land of Egypt.

Anqet's temple on Setet Island was called as "Amen-Hery-Ab" ('Amen's Heart is Content') where she was known as nbtsatt foreign determinative the 'Lady of Setet Island'. Her temple on Iat-Rek (Philae) island was called "Per Meru" (Komir), the 'House of Love'. There, she was identified with Nephthys due to Satet's links with the goddess Isis and Khnum's link with Osiris. There was a temple dedicated to both goddesses there, containing a hymn to them both (The Intrepid Wanderer's Guide to Ancient Egyptian Goddesses 2008, p. 220). However both goddesses were connected with Isis, taking on the attributes of fertile waters as well as being a form of the star Sirius (the goddess Sopdet). Anqet and Sopdet from the Roman Period temple at Dendara

Anqet, the third member of the triad of Elephantine, was a sister-goddess of Satet ... Dr Brugsch considered her a personification of the waters of the Nile, and thought that her name signified 'to surround', 'to embrace' and that it had reference to the embracing and nourishing of the fields by the river.

-- Spence, L. 2008, Egypt, Myths and Legends, p. 156

The yearly inundation of the Nile could also be linked to her name - the water of the Nile could be seen as 'embracing' the fields it floods. She was linked to nourishment and fertility, offering life-giving waters to the land.

She was also a nourisher not only of the land, but of the pharaoh as well. She has been shown suckling a young Ramses, while being described as the 'Giver of Live, and of All Power, and of All Health, and of All Joy of the Heart'. Probably because of her status as a fertility goddess, she became a goddess of lust by the Greek and Roman periods, and was related to things of a very sexual nature. Anqet suckling a young Ramses

Image © ArteHistoria

Words spoken by Anqet, Mistress of Sehel dwelling in Amen-heri. "I am your mother, who has molded your beautiful form. You have nursed from my milk, in which is found for you life, strength, rejuvenation of your limbs, wsr-strength for your two arms, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Horemheb, granted life."

-- Budin, S.L. 2011, Images of Woman and Child from the Bronze Age, p. 75

As with the other deities of Abu, she had a festival in her honour. According to Zahi Hawass and Lyla Pinch Brock (2003, p. 443) in Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century, a river procession took place in the "in the first month of Shemu which is repeatedly mentioned in the epigraphical documentation, the images of the gods were carried down to the shore and were loaded onto their river barges". The feast of Anqet was celebrated during the ninth month and was also known as the 'Feast of Nubia' and 'Beginning-of-the-River'. Offerings such as bread, beer, oxen, geese, wine, incense, and fruit were offered during the celebration.

Anqet was a goddess of the whole Aswan area - of the islands in the Nile and of the First Cataract - and also a goddess of Nubia - the land to the south of Egypt. She was a goddess of the waters of the Nile, a goddess of fertility, who was thought to embrace the river. Linked to both Ra and Khnum, she was a huntress and a water goddess. She was a protective deity, one who gave life to the pharaoh and the whole land of Egypt itself.

Further Information about Anqet

Video of Anqet

A video with images of Anqet (and other deities), by Egyptahotep:

© Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2001 - present

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