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The frog-headded goddess, Heqet

Heqet, Frog Headed Goddess of Childbirth

by Caroline Seawright

Updated: November 29, 2012

 

hqtfrog determinative

Heqet (Heqat, Heket) was a goddess of childbirth, creation and grain germination. She was depicted as a frog, or a woman with the head of a frog, betraying her connection with water. As a water goddess, she was also a goddess of fertility where she was particularly associated with the later stages of labour. In this way, the title of "Servants of Heqet" may have been a title applied to her priestesses who were trained as midwives. Heqet gives life to the boy on Khnum's pottery wheel

The ancient Egyptians saw thousands of frogs appear all along the Nile at certain times of the year, and the Egyptian hieroglyphs of the tadpol (Tadpole determinative) stood for 100,000. This appearance of the amphibian came to symbolise fruitfulness, abundance and coming life. The frog hieroglyph was also used in the phrase webem ankh ('repeating life') in relation to the rebirth of the deceased into the afterlife.

She was thought to be the wife of Khnum, the god who created men on his potter's wheel, and she gave the newly created being the breath of life before the child was placed to grow in the mother's womb. She was also regarded as the wife of Horus the Elder in the myths of Osiris - she was represented at the funeral as a frog, symbolic of life and fertility after death.

In the story of the triplets who would be pharaohs, she was the goddess of magically "hastens the birth", in an unspecified manner.

Heqet in Frog Form In Hatshepsut's (1473-1458 BC) birth colonnade, it was Heqet, with Khnum, who led Ahmose to the birthing room. She also was depicted as the goddess who held the ankh sign of life to Hatshepsut and her ka, fulfilling her job as the giver of life to the newly created child.

She originally appears in the pyramid texts where she helps the pharaoh ascend into the sky (Pyramid Text 1312). She is also connected with the Osiris myth in the "Funeral of Osiris" at Iunet (Dendera):

Osiris, ithyphallic and bearded, in mummied form, lying upon his bier; over his feet and his body hover two hawks. At the head kneels Hathor, "Mistress of Amentet, who weepeth for her brother," and at the foot is a frog, symbol of the goddess Heqet, beneath the bier are an ibis-headed god holding the Wedjat [Eye of Horus or Ra], two serpents, and the god Bes.

-- Wallis Budge, E.A. 1904, Gods of the Egyptians: Volume 2, p. 136

As such, she was not only a goddess of birth, but of rebirth, because of her life-giving powers: Heqet as a frog

As the birth of Horus became more intimately associated with the resurrection of Osiris, so Heqet's role became one more closely associated with resurrection. Eventually, this association led to her amulets gaining the phrase 'I am the resurrection', and consequently the amulets were used by early Christians.

-- Wikipedia, Heqet

Amulets of Heqet were worn by women to protect them while they gave birth. These amulets were usually of her as a frog. During the Middle Kingdom ritual ivory knives and clappers (a type of percussional musical instrument) bore her name or image as protection for inside the home. She was also sometimes shown on the ivory 'magic wands', which were also linked to the childbirth-related deities Bes and Taweret, and probably used to ward off evil. On such items she was often called the "defender of the home".

She was known as "Lady of Her-wer" (Antinoe); a tomb at Tuna el-Gebel has text speaks about a procession in her honour where she asks that the temple of Heqet at Her-wer be restored and protected from inundation, but this temple has not been discovered. Ironically, her temples may not have been discovered due to the fact that, as recorded by Petosiris (c. 4th century BC), that her temple was very close to the Nile and had flooded (he subsequently had a the temple rebuilt with a retaining wall to keep it safe from future floods): Heqet as a Human Woman

Now when I was before this goddess,
Heqet, lady of Herwer,
At her beautiful feast of the year's last month,
I being controller of Thoth,
She went to a spot in the north of this town,
To "House of Heqet," as it is called by all,
Which was ruined since time immemorial.
The water had carried it off every year,
Till its foundation plan was no longer seen,
It only was called "House of Heqet,"
While no brick nor stone was there,
Then the goddess halted there.
I summoned the temple scribe of this goddess,
I gave him silver without counting,
To make a monument there from that day.
I built a great rampart around it,
So that the water could not carry it off.
I was diligent in consulting the scholars,
So as to organise the rites,
By which this goddess is served,
And content her till she knew it was done.

-- Miriam Lichtheim (1980), Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume III: The Late Period, pp. 47-48

An Amulet of Heqet, in Her Frog Form Her cult was active during the Early Dynastic period and a Second Dynasty prince had her name as part of his own - Nisu-Heqet. During the Middle Kingdom, Papyrus UC 32204 mentions a "manager of the temple of Heqet, Pepi", however this temple has also not yet been found. There was a Ptolemaic temple to Heqet at Gesy (Qus), of which only a pylon remains, where she was paired with the god Horus the Elder.

Heqet was thus an important deity in the daily life of the Egyptian people, in particular for that of Egypt's women, be they queens or commoners, midwives, mothers or mothers-to-be.


Further Information about Heqet


Video of Heqet

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


© Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2001 - present

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