In Egyptian mythology, Menhit (also written as Menchit, Menhet or Menkhet) was a war goddess from Nubia. Her name meant She Who Massacres or The Slaughterer, which refers to her role as a war goddess. Menhit was conflated with several other goddesses, most notably Sekhmet, Wadjet and Neith.
Who Is Menhit?
Menhit originated in Nubia and was a foreign goddess in Egyptian religion. However, over time, she became identified with Egyptian goddesses and took on some of their characteristics. In Upper Egypt, Menhit was venerated as the wife of Khnum, and mother of the witch deity Heka. In Lower Egypt, she was worshipped in association with Wadjet and Neith, two patron goddesses of Lower Egypt.
Menhit was also popularly known asthe goddess of lions, due to her strength, strategy, hunting skills, and aggressiveness. She was often depicted as a lioness-goddess. Later, she was identified with Sekhmet, also a warrior goddess and a lioness-goddess. The legacy of Menhit continued to thrive through the worship and reverence of Sekhmet.
Menhit is typically depicted as a lion-headed woman, wearing a solar disk and the uraeus, the rearing cobra. She could also take the form of the uraeus on the brow of the sun god, and as such, she was considered to be (as many leonine deities were) a solar figure.
Menhit and the Eye of Ra
As Menhit became identified with other deities, she took on some of their roles. Her association with Sekhmet, Tefnut and Hathor, linked her to the Eye of Ra. One famous myth talks about the Eye of Ra running away to Nubia but is brought back by Thoth and Shu.
Although this myth is typically about Tefnut (in her role as Eye of Ra) it could have been originally created about Menhit, who was from a foreign land. However, she was rapidly adopted as a local deity in the area of Edfu in Upper Egypt, and was also associated with the goddess Neith at Sais, in the Delta region.
Menhit as a Protector of Pharaohs
Menhit was one of the fiercest Egyptian goddesses, and she protected the pharaoh and his army from foes. Like other Egyptian war deities, Menhit thwarted the advances of the enemy troops by shooting them with fiery arrows.
Menhit not only protected the pharaoh in life, but also in his death. She guarded certain halls and gates in the Underworld, to protect the king in his journey to the Afterlife. A bed called the Lion Bed of Menhit was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen, and it greatly resembled the shape and structure of the lion goddess.
Symbolic Meaning of Menhit
In Egyptian mythology, Menhit symbolized fierceness and strength. As a goddess of war, she protected the pharaoh against the advances of his enemies.
Menhit is not a highly popular goddess of Egyptian mythology, but she stands out because of her foreign origin and later her identification with local goddesses. While her name isn’t as well-known as some of the others, her worship continued in the guise of other goddesses.