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In Egyptian mythology, Taweret (also spelled as Taurt, Tuat, Taweret, Twert, Taueret and more) is the goddess of fertility and childbirth. She was often depicted as a hippopotamus, with limbs similar to those of a feline. The name Tawaret means she who is great or great one. She is also called the Lady of the Birth House.
Origins of Taweret
In ancient Egypt, the hippopotamus was an integral part of daily-life and rituals. The animal was both feared and venerated. While male hippos represented chaos, female hippos symbolized safety and protection. These creatures, represented by various gods, had to be placated with offerings to ensure safety to those who worked near the riverbanks or used boats on the River Nile.
Egyptian hippo-goddesses, such as Taweret, originated from this early worship of the hippopotamus. Images of hippopotami have been unearthed in ancient Egyptian amulets and jewelry.
Other historians have hypothesized that Taweret didn’t derive from early hippo-worship. According to their theory, she was a manifestation of existing goddesses such as Ipet, Reret, and Hedjet.
Taweret began to acquire wide fame and renown only after her association with other hippo-goddesses, around the time of the Middle kingdom. However, she was later replaced by the goddess Isis, and her significance declined.
Characteristics of Taweret
Tawaret was depicted as a two-legged hippopotamus with saggy breasts. She had the paws of a lion, and a tail that resembled a Nile crocodile. This hybrid look makes Tawaret one of the more unique deities of Egyptian mythology.
In later Egyptian mythology, she was portrayed as holding a magical wand or knife. Often her hand is shown resting on the ‘sa’ sign, a hieroglyph meaning protection.
Tawaret’s symbols include the sa, an ivory dagger and the hippopotamus.
Taweret as a Goddess of Fertility and Childbirth
Taweret assisted and provided support to women who underwent childbirth. As a hippopotamus-goddess, she protected and guarded the newly born child from demons and evil spirits.
Egyptian women participated in festivities related to the annual flooding of the Nile, as this was seen as a blessing of Taweret, and a symbolic representation of fertility and birth.
Taweret as a Funerary Deity
As a hippopotamus goddess, Taweret aided the deceased on their journey into the Underworld. She also assisted in the process of resurrection and rebirth. Due to this, images of Taweret were drawn on tombs and burial chambers. As an Afterlife deity, Tawaret acquired the title Mistress of Pure Water since she helped in purifying the deceased souls.
Taweret and Ra
Several Egyptian myths portrayed the relationship between Taweret and Ra. One tale described Ra’s journey to Lake Moeris, where Taweret took on the form of a constellation. She appeared as a divine mother, and protected Ra on his journey across the night sky. In later myths, Taweret was represented as one of the most significant solar mothers of Ra. In some myths, Taweret also appears as Ra’s daughter, and runs away with the Eye of Ra.
Taweret as a Protector
As a goddess of domestic life, the image of Taweret was etched onto household objects such as furniture, beds, and vessels. There were also water pots designed in the shape of the goddess, to protect and purify the liquid within.
Images of Tawaret were sculpted outside temple walls, to protect the premises from negative energy and evil spirits.
Taweret Outside Egypt
Due to vast trade and commerce, Taweret became a popular deity outside Egypt. In Levantine religions, she was depicted as a maternal and motherly goddess. Taweret also became an integral part of the Minoan religion in Crete, and from here, her worship spread to mainland Greece.
Taweret as a Constellation
Taweret’s image was frequently used to represent a northern constellation in zodiacs, and she was portrayed in various astronomical tomb paintings. In her constellation form, she was usually depicted near an image of Set. In later Egyptian mythology, the constellation image of Taweret was replaced by other Egyptian goddesses – Isis, Hathor, and Mut.
Taweret in Popular Culture
Symbolic Meanings of Taweret
- Taweret symbolizes childbirth and fertility. She assisted women in the process of childbirth by keeping away evil spirits and protecting the mother.
- In Egyptian mythology, Taweret was a symbol of resurrection. She aided the deceased in the various trials and tribulations of the Underworld.
- Tawaret is seen as an emblem of motherhood. This is made clear in her role as protector to Horus and the sun god Ra.
- In Egyptian culture, Tawaret symbolized protection, and she safeguarded both temple premises and households.
- What is Taweret the goddess of? Taweret is the goddess of childbirth and fertility.
- What are Taweret’s symbols? Her symbols include the sa hieroglyph, which means protection, the ivory dagger, and of course, the hippopotamus.
- What did Taweret look like? Taweret is portrayed with the head of a hippopotamus, the limbs of a lion, the back and tail of a crocodile, and saggy human breasts.
Tawaret is an important figure in Egyptian mythology. Although she’s mostly acknowledged as a goddess of childbirth, she had several other roles and duties. Although Tawaret was gradually replaced by Isis, her characteristics and legacy continued to live on.