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PBP Fridays: X is for Xeric Gods

PBP Fridays: X is for Xeric Gods

Xeric is an adjective meaning “adapted to a dry environment” (thanks, Dictionary.com!). Just as each pantheon is adapted to the environment in which its culture lives and dies, so too are the Egyptian gods well-adapted to the dance of desert-and-flood of the Nile river valley. In other words, the Netjeru are xeric deities.

I’ve always found it intriguing to compare the Netjeru I’ve come to love with other, often more popular, pantheons. While it’s certainly true that we human devotees have a tendency to categorize deities across cultures – the “mother goddess” or the “young king” or the “magician” are deity archetypes that persist around the world – the gods of ancient Egypt are often strangers to their pantheonic counterparts.

For example, Kemetics lack an explicit god of the sea… or of snow (outside of a blizzard)… or of forests… because Kemet lacks snow and forests, and the sea was the realm of outside-Kemet, of foreigners. We must then extrapolate and infer: Well, Set is a god of foreigners and foreign lands, and there is a myth where He tamed the angry sea, so perhaps Him—or gods associated with the Nun, the primordial waters, such as Nit. Set is also hailed as a god of all kinds of storms, so blizzards are His – but what of gentle, restful snowfall? I found myself associating winter with Nebt-het not too long ago. And for forests, ancient Egypt had deities of papyrus marshes and tree goddesses, but neither of those truly matches the sum of what a forest is.

Coming from the northern Appalachians with a grounding basis in Celtic mythology, I still struggle sometimes to relate the land in which I live to the gods that I worship. I’ve certainly gotten better over the past couple years, having pondered how to match the Kemetic yearly cycle with my local region’s cycle and how I travel with Egyptian gods on American soil. However, given that the tree-furred mountains of my home state and the endless tides of the sea command so much of my heart and ka, it’s still a little strange to lack a Name to put to those natural forces, short of the ones I can intuit or logic-leap to.

On the other hand, I find it fascinating and an enjoyable intellectual exercise to figure out how to fill the “gaps,” so to speak. Need a god that suits the alpine tundra of Nevada and Colorado? Well, it’s a harsh and dry and often-cold place outside of civilization, which makes Set an appropriate choice. Need a god of waterfalls? Given the abundance of water and the force as it falls, Hapy as god of the Nile might suit—or one of the deities of the inundation specifically, like Anuket. Need a god of, say, computer languages and software or website coding? Well, Seshat created the system of writing and all written symbols, and She’s the Lady of Builders to boot, so if you’re making a digital “house” with a particular language, She might fit!

Even though it’s occasionally a challenge to relate to gods so well-adapted to a vastly different environment than the one I live in, I still love the challenge of exploring Them and Their nuances to find where the borders touch and the lands overlap in Them.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

God Bios: Seshat (Seshet, Sesheta)

God Bios: Seshat (Seshet, Sesheta)

Please note, lovely readers: All of this is a work-in-progress. It will change as I continue digging through books and other sources. Do not take this as a rock-solid encyclopedic entry at any point. :)

Hail Seshat, She of the Golden Scrolls and Infinite Ink!

attributes

– libraries
– all forms of writing and notation
— said to have invented writing (whereas Djehuty gave it to humanity)
— census
— accounting
— record-keeping
— recording lives and deeds of men on the leaves of the sacred persea tree
— recording the pharaoh’s speeches
— recording the inventory of foreign captives and goods
– involved in starting the foundations of major building projects (“stretching of the cord” ceremony)
— architecture
— surveying
– astronomy
– mathematics
– history

appearance

– a woman dressed in the long skirt and leopardskin of a Sem (funerary) priest
— the leopard/cheetah spot pattern of the Sem garb represented the stars, a symbol of eternity, and was associated with the night sky
– crowned by a seven-pointed star or rosette, crowned by downturned horns or a bow
— the horns/bow may be related to a crescent moon shape and thus to Djehuty, Her father or consort
– holding a palm stem, which is notched to denote years (especially the years of the pharaoh’s life/reign)
– holding other tools, such as the knotted cords used to survey land and buildings or a stake and mallet

relationships

– equated with Nebt-het and Nit
– consort to Djehuty (Thoth)
– daughter of Djehuty
– sister of Djehuty
– occasionally considered “just” a female aspect or version of Djehuty
– mother of Hornub, “gold Horus”
— linked to Aset (Isis)

epithets

– The Female Scribe (meaning of Seshat)
– The Seven-horned (Sefkhet-abwy)
– Mistress of the House of Books
– Mistress of the House of Architects
– Lady of Builders
– Foremost in the Library
– Mistress of Books
– Mistress of Potters

notes

– Seshat was the only female depicted in the act of writing, though others have been shown holding scribe implements.
– Spell 10 of the Coffin Texts states “Seshat opens the door of heaven for you.”
– She had priests, but no formal temple.

primary sources

– Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt (Geraldine Pinch)
– Nebt-het: Lady of the House (Tamara Siuda)
– The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (Richard Wilkinson)
– The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (George Hart)
– The Ancient Egyptian Prayer Book (Tamara Siuda)