Mut, whose name means ‘mother’, is usually depicted either anthropomorphically, wearing a vulture headdress and the double crown of Egypt united – the only Goddess to wear this crown regularly – or as a lioness-headed woman. Although the hieroglyphic sign of the vulture forms her name, she is not a vulture Goddess like Nekhbet; rather, the vulture headdress serves, as in the case of other Goddesses who wear it, to signify her maternal quality. In the Instruction of Papyrus Insinger, the author remarks that “the work of Mut and Hathor is what acts among women,” (Lichtheim, vol. 3, p. 192) expressing his attitude that the contrasting maternal and sexual drives dominate the female psyche. Mut’s consort is Amun, with whom she is the mother of Khonsu. From the time of Hatshepsut onward, Mut is also regarded as the mother of the pharaoh. She almost always bears the epithet weret, or ‘great’, which, interestingly, when combined with mut can be read as ‘grandmother’. Mut is said to be “the mother who became a daughter,” or “the daughter-mother who made her begetter,” expressing a power of self-creation similar to that expressed for Amun by the epithet kamutef, ‘bull of his mother’, meaning one who is his own father. Related to this aspect of Mut may be depictions of her with an erect penis, indicating her capacity to create herself anew as her own daughter. BD spell 164 is to be said over such an image, specifically an image of Mut “having three faces – one like the face of Pakhet,” that is, the face of a lioness, “wearing twin plumes, another like a human face wearing the White Crown and the Red Crown,” – Mut’s normal aspect – “another like a vulture’s face wearing twin plumes – and a phallus and wings, with a lion’s claws.” This image of Mut is to be flanked by a pair of dwarfs, each of whom has the faces of a human and a hawk, an erect penis and brandishes a flail in his upraised arm, these two elements echoing the iconography of Min and of Amun-Kamutef. Mut’s cyclical aspect is linked to the cyclicality of the lunar God Khonsu, who is each month “conceived the day of the new moon … brought into the world on the second day of the month, [and] becomes an old man after the fifteenth day,” (La Lune, p. 43). Hence Mut is said to be “the mother of her father … who brought forth the light anew,” i.e., at the new moon. But if Khonsu is impotent in the waning phase, as a hymn to Khonsu makes clear when it affirms that he is a bull in the waxing phase and an ox, i.e., castrated, in the waning phase (La Lune, ibid.), Mut must supplement the phallus herself. This would be analogous to the act of Isis magically supplying the missing phallus of Osiris in order to conceive Horus. In another phallic connection, PT utterance 205 affirms that the deceased king “has copulated with Mut,” written with a determiner indicating fluids which connects her with a word for semen.
An extraordinary work undertaken in honor of Mut is the so-called ‘Crossword Hymn to Mut’, designed to be read in three directions. In this long hymn, Mut absorbs the attributes of many other Goddesses. Her distinctive character of mother/daughter emerges, however, in passages like these: “His [Amun-Re's] daughter lives in his sight, she having appeared as his mother, and he being protected because of her,” (19 vertical). The protective function exercised by Mut here is both essentially hers, in common with other deities envisioned as lionesses, wrathful deities who defend life and the cosmic order, and a result of her identification in this hymn with the uraeus, the protective cobra perched upon the brow of Re as his special protection. Characteristic of Mut are the explicit references to her rejuvenation of herself: “Her limbs are rejuvenated … Re of Heliopolis … recognizes her as his daughter,” (20 vertical); “… her name of ‘She who becomes rejuvenated’,” (54 vertical). Particular to Mut as well is the juxtaposition between the hiddenness of her consort (Amun, literally ‘the Hidden’) and her own manifestness: “The lord of eternity sits while she acts by means of her word,” (13 vertical). She is the manifest energy of the sun itself: “The Ennead sees by means of her rays every day,” (44 vertical); “Indeed, she is this light of day, the great one who endures through her name,” i.e. of Mut, ‘mother’ (46 vertical); “the noble sun-disk, who is in the heart, the sole one, whose face is the light,” (54 vertical).
One of Mut’s most important epithets is “Mistress of the Asheru [or Ishru].” The term asheru refers to a crescent-shaped sacred lake in which wrathful Goddesses were appeased. While the most famous asheru was Mut’s at Karnak, there were also asheru of Wadjet near Memphis, of Bast at Bubastis, and of Sekhmet at Memphis (H. te Velde, “Towards a Minimal Definition of the Goddess Mut,” Jaarbericht Ex Oriente Lux 26 (1979-80), p. 7).