(Heket) A Goddess depicted either as a frog-headed woman or as a frog, Heqet is associated with the development of the fetus in the womb, with birth and with resurrection. Some of these associations may have come from witnessing frogs emerging from the mud after prolonged hibernation, an image evoking the idea of spontaneous generation in a manner somewhat akin to the life cycle of the scarab beetle as interpreted through the God Khepri.

In an ‘ascension’ spell from the Pyramid Texts (utterance 539), the “hinder-parts” of the king are identified with Heqet, perhaps because of the frog’s talent for jumping. In CT spell 175, the operator affirms that “I am the Great One whom Heqet created, who gathered together these bones of Osiris,” identifying the formation of the body prior to birth with the reconstitution of Osiris, which takes place in a marshy setting. In spell 234, reference is made to the “four basins of Khepri and Heqet,” to which breads are offered which symbolize “the mooring-post, the bow-warp and the stern-warp.” These basins have been identified with sacred lakes in the area of Saqqara and Abusir, across which the funerary procession would have crossed on the way to the cemetery. In spell 258, a spell for “not perishing forever,” Heqet is pluralized: “the Ennead [the nine Gods of Heliopolis] conduct to him [the deceased] the Heqets who bore Re, they serve for you your great ka‘s [spirits] in the midst of the horizon.” The eastern horizon, where Re is born, is conceived as a marsh and as the vulva of Nut, hence as places to which Heqet is appropriate both as frog and as divine midwife. Heqet is also referred to in the plural as a group of frog-Goddesses who attend Hapy, the God of the Nile’s inundation. She is paired with Khnum, for he shares both her association with the formation of the body and with the Nile, and with Haroeris (the ‘elder’ Horus), either as consort or as mother. A spell for the divinization of the members of the body (CT 945) identifies Heqet with the anus, for reasons which are obscure. In addition to amulets for protection during childbirth, Heqet appears frequently on ivory magical wands, indicating that she is a protector of health and home in general.

In the Westcar Papyrus, Heqet is one of the deities (the others being Isis, Nephthys, Meskhenet and Khnum) who are sent by Re to hasten the delivery of the royal mother Ruddedet. The Goddesses disguise themselves as dancing girls, Khum as their porter. Arriving at Ruddedet’s bedside, they assist her in giving birth to triplets, who are to be the first three kings of the fifth dynasty. Heqet’s specific role is to hasten the births, while Isis names the children, Meskhenet prophesies in regard to them, and Khnum grants health to their bodies (Lichtheim vol. 1, p. 220).

The biographical inscription of Petosiris (4th-3rd c. BCE) refers to an incident in which Petosiris, a high priest of Thoth, witnessed a festival of Heqet in which the statue of the Goddess being taken on procession halted at a spot outside of town where a temple of Heqet had formerly stood but had been washed away entirely by the Nile’s annual flood. Interpreting the behavior of the statue as a desire on the part of the Goddess that her temple be rebuilt, Petosiris recounts that he financed the reconstruction and rededication of the temple, this time with a rampart around it to protect it from the waters (Lichtheim vol. 3, pp. 47-8).

Heqet is depicted in reliefs from the temple of Hathor at Dendera participating in the resurrection of Osiris, and from dynasty 18 or 19 on a frog ideogram is sometimes added to the phrase wehem ankh, ‘repeating life’, i.e. born again or resurrected (Gardiner p. 475). The association of the frog with resurrection persisted even among the Christians of Egypt: Lanzone (Dizionario di mitologio egizia, p. 853) describes a lamp with the figure of a frog on it which proclaims, in Greek, “I am the resurrection.”

Gardiner, Alan. 1957. Egyptian Grammar. 3d ed. Oxford: Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum.

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One Response to “Heqet”

  1. I have always been fascinated with Hequet of the Egyptian gods, largely because she brings me to mind of Leto who was worshiped in some parts of Anatolia as a chthonic deity, and has a well known myth associated the frogs, in addition to her childrens’ roles within birth and death and the said representations of frogs on the temple of Apollon at Delphi according to Plutarch I believe. A lovely informative post about Hequet, thank you!

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