(Mehit, Mekhit) Mehyt, whose name is related to the word meaning ‘full’ or ‘to fill’ (Coptic mouh)—a term which is used to refer to the making full (again) of the wedjat, or Eye of Horus—and thus means ‘the full one’ or ‘who makes full’, is depicted as a lioness or lioness-headed woman. Mehyt features with her consort Onuris in what may well be the original version of the important, although still not totally understood, myth of the ‘Distant Goddess’, which involves a God bringing a Goddess back to Egypt with him from a distant and semi-mythical land to the south, although this myth comes to be more commonly articulated through the figures of Tefnut and Shu. Mehyt also displays many characteristics typical of Goddesses such as Tefnut or Sekhmet who bear the title ‘Eye of Re‘ and who wield destructive forces—symbolized variously by flames, arrows (Mehyt is sometimes depicted wielding bow and arrow), demon hordes or simply a deadly gaze—in defense of the cosmic order embodied by Re as solar sovereign; such Goddesses may also be engaged in the defense of the integrity of mortal beings, as symbolized by Osiris. These two modes of activity of wrathful Goddesses in Egyptian theology, though often deliberately conflated, always remain distinct in principle. Relative to this polarity Mehyt, although encompassing both, seems to be associated more with the protection of Osiris than the protection of Re, and hence with the Eye of Horus and the moon rather than the Eye of Re and the sun. Mehyt sometimes bears the sign of the wedjat over her head.
A hymn to Mehyt from the temple of Horus at Edfu (Cauville) states that she “protects the regenerating manifestation [swadjba].” Swadjba is a frequent epithet of Shu, who is identified with Onuris in versions of the myth of the ‘Distant Goddess’. Swadjba incorporates the word wadj, ‘green’ or ‘healthy’, which is the root of the term wedjat, the ‘healthy’ or restored Eye of Horus, thus swadjba means literally “the ba [soul or manifestation] who makes green/healthy <again>.” This epithet is appropriate both to Shu, who is the breath of life, as well as to Onuris, whose name identifies him literally as ‘the one who brings back the distant one’. The hymn also fosters the identification of Mehyt with Tefnut, Shu’s consort, by playing upon an alternate meaning of mehyt as the north wind: thus Mehyt is “a soul [ba] who resides in the north wind, who sails toward the nose of her brother [i.e., husband], who refreshes the throats of humans.” In this hymn Mehyt is also “fury in hand-to-hand combat” and “queen of the guardian demons,” who goes out from her temple to do battle against the enemies of the cosmic order and of her mortal worshipers alike, then returns to be appeased by incense, which holds a special significance in this context because incense and perfume ingredients were characteristically imported from lands to the south of Egypt, that is, the region from which the ‘Distant Goddess’ is brought back, and also because Mehyt’s destructive power comes partly from her control over the nefu, a kind of airborne miasma (Cauville p. 117f).
At her chapel at Edfu, Mehyt is associated with “the Ennead [i.e., company of Gods] who watch over Osiris” and specifically with Nekhbet and Nephthys. Her protective function is universalized when it is stated that her flame “consumes the enemies of Re, calcines the opponents of Horus [i.e., of the pharaoh], and roasts the adversaries of Osiris,” (Edfou I, 315). Mehyt is also named here as one of the ‘four uraei’, together with Menhyt, Sekhmet and Nephthys. The uraeus—principally the form of the Goddess Wadjet—is the fire-spitting cobra which symbolizes sovereignty, here distributed onto diverse planes. The subtlety with which Egyptian theology articulates the notion of divine wrath can be seen from the joyfulness attributed to Mehyt and other wrathful Goddesses. Thus in one scene at Edfu, Mehyt is said to bestow upon Horus “an ecstasy exempt from sadness,” (Edfou I, 460) while elsewhere it is said of her that “her rage is joyous,” (Edfou II, 106), she is “mistress of carnage, but who loves joy, mistress of terror, but who loves to be appeased,” (Edfou IV, 116).
Mehyt is also sometimes identified with the lepidotus fish, an identification fostered by the similarity between her name and the word mehyt, ‘fish’, (cf. Hatmehyt), but the significance of which is clearly not exhausted by the wordplay, and suggests a linkage between the myth of the ‘Distant Goddess’ and the myth of Osiris, in which a fish consumes the Osirian phallus. One function of such myths appears to have been to symbolically regulate the role of animal foods, such as fish, in human life. Mehyt’s consort Onuris, in his role as divine hunter, features often in such a myth, involving the desert hunt of an oryx which has stolen the Eye of Horus; Mehyt’s identification with a fish may thus imply a parallel myth concerning fishers as hunters of the riverine environment.
Cauville, Sylvie. 1982. “L’hymne à Mehyt d’Edfou.” Bulletin de l’institut français d’archéologie orientale 82: 105-125.