(Mesekhnet) Meskhenet is depicted anthropomorphically, with the sign of a stylized bovine uterus above her head, or as the personification of the brick on which Egyptian women traditionally squatted to give birth, in which case the brick itself is depicted with a woman’s head. Meskhenet is associated with the destiny bestowed upon an individual at birth, as is vividly demonstrated in a tale from the Westcar Papyrus. When Lady Ruddedet is about to give birth to three sons who are to become the first three kings of the Fifth Dynasty, Re sends Isis, Nephthys, Heqet, Meskhenet and Khnum to preside over the births. Heqet facilitates the delivery, Isis gives to each child his name, and Khnum bestows health upon them. Meskhenet’s role is to approach each child as he is born and foretell his destiny: “A king who will assume kingship in this whole land,” (Lichtheim, vol. 1, pp. 220-1). The ‘Satire on the Trades’, a text whose purpose is to promote the scribal profession, states that “the Meskhenet assigned to the scribe … promotes him in the council,” (Lichtheim, vol. 1, p. 191). Here, one’s Meskhenet is apparently a talent one possesses innately. The ‘Great Hymn to Khnum’ speaks of four Meskhenets who accompany four forms of Khnum “to repel the designs of evil by incantations,” (Lichtheim, vol. 3, p. 114) presumably at the time of birth. A series of dedications at Hermopolis by Hatshepsut, attested in her Speos Artemidos inscription, mentions Heqet, Renenutet and Meskhenet as having joined together to form Hatshepsut’s body; it has been postulated that in this grouping, Heqet is responsible for initial conception, Renenutet with growth in the womb, and Meskhenet with the delivery of the infant.

A role in the afterlife as well for Meskhenet is implied by a fragmentary and cryptic passage from the Pyramid Texts (PT utterance 667C) which speaks of something “which Meskhenet your [i.e., the deceased king’s] mother has made,” urging the deceased king, “whose seats are hidden,” to “Raise yourself … collect your bones, gather your members together,” to “Turn yourself about,” and to “overthrow the ramparts.” Meskhenet must either be presiding over a literal new birth for the deceased here or is continuing to administer posthumously the destiny she bestowed upon the individual at birth. In a spell for protection against infectious disease (no. 16 in Borghouts), the operator seeks to repulse hostile powers by invoking a wrathful aspect of Meskhenet, affirming that “I am the horror that has come forth from Dep [Buto], Meskhenet who has come forth from Heliopolis.”

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One Response to “Meskhenet”

  1. […] am That Horror come forth from Dep, the Meskhenet that has come forth from Iunu. Men, Gods, Akhu, male dead and female dead: Keep away from Me! I am […]

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