There is some dispute over the proper reading of this God’s name, insofar as it is usually written with an ideogram rather than phonetically. In older Egyptological literature his name was read Anty, but the consensus leans now in favor of Nemty, ‘the wanderer’, although there remain good arguments for reading the name Anty, meaning ‘with claws’. The God may be referred to in PT utterance 302, in which the king, assuming the form of a hawk, states that “my claws (ânwt) are the talons (wekhau) of Him-of-Atefet,” i.e., the 12th Upper Egyptian nome or district (in the vicinity of Deir el-Gabrawi), a center of the worship of Anty/Nemty. (Note that this locality is often referred to in Egyptological literature as the “Viper-” or “Cerastes-Mountain” nome.) Nemty is depicted as a hawk, often perched on a crescent-shaped boat.
Nemty features as a ferryman in an episode of the Conflict of Horus and Seth. Seth demands that Isis be excluded from the place where the judgment between Horus and himself is to be rendered. Re orders the judgment to take place on an island (possibly the same island in the midst of the Nile Hellanicus of Lesbos calls ‘Tindion’, which Philippe Derchain reads as a corruption of the Egyptian name Ta-Anty, ‘Place of Anty’, in turn possibly the same place Diodorus of Sicily calls ‘Antaeum’ (Diodorus I, 21)) and directs Nemty not to ferry Isis across. Isis changes her appearance, however, to that of an old woman carrying a bowl of flour which she claims she must deliver to a boy tending cattle on the island. Nemty resists, and Isis offers him at first a cake (wekhat, cp. wekhau, ‘talons’ in PT utterance 302), and then her gold signet ring, which he accepts and ferries her across. When the Gods learn what Nemty has done, they punish him, as a result of which he forswears gold, saying that “Gold shall be an abomination to me in my town,” (Lichtheim vol. 2, 218). This is apparently in reference to the custom of crafting Nemty’s cult-statue not of gold as was usual but of silver. The importance of silver in his cult, as well as the shape of his boat, suggests that Nemty may have had lunar associations.
In CT spell 473, for escaping from the “net” and “fish-trap” in the netherworld, the operator states with respect to the “Winding Waterway,” i.e., the ecliptic, which the soul seeks to cross in order to reach the “Field of Offerings” in the northern sky, “I have glittered as Nemty on its middle, I have glittered as Nemty on its top,” referring perhaps to the moon’s motion on the ecliptic. Nemty is associated particularly with the east bank of the Nile and with the East in general; CT spell 607 calls the Goddess Sekhet, who personifies the marshes, “the flesh of the East-land, the assistant of Nemty,” and Nemty is “Lord of the East,” in a stela from the Sinai (Jumilhac, p. 27).
Another myth, from the Jumilhac Papyrus, also seeks to explain the exclusion of gold from Nemty’s cult. Nemty, for unexplained reasons, decapitates Hathor, and is punished by the Gods by being skinned alive, for “his flesh and his skin his mother created with her milk; as for his bones, they exist by virtue of the semen of his father. Thus, let be taken away from him his skin and flesh, his bones staying in his possession,” (Jumilhac, p. 124). Since gold is associated with flesh, and silver with bones, gold is taboo in Nemty’s district and his statue is made of silver. Hesat proceeds to regenerate Nemty’s flesh with an unguent made of her own milk, however, and Hathor’s head is fastened on again by Thoth‘s magic. Nemty is effectively reborn, and is identified with the infant Horus: “His mother, Isis, regarded him as a newborn child, after he was reborn in this district,” (ibid.). A similar myth is told of Horus in the aforementioned Conflict of Horus and Seth, in which Horus decapitates Isis for calling off an attack upon Seth, an act which accounts for a headless statue of her. Seth subsequently plucks out Horus’ eyes, which Hathor regenerates by applying the milk of a gazelle (Lichtheim vol. 2, 219). CT spell 80 also refers to these events, when Shu affirms that he “makes firm the head of Isis on her neck.” The relationship among these myths is obviously complex, and with respect to Nemty the myths we possess are obviously several stages removed from their original forms and involve his gradual assimilation with Horus. Another passage from the Jumilhac Papyrus states that the limbs of Nemty were wrapped in bandages after he was skinned for his crime (p. 120). Nemty therefore evidently featured in a localized mythology concerning death, mummification and rebirth. It has been suggested that a peculiar compound deity called Antywy (‘the two with claws’), rendered ‘Antaios’ by the Greeks, who is depicted as a man with two hawk’s heads, and who is often regarded as a fusion of Horus and Seth, is in fact a fusion of Horus and Nemty (Jumilhac, 68f), or rather, Horus and Anty, as the God’s name would have to be read in this case. In the aforementioned stela from the Sinai in which Nemty is called “Lord of the East”, however, Nemty is depicted with the head of the Seth-animal.
Nemty’s punishment for ferrying Isis across is said in the Conflict to have been that the Gods “removed his toes,” (Lichtheim, p. 218). This may imply a myth analogous to that of Horus recounted in CT spell 158/BD spell 113, “for knowing the souls of Nekhen [Hierakonpolis],” in which the hands of Horus are cut off by Isis and thrown into the water, becoming fish, thus acting as ‘limbs’ of the God in the world. It has also been proposed that Nemty’s—or rather, Anty’s—’toes’ would have been replaced by ‘claws’, in reference to the reading of ‘Anty’ as ‘with claws’; the loss and replacement of parts of the divine body is a common motif in Egyptian myth. CT spell 942 says of an unidentified Goddess—possibly named later in the spell as Wenut—that “she has taken away the flame of the sunshine, she has shaved the side-whiskers [or ‘forelocks’?] of Nemty, who is adorned on…” the text unfortunately breaking off here; possibly the “side-whiskers” or “forelocks” of Nemty refer to the moon’s rays, complementing the reference to the “flame of the sunshine.” Does the shaving or trimming here echo Nemty’s mutilation in the myth from the Conflict? An alternative interpretation of the name of Nemty is as ‘the shortened one’ (Broze, 52 n. 123). A certain kind of ‘trimming’ is associated with ‘Tindion’, the island in the midst of the river mentioned by Hellanicus of Lesbos, who recounts that within a temple on this island grew several acacia trees, atop which were wreaths woven of the flowers of acacia, pomegranate and grapevine, which were perpetually in flower, but “the Gods removed the wreaths when they learned that Babys, that is, Typhon [i.e. Seth] was king of Egypt,” (quoted in Broze, 51). Another reference to Nemty’s ‘hair’ comes from the aforementioned CT spell 473, for escaping the “net” and “fish-trap” of the netherworld, in which the deceased states at one point that “You shall not catch me in your nets in which you catch the dead … because I know the name of its four tufts; they are the tufts which are in the bird-trap of Sobek, which is behind the coiffure of Nemty.” Sobek is juxtaposed with Nemty later in the same spell, where both Gods are said to “glitter” atop the “Winding Waterway.”
A myth similar to the one in the Conflict involving Nemty is recounted in an Egyptian calendar, which attaches to the 13th day of the third month of the season of Akhet a story in which Seth pays gold to Nemty, who is again a ferryman, to ferry him across the river to the West (i.e., to the necropolis), where Seth and his allies perpetrate some violence upon the body of Osiris; in punishment, Nemty’s tongue is cut out and as a result, gold is forbidden in his cult (Broze, 69).
A different sort of boat altogether is associated with Nemty in CT spell 649, in which an unidentified “Jackal-man” is asked to “open a path for me, for I am Nemty perambulating the henu-boat,” the sacred bark associated with Sokar.
Broze, Michèle. 1996. Les Aventures d’Horus et Seth dans le Papyrus Chester Beatty I. Leuven: Peeters.
Faulkner, R. O. 1969. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [PT]
Faulkner, R. O. 1973-8. The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. 3 vols. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd. [CT]
Lichtheim, Miriam. 1975-80. Ancient Egyptian Literature. 3 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Vandier, Jacques. 1961. Le Papyrus Jumilhac. Paris: Musée du Louvre.