Reret is depicted as a bipedal hippopotamus in a fashion virtually identical to Ipy or Taweret, from whom she is distinguished by her astral associations. Reret is linked to two different sets of stars, but primarily to a constellation in the north sky corresponding to our Draco. This constellation, in turn, is linked in Egyptian thought to another constellation, corresponding to our Big Dipper, which Egyptians saw as having the shape of the foreleg of a quadruped and was known to Egyptians as the Meskhet, the Foreleg. The constellation was usually depicted as a bull’s foreleg, connected by a tether to a mooring post held by Reret. The Meskhet was regarded sometimes as the foreleg of Seth, and was then spoken of as the foreleg of a donkey or dog, but is never depicted in this fashion (note that Seth’s foreleg is already spoken of in PT utterance 61, though not in connection to a constellation). Seth’s foreleg is tied to the mooring post guarded by Reret “so that it [the Foreleg] cannot travel among the Gods” (Jumilhac pp. 108, 129). In texts from the temple of Esna, however (nos. 400, 450), Reret is said to tether the Foreleg in the northern sky “in order not to let it [the Foreleg] go upside down into the Duat [the netherworld].” In these texts there is no suggestion that the Foreleg is associated with Seth. A similar concept of these stars and their relation to Reret seems to be expressed on the lid of a bull sarcophagus from Abû Yâsîn, which attributes the Foreleg to Osiris: “Hail Osiris … bull of the sky are you … the stars of the northern sky are your Foreleg. They never set in the west of the sky like the decanal stars but they travel, going upside down in the night as in the day. They are in the following of Reret the Great of the northern sky,” (Neugebauer vol. III, 190-1). There was also a Reret, similarly with a mooring post, among the hour stars, located near or in the decanal belt, south of and near the ecliptic (Neugebauer vol. II, 7). Reret is depicted with her front feet resting on the mooring post, or one on the mooring post and one on a small vertical crocodile. Sometimes a tether or chain runs from the mooring post to the Foreleg. Reret is also often depicted bearing a crocodile on her back. Although she is always depicted as a hippopotamus, Reret’s name apparently means ‘the Sow’.
Faulkner, R. O. 1969. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [PT]
Neugebauer, Otto, and Richard A. Parker. 1960-9. Egyptian Astronomical Texts. Providence: Brown University Press.
Sauneron, Serge. 1959-75. Esna. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
Vandier, Jacques. 1961. Le Papyrus Jumilhac. Paris: Musée du Louvre.