(Unut, Wenet) Wenut, the Goddess of the 15th nome, or district, of Upper Egypt, in which the city of Hermopolis (Wnw) was located, is depicted as a hare, or as a woman with the head of a hare or with the sign of a hare (i.e., the nome sign) over her head, or a mummiform woman with the head of a hare, or as a lioness-headed woman, or in fully human form wearing the crown of Hathor. She may carry a knife or knives.
Wenut can also be conceived as the royal uraeus cobra, so strongly—see, e.g., the “Adoration of Wnwnwt” among the “Hymns to the Diadem of the Pharaoh” (hymn k, p. 53-54 in Erman)—that some have argued for regarding this aspect as a separate Goddess with the same (or virtually indistinguishable) name, though a forceful argument against this is made by Müller (1992). Wenut’s geographical association with the 15th Upper Egyptian nome is not exclusive. She can be associated with other locales, particularly in connection with other cities named Wnw; some texts refer to a “Wenut of the South” and a “Wenut of the North”.
Wenut’s name has been interpreted as meaning ‘the swift one’, from wni, ‘to hasten’, but in practice is clearly related to wnn, ‘to be, exist’, as well as to wnwt, ‘hour’ or division of time generally. The element wnn meaning to exist is also part of the almost constant epithet of Osiris, wnn-nfr or ‘Onnophris’, ‘He who exists/persists in well-being’. (On Egyptian ideas concerning being and non-being, wnn and tm wnn or nn wnn, see especially Hornung, 1982, pp. 172-185.) Other words which may inform the sense are wn, meaning ‘to open’, including in many extended senses (e.g. to instruct, enlighten), and wn.t, meaning a sanctuary. Perhaps in the last analysis, however, only a sense of ‘the existent’ can account for the name’s breadth of usage.
The antiquity of Wenut’s cult is suggested by BD spell 137A, which claims to have been discovered by “the king’s son Hardedef,” that is, the son of the Fourth Dynasty king Khufu (Cheops), “in a chest of secrets in the God’s own writing in the house of Wenut, the lady of Hermopolis, when sailing upstream making inspections in the temples, in the fields, and in the mounds of the Gods.” In CT spell 47 the operator, acting on behalf of the deceased, juxtaposes Wenut with Thoth: “May Thoth ennoble you [the deceased] with his [var., ‘your’] beauty, may Wenut make firm your head for you.” In CT spell 495 the deceased states, “I extend my arm in company with Shu, I am released in company with Wenut.” In spell 720, “To become a dawn-God and to live by means of magicians,” the deceased affirms “I will act as one who is sent to the Gods, and my voice is that of Wenut.” The voice of Wenut is, we might say, the voice of being as opposed to the voice of nonbeing; in a similar vein, one of the denials from the so-called ‘negative confession’ of BD spell 125 is “I do not know the nonexistent.” In CT spell 316, for “Becoming the fiery eye of Horus,” the operator states “I am the wnwn.t of the Lady of Wenu [Wenut],” punning on Wenut’s name with a word, wnwn, that means to move about, either in the sense of traveling or in the stationary sense, as a child moves about in the womb (as in PT utterance 430). A spell to ease childbirth (no. 61 in Borghouts) invokes, among others, ‘Wenut, lady of Wenu’. In the fragmentary CT spell 942, an unknown deity is identified with Wenut by the phrase “…she has nothing which has been done against her, in this her name of Wenut”; perhaps because what is not being, is not, and hence is nothing?
Wenut is not attested as a consort of Thoth except in identification with Nehmetaway, though a specific relationship of consort, as opposed to paredros (assistant) is not clearly indicated for the latter either. In a list of nome deities from the White Chapel of Senwosret (Senusret, Sesostris), Wenut is linked as divinity of the 15th Upper Egyptian nome with a God called ꜥḥꜣ (Aha), “the Fighter”. The Tebtunis Mythological Manual speaks of “Thoth who made his form as the Fighter,” in explaining the Hermopolitan district’s name, ‘Wenut’. Thoth does not explicitly feature in the myth, which simply states that Horus was injured after fighting (ꜥḥꜣ) with Seth, and asks his mother to speak (i.e., words of magic) on his behalf, and hence “the name of Wenut was made, since words existed (wn),” (TM 6, 15-18, trans. in Jørgensen 2014, p. 237). Elsewhere the same text refers to Wenut as “the lady of fighting (ꜥḥꜣw) of the chamber of Naunet in the high hill of Khemenu which is on the island of fire,” i.e., the point from which the sun rises (TM 5, 21-22, trans. Jørgensen 2014 p. 235).
Also in the Tebtunis Mythological Manual, “Wenut who grabbed her spear” is said to have “made a slaughter of the arrogant son … who was judged according to his deeds and slain because of having fornicated with Nehmetaway in Khemenu and Nehbet-anet in Dep,” for which “a festival was assigned to her” in which “all of the men and women sing for her Ka” (TM 4, 17-19, trans. Jørgensen 2014, p. 232). This incident seems to be a local Hermopolitan version of the myth of Geb’s rape of Tefnut and his subsequent punishment.
Wenut sometimes occurs in settings where she represents the generalized Upper (Southern) Egyptian potency, e.g., in juxtaposition with Menhyt or identified with Nekhbet. She is also listed together with Montu and Sobek as divinities of the 4th Upper Egyptian nome, again from the nome list on the White Chapel of Senwosret. Wenut appears in lion-headed form apparently as consort of Sobek in a stela from the Ramesseum (OIM 1567).
Erman, Adolf. 1911. “Hymnen an das Diadem der Pharaonen”. In Abhandlungen der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Classe.
Jørgensen, J. K. B. 2014. Egyptian Mythological Manuals: Mythological structures and interpretative techniques in the Tebtunis Mythological manual, the manual of the Delta and related texts. Københavns Universitet, Det Humanistiske Fakultet.
Müller, Marcus. 1992. “Über die Kombination von Zwei- und Dreidimensionalität.” Göttinger Miszellen 131: 85-95.