Nekhbet and Wadjet

Of course, where would Upper and Lower Egypt be without a divine deity protecting them? The crowns do not only symbolise the power of the pharaoh but also represent the two goddesses who are connected to each geographical unit. In the corner of Upper Egypt we have the vulture goddess, Nekhbet. In the Lower Egypt corner we have the cobra goddess Wadjet. Both the goddesses can be seen as art motifs representing the position of the pharaoh. The two goddesses together are known as nebty, literally ‘The Two Ladies’.

Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt

  Nekhbet: meaning ‘she of Nekheb’ was the chief deity of ancient Nekheb, an ancient town already during the Early Dynastic period that was known as the capital of all Upper Egypt. Therefore she herself  became acknowledged as the goddess of the leader of Upper Egypt. From the times of the Old Kingdom, Nekhbet was associated and identified with the White Crown and so she became mother-goddess to the pharaoh, as one can see in the Pyramid Texts where she is portrayed as a great white cow (associated with mother-goddesses), and during the New Kingdom and the Classical Period, she is known as a protectress and as a goddess of childbirth. From the earliest representations of her, Nekhbet is portrayed as a vulture standing in profile, or with her wings spread out. She is often depicted holding the circular shen – the symbol of eternity, in her claws. At times, Nekhbet could be shown as a woman wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt on her head. Many times, after the unification of Egypt under one ruler, Nekhbet is depicted as a vulture beside her Lower Egyptian counterpart, Wedjet, as a vulture, or even as a serpent wearing the White Crown on wall paintings or on the pharaoh’s headdress. (Richard H. Wilkinson, ‘Nekhbet’, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, (London, 2003), pp 213-215).

 

 

 

Wedjet, the Cobra goddess of Lower Egypt

   Wadjet: meaning ‘the Green One’ , reference to the colour of the serpent or of the Delta. Wadjet was associated with the Nile Delta region probably from the time that Nekhbet was associated with Upper Egypt. Unlike Nekhbet, Wadjet was more associated with the world of the living, she does not play a part in the Pyramid Texts as her counterpart Nekhbet. she was closely linked to the pharaoh as a protective deity. Wadjet also acts as young Horus’s nurse, thus lending her the role of a mother-goddess. She was also associated, along with other goddesses, as the ‘eye of Ra’. Wadjet is usually depicted as an erect cobra with its hood extended as though ready to strike. At times she is depicted wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt. Wedjet is depicted many times alongside her Upper Egyptian counterpart Nekhbet, as a cobra, or as a vulture wearing the Red Crown on wall paintings or on the pharaoh’s headdress. (Richard H. Wilkinson, ‘Wedjet’, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, (London, 2003), pp 226-228).

Tut-ankh-amun's death mask with the vulture (Nekhbet) and the cobra (Wedjet) protcting him.

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