Who was Meskhenet?
Meskhenet was the Egyptian goddess of childbirth and destiny depicted as human like goddess with an ancient knife as her headdress that was used as a recognition aid and a device to visually convey the powers, identity and attributes of the deity.
Facts about Meskhenet
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Meskhenet:
Meskhenet Profile & Fact File
Egyptian Name: Meskhenet: Alternative Names: Meskhent and Meshkent. Her name means "birthing place" Role & Function: The function of Meskhenet is described as being the childbirth and destiny
Status: Minor but well respected goddessSymbols: The Peseshkef knife, the Ankh, the Was Scepter, the Djed
Cult Center: No cult center but she appears on birth bricks in both Upper and Lower EgyptName of Consort: Shai, the god of destiny
Name in Hieroglyphics:
Meskhenet in Egyptian Mythology
Meskhenet, the Egyptian goddess of childbirth and destiny, featured in the stories, myths and legends in Egyptian Mythology. As the goddess of childbirth she was sometimes depicted as two bricks with a human head. These were believed to be magical bricks representing the 'birth bricks' and used during special ritual practices during childbirth. The ancient Egyptian women delivered their babies whilst standing, kneeling, squatting, or sitting on their heels on birthing bricks, or sitting on a birthing chair. The birthing bricks that ancient Egyptian women used during the final stages of childbirth, measuring 14 by 8 inches long and decorated with painted scenes and figures of the birth process. After a child was born, Meskhenet carried out her duty as a goddess of destiny and predetermined the life of the child. The ancient Egyptians believed that their fates were recited over the birth bricks and that these fates were also inscribed on magical birth bricks.
Meskhenet and the Ancient Greek Fates
The role of Meskhenet in relation to destiny and her association with Shai and Renenutet is believed to be the basis for the ancient Greek goddesses called the Three Fates (Moirae) were reputed to be the personification of destiny, the weavers of fate who determined when life began, when it ended and all that happened in between.
The Role of Meskhenet
The role and duties of Meskhenet were
- Protector of newborn babies and their mothers
- Goddess of nursing
- Responsible for the 'Ka', a part of their soul, which Meskhenet breathed into a person at the moment of birth
- Goddess of fate and destiny who decided the fate of a person when they were born
- The consort of Shai, the god of destiny
- Associate of Renenutet another goddess of nursing who gave a secret name to each person
The Symbols of Meskhenet
The symbols of Meskhenet include
- Peseshkef knife which was used to cut the umbilical cord
- The Ankh
- Was Scepter
Meskhenet & The Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Ani)
There were many versions of the Book of the Dead, the following picture is taken from a Book of the Dead commissioned by a royal scribe called Ani. Ani is depicted with his wife moving towards the the scales of truth and the ceremony of justification in the Hall of the Two Truths. During the ceremony the heart was weighed on a set of scales against the feather of truth when the fate of Ani would be decided - either entrance into the perfect afterlife or to be given to Ammit, Devourer of the Dead. Ani, accompanied by his wife, is seen standing with head bent low in adoration at the side of the Balance. Between Ani and the scales stand the two goddesses who nurse and rear children, Meskhenet and Rennet (possibly Renenutet). The role of Meskhenet was to ascertain the suitability of Ani to enter the paradise of the Afterlife, a representation of a symbolic rebirth in the Afterlife.