Who was Wadjet?
Wadjet was the Egyptian cobra goddess and protector of Egypt and the Pharaohs who 'spat poison at tomb robbers.
Facts about Wadjet
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Wadjet:
Wadjet Profile & Fact File
Egyptian Name: Wadjet. Alternative Names: Uto, Buto, Edjo
Role & Function: The function of Wadjet is described as being the cobra goddess and protector of Pharaohs
Status: Wadjet had her own cult center at Buto. Wadjet as the cobra goddess and Nekhbet the vulture goddess were referred to as the "Two Ladies"
Symbols: The Uraeus rearing cobra, the ankh, papyrus, the Red Crown (Deshret) of Lower Egypt
Cult Center: Buto
Titles: The "Lady of Flame", "Creatrix of the World" and one of "Two Ladies"
Name in Hieroglyphics: Translation of Hieroglyphics for Wadjet: Papyrus symbols, cobra, bread (giver of food), egg symbolizing female and Wadjet symbol of rearing cobra
Wadjet in Egyptian Mythology - The Protector Cobra Goddess
Wadjet, the Egyptian cobra goddess, featured in the stories, myths and legends in Egyptian Mythology. She was a fierce war-like protector of the Pharaohs and the armies of Egypt and like the cobra, was known for fighting, rather than retreating. Wadjet, the cobra goddess was ready to strike and kill the enemies of Egypt. Her headdress always included the Uraeus, the rearing cobra symbol, that represented the absolute power and authority of the gods and the Egyptian monarchy. Her headdress also sometimes depicted the Red Crown (Deshret) of Lower Egypt (north) as shown in the famous following picture of the 'eye'.
Wadjet in Egyptian Mythology - The Eye of Ra
There are several names are applied to the 'eye' symbol: the Eye of Horus, the All-seeing Eye, the Eye of Ra or simply the Wadjet. According to one of the legends told in ancient mythology Wadjet was the daughter of Atum-Ra, the solar god of creation and the 'father' of the Pharaohs. In the legend the god Shu, the son of Atum, disappeared. Atum created Wadjet to act as his eye and to search the Universe for his lost son. Wadjet found Shu and Atum was so happy to see them that he cried. The tears cried by Atum made humans. Atum rewarded Wadjet by giving her the form of a cobra so that she would be feared and respected by all who beheld her. The Uraeus, the Wadjet symbol of the rearing cobra, said to spit fire at the enemies of Egypt, was henceforth became part of the Royal crowns of Egypt. In the picture of the 'eye' the snake goddess Wadjet is depicted as a cobra and another goddess, called Nekhbet, is depicted as a vulture. Together these goddesses were called the 'Two Ladies' and were the protectors of Egypt.
Wadjet and the 'Two Ladies'
Wadjet was originally the goddess of the red crown of Lower Egypt (north) and Nekhbet was the white vulture goddess of the white crown of Upper Egypt (south). Following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt Wadjet was paired with Nekhbet, the white vulture goddess and the goddesses were referred to as the "Two Ladies". In Ancient Egyptian texts, the term 'Two Ladies' is a religious euphemism for Wadjet and Nekhbet, who represent the unification of Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt. The role of Wadjet was seen as a forceful defender whilst the role of Nekhebet, was seen as a meeker and motherly defender of Egypt. The following picture of the Two Ladies, as protective winged goddesses, adorns the ceiling of a temple in Kom Ombo (Ombus). Wadjet wears the Red Crown (Deshret) of Lower Egypt (north) and Nekhebet wears the White Atef crown of Upper Egypt (south).
Pictures of the 'Two Ladies' - Wadjet and Nekhbet
The 'Two Ladies', Wadjet and Nekhbet, were often depicted together as illustrated in the following bas relief's.
The Lion form of Wadjet
As time passed Wadjet became identified with the cat goddess Bast (Bastet) and the two goddesses were merged as Wadjet-Bast. In this aspect she was often depicted with the head of a lioness which combined the fierce attributes of a lion and the deadly cobra and was revered for her powers of protection and her skills as a fierce combatant.
Wadjet as the Lioness Goddesses
Wadjet was primarily a cobra goddess, similar in some respects to Meretseger, but she was also depicted in her aspect of a lion-headed goddess. The pictures of the statuettes of Wadjet show her in this guise but her cobra symbol is also included combining the attributes of both the lion and the cobra increasing her powers of protection and highlighting her skills as a fierce combatant.
Wadjet and the Lioness Goddesses
Many of their ancient gods were subsumed (meaning absorbed) into new gods and goddesses. The practice of creating new deities by combining them with old gods is called 'syncretism', meaning the fusion of religious beliefs and practices to form a new system. This was the case with Wadjet, Bastet and then Sekhmet, the warrior goddess of Upper Egypt (south).
The Decline of Wadjet and Rise of Mut
When Memphis became the new capital of Egypt its leaders and priests justified its status by developing a new creation myth and the Triad of Memphis (Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertem) came into prominence. In the period known as the New Kingdom Wadjet was eventually 'absorbed' by the powerful Mother goddess Mut. Mut is often depicted wearing the Royal Vulture Crown consisting of a feather headdress with its wings spread round her head in the act of protection, adorned by a Uraeus - the symbols of the 'Two Ladies'.
The Oracle of Wadjet at Buto
Wadjet was worshipped at Buto, once called Per-Wadjet where there was also a famous oracle. Only royalty and priests were allowed to enter the temples. Ordinary Egyptians could only go as far as the temple gates. The sacred statues of the gods, such as Wadjet, were only seen during the time of the festivals when statues were removed from the temple and ceremoniously placed on gilded ceremonial barques, equipped with long poles that were carried on the shoulders of their priests. The statue formed the central focus point of the grand processions of standard bearing Egyptian soldiers, priests, musicians, singers and dancers. The people would enjoy the spectacle of the procession and celebrate with feasting but were also able to ask for divine guidance. A 'Yes-No' question was written on papyrus and passed to a priest who was believed to be the voice of the god and was the mouth-piece of the Oracle of Wadjet. There were several festivals dedicated to the goddess:
- March 14 (Feast of Wadjet)
- April 21st (Festival of Wadjet)
- May 1st (Month of Wadjet)
- June 21st (Ceremony of Wadjet)
- July 2nd (The Wadjet Eye Has Returned Complete)
- December 25th (Going Forth of Wadjet Singing)
The Oracle of Wadjet and Ancient Greece
The Oracle of Wadjet is believed to be one of the first of the oracles in ancient Egypt (there was also an oracle to the vulture goddess at Nekheb) and there is considerable speculation that this form of 'prophecy' was adopted by the ancient Greeks. In respect of the Greek-Egyptian connection there are also early depictions of Wadjet is as a cobra entwined around a papyrus stem and lotus that is thought to be one of the first images that shows a snake entwined around a staff symbol. The image of a snake entwining a snake appears in Greek mythology where this type of staff was called a caduceus and was the symbol associated with the Greek god Hermes. Werethekau was also another name for the rearing cobra upon royal crowns and headdresses. Coiled bronze snake 'wands' were said to represent the goddess Werethekau, whose name, like her epithet, was "Great of Magic."
Protective symbols of Wadjet
Facts about Wadjet in Egyptian Mythology
Discover interesting information and research facts about Wadjet, the Egyptian cobra goddess. The facts about Wadjet provides a list detailing fascinating additional info to increase your knowledge about Wadjet in Egyptian Mythology.
History, Mythology and Facts about Wadjet
Fact 1: She was originally the fierce, but protective, cobra goddess of Lower Egypt
Fact 2: She was paired with Nekhbet and the goddesses were referred to as the 'Two Ladies'
Fact 3: According to some myths Nekhbet and Wadjet were sisters
Fact 4: She merged with Bastet and adopted the attributes of a lion or cat goddess
Fact 5: She was also the protector of the pharaohs and of women in childbirth.
Fact 6: Her name is derived from the term for papyrus which was the symbol of Lower Egypt
Fact 7: The ancient Egyptian word Wadjat is also the name for the well known Eye of the Moon, which later became the Eye of Horus and the Eye of Ra as additional sun deities arose.
Fact 8: In the New Kingdom she was often identified with the goddess Mut, the consort of Amun, and was eventually 'absorbed' by the goddess