Nehemet-awai is one of the principal consorts of the God Djehuty (Gr. Thoth), known from the time of the New Kingdom. She was worshipped at both Hermopolis magna and Hermopolis of the Ibis, Djehuty's two great centers of worship. At Hermopolis Parva, she was honored as the mother of the local god Heru-nefer. Her role as protectress of Heru complemented that of Djehuty, who guaranteed the transmission of the Heru's kingship. Her name means "the one who protects the plundered," or "she who recovers the stolen." She is a goddess of wisdom and justice, who rescues the oppressed and sets things right.
She became important during the Late Period, and her image appears in many texts from the Graeco-Roman Era. At Dendera, she was identified with Het-Hert and took on many Het-Hert's symbols, such as the horns-and-disk headdress and the sistrum. Nehemet-awai acquired some of Het-Hert's other connections, both solar and cosmic, as shown in her titles, The Eye of Ra and Mistress of Heaven. She also is called Mistress of Drunkenness and Sovereign of Music, both typically associated with Het-Hert. At Hermopolis, she functioned as a form of Het-Hert and was called the uraeus on the brow of the king. Because of her association with both Het-Hert and Aset, she is often depicted nursing a child.
Nectanebo I, the last native Egyptian king of the 30th Dynasty, erected a beautiful temple to Nehemet-awai at Hermopolis during the first year of his reign. He attributed his assumption of the throne to this goddess, building a "place of rest" for his mother "Wosret-Nehemet-awai," calling it the "House of Khmun, House of the Golden One." It contained eight sistra of Het-Hert-Nehemet-awai, most probably the columns of beautiful white stone topped with Het-Hert head sistrum capitals covered in gold. The sanctuary was also gold-plated, and its door leaves were made of gold engraved with the king's names. A limestone stela describing Nectanebo's building projects states that the goddess was "more pleased with this than with what had been here previously."
In the relief below from a subterranean crypt in the Temple of Dendera, Nehemet-awai is shown seated, wearing a full Het-Hert naos-sistrum capital upon her head.
Nehemet-awai at the Temple of Dendera
The two columns of hieroglyphs in front of Her read as follows:
Dd mdw in NHmt-awAi m st mrr(t)-ib nb(t) tX(t) Hnwt dxn
"Words spoken by Nehemet-awai in the Place of What-the-Heart-Loves [ie. Dendera], Mistress of Drunkenness, Sovereign of Making Music." The word dxn (dekhen) at the end of the phrase refers to the rhythm maker who keeps the beat of the music. These titles show Nehemet-awai's strong connection with Het-Hert at the Temple of Dendera.
Boylan, Patrick, Thoth, the Hermes of Egypt, Oxford University Press, c. 1922, p. 208-209.
Cauville, Sylvie, Dendera I - Traduction, Peeters, pp. 88-89.
Chassinat, Émile and François Daumas' Le Temple de Dendera, IFAO, c. 1965, vol. VI, pl. DXVII. Image of Nehemet-awai from the Western Crypt No. 1; Hieroglyphic text from p. 74.
Helck, Wolfgang, "Nehemet-awai," Lexikon der Ägyptologie, Otto Harrassowitz, c. 1984.
Hornung, Erik, The Secret Lore of Egypt: Its Impact on the West, Cornell University Press, c. 2001.p.7, 10.
Mysliwiec, Karol, The Twilight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E., Cornell University Press, c. 2000, p. 166-168. (Thanks to Khenmetaset for this reference!)
Waitkus, Wolfgana, Die Texte in den Unteren Krypten des Hathortempels von Dendera, Philipp von Zabern, c. 1997, p. 181.
Wilson, Penelope, "dxn," Ptolemaic Lexikon, p. 1207
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