Transitions: The Syncreticism of Hekate and Heket

by Lykeia

Life is a series of moments, transitioning from one to the next. As girls become women, life builds and flows from her simulating the greatest transitions in all life: birth and death. The watery fluids of life build within her body, fertile and ripe, and release again in a flow. And these are the realms that are occupied by Hekate and Heket, who are fluid goddesses in practice and nature. Whether it be the watery associations of both goddesses, Heket a frog goddess and Hekate in her oceanic rule controlling catches of fish, or the fluids of conception as the fluidly home of semen enters of the feminine lubrication to swim into its resting place. This can be illustrated as Heket breathes first breath of life of a fetus that her sometimes spouse Khnum creates out of clay on his potter’s wheel, before it is placed within the mothers womb, a metaphor dealing with conception. At the moment of birth Heket is also present during the later stages of labor as in the story of the triplets that would be pharaohs.

“Raddjedet, wife of a wab priest of Ra, was suffering with a difficult labor. Deities skilled with childbirth were summoned, Isis and her twin Nephthys, together with the comforting Meskhenet, goddess of the birthing brick, and Heket the frog-headed goddess of fecundity.

They disguised themselves as traveling musicians and dancers, and, accompanied by Khnum, he who fashioned men on his potters wheel, set off to help Raddjedet. Entering the birthing room, they sealed themselves inside with Isis standing before the laboring woman, Nephthys behind her, Meskhnet holding the brick and Heket hastening the birth.

Isis spoke, “Don’t be strong in her belly, you whose name is called Strength!” and a child rushed forth upon her arms – a child one cubit in length. His limbs were of gold and his royal head cloth of real lapis. They washed him and cut his cord. Then Meskhenet went to him and said, “A king who will rule throughout this entire land.” And Khnum gave health to his body.

Again Isis stood before her and Nephthys behind her while Heket hastened the birth. Isis spoke, “Don’t walk in her belly, you whose name is called Feet of Ra!” and a child rushed forth upon her arms – a child one cubit in length. His limbs were of gold and his royal head cloth of real lapis. They washed him and cut his cord. Then Meskhenet went to him and said, “A king who will rule throughout this entire land.” And Khnum gave health to his body.

A third time Isis stood before her and Nephthys behind her while Heket hastened the birth. Isis spoke, “Don’t be darkness in her belly, you whose name is called Dark!” and a child rushed forth upon her arms – a child one cubit in length. His limbs were of gold and his royal head cloth of real lapis. They washed him and cut his cord. Then Meskhenet went to him and said, “A king who will rule throughout this entire land.” And Khnum gave health to his body” (http://www.allinfoaboutmyths.com/heket.html)

In this story she is there preparing the children for birth and aiding the mothers womb to release the infants. When it comes to Hekate, she is also widely known as a fertility goddess and a goddess present at the births. On one hand she with the aide of Hermes is known to dispense fertility to the herds which seems like an very interesting parallel to Heket and Khnum relationship, and yet on the other she was also concerned with human conception as Rhodes quotes in his book “Psyche” that “whenever a soul is entered into partnership with a body she is at hand.” And in the truly complex nature of Hekate, he continues to say that “where a soul is separating from a body she is there.”

It is fairly well known that Hekate acts as a phsycopomp, leading souls even as she leads the lit path for Persephone to and fro from the underworld. We may think that this is a clear departure from Heket, but that is not so. Small frogs of Heket served a dual purpose as charms not only carried by pregnant women, but also buried with the dead that they may be reborn in the next life and protected by this goddess as she assist the Pharaoh to ascend to the sky. On a related note she is mentioned at Dendera in the myth of the funeral of Osiris:

“Osiris, ithyphallic and bearded, in mummied form, lying upon his bier; over his feet and his body hover the hawks. At the head kneels Hathor, “Mistress of Amentet, who weepeth for ‘her brother’,” and at the foot is a frog symbol of the goddess Heqet, beneath the bier are an ibis-headed god holding the Utchat, two serpents, and the god Bes. ” (http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/heqet.htm)

Linked to fertility and birth among goddess is the concept of wealth and gain, probably because for so many rural people to have more children was to have your wealth in part, not mention the concerns of fertility among livestock would probably even have a more direct association with wealth and plenty. Hekate as mentioned above worked with conception of livestock and at the same time was directly responsible for fair or foul catches of fish as mentioned in the Theogony. Heket has her turn of notable mention in regard of caring for the needs of her nation. In the inscription of Kheti, son of Sit: “I was rich in grain. When the land was in need, I maintained the city with kha and with heket. I allowed the citizen to carry away with himself grain; and his wife, the widow and her son. I remitted all imposts which I found counted by my fathers. I filled the [pastures] with cattle, [every] man had many colors; the cows brought forth twofold, the folds were full of calves. I was kind to the cow, when she said, “It is […],” I was one rich in bulls … his ox; … … he lived well.” (http://nefertiti.iwebland.com/texts/kheti_ii.htm)

These kindly goddesses stand at the entrances of life and death, of plenty and decrease, and here in a subtle way do they maintain the wealth and prosperity of nations that depend on the flux of their nature.

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