Sunday, February 28, 2021
Scene with Nit

Seeking to learn how the goddess Nit (Neith) was depicted in ancient times (hoping to gain inspiration for my own artistic creations), I took to the flickr photographers who always deliver so many rich treasures.

But in this case, they haven't! Learning that the temple at Esna (Latopolis) was her main center of worship, I imputed that into the search parameters.

But I mostly saw only lots of reliefs featuring Khnum, a lion headed deity, a crocodile headed deity and a deity wearing the "Hathor crown".

Only one photo features a tiny Nit sighting, up high on the upper right of a temple entrance.

Marie-Hélène Cingal shared the photo, of which the crop above is only a tiny area.
It is good to see Nit's crown still retains some red paint.

Having learned Serge Sauneron wrote a series of books on this temple, I took to the web and pdfs. I started with book six, and found LOTS of scenes with Nit in them! I'm figuring the photo scarcity is reflecting the general paucity of the public's interest in this great goddess. Any search for statuary will reveal you have only two easy options (outside of creating one yourself or finding a willing artist): a resin version based off of the Four Ladies version in Tutankhamun's tomb, or a version based on a museum statue that you must have commissioned in the medium of your choice.

(Well, there HAD been three, a small bronze of her based on a statue at the Hermitage, but I nabbed the last cast of that!)

The seventh in the IFAO Esna series co-written by Sauneron (posthumous publication) with Jochen Hallof proved to draw light on this exterior image:

Sobek (Shemanefer), Nebtuwi, and Neith, with the King giving offerings.

Nebtuwi (who is frequently mistaken for Hathor) and with whom she shares similar roles, is wife of Khnum, and her cult center is at the temple of Esna. Sobek, who is son of Nit, is called Shemanefer at this temple. Along with the name change, he gets fancy new crowns and roles. (See

The translation for these glyphs may be in another one of the Esna books. If it is there, it would be in French, and I'd have to take to to attempt a translation.

There are precious few options for learning about the temple of Esna in English. I discovered the following excerpt from Flaming Lioness, which features translations of many hymns to Nit, which had been only available prior in Sauneron's French translations:

I'd always viewed Nit as "Great Grandmother Nit", so calling her "Great Ancestor" really resonates. Also, I think of Julia's abundant work in discovering her ancestors.

Excerpt from a "Hymn to Nit" at Esna

"...She is the Great Ancestor,
Who was at the Beginning,
Creator Goddess, born into this world on Her own,
First Mother, Uraeus, Front of the God,
With the hidden name.
To be divine at the same time, God and Goddess,
Goddess who is in God,
Eminent Guide to the highest point,
Greater than the Goddesses, because she was the first,
Born before them all..."

(Source for English: Chelsea Bolton, _Flaming Lioness_)

French translation of Excerpt from a "Hymn to Nit" at Esna:

"...C'est la Grande Ancêtre qui fut au commencement,
la déesse créatrice, mise au monde par ses propres moyens,
la première mère, uraeus frontal du dieu au nom caché
être divin a la fois dieu et déesse,
déesse que agit en dieu,
guide eminent au plus haut point,
plus grande que les déesses, car elle fut la première,
née avant elles toutes; ..."

(Source for French: Serge Sauneron, _The religious festivals of Esna_ (Esna V)

(Printable version)

There is a neat thing (neat Nit, grin) about where these hymns are placed, in this temple. There are eighteen columns, upon which they are placed. Eighteen is a multiple of nine, a magical number. The columns give support to the roof, as people's praise give support to the gods to strengthen their work in the world.

I was able to sync the French translation with the hieroglyphs, because Sauneron gave pointers. The text begins at "317,1" and the glyphs begin at "317,1":

These glyphs start before our excerpt and end a little after it.
They begin with "Adore this Goddess in Great Glory"
("Adorer cette déesse, en grande gloire")

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