|This article does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2008)|
In Egyptian mythology, Renenutet (also transliterated as Ernutet, and Renenet) was the anthropomorphic deification of the act of gaining a true name, an aspect of the soul, during birth. Her name simply meaning, (she who) gives Ren, with Ren being the Egyptian word for this true name[dubious ]. Indeed, it was said that newborns had Renenutet upon their shoulder from their first day, and she was referred to as (she who) rears, and Lady of the robes (referring to birth-robes). Initially, her cult was centered in Terenuthis.
Her name also could be interpreted in an alternate way, as renen-utet, rather than ren-nutet, consequently having the more esoteric meaning - nourishment snake. As a nourishment snake, Renenutet was envisioned, particularly in art, as a cobra, or as a woman with the head of a cobra. Snakes are another animal without sexual dimorphism and seeming only to be female to the Ancient Egyptians so there was only a goddess. This secondary meaning also led to her being considered the source of nourishment, thus a goddess of the harvest; gaining titles such as Lady of granaries, and Lady of fertile fields. The importance of the harvest caused people to make many offerings to Renenutet during harvest time, leading to her being seen as a goddess of riches and good fortune.
Sometimes, as the goddess of nourishment, Renenutet was seen as having a husband, Sobek. He was represented as the Nile River, the annual flooding of which deposited the fertile silt that enabled abundant harvests. However, more usually, Renenutet was seen as the mother of Nehebkau, who was the deification of another important change concerning parts of the soul - the binding of Ka and Ba, who occasionally was represented as a snake also. When considered the mother of Nehebkau, Renenutet was seen as having a husband, Geb, who represented the Earth, since it was from the ground that snakes appear to arise.
Later, as a snake-goddess worshiped over the whole of Lower Egypt, Renenutet was increasingly confused with Wadjet, Lower Egypt's powerful protector and another snake goddess represented as a cobra. Eventually Renenutet was identified as an alternate form of Wadjet, whose gaze was said to slaughter enemies. Wadjet is the cobra on the crown of the pharaohs.
The Hymn of Renenutet says:
- I will make the Nile swell for you,
- without there being a year of lack and exhaustion in the whole land,
- so the plants will flourish, bending under their fruit.
- The land of Egypt is beginning to stir again,
- the shores are shining wonderfully,
- and wealth and well-being dwell with them,
- as it had been before.