An Amphibian to Remember

It sometimes seems that the Egyptians had gods associated with every kind of animal you could think of. Obviously that’s not true, as I don’t think, for instance, that there was a sloth god. There are, however, gods that are depicted as at least partly jackal, ibis, falcon, crocodile, and more. Another animal you can add to this list is the frog, in the form of the goddess Heqet, who was associated with childbirth.

Why? Well, when the Nile flooded, frogs would reproduce like crazy, so they came to be regarded as a symbol of fertility.

The goddess was sometimes depicted as a full frog, and other times as a woman with a frog’s head.

She was said to protect children in the womb, and to aid in birth. Pregnant women would wear amulets bearing pictures of the goddess. In one myth, she breathed life into the newborn Horus. Heqet also came to be affiliated with resurrection after death, being mentioned in the funerary rites for pharaohs. It is thought that her priestesses were midwives, which would make sense, but there apparently isn’t any conclusive evidence for this.

Heqet’s place in the Egyptian pantheon varied throughout history, as is common for less prominent deities. Traditionally, she was considered to be the wife of Khnum, one of the many creator gods in the Egyptian tradition. He was depicted as a ram-headed man, and was primarily known as the source of the Nile.

His creation story involves creating people at a pottery wheel, an idea also alluded to in the Biblical book of Jeremiah. The frog goddess was also, however, sometimes regarded as the wife of the air god Shu. It appears that her ultimate fate was likely being demoted from an individual to a mere alternate form of Isis.

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