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Tawaret
 
In Egyptian mythology, Tawaret (also spelt Taurt, Taueret, Tuart, Ta-weret, Taweret, and Taueret, and in Greek, Thoeris and Toeris) was originally the demon-wife of Apep, the original god of evil. Since Apep was viewed as residing below the horizon, and only present at night, evil during the day was envisaged as being a result of Tawaret's malificence. As the counterpart of Apep, who was always below the horizon, Tawaret was seen as being the northern sky, the constellation roughly covering the area of present-day Draco, which always lies above the horizon.     
Thus Tawaret was known as mistress of the horizon, and was depicted as such on the ceiling of the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings.

In art, Tawaret was depicted as a composite of all the things the egyptians feared, the major part of her being hippopotamus, since this is what the constellation most resembled, with the arms and legs of a lioness, and with the back of a crocodile. On occasion, later, rather than having a crocodile back, she was seen as having a separate crocodile resting on her back, which was thus interpreted as Sobek, the crocodile-god, and said to her consort.

Early during the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians came to see female hippopotamuses as less agressive than the males, and began to view their aggression as one of protecting their young, particularly since it is the males that are territorially agressive. Consequently, Tawaret became seen, very early in egyptian history, as a deity of protection in pregnancy and childbirth, and pregnant women wore amulets with her name or likeness to protect their pregnancies. Her image could also be found on knives made from hippopotamus ivory, which would be used as wands in rituals to drive evil spirits away from mothers and children.

     In most subsequent depictions, Tawaret was depicted with features of a pregnant woman, in a composite addition to the animal-compound she was also seen as, which usually took the form of pendulous breasts, pregnant stomach, and long straight (human) hair (from her head). As a protector, she was often shown with one arm resting on the sa symbol, which symbolized protection, and on occasion carried an ankh, the symbol of life, or a knife, which would be used to threaten evil spirits.

As such a protector, Tawaret was also given titles reflecting a more positive nature, including Opet (also spelt Ipet, Apet, and Ipy), meaning harem, and Reret (also spelt Rert, Reret, Rerit, and Rertu), roughly meaning sow. Putting emphasis on the more getting pregnant aspect of Tawaret's protection, her cult centre at Thebes predominantly referred to her as Opet, wheras her cult at Karnak preferred the more motherly side, and so predominantly used the title Reret. Her cult at Thebes identified her as a form of Nuit, the Ennead goddess of the sky, since her constellation was always above the horizon, indeed was at the highest point. Consequently, in her motherly aspect, this lead to her, as Opet, being seen at Thebes as the mother of Osiris, who was more generally seen as the son of Nuit.

As the hippopotamus was associated with the Nile, these more positive ideas of Tawaret allowed her to be seen as a goddess of the annual flooding of the Nile, and the harvest that it brought. Ultimately, although only a household deity, since she was still considered the consort of Apep, Tawaret was seen as one who protected against evil by restraining it, and became known as (one) who is great, which is what Tawaret means.

When Set fell from grace in the Egyptian mindset, as a result of being favoured by the (xenophobically) hated Hyksos rulers, and gradually took over the position of Apep, as the god of evil, Tawaret became seen as his concubine. She was seen as concubine rather than wife, as Set was already married to the extremely different Nephthys. It was said that Tawaret had been originally an evil goddess, but changed her ways, and held Set back on a chain. As the goddess of motherhood, Tawaret was eventually assimilated into the identity of Mut, the great-mother goddess.     

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This article is copied from an article on Wikipedia.org - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. Although the vast majority of the wikipedia encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.

 

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