In Honor of Nekhbet, the Vulture Goddess

“Homage to you Mistress of the mouth of the two valleys, Mistress of the sky.”

Nekhbet is the Ancient Egyptian vulture goddess of Upper Egypt. Her name means “she of Nekheb” which is based on the Upper Egypt city  (modern day El Kab) where her temple complex was located. Nekhbet’s shrine in this temple complex is the oldest oracle in Egypt, dating from around 3400 BCE.

Her name may also be spelled as Nekhebet or Nechbet which translates into mother. In this aspect, she became the goddess of motherhood and referred to as the “Mother of Mothers, who hath existed from the Beginning.” She was also called the “Daughter of the sun”, and “White One of Nekhen.”

As the Great Goddess of Upper Egypt, Nekhbet was the protector of the Pharaohs as well as their families. Her sister Wadjet, the snake goddess, was the Great Goddess of Lower Egypt. When Upper and Lower Egypt were joined together, there was no merger of these deities (as often occurred with similar deities) both goddesses were retained because of their importance. They became known as the Two Ladies and their symbols are found on the front of the Uraeus crown.

Mask of Tutankhamun with the Uraeus Crown

The Ancient Egyptians believed that all vultures were females and that they could adopt children.  Vultures were usually seen in pairs, the mother and child remained closely bonded together. Pairing, bonding, and protecting were the essential attributes associated with a vulture. Because of the huge size of a vulture and its power to soar high up in the sky, the vulture was considered to be nearer to the deities who reside above the sky. Also, the wide wingspan of a vulture may be seen as all encompassing and providing a protective cover to its infants. In addition, vultures may exhibit a forceful intensity while defending its young. All these qualities inspired the Ancient Egyptians as they worshiped Nekhbet.

As the protector winged goddess, Nekhbet was depicted extending one wing to the front, flying above the person she is protecting, with the other wing pointed to the ground as protector of the deceased.

Nekhbet the Protector

Nekhbet is the goddess of heaven with outstretched wings spread above the royal image as she protects the pharaoh. She is seen holding the Shen ring, representing eternity, a symbol found in the Pharaoh’s double crown.

Image of Nekhbet in the Tomb of Tutankhamun holding the Shen Ring

Like many Egyptian deities, Nekhbet also has a fierce side. She is often depicted hovering around the Pharaoh to protect him during wars and when Horus was pursuing his enemies in the form of a burning winged disc, both Nekhbet and Wadjet were at his sides as protector goddesses.