Bat is a very ancient Egyptian deity revered as a celestial goddess and goddess of fertility. Her worship began during the Predynastic period of Egypt and extended up through the Middle Kingdom, a period of over 1000 years. As a celestial goddess in her cow form, she was associated with the Milky Way. Bat also was quite powerful, her magic allowed her to see both the past and the future. Her powers are referred to in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (approximately 2300 BCE), in which the goddess was called “Bat, with her two faces.” In the Texts, Bat states “I am Praise; I am Majesty; I am Bat with Her Two Faces; I am the One Who Is Saved, and I have saved myself from all things evil.”
The Pyramid Texts were inscribed in the pyramids at Saqqara, the ancient necropolis of Memphis in Lower Egypt. The five pyramids with Pyramid Texts are those of the 5th Dynasty Pharaoh Unas, and Pharaohs Teti, Pepi I, Merenre and Pepi II of the 6th Dynasty. The Pharaohs are associated with “Bat of the Two Faces” being “I am the One Who Is Saved, and I have saved myself from all things evil.”
There are not many Egyptian artworks remaining that depict Bat, however when she was shown, she was a woman with a stylized human face, cow’s ears and curled horns which emerged from her temples. Bat’s symbols included the sistrum and the ostrich feather, a symbol of creation and light. The ostrich feather is a powerful symbol of the Goddess Ma’at, who was also first mentioned in the Pyramid Texts. It is believed the Bat was seen as a guardian of the Spirit of Ma’at. Every Egyptian was required to adhere to, preserve and defend the Spirit of Ma’at and the Pharaoh ruled as the guardian of Ma’at, for without Ma’at, Egypt would descend into chaos.
Bat is believed to be the goddess depicted on the Narmer Palette (circa 3200 BCE). The Narmer Palette contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found. This tablet is believed to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under King Narmer (also known as Menes). On one side, the king is depicted with the large rounded White Crown of Upper Egypt, and the other side depicts the king wearing the level Red Crown of Lower Egypt. He is also shown wearing a kilt featuring the goddess Bat and images of the goddess adorn the top of the palette. The inscription in the Pyramid Texts of “Bat with Her Two Faces…” supports the theory that it is Bat and not Hathor who is depicted on the palette. Bat’s prominence on the Narmer Palette associates her with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. This very ancient Palette shows classic hieroglyphs and ancient Egyptian art designs, leading the Egyptologist Bob Brier to refer to the Narmer Palette as “the first historical document in the world.”
Bat’s main center of worship was in the area called Seshesh at the 7th Nome of Upper Egypt, not far from Abydos. Seshesh was known as the “Mansion of the sistrum,” the ancient musical instrument used in magical Egyptian ceremonies. Bat was therefore viewed as a goddess of music which associated her with joy, pleasure, and fertility.
The image of Bat as a cow goddess influenced the growth of the cult of Hathor, the most well known cow goddess. During the Middle Kingdom, Bat began to be closely associated with Hathor, whose temple at Dendara were adjacent to the 7th Nome and she was totally absorbed by Hathor at the time of the New Kingdom.
The statue below shows Hathor on the left with Bat on the right and the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh Menkaure in the center. The goddesses represent the authority for him to be king and are identified by their crowns. The emblems on Bat’s crown include the sistrum, her cow/human face and the feather of Ma’at.
Brier, Bob. The First Nation in History. History of Ancient Egypt (Audio). The Teaching Company. 2001.
Faulkner, R.O. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Oxford 1969, p. 181
Hart, George. The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Routledge. 2005. p. 47
Wilkinson, Richard. H. Reading Egyptian Art. Thames and Hudson 1992.p. 213