Renenutet (Renenet, Ernutet) was a cobra Goddess known as the “Nourishing Snake” and was the embodiment of nourishment and the harvest. Renenutet was depicted as a cobra, or as a woman with the head of a cobra and was also called the “Lady of Fertile Fields” and “Lady of Granaries.” She was thought to be responsible for looking after the harvest – probably because the Egyptians saw snakes hiding in the fields at harvest time.
Renenutet gave her protection to the Pharaoh in the land of the dead and was the guardian of the clothing worn by the Pharaoh. This clothing was fiercely powerful and would frighten away any enemies. Because of this she was called “Lady of the Robes”
O Osiris-Pepi, I bring you the Eye of Horus which is in Tait, this Renenutet-garment of which the gods respect, so that the gods may respect you like they respect Horus.
— Utterance 635, Pyramid of Pepi II
Renenutet was linked to the Gods of the Nile (both Hapi and Sobek) and the inundation of the Nile:
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. Renenutet is in all things – everything will be brought forth by the million and everybody …… in whose granary there had been dearth. 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.
~From the Famine Stele
Renenutet was also called “She who Rears” and was the Goddess of nursing children. She was thought to be the deity who gave a child his or her true name, in that capacity she was called “She who is in the Name.” To the Ancient Egyptians if someone knew the true (secret) name of a person, then that person had power over the other; the secret name of a person was very powerful magic. Renenutet and Shai, the God of destiny, were often found together in The Book of the Dead. Pharaoh Ramses II called himself “Lord of Shai and Creator of Renenutet.”
Shai was originally the deity who “decreed” what should happen to a man, and Renenutet, as may be seen from the pyramid texts, was the goddess of plenty, good fortune, and the like; subsequently no distinction was made between these deities and the abstract ideas which they represented.
~ Wallis Budge, E.A. ,The Egyptian Book of the Dead, p. cxxv (1901)
A festival to Renenutet were celebrated at the beginning of the spring season when crops were planted. Another celebration was held in her honor in the first month of the summer season when the plants began to ripen. During the festival she was offered the best yields of the crops. There was also a shrine dedicated to her near a wine press or vat so she could receive the offerings of the wine makers.
Renenutet, the Nourishing Snake, was highly regarded by the Ancient Egyptians as the protector of the Egyptian people, the nurse of pharaohs and Goddess guardian of the secret name of each Egyptian.
Butler, E. P. “Goddesses and Gods of the Ancient Egyptians.” Henadology, 2010.
Faulkner, R. O. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, p. 258. 2010.
Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian literature: Volume I: The old and middle kingdoms. Vol. 1. Univ of California Press, 2006.
Seawright, Caroline. Renenutet, Goddess of Suckling, the Name, and Protection. thekeep.org, 2012.
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