Heh and Hehet, God and Goddess of Infinity

Before the world was formed, there was a watery mass of dark, directionless chaos and in this chaos lived the Ogdoad [Ennead] of Hermopolis, four frog gods and four snake goddesses of chaos. These deities were Nun and Naunet (water), Amun and Amaunet (invisibility), Heh and Hehet (infinity) and Kek and Kauket (darkness). The water stretched infinitely into all directions, as everlasting as time itself. Once the world was created and time began, Heh and Hehet came to symbolize limitless time, and a long life.

Heh is shown as a frog or human headed god. In his hand he is depicted holding one or two palm fronds of “A Million Years” in his hands, the Egyptian sign of long life. Sometimes he was shown wearing a palm frond on his head as a headdress. As a god of infinity, his name was linked to numbers and his image with his arms raised was used for the word “million.” To the ancient Egyptians, million was the number for eternity. The “Barque of a Million Years” was the name of the solar barge that the sun god Re traveled in during the day, which the Egyptians believed would happen every day until the end of time.

Heh is featured in the centerpiece of Princess Sithathoryunet’s necklace. This is composed around the throne name of King Senusret II (Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty). It was found among the Princess’ jewelry in a special niche of her underground tomb beside the pyramid of Senusret II. The hieroglyphic signs read, “The god of the rising sun grants life and dominion over all that the sun encircles for one million one hundred thousand years [eternity] to King Khakheperre.” The cartouche rests on the bent tops of palm fronds that are held by a kneeling Heh, the god of eternity and sign for “one million.” A tadpole (sign for “one hundred thousand”) dangles from the god’s right elbow.

Pectoral and Necklace of Sithathoryunet with the Name of Senwosret II, ca. 1887–1878 B.C. Egyptian, Middle Kingdom Gold, carnelian, lapis lazuli, turquoise, garnet (pectoral) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

As well as being a god of time and infinity, he was also an air god. Identified with Shu, Heh was a god of the wind who was linked to the four pillars that held up the sky.

O you eight chaos gods, keepers of the chambers of the sky, whom Shu made from the efflux of his limbs, who bound together the ladder of Atum…The phoenix of Re was that from which Atum came to be as Heh… I am the one who begot the chaos gods again, as Heh, Nun, Amun, Kek. I am Shu who begot the gods.”         ~ From the Tomb of Seti I

The consort of the god Heh, Hehet, was more obscure than her husband. Her name was the same as her husband’s, except with a feminine ending.

Heh and Hehet represent together the concept of neheh. There are two concepts of eternity in ancient Egyptian thought, neheh and djet, which are complementary, and could be described as active and passive infinity. Djet has been interpreted as the static eternity which stands outside of time, the perfect, permanent, or timeless but also, in some respect, lifeless.  Djet can be interpreted as night, neheh as day, since night preceded the first sunrise with which cyclical time or neheh commenced. Neheh appears to have meant the eternity of cosmic time and in the orderly revolutions of the heavenly bodies. Heh and Hehet are sometimes depicted in the twelfth hour of the night welcoming the reborn sun. The first act of a creation is the formation of an egg, which rises upon the hands of Heh and Hehet and out of the egg arises the God of light, Re, to give life and light to the world.

On January 18th and 19th we honor He and Hehet, God and Goddess of Eternity.