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Nekhbet, a predynastic goddess that eventually became the patron of Upper Egypt, was commonly depicted in art as a vulture.

Why is that? The vulture seems - at least to me - like an odd choice for one of the holiest of deities in the Egyptian pantheon.

  • Well just remind that Sobek was a crocodile (not your typical freidnly pet), and the goddess of maternity Taweret was an hippopotamus, still a fairly deadly animal. One has to have a pretty distorted mind to join an hippopotamus with maternity... – Gibet Jan 30 '18 at 12:21
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    @Gibet Wasn't Taweret mainly thought of as a protector deity, though? Wasn't her role to protect mothers during childbirth? Hippopotami and crocodiles are indeed fierce, I can understand why the Egyptians would choose these animals to depict their apotropaic deities. – yannis Jan 30 '18 at 12:54
  • That is not that simple. During Middle Kingdom there is enough votives to be sure Tawaret is a fairly popular goddess related to house protection (with Bes). In predynastic she is the wife of Apopis. granted her appearance and husband that means she was extraodinary malevolent. We find her married with Set as well. – Gibet Feb 1 '18 at 8:22
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Apparently, the Egyptians believed all vultures to be female and thus strongly associated them with maternity. This belief gave birth to Nekhbet, the mother of mothers:

As its name suggests, the Egyptian Vulture was the sacred animal of the ancient Pharaohs; its appearance is immortalized in the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet as the letter A. Since the ancient Egyptians thought that all vultures were female and were spontaneously born from eggs without the intervention of a male, they linked these animals to purity and motherhood. In actuality, both genders happen to have the same appearance, the only difference being the larger size of the female. Nonetheless, they were held sacred to the mother goddess Isis; they were also elevated to the rank of deity in their own right as Nekhbet, patron of Upper Egypt and nurse of the Pharaoh. The priestesses of Nekhbet wore garments of white vulture feathers, and the goddess herself was often portrayed as a vulture-headed woman, her wings spread to provide protection, a circlet in her claws - the shen, symbol of infinity. Her cult was in fact linked to the eternal cycle of death and rebirth because of the vulture's role in the food chain as a scavenger and its supposed parthenogenesis; Nekhbet was venerated as the mother of mothers, who existed from the beginning.

The Egyptian Vulture: through mythology and history

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