“Hail to thee, Renenutet upon Hedj-hotep, thou whom Ra has given infinite glory even before the Ennead” (Pyramid texts, utterance 662)
She is known as Renenutet (many know her now as Wadjet, or Buto). She is the Egyptian Cobra Goddess. Goddess of the Harvest, Goddess of re-birth, divine protector, wet-nurse, child-rearer, the Goddess of initiations and rebirth, she is like all goddesses – complicated, unique and yet so simple. This month of February is the eighth month of the Ancient Egyptian Calendar and is a continuation of the harvest month for that part of the world. Egyptians had thousands of deities, and hundreds of festivals but only the “greatest Gods and Goddesses” were given measured sections of time in their land, which we call months. Renenutet is one of those Goddesses.
In modern times when we look at the Cobra we think cold blooded, dangerous, and poisonous and while some of these definitions the Egyptians would have no problem with, “cold-blooded” would not be one they would agree with. You see, it is said that no child was born without Renenutet born on their shoulder, she was there to whisper into the mother’s ear the name of that child, she nursed the child on her breast milk, and she stayed with it until it “came of age.” So deeply is this ingrained into the Ancient Egyptian culture that the names of the Pharaohs were given to them from this Goddess, not the mother or father. “Cold blooded” seems to imply not caring and yet, when excavations of ancient cities up and down the Nile were done, household altars for Renenutet were everywhere because she cared for the people of her lands. She was in the hearth where there were elaborate altars, present with Tauweret (Hippo Goddess), Bes (the Dwarf God), and Nephyths (the dark Goddesses of re-birth and grain). She was present in every bedroom in the form of her ureai that is her “crown” that was used to hold oil lamps and candles that burned as “night lights” guaranteeing sweet dreams and protection for everyone as they slept. Statues to Renenutet were in the garden of every “upper class” Egyptians home, to protect their garden, to drive away vermin, to ensure a great profusion of dates, figs, nuts, and flowers. She was seen as necessary to the Egyptian life.
The headdresses of the Priest, Priestesses, and the Crowns of all Royalty possessed her likeness on them for it was understood that she dwelt with those who walked with the Gods and Goddesses of Egypt for she was above the “Ennead” (the ruling deities of the Ancient Egyptian Pantheon). She was portrayed as a Cobra, or a lady with a Cobra head, or a woman with the body of a Cobra, and this means that she possessed the attributes of the Cobra snake.
In case you did not know, cobra venom is legendary, and the meters it can strike measure anywhere from 8 meters to 18. Thus if you stood in the presence of any of the people that wore her headdress, it was assumed and understood that Renenutet was taking care of them and she could and would strike you down with her “venom” if you wished them harm and came too close. One of the major differences between cobras that live in Egypt and cobras from other regions in the world is the “tear drop shape” that trickles down from their eyes. Thus, what most people call the “Eye of Ra, Eye of Osiris, Eye of Horus, and Eye of Sekhmet” is most definitely based on the eye of the Cobra, thus of its many names, “the Eye of Renenutet” is probably the most accurate. Even today people who do not worship Ancient Egyptian deities hang these in their businesses or in their homes, especially on their doors, for “protection and prosperity”.
So how could we, as modern Wiccans, incorporate Renenutet into our day to day lives? Why not purchase, paint, or draw an “Eye of Renenutet” and place it on the door of your home or over your door? You could also place a picture of her in your kitchen over the stove, or make a plaque to her in your garden! If you have night lights, dedicate them to Renenutet and know that she guarantees you safe dreams and protection from evil, or be creative and place candles in all four quarters of your bedroom like the Ancients did. If you are looking for a “magical name” why not lay out an offering to her and ask her to whisper it in your ear… she is the Goddess of names and initiations after all! If you wear eyeliner, study the eyeliner design of Renenutet and emulate her; this was a common way many in Ancient Egypt showed their respect to this Ancient Goddess day to day.
As you are planning the year ahead think on this, if Renenutet is the Goddess of Harvest then what is it that she is helping you “harvest” right now? What would you really like to harvest next year? Ask her to help you with that. (of course never do this without an offering)
Ways you worship her without even realizing it If you breast feed your child, you are the living representation of Renenutet. If you are a stay at home parent or primary care giver in a child’s life you are like Renenutet.
Please make an offering to Renenutet this month of February. Traditional offerings to her are anything grain related (think barley or bread), milk, beer, fresh herbs cut that you would eat (basil, rosemary, oregano for us would be normal), garlic, onions, figs, dates, raisins. Don’t know what to say to her? Just raise the offering, chant her name several times swaying back and forth, and then tell her Thank you!
Faulkner, R.O. (1969). The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Faulkner, R. O. (1973). The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. 3 vols. Warminter: Aris and Phillips Ltd.
Pinch, Geraldine (2003). Egyptian mythology: a guide to the gods, goddesses, and traditions of ancient Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press.