Auset

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Auset is the venerated ancient Kemetic daughter of Geb (god of earth) and Nut (god of the heavens). In addition, she is the mother of Heru and husband of Ausar. Kemetians represented her in the form of a throne, which represents the seat and transmission of power for the per-aa (pharaoh). In the Theology of On (Heliopolis), she is part of the Pesedjet, the collective company or “family” of nine gods in the On cosmogony, which included Ra, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Ausar, Her-wer, Set, and Nebt-het.
Auset represented the female productive forces in nature. Kemetians recognized her as a moon goddess and a mystic goddess of the supernatural associated with the tyet, a symbol of magic in Kemet. In addition, Kemetians saw her as a healer and protector of marriage and the symbolic mother and protector of the per-aa. She also protected the deceased, providing them with nourishment for their journey in the Tuat. Likewise, she was the guardian of the Canopic jars, particularly the jar known as Imsety, which contained the liver of the deceased.

[[File:AR_Auset_img_0.jpg|center|frame|Seated on a throne, Isis suckles the infant Horus. 18th dynasty c. 1400–1379 BC. Source: Werner Forman/Art Resource, New York.]

File:AR Auset img 1.jpg
Egyptian cat goddess Bastet Bastet was the goddess of fire, cats, the home, and pregnant women. She was the personification of the soul of Auset. Source: iStockphoto.
Some early legends portrayed Auset as the wife of Ra, but later represented her as the devoted wife and partner of Ausar, whom she helped to govern Kemet. After Set, her brother, murdered her husband out of jealousy, she set out in a relendess search to recover Ausar's body, which had been cut up and scattered by Set. Finding all the parts of Ausar except his phallus, she helped him redeem himself as the resurrected king of the Tuat and magically bore him a child. She hid, raised, and protected the child, who would eventually avenge his father by waging war on his uncle Set and defeating him with the aid of his mother.
Kemetians depicted Auset on coffins and tomb walls along with her sister with wings outstretched symbolizing a protective embrace; likewise, they showed her in a winged form with her protective arms around Ausar. Sometimes they depicted her as a mother nursing her child Heru or both harkening to her legendary role as protector and redeemer. Kemetians transferred this protective image into the new kingdom when Kemetians portrayed her as protector of the per-aa (pharaoh). Finally, Africans represented her as a kite hovering above Ausar creating a breeze of air for Ausar to breathe.
Auset's epithets reveal the Kemetians, reverence for her even more: “one who gives birth to the heaven and earth,” “one who seeks justice for the poor and vulnerable,” “one who seeks shelter for the weak,” “queen of heaven,” “mother of the Gods,” “one who is all,” “The brilliant one in the sky,” “the great leady of magic,” “Mistress of the House of Life,” “One who knows how to make right use of the heart,” “Light giver of Heaven,” “Lady of the Words of power,” and “Moon shining Over the Sea.”
In early Kemetic legends, Africans portrayed Auset as a clever and guile trickster as she sets out to learn the hidden name of Ra. Feeling worthy of some Ra power, which could be acquired through knowledge of his name, she tricked Ra into revealing his hidden name, which grants her a portion of his power. Furthermore, legend has it that he gave her permission to pass that knowledge on to her son, giving him status and power no other could rival. Henceforth, Kemetians called her “the mistress of the gods who knows Ra by his own name.” In another story, she tricks Set into incriminating himself before a court of law.
Kemetians mention Auset as early as the pyramid text. Over time, Kemetians assimilated her with several other similar goddesses. For instance, in the early period, her attributes were combined with het-heru, which explains why her totem is often a cow or why she is displayed with cow horns on her head with a sun disk between them. In summary, Auset was a devoted wife, a magician, a protectoress, and the ultimate mother. During the Theban era, Kemetians valued her so much that they assimilated her attributes with Mut. Later, the Romans assimilated her symbolic attributes into the Judeo-Christian mother figure of Mary. Moreover, in that sense, her legend still lives on in the African Christian tradition.

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Further Reading

  • Hart, G. (1986). A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  • Meeks, D., Favard-Meeks, C, and Goshgarian, G. M. (Trans.). (1993). Daily Life or the Egyptian Gods. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Mercatante, A. S. (1978). Who's Who in Egyptian Mythology. New York: Clarkson N. Potter.
  • Watterson, B. (1984). The Gods of Ancient Egypt. New York: Facts on File.