Amunet is one of the primordial goddesses from the Ancient Egyptian religion. This fascinating goddess plays a central role in the Egyptian creation myth. But over time, we lost the stories of goddess Amunet in the drift of history. Subsequently, another goddess replaced her altogether.
Her alias includes “She Who Is Hidden” and “The Invisible One”. True to her name, there is very little credible information about this mysterious deity on hand.
Amunet in The Egyptian Creation Myth
Amunet is a part of the original deities who existed before creating the world itself. Legends say that these deities created the primordial ocean together. There are several versions of the beginning of the world throughout the history of Ancient Egypt.
The act of creation also varies according to the different areas. Many regions had a creation story that featured their local gods. Amunet features in the creation stories stem from the town called Khmun, or Hermopolis. The city of Hermes where the Greeks associated Hermes with the Egyptian patron god Djehuty.
In Egyptian mythology, the people worshipped Ogdad, the eight primordial deities. Amunet was a part of this Hermopolis Ogdoad or “Chaos-Gods”. According to the Heliopolitian concept of creation, the primaeval ocean comprised four elements. Priests personified pairs of males and females who balanced each other out. These included God Heh Goddess Hauhet, who represented infinity. God Kek and Goddess Kauket symbolised darkness. At the same time, the god Nun and Goddess Nanuet represented water. Also, Amun and his female counterpart Goddess Amaunet pointed to Air or the Hidden power.
These gods swirled together and came together in the burst of fire. It resulted in the creation of the earth, where god Thoth laid an egg from which the sun hatched.
Amun and Amunet
Ancient scribes refer to god Amun and his female counterpart goddess Amunet as “the hidden”. Myths associate these deities with unseen elements like Air and wind. With the help of Atum, these deities hatched a cosmic egg that led to the creation of the sun. Consequently, some Egyptpoligts predict that the Hermopolitan concept existed before the cult of god Ra. And that this concept became rampant during the Fourth Dynasty.
According to different stories, Ra was the son of the goddess Amunet. Moreover, a few texts discovered in Hermopolis relay how Amunet was the only attendant of the cosmic egg that created god Ra. However, many other tales directly contradict these tales.
Furthermore, other scholars have found texts from Thebes claiming god Amun laid down the egg. These tales depict the god as a goose rather than a gander. Additionally, a hieroglyph showcases the cosmic egg with the same symbol representing an embryo in a womb.
These contradictory and fascinating tales led to further confusion. Historians concluded that this is why ancient Egyptian legends associated Amunet with the name “Mother Who is Father”.
The Replacement of Amunet by Mut
History has famously linked Amunet with the god Amun. The tales of Amun showcase his rise to power in Thebes during the 18th Dynasty. During this time, the ancient texts started displacing Amunet with Mut. Keeping this in mind, historians argue that the most significant damage to the legacy of Amunet took place when Mut replaced Amunet as Amun’s primary consort.
In contrast, ancient Egypt rarely discarded old gods favouring new gods. Instead, they often merged their older gods with their new beliefs. Egyptians called this syncretism, and it heavily influenced the legends of Amunet. It resolved any overlap or conflict between different ideologies.
Her role changed through history, and her story took different perceptions. Every city in ancient Egypt worshipped a major god of the region. The son of the deity approximated the importance of the father. It was following the ritual of the son inheriting the god’s powers.
However, people typically didn’t give the female counterparts of the gods equal importance. This ideology reflects on the way the story of Amunet unfolded. Popular literature discarded Amunet as her union with Amun bore no children. But Amun had a son named Khonsu from his union with Mut. Historians speculate that this was another reason why Mut replaced Amunet.
Additionally, ancient Egyptian art depicts Amunet and Mut with different headdresses. Mut wears a double crown that represents Upper and Lower Egypt. Amunet wears the Red Crown that symbolises Lower Egypt, also called the Deshret. Many heliographs represent the female deities together with their husband, god Amun.
Substitutions and Associations
With time people substituted Amun and Amunet with Tenem and Tenement or Gereh and Gerhet. These replacements stood for the aspects of ‘gloom’ of ’emptiness’. Egyptologists contribute these changes to Amun’s power to national prominence from the Middle Kingdom onwards.
One could observe these substitutions on temples, tombs and sarcophagi. Historians found that Gerh and Gerhet replaced Amun and Amunet in the temple of Hibis around the 27th DynastyDynasty. Moreover, Niou and Niout replaced the gods in the temple of Dendera in the period of Ptolemy VI.
Amunet took on other associations from fellow Egyptian deities during different dynasties. However, her foremost powers were related to mystery, silence, stillness and obscurity—ancient religion associated her with invisible aspects to the eye.
Varying tales have led to some scholars theorising that Amunet was merely an awarded title to Amun’s better-known consort Mut. However, the depictions of the female deities with Amun depict otherwise. But, one cannot deny that Mut usurped Amunet as the primary consort of Amun with time.
Despite the warning depictions of Amunet through history, the goddess retained her prominence in the city of Thebes. In this regard, the people considered her as the protector of pharaohs. Illustrations depict the popularity of Amunet following the decline of the Herakleopolitan regime. Moreover, Amunet and Mut shared great prominence in the temple complex of Amun in Thebes. In Thebes, people identified the goddess with Satis, the goddess of the island of Elephantine. Amunet remains a popular reference in pop culture through movies like The Mummy.