Ancient Egyptians revered Goddess Bat as the deity of fertility. The first evidence of Bat worship originates from the earliest records of the religious practices in ancient Egypt.
Most importantly, Egyptian mythology revered her as the cow goddess. Symbols depict her with a human face with cow ears and horns or a woman. As was the situation with other Egyptian gods, Bat’s identity subsumed with another goddess later. Legends associate Bat with Upper Egypt and the Milky Way galaxy.
The Source of the Name
Historians agree that the ancient scribes linked the epithet Bat to the term ‘ba‘ with the feminine suffix ‘T’. According to the ancient texts, the word ba equates to a person’s personality or origin and roughly translates to ‘soul’.
Moreover, people also read the word as ‘power’ or ‘god’. Later on, people strongly associated the goddess with the sistrum, a musical instrument from Ancient Egypt.
Later, this gave rise to the name of her cult, which became known as “Mansion of the Sistrum”. It symbolized the divine power of the goddess to affect the cosmos. People also gave the goddess the title of “Ba of two faces” because they believed that the deity could see the past and the future.
Associations of Bat
In early Egyptian mythology, Bat personified the cosmos and the Milky Way. One can understand the importance and worship of Bat through the professions of the ancient Egyptians during that time.
Many ancients were cattle herders dating back to 8000 BC, into the Late Paleolithic. It made many people idolize Bat as the cow goddess who protected them while also symbolizing fertility.
According to some legends, the ancient Egyptians believed that the Milky Way was a pool of cow’s milk. Moreover, they thought that Bat, the celestial goddess created this pool or Milky Way. She was one of the power and influence deities that affected the daily life and beliefs of the people of ancient Egypt.
Initially, people from Seshesh (Nagaa Hammadi), otherwise known as Hu or Diospolis Parva, worshipped the great goddess as a protective fertility figure. In older times, Seshesh was the 7th nome (a subnational administrative division of ancient Egypt) of Upper Egypt. Nowadays, Seshesh exists in Hagaa Hammadi, Qena Governorate.
In this nome, people perceived Bat as the cosmos representation and the very essence of the human soul. It could have been because Bat’s name translates to ‘the soul’.
Ba is one of the spiritual elements that ancient Egyptians considered one of the soul’s most vital parts. This fact found further cementation when people linked Bat with Ankh. One can observe the historical association of the symbol of Ankh with ‘ba’ since it represents life.
Depictions of goddess Bat
According to ancient texts, Bat had a strong association with a sistrum. Earlier, people knew Hu as the city of the sistrum, and as the cult of Bat spread there, the imagery of Bat carrying a sistrum also amplified.
Similar to the shape of Ankh, the sistrum is a musical instrument that people believed drove off evil. Historians have discovered images that depict the device with Bat’s head and neck as the handle and base.
Moreover, the images place the rattles of the instrument between the horns of the goddess. One could find the sistrum displayed on top of her head when the pictures depicted the goddess as a woman. Later, the rattle became one of the most frequently used sacred instruments to worship deities in ancient Egyptian temples.
Archaeologists have found rare depictions of Bat via sculpture or paintings. However, they found two exceptions that displayed the goddess in her bovine and human forms.
Important Images of Goddess Bat
The images would show the eyes of the deity looking out from the symbolic cosmos. Some rare imagery shows Bat as a celestial bovine (cow-like) surrounded by stars. However, the most common depictions of Bat consisted of amulets. These amulets showcased the god with a human face but with cow-like features. People added the characteristics of a cow, like its ears and the inward-curving horns of the type of cattle that earlier Egyptians herded, to the deity.
Historians found a notable Egyptian archaeological stone carving dated back to the 31st century BC. This stone figure contained some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever discovered.
Some historians stated that the figure depicted the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt during the First Dynasty ruled under Pharaoh Narmer. The Narmer Palette shows Bat flanking Serekh on each side through the images of bovine heads with curved horns.
Both Upper and Lower Egypt were predominantly cattle herding cultures with primary cow deities. People viewed these deities as the mother and protector of king Narmer.
Hence, Bat became a creation and protective deity that the people of both countries shared. That’s why historians believe that the depiction of the Bat on the Narmer palette shows the unification of both parts of Egypt.
Bat and Hathor
According to the pictures found in the past, historians observed remarkable similarities between Hathor and Bat. Two-dimensional paintings depict both the goddesses facing onlookers straight on.
It contrasts with the characteristic Egyptian convention of showcasing the goddesses through a side profile. Historians found that the only significant difference in depicting these deities lies in the horns of the goddesses.
Archaeologists found that Hathor’s cult centre lay in the 6th nome of Upper Egypt. This centre existed near the 7th nome, where people worshipped Bat as the cow goddess.
Historians concluded that this proved how Bat and Hathor were the same goddesses during Predynastic Egypt.
Similar to other mergers in the Egyptian pantheon, the cult of Hathor absorbed the worshippers of Bat. This merger happened during the Middle Kingdom that later led to the complete sub-summation of Bat. Nevertheless, the goddess Bat remains an important figure in the pages of Ancient Egyptian history. People believed that she unified the two parts of Egypt and hence served a vital role in the lives of ancient Egyptians.