Serket (also known as Serqet, Selket, Selqet, or Selcis) was the goddess of fertility, nature, animals, medicine, magic, and healing venomous stings and bites in Egyptian mythology, originally the deification of the scorpion. Serqet’s family life is unknown, but she is sometimes credited as the daughter of Neith and Khnum, making her a sister to Sobek and Apep.
Scorpion stings lead to paralysis, and Serket’s name describes this as means “(she who) tightens the throat”; however, Serket’s name also can be read as meaning “(she who) causes the throat to breathe”, and so, as well as being seen as stinging the unrighteous, Serket was seen as one who could cure scorpion stings and the effects of other venoms such as snakebites.
In the art of ancient Egypt, Serket was shown as a scorpion, a symbol found on the earliest artefacts of the culture, such as from Naqada III, or as a woman with a scorpion on her head. Although Serket does not appear to have had any temples, she had a sizable number of priests in many communities.
One of the most dangerous scorpion species, the Deathstalker (Leiurus quinquestriatus), resides in North Africa. Its sting may kill, so Serket was considered a significant goddess, and sometimes she was considered by pharaohs to be their patron. Her close association with the early rulers implies that she was their protector, notably Scorpion I and II.
As the protector against venom and snakebite, Serket often was said to protect the deities from Apep, the great snake-demon of evil, sometimes being depicted as the guard when Apep was captured.
As many of the evil creatures of Egypt could prove fatal, Serket also was a protector of the dead, particularly being associated with venoms and fluids causing stiffening. She was thus said to be the protector of the tents of embalmers and the canopic jar associated with venom—the jar of the intestine—which was deified later as Qebehsenuef, one of the four sons of Horus, who were her sons by Horus.
Serket gained a strong association with Neith, Isis, and Nephthys, performing similar functions as the guard of one canopic jar and a protector. Eventually, Serket began to be identified with Isis, sharing imagery and parentage, until finally, Egyptologists said that Serket was merely an aspect of Isis, whose cult had become dominant.
Egyptologists suggested that Serket’s identification with a scorpion may misinterpret the determinative of her name and the animal associated with h. That could refer not to a scorpion but rather to a water scorpion (Nepidae). According to this hypothesis, Egyptians referred to Serket as “she who gives breath” because of the way water scorpions seem to breathe underwater. The appearance of a water scorpion must have made it be associated with the scorpion. Therefore the use of the goddess for curing scorpion stings and other venomous creatures, or maybe precisely because she “causes to breathe”, not for the physical similarities of the creatures.