(Taueret, Taurt, Apet, Opet, Ipet, Reret; Greek Thoueris, Thoeris, Toeris)
”The Great One”
“Great Female of the Land”
“The Great Lady”
“Lady of Magical Protection”
Taweret is an Egyptian household goddess, rather than a deity of the pharaoh. She protects women in childbirth, the newborn and children. Pregnant women commonly wore amulets with the image of this goddess. She is depicted with the head of a hippopotamus, the legs and forelegs of a lion, the tail of a crocodile, large pendulous human breasts and a swollen belly, indicating pregnancy. In many depictions, Taweret is seen holding a Sa amulet (symbolizing protection) or an ankh (symbolizing life). She wears a headdress with horns and the solar disk of Hathor.
Her role as a protector was not a benign, nurturing one. Her theophany, the hippo, was not venerated for its maternal skills (though Taweret herself is a representation of motherhood), rather for its brute strength and persistence in attacking enemies, as well as its frightening appearance. It is Taweret’s function to scare off any evil spirits that might interfere with childbirth or the new infant. In this capacity, she is often seen with the dwarf god Bes, who has a similar role.
Taweret also plays a number of other roles in the mythology. She is a fierce fighter (it is noteworthy that all of the animals that make up the goddess are man killers). She is associated with fertility and the harvest, as well as female sexuality, and is closely related to the inundation (annual flood) of the Nile. She also serves as guardian of the north and the northern sky, keeping out those who were unworthy (in this she represented Ursa Minor and Draco). In the Book of the Dead, she guides the dead into the afterlife.
A very popular household goddess, her image could be found on women’s cosmetic kits, tools, headdresses and jewelry. There were vessels in the shape of Taweret with a hole in the nipple for pouring. Liquids in these vessels were thought to be magically protected.