- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology»
- History of the Middle East
Ancient Egyptian- High Priestess who worked in the temples
Role of women in Ancient Egyptian temples
Although there were more men working in Ancient Egyptian temples, than women, the role of High Priestess of hemet netjer (wife of the god) did exist. The women were mostly from the upper strata of society , married to priests to whom they owed their position within society.
In the old and Middle Kingdoms (c2686 to 1650bc) the women priests were usually involved in the Hathor cult, with Hathor being the god of fertility. A priestess was in charge of managing the Gods affairs and some of the high priestesses were women. Other female goddesses such as Neith and Pakhet were served by female priests.
Music and dance played a large part in the worship of the god Hathor. Priestesses attented and accompanied ceremonial dancecs and rituals shaking their rattles ( sistra) and rattling their necklaces which were long and heavy beaded objects. From the Old Kingdom onwards Women were often in the roles of singers dancers and musicians playing instruments such as harps and tambourines. By the beginning of the New Kingdom c 1550 bc the title Chantress of Amun was used , it was usually the wives of priests who gained these elevated positions.
Women played an important role at funerals in the rituals and mortuary cults of the dead. The leading female mourners took the title “Great Kite” and “Little Kite” impersonating the goddesses Isis and Nephthys. Birds often played a prominent role in religious rituals. The names Little and Great Kite were taken from the myth of Osiris where the goddesses Isis and Nephthys took the identity of kites to find and piece together the body parts of Osiris, so that they could mummify his dead body.
Records from the Old Kingdom show that women priestesses could have a title of “Ka- servant” “hemet-ka”- their function was to prepare the deceased in the tomb chapels for the after life.
GODS WIFE OF AMUN
The highest regarded position held by a woman in the temples was that of “Gods wife of Amun” which was also of great political importance. This position was at the temple at Thebes and was taken by a favourite daughter of the pharaoh , therby ensuring his control of the Thebes area. The woman was expected not to marry and therefore had to adopt a daughter to be her successor. She had a second title which was “the hand of God”- which was a reference to one of the creation tales where the God Atum had brought the Gods Shu and Tefnut into existence by either sneezing or masturbation.
By the late ancient Egyptian period the Gods Wife of Amun was more important than the High Priest. She controlled the large estates of the god , employed a large amount of servants and labourers and had access to all his great wealth.