The goddess Serqet is usually represented as a woman wearing a scorpion-like animal on her head. Contrary, however, to popular beliefs, she was originally associated with the so-called water-scorpion, an aquatic animal that physically resembles but bears no relation to the real scorpion. Only through a (graphical) assimilation between the water-scorpion and the real scorpion in the 19th Dynasty, she would become associated with the real scorpion.
Her name means "the one that allows/causes breathing". Sometimes she is also called Serqet-Hetu, "the one that allows/causes the throats to breathe". There is no etymological link between her name and any known Ancient Egyptian word that means "scorpion". The connection that is sometimes supposed between Serqet and the late Pre-Dynastic king known as 'Scorpion' and the reading of that king's name as Sereq are therefore wrong.
The earliest known source to mention this ancient goddess is the funerary stela found in the 1st Dynasty tomb at Saqqara of Merka. She is also mentioned in some spells of the Pyramid Texts, where she is sometimes given the epithet "mistress of the beautiful house", a reference to her role in the process of mummification.
Together with Isis, Nephthys and Neith, she is one of the four goddesses who protect the children of Horus, which, in turn, guard the mummified organs of the deceased that were placed in the canopic jars. As such, Serqet is associated with Qebehsenuf, who was responsible for protecting the intestines. A particularly lovely, gilded statue of Serqet was found stretching her arms protectively around the chest that contained the canopic set of Tutankhamun. Her protective powers over Qebehsenuf are repeated through a relief representation on the corner of that same king's canopic chest. As a protector of the dead, she is also represented on one of the four corners of Tutankhamun's stone sarcophagus.
Her protective powers are also invoked in the Coffin Texts, the 7th hour of the Amduat and the 10th region of the Book of Gates. In the latter two, she is particularly shown as the enemy of the demon-serpent Apophis, the archenemy of Re who tries to halt the progress of the solar-bark through the underworld. By extension, Serqet was considered to have power over all snakes, reptiles and poisonous animals, in particular over the poisonous bites and stings of animals. Her name, "the one that causes/allows breathing (for the throat)" is a reference to her healing-powers: she healed the asphyxiation caused by some animals' poisons. She was a healing goddess and as such she was the patron of doctors.
Her realm thus not being limited to the world of the dead, she was part of the Heb-Sed, where she occurs as a water-scorpion carried around by her own priests. In the birth legends of both Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari and Amenhotep III at Luxor, she is shown accompanied by Neith, assisting in the royal birth.
Because of her protective powers and her association with royalty, but also because of a legend which shows Isis as having power over scorpions and because of them both having magical powers over poisonous animals, Serqet, like so many other goddesses, would become associated with Isis in the later stages of the Ancient Egyptian history.
- Serqet -
A lovely statue of Serqet was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, as one of the four protector-goddesses of the canopic chest.
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Last update: 25 July, 2009