Heqet's name

Heqet (Heqat, Heket) was a goddess of childbirth and fertility in Ancient Egypt. She was depicted as a frog, or a woman with the head of a frog. The meaning of her name is not certain, but possibly derived from the word “heqa” meaning “ruler” or “sceptre”. Frogs symbolised fruitfulness and new life, and it is thought that the her priestesses were trained midwives.

Heqet (Heqat) in the Temple of Ramesses III Abydos, copyright Olaf Tausch

According to one tradition, she was the wife of Khnum, the creator god of Abu (Elephantine). He created each person on his potter’s wheel, and she breathed life into them before they were placed in their mother’s womb. Heqet and Khnum are depicted on Hatshepsut’s birth colonnade in her Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri. Heqet holds an ankh (symbolising life) to the infant Hatshepsut and her ka. According to another tradition, She was the wife of Heh and it was he who crafted each person before she brought life to them. Finally, she was sometimes considered to be the wife of Horus the elder, although as a form of Hathor she was also his mother.

Heqet (Heqat) in the form of a frog

Pregnant women wore amulets depicting Heqet for protection, and during the Middle Kingdom ritual ivory knives and clappers inscribed with her name were used to ward off evil during childbirth. She could also bring on labour and offer protection during labour. Heqet assisted in this manner in the deliverance of three fifth dynasty kings, according to a myth recorded in the Westcar papyrus in the Story of the birth of the three pharaohs which appears at the end of the tale of “Khufu and the Magicians”.

She was also involved in the resurrection of the deceased. In the pyramid texts she assists the pharaoh as he makes his way to the eternal stars sky and is depicted beneath the funeral beir of the deceased Osiris in Denderah. There was a Ptolemaic temple to Heqet at Qus, but only one pylon remains. There is also a reference to a temple at Her-wer in a tomb at Tuna el-Gebel, but so far this temple has not been found.

copyright J Hill 2010