Weret-hekau (Urthekau) was a lion headed goddess who was also depicted as a snake with the head of a woman. In the Pyramid Texts she is specifically associated with the divine uraeus and with the crown of Lower Egypt.

Weret Hekau

She was the wife of ReHorakhty and wore his symbol (the sun disc) on her head along with a cobra on her brow. She protected the sun god and acted as a wet nurse for the pharaohs. The pharaoh, in part, derived his right to rule from his mother, who would normally be the previous king’s Great Wife. As a result, it was sometimes suggested that the queen became the goddess when she bore the next pharaoh. This myth was referred to by Hatshepsut, a female Pharaoh, to help support the legitimacy of her rule.

Weret Hekau at Luxor
Weret-Hekau, Neithsabes, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Her name means “great magician” and she was known as “She Who is Rich in Magic Spells” prompting some to suggest that she was not actually a distinct goddess, but a form of Isis. As she took either the form of a lion or a snake and protected the sun god, she is also associated with Wadjet and Sekhmet and the story of the “Eye of Ra”.

Because she was a powerful symbol of protection, her name, along with the symbol of a snake, often appears on magical weapons buried with the dead to help them protect themselves in the underworld. Her name also appears on ivory knives which were supposed to protect pregnant and nursing women.

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Copyright J Hill 2016