Statue of Netjer-Ankh

The serpent statue of Netjer-Ankh, or the Living God, was one of the deities in charge of protecting the regions of the underworld and defending the sun god as he passed through each night.

This statue is made of gilded wood and stands on a wooden base darkened with varnish. The eyes are made of either quartz, rock crystal, or translucent glass and are set in metal sockets.

Statue of the Serpent Netjer-Ankh. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 60754
Statue of the Serpent Netjer-Ankh

Snakes were dominantly present in ancient Egyptian mythology. They played a double role, benevolent and malevolent.

They could be evoked for curing, protecting and healing but at the very same time cursing and inflicting danger. Netjer-Ankh belonged to the first group. Many deities were represented in a serpent form.

The snake was also connected to the goddess Wadjet, who was often depicted as a cobra or a woman with a cobra’s head. Wadjet was considered a protective deity and a guardian of Lower Egypt. She was associated with the king and was believed to offer protection against evil forces.

The snake had connections to healing and rebirth. The god Imhotep, known as the god of medicine and wisdom, was sometimes depicted with a snake around his staff. This symbolized his ability to heal and bring about transformation.

The significance of the snake in Ancient Egypt is very ambivalent. It inspires both fear and admiration. The royal cobra, in particular, protects the wearer against enemies.

Statue of Netjer-Ankh. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 60754
Statue of Netjer-Ankh

In the Book of the Underworld, uraei serve as the guardians of doors and gates. Various deities were associated to snakes, such as Renenutet who was the goddess of the harvest and was depicted as a woman-cobra.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1332-1323 BC. Found in one of the black shrines of the tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 60754