Statuette of the goddess Renenutet

The serpent goddess Renenutet had two main roles. As the root of her name (Renen) makes clear, she was the ‘nurse’, mainly of the king, to whom she ensured a favorable destiny from birth. The goddess was also worshiped because she ensured the success of the harvest and the protection of the crops.

In Ancient Egypt, various deities were associated to snakes, such as Renenutet who was the goddess of the harvest and was depicted as a woman-cobra. In addition to the presence of simulacra of Renenutet in the fields, especially during the grape harvest and the harvest phases, there are numerous representations of the goddess near the pantries in Deir el-Medina, with the aim of repelling food enemies such as mice, insects and even snakes.

Statuette of the goddess Renenutet
Statuette of the goddess Renenutet

The verbs “to fondle, to nurse, or rear” help explain the name Renenutet. This goddess was a “nurse” who took care of the king from birth to death.

“Although serpentine in form, Renenutet (Egyptian for ‘snake who nourishes’) was a popular and beneficent deity. Protective in nature and of a nurturing rather than venomous disposition, she was a goddess of the harvest and a divine nurse…

Her aspect as a goddess of fertility and harvest is clearly denoted in her epithets ‘lady of the fertile land’, ‘lady of the threshing floor’ and ‘lady of the granaries’, and her role in this area may have originated in the imagery of the serpent who protects the crops from the rats and mice which threatened standing crops and stored grain alike.

Renenutet was also identified with the household and family life in her role as provider, nourisher and as a nurse of infants”

Sometimes, as the goddess of nourishment, she was seen as having a husband, Sobek. He was represented as the Nile River, the annual flooding of which deposited the fertile silt that enabled abundant harvests. The temple of Medinet Madi is dedicated to both Sobek and Renenutet. It is a small and decorated building in the Faiyum.

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, by Richard H. Wilkinson (#aff)

More usually, Renenutet was seen as the mother of Nehebkau who occasionally was also represented as a snake. When considered the mother of Nehebkau, she was seen as having a husband, Geb, who represented the earth.

Late Period, ca. 664-332 BC. Bronze, 10 x 2.5 x 5 cm. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 408