Vase of goddess Taweret
This Egyptian faience vase is molded in the form of the goddess Taweret, the ancient Egyptian patroness of childbirth and a protector of women and children. Like Bes, she was considered to be a ferocious demon as well as a protective and nurturing deity. She was associated with the lion, the crocodile, and the hippo; all animals that were feared by the Egyptians but also highly respected.
Initially, she was viewed as a dangerous and potentially malignant force. Taweret was associated with the northern sky as Nebetakhet, the “Mistress of the Horizon”. She represented the circumpolar stars of Ursa Minor and Draco (the little dipper formed her back) who guarded the northern sky.
The northern sky was thought to be cold, dark and potentially dangerous and was associated with both Apep and Seth. According to one ancient myth, her husband Apep could only come out during the night and so she represented all that was evil during the day.
Most Egyptian deities had an official cult, while others were worshipped at an individual or household level. For example, the hippopotamus goddess Taweret, and the dwarf god Bes, were protectors of the family and maternity, so theirs was more of a household cult. Their terrifying appearance had an apotropaic function, serving as a means to ward off evil spirits.
Although she appears in some temples of the Late Period as a protective deity, Taweret is one of the Egyptian gods who did not exactly have a formal cult. Nevertheless, judging by the high number of images of the goddess that have survived to the present day, Taweret appears as one of the most popular deities in domestic cults.
The goddess was one of the oldest and most recognizable apotropaic goddesses and appears in the shape of an amulet since the Old Kingdom. She could also be depicted on beds, headrests and other small objects, furniture and cosmetics, such as ointment containers and spoons, or on instruments related to fertility.
Faience vases, similar to small jars in human form made to contain breast milk, were made in the shape of the goddess with holes in the nipples, perhaps to contain milk used in magical contexts.
Third Intermediate Period, 25th Dynasty, ca. 747-656 BC. Now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. AN1913.789