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The BAw of Taweret: Vindictiveness (and Forgiveness) of the Hippopotamus Goddess

Sabrina Ceruti


In Egyptological scholarship, the so-called hippopotamus goddess is traditionally depicted as a completely benevolent being that is the effective apotropaic protectress of women and children. Even though this picture appears quite consistent with most of the documentation, nevertheless in a few textual instances the goddess, more or less explicitly, exhibits a menacing attitude towards the people she is usually thought to protect, even threatening the same children she ought strongly to defend. In the present paper, evidence of this malevolent facet of the goddess is gathered, arguing her more complex nature and role, and a more stratified worship than is commonly claimed. Even in the light of the goddess’ long-lasting fortune, such an ambiguous facet of hers makes her perhaps one of the better cases to bring to inquiry into the ancient Egyptians’ approach to the transcendental world, their deeply devotional attitude, and even their timor, towards it.

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