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The river goddess Taweret, portrayed as a bipedal hippopotamus with limbs like those of a feline.
|Goddess of childbirth|
|Symbol||the sa, ivory dagger, Hippopotamus|
In Egyptian mythology, Taweret (also spelled Taurt, Tuat, Taouris, Tuart, Ta-weret, Tawaret, and Taueret, and in Greek, Θουέρις "Thouéris" and Toeris) is the Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility. The name "Taweret" means, "she who is great" or simply, "great one". When paired with another deity, she became the wife of Apep, the devouring serpent god much feared by the Egyptians.
However, the Egyptians essentially treated Taweret as a benevolent figure and this deity is attested as early as the Old Kingdom period "when she took three principal names: Opet or Ipy ('harim' or favoured place), Taweret ('the great goddess') and Reret ('the sow'). She has been linked with the fierce, devouring goddess Ammit" While there is a temple of Opet at Karnak, dating to the Late Period and Ptolemaic era, "it was the cult of Taweret that gained particular importance over time."
Early beliefs 
Taweret was known as mistress of the horizon. Like the dwarf god Bes, Taweret:
- "appears to have had no cult temples of her own, although a few statues have survived, and she was sometimes portrayed in temple reliefs. The Egyptian system of constellations connected the hippopotamus with the northern sky, and it was in this role as Nebet-akhet ('mistress of the horizon') that Taweret was depicted on the ceiling of the tomb of Seti I...in the Valley of the Kings (KV15)."
She was "usually portrayed with the arms and legs of a lion and the back and tail of a crocodile (or even a complete crocodile perched on her back), while her pendulous breasts and full belly conveyed the idea of pregnancy." On occasion, later, rather than having a crocodile back, she was seen as having a separate, small crocodile resting on her back, which was thus interpreted as Sobek, the crocodile-god, and said to be her consort.
Later beliefs 
Early during the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians saw female hippopotamuses as less aggressive than the males, and began to view their aggression as only protecting their young--not territorial, as was male aggression. Consequently, Taweret became seen, very early in Egyptian history, as a deity of protection in pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnant women wore amulets with her name or likeness to protect their pregnancies. Because of her protective powers during childbirth, "the image of the hippopotamus-goddess was considered a suitable motif for the decoration of beds and headrests.
In most subsequent depictions, Taweret was depicted with features of a visibly pregnant woman. In a composite addition to the animal-compound she was also seen with pendulous breasts, a full pregnant abdomen, and long, straight human hair on her head. Faience vases in the shape of the goddess "provided with a small pouring hole at the nipple, were sometimes used to serve milk, presumably in an attempt to invoke extra divine potency into the liquid."
As a protector, she often was shown with one arm resting on the sa symbol, which symbolized protection, and on occasion she carried an ankh, the symbol of life, or a knife, which would be used to threaten evil spirits. As the hippopotamus was associated with the Nile, these more positive ideas of Taweret allowed her to be seen as a goddess of the annual flooding of the Nile and the bountiful harvest that it brought. Ultimately, although only a household deity, since she was still considered the consort of Apep, Taweret was seen as one who protected against evil by restraining it.
In popular culture 
- In the Rick Riordan book series The Kane Chronicles, Taweret appears as a permanently pregnant, bipedal hippo who is in charge of the House of Rest, a nursing home where forgotten gods and goddesses live out their final years. She is portrayed as being in love with the dwarf god Bes.
- She appears as a large monument on the Island in the hit ABC series, Lost. She is depicted as having four toes and the meaning behind her appearance on the show was never directly explained.
See also 
- Ian Shaw & Paul Nicholson, The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, British Museum, Henry N. Abrams Ince. New York, 1995. p.283
- "Taweret". The Walters Art Museum.
- Shaw & Nicholson, pp.283-84
- Hatshepsut: from Queen to Pharaoh, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Taweret (see index)
Media related to Taweret at Wikimedia Commons