Aset’s Family of Gods
by Chelsea Bolton
Aset as the wife and sister of Wesir is attested as early as the Pyramid Texts. They are the parents of Herus-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger). She was the wife of Wesir throughout most of Egyptian history and into the Ptolemaic and Roman periods in Egypt. Although in one spell in the Pyramid Texts, Wesir is named as her father and another inscription from the Temple of Esna where Wesir is said to unite with his sister Aset. During the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, especially outside of Egypt, the classical Isis was paired with the syncretic deity Serapis (1).
In the Middle Kingdom, Aset was paired with Min of Koptos and Akhmim. She was either his mother or his consort. Othertimes, Wesir was her consort and Min (or Min-Heru) was their son. Min and later Amun-Min would be associated with the epithet Kamutef or “Bull or Pillar of His Mother”. This allowed both Min-Wesir and Min-Heru to be associated with each other as one begetting the other, yet they are considered the same god. Just as Heru-sa-Aset becomes Wesir so too does this happen for Min-Wesir and Min-Heru. This is a theological symbolism where the Ka (life force) of the Parents pass down from one generation to the next: where the child inherits the Ka or family lineage through the mother via her act of giving birth.
Aset and her husband Wesir were honored in the Fayyum as early as the Middle Kingdom and this continued through the New Kingdom, Late Period, Ptolemaic Period and the Roman periods of Egyptian history. The Osirian triad of this region were Aset, Wesir and Sobek (Sobek-Heru). There is a syncretic deity Sobek-Wesir (Sobek-Osiris) who took the form of a mummified crocodile. Aset was also honored at the Soknopaiou Nesos Temple in the Fayyum with the epithets Aset Nepherses (with the Beautiful Throne) and Nephremmis (of the Beautiful Arms). She was honored alongside Sobek, the god of the region who was also her son; her husband Wesir and her son Heru-sa-Aset (2).
In the New Kingdom, and possibly earlier, Aset was considered the mother of Wepwawet in both Abydos and Asyut. Wesir was considered the father. Within the Salakhana Trove, Wepwawet is known as Aset’s son simply by an epithet, “Son of Aset” (3). Wepwawet here can also be considered her consort.
Within the solar cycle, Aset was the wife, daughter or mother of Ra. She is the Eye of Ra and his protector on the Sun Boat as well as during dawn and dusk. She is the mother of Amun-Ra and Amun-Ra Kamutef (4). Aset is the mother of Amun in his role as the King Maker and as Amun Kamutef (5).
Within the Book of the Dead, Aset is mentioned as the mother of the Four Sons of Heru (Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi and Qebehsenuef) with Heru Wer (Horus the Elder) as the father. She is also the wife of Heru Wer. At the Temple of Edfu, Aset is the mother of the main god of that Temple, Heru Wer of Edfu (6).
Within the Ebers Papyrus, Aset is called the mother of Shu and Tefnut (7). Within a festival from a temple calendar, Tefnut is referred to as the mother of Aset (8). Within the Heliopolitane creation cycle, Shu and Tefnut are the parents of Geb and Nut so the two latter gods would be Aset’s grandparents.
Geb, Nut and Ra are the most often attested parents of Aset and Her siblings: Nebet Het, Wesir, Heru Wer and Set. Sometimes Wepwawet can be her sibling as He is called the son of Nut in a Middle Kingdom hymn (9). According to Plutarch, Aset adopted Nebet Het and Wesir’s son, Yinepu (Anubis) (10).
(1) Tyldesley, Joyce. “Isis: Great of Magic,” in The Penguin Book of Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt. (Penguin Books, 2011), pp. 198-199 and 211.
Zabkar, Louis V. Hymns to Isis in Her Temple at Philae. (London: University Press of New England, 1988), 169; footnote 8 (cited in Le Temple d’Esna vol 3. no 217, 22).
Griffiths, J. Gwyn. The Origins of Osiris and His Cult. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1980), 157.
(2) Zecchi, Marco. “Osiris in the Fayyum.” Fayyum Studies: Volume 2. Sergio Pernigotti and Marco Zecchi, ed. (Ante Quem and Dipartimento di Archeologia dell’Università di Bologna, 2006), 122-124; 126-127; 131; 132-133; 133-134. Capron, Laurent. “Déclarations fiscales du Temple de Soknopaiou Nêsos: éléments nouveaux,” in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. Bd. 165, Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, Bonn (Germany). (2008), pp. 142-143.
(3) Jennifer Houser-Wegner, “Wepwawet,” in Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion, ed. Donald Redford (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 382. Terence DuQuesne, “The Great Goddess and her Companions in Middle Egypt”. ‘Mythos und Ritual. Festschrift für Jan Assmann zum 70. Geburtstag.’ (2008), 3 and 23.
(4) Münster, Maria. Untersuchungen zur Göttin Isis vom Alten Reich bis zum Ende des Neuen Reiches. Munchner Ägyptologische Studien 11. (Berlin: Verlag Bruno Hessling, 1968), 93-99.
(5) Münster, Maria. Untersuchungen zur Göttin Isis vom Alten Reich bis zum Ende des Neuen Reiches. Munchner Ägyptologische Studien 11. (Berlin: Verlag Bruno Hessling, 1968), 134-137.
(6) Münster, Maria. Untersuchungen zur Göttin Isis vom Alten Reich bis zum Ende des Neuen Reiches. Munchner Ägyptologische Studien 11. (Berlin: Verlag Bruno Hessling, 1968), 125-127.
(7) Münster, Maria. Untersuchungen zur Göttin Isis vom Alten Reich bis zum Ende des Neuen Reiches. Munchner Ägyptologische Studien 11. (Berlin: Verlag Bruno Hessling, 1968), 146-147.
(8) El-Sabban, Sherif. Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt. (Wiltshire: Liverpool University Press, 2000), 174.
(9) Franke, Detlef. “Middle Kingdom Hymns and Other Sundry Religious Texts-An Inventory”, in Egypt: Temple of the Whole World: Studies in Honour of Jan Assmann. Sibylle Meyer, ed. (Brill Academic Publishers, 2004), 105-106.
(10) Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003), 187.