Archive for the Divine Adoratrix Category

The Hand of God – Gods Wives of Amun – Ancient Egypt – Karnak Temple Complex

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The “Hand of God” – “God’s Wives of Amun” – Ancient Egypt – Karnak Temple Complex

“I had recently become very interested in the religious role of ‘God’s Wife of Amun’ so I set off for the northern part of Karnak to investigate their shrines. At least this was away from the more crowded areas of the temples, which became more deserted as I walked past the open air museum on the path towards the Temple of Ptah. There are several chapels of the Gods’ Wives on the left hand side of the path, in various states of ruin, but some still had some interesting reliefs.

Path to the shrines at Karnak

During the Late Period the wives of kings are rarely represented, but in Thebes, the female office of the ‘God’s Wife of Amun’, or ‘Divine Adoratrice’ is often seen as supremely important, a figure holding a position of power and wealth even greater than that of the High Priest. The title of ‘God’s Wife’ can be traced right back to the Middle Kingdom, but the office became more prominent at the beginning of the New Kingdom, with Ahmose-Nefertari, wife of Ahmose I, whose donation stele found at Karnak, tells us much about her role. At that time the title was usually given to the wife of the reigning king, her names were written in a cartouche and she was often succeeded by her daughter. Many royal ladies of the New Kingdom were associated with this office, at least nominally, including Queens Hatshepsut, Tiye and Nefertari.

Duties of the God’s Wife were essentially religious, associated with musical ceremonies and titles such as ‘Chantress of the Abode of Amun’, and often with fertility connotations. Her function was to play the part of the consort of the god Amun in religious ceremonies, stressing the belief that kings were conceived from the union between Amun and the Great Royal Wife. The title ‘The Hand of the God’ was also sometimes used when referring to her relationship to Atum in a creation myth – Atum’s hand being regarded as female. The regalia changed through Dynasties XVIII to XX, but usually included the vulture headdress with uraeus and often the shwty plumes, or falcon tail feathers worn by Amun and Min, or sometimes the sundisc and Hathor horns on a modius, a sort of circular crown. In the later new Kingdom a pleated robe with a red sash replaced the earlier slim sheath dress. Her insignia included the sistrum, menat, a variety of musical instruments and the flagellum.

God's Wives Shepenwepet & AmenirdisFrom Dynasty XXI onwards it was always the king’s unmarried daughter or sister who was given the title of ‘God’s Wife’ and the role became increasingly important. Maatkare, daughter of Pinudjem I is depicted as God’s Wife in the Temple of Khonsu at the southern side of Karnak. Her titles were ‘Divine Adoratrice, sole wife of the god’. Henuttawy, daughter of Pinudjem II is also depicted here. It was from this time on that the God’s Wives adopted a coronation name as well as a birth name. During the reigns of the Libyan kings, their sons were given the office of High Priest of Amun and their daughters the title of ‘God’s Wife of Amun’. Some of the daughters of Libyan Chiefs and Egyptian elite were called ‘Chantress of the Inner Abode of Amun’ and presided over a college of priestesses, which seems to have been a kind of upper class convent.

At Karnak, several chapels were dedicated to Osiris and to Amun who was, by the Late Period, associated with him. They were mostly built during the period when Nubian kings ruled at Thebes and were dedicated by the reigning ‘God’s Wives’. The first shrine I came to on the northern path, the chapel of Osiris Neb-ankh (Lord of Life) dating to the Dynasty XXV reign of the Nubian King Shabaka, is in a fairly ruinous condition. Although there is now little remaining of the pylon entrance, courtyard and two inner chambers, the cartouches of Shabaka and the God’s Wife Amenirdis (I) can still be seen on the entrance.

Chapel of AnkhnesneferibreThe second structure here is better preserved with some good reliefs. This is the (earlier) chapel of Ankhnesneferibre who was a daughter of King Psamtik II of the Saite Dynasty XXVI and sister of King Wahibre (Apries). We know from surviving texts that this lady arrived in Thebes at only seven months old (in 595 BC) and was eventually installed as ‘High Priest’ of Amun. The next structure is her later chapel which is larger still and originally had a four-columned hall and a sanctuary at the rear. Parts of the gates survive and reliefs of Ankhnesneferibre before various deities can be clearly seen, including cartouches of Kings Ahmose II and Psamtik III. In one of the reliefs she is followed by her chief steward and fan-bearer who is named here as Sheshonq. There are also some lovely depictions of a lion-headed cobra and a strange underworld deity with two duck’s heads.

Shepenwepet's Chapel of Osiris Neb-ankhNext to Ankhnesneferibre’s chapel is another tiny shrine, also a chapel of Osiris Neb-ankh. This is like a little dolls-house, dedicated by the God’s Wife Shepenwepet (II), a daughter of King Taharqa of Dynasty XXV. Said to be perhaps the smallest religious monument in Egypt with a doorway only a little over a metre high leading to a tiny inner chamber, it is difficult to imagine any ceremony taking place here. There are some superb deeply-carved reliefs inside this little shrine with cartouches of Shepenwepet (II) and her sister the ‘God’s Wife’ Amenirdis, (II) as well as a cartouche inscribed for Osiris Neb-ankh.

Bypassing the Temple of Ptah I walked over to the next Osiris structure, an enigmatic little chapel, now just a small single chamber, dedicated by Amenirdis to Osiris De-ese-hebsed, also dating from Dynasty XXV. There were two God’s Wives named Amenirdis, the first a daughter of King Kashta and the second, who constructed this monument, was daughter of the Nubian King Taharqa. I had already seen the chapels at Medinet Habu belonging to this royal lady. Moving on I passed the scant remains of a Ptolemaic Temple of Osiris, no more than a lintel and two door-jambs.

Temple of Osiris Heka-djetAgainst the eastern enclosure wall is the largest remaining and one of the earliest chapels dedicated by the God’s Wives at Karnak. This is the Temple of Osiris Heka-djet (’Osiris, Ruler of Eternity’) which was built by the Libyan king Osorkon III and his son, the High Priest of Amun, Takelot III of Dynasty XXIII. This structure has high walls and I had to find a guard to let me inside through the locked door. Though there was once an entrance gate and a courtyard, these are now gone and I went straight into the first of three small rooms, the two innermost rooms being the earliest part of the temple. High on one wall there is a lovely relief of Shepenwepet (I) presenting an image of Ma’at to Amun and receiving a menat necklace from the goddess Isis, while her successor, Amenirdis (I), receives an ankh from Amun and Mut. There are some very unusual reliefs in this temple, including the only known depiction of a God’s Wife, Shepenwepet, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, complete with royal uraeus, normally a strict prerogative of the pharaoh. Another beautiful and unique dual-scene shows the two rulers, Osorkon and his co-regent Takelot, back to back under two ished-trees, while the gods write the kings’ names on the leaves. There is also an unusual series of seven false doors each one carved inside the other. I loved this little temple, it was just a pity that the combination of shadows and shallow reliefs did not offer a good opportunity for photography.”

Reproduced courtesy of with thanks.



The Divine Adoratrices By Patricia Blosser

Posted in Adoratrice, Akaluka, Akhamenerau, Amen, Amenardis, Amenirdis, Amenirdis the Elder, Amon, Amonardis, Amonirdis, Amoun, Amun, Amunardis, Amunirdis, Ancient Egypt, Ankhnesneferibre, Assasif, Assyrian, Black Pharaohs, Chief Priestess, Deir el-Bahri, Divine Adoratice of Amun, Divine Adoratrice, Divine Adoratrices, Divine Adoratrix, Divine Votaress, Divine Wife, Dynastic, Dynasty, Egypt, Egyptian, Egyptian History, Egyptian Queen, Egyptologists, Egyptology, el-Assasif, First Prophet, God, Goddess, Gods Hand, Gods Wife, Gods Wife of Amun, Harwa, Karnak, Karnak Temple, Kashta, King Kashta, Kush, Kushite, Medinet Habu, Memphis, Montuemhet, Napata, Nasalsa, Necho, Nitocris, Nitoqret, Nubian, Nubian Queens, Oracle, Osorkon, Patricia Blosser, Peshuper, Pharaoh, Pharaohs, Piankhi, Pie, Piye, Prenomen, Priest, Princess of Nubia, Psammetichus, Psammetik, Psamtek, Psamtik, Pye, Queen Amenirdis, Queen Amunirdis, Queen of Egypt, Queen Pebatma, Sais, Scribe, Scribe of Amenirdis, Shabaka, Shabaka Neferkare, Shabaka Stone, Shabaqo, Shabitko, Shebitku, Shepenupet, Shepenwepet, Taharqa, Taharqo, Tanis, Tantamani, Temple of Amun, Thebes, Third Intermediate Period, Twenty Fifth Dynasty, Upper Egypt, Uraeus, Wadi Hammamat,,,,, XXIII, XXIV, XXV, XXV Dynasty, XXVI, XXVI Dynasty with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2009 by

The Divine Adoratrices

By Patricia Blosser

In 656 BC, or regnal year 9, first month of Akhet, day 28, of the Sais King Psamtek I, his young daughter Nitocris, is recorded as leaving his private apartments in Sais. Dressed in the finest of linen garments and adorned with new turquoise she is headed for her own destiny. Her father had arranged for her to marry no other than Amun, the great god of Thebes(1). She left her father’s city in a great fleet sailing up the Nile to Thebes. It isn’t known how old she was at the time of her marriage, but she lived another 70 years (2) in Thebes as the Divine Adoratrice, the god Amun’s wife. She would s 

The office of the Divine Adoratrice, the God’s Wife had evolved greatly. Since the day Ahmose, first Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty had first made his wife Ahmose-Nefertari the god’s wife of Amun at Karnak(3). At this remote time Ahmose-Nefertari, the god’s wife, wasn’t the Divine Adoratrice. It would be several centuries yet, before the God’s wife took the office of the “adoratrice of the god”(4) and combined it with her royal office. Until that time this secondary office for women in the Temple of Amun at Karnak, was held by well-born noble women. The God’s Wife position was a priestly office at first held by non-royal ladies of the Middle Kingdom(5). From Ahmose-Nefertari on it would be an office held only by women of the royal house. Ahmose endowed the position with lands and entitlements, making it a wealthy position as well as a religious office. During Ahmose-Nefertari’s occupation of the office, its title the God’s Wife appears to be the title she preferred over the usual titles. She was entitled to use such as King’s wife, King’s principle wife, or even King’s mother. From Karnak Deir el Bahri, Abydos, and Serabit el Khadim in Sinai there are a number of ritual offerings dedicated by Ahmose-Nefertari. While other Queens and Kings dedicated similar objects, chronologically and numerically Ahmose-Nefertari heads the list and perhaps sets the trend. She opened quarries along with her husband and was asked for her approval on some of his building projects(6). Such participation of a queen is unique in the records.

Queen Hatshepsut, was the third holder of this important religious office, again the god’s wife was the title she too, preferred over other titles she was able to use. It is believed by modern scholars that it was her position as ‘God’s Wife’ that enable her to take up the titles and offices of King during her step-son’s minority(7). After she did become, Pharaoh she passed her role as god’s wife to her daughter Neferura(8). In the modern belief, that Neferura as the god’s wife assumed the role in temple rites that traditionally fell to a senior ranking royal woman. Roles she most likely fulfilled during her mother’s Kingship. Neferura’s preference of her title ‘the god’s wife’ is the third such preference of that title, by a royal woman over the more traditional titles such as the King’s daughter, or even King’s wife. It is as the God’s Wife that we find her, following her dressed as King mother, into the temple of Amun at Karnak. Whereas she is dressed in a simple sheath dress, sometimes tied at the waist unlike most such dresses, with a short wig and a thin fillet knotted at the back of the head the loose ends hanging down(9).

The office and title of God’s Wife, while not disappearing began a period of eclipse under the succeeding rule of Thutmose III, his son Amenhotep II, and grandson Thutmose IV. Under these three rulers there were four more god’s wives of Amun at Thebes. Aset, the mother of Thutmose III, and Meritamun his daughter held it. During the reign of Amenhotep II his mother Meritra, is given the title. While Tiaa, the mother of Thutmose IV is the last named god’s wife. In the reign of Amenhotep III, there is at one point a god’s wife but she is unnamed and after her the office disappears until the 19th dynasty(10). While the title disappears in the reign of Amenhotep III and his immediate successors, it would be incorrect to assume, that the power and statue of the King’s principle wife suffered any lost. In fact, with the advent of Amenhotep III’s queen, Tiye we see the power of the Queen rise to an equality that would have been familiar to Queen Ahmose-Nefertari back at the start of the dynasty. This was true as well with Akhenaten’s queen, Nefertiti. It is only after the death of Tutankhamun that we see the role of queens again fading into the background. Until Ramesses II once again, brings his principle wife Nefertari with a cult along side his at Abu Simbel(11). By this time, the title god’s wife is again being given to queens’ married to Kings, but it does not return to a position of power until much later.

In the mid-20th dynasty while Egypt began it’s post empire decay, as the power of the Chief Priest of Amun grew thorough out the nation. Ramess VI made his daughter Isis, the god’s wife of Amun at Thebes but this attempt of royal control was not successful(12). The country continued to decline, grave robbery of the Valley of the Kings and even the Queens grew at an alarming speed. The beginning of the 21st dynasty was beset with reburials of the ancient Kings and Queens. Into this came the Chief Priest of Amun at Thebes Pinudjem I, married to a daughter of Ramess XI. In the sixteenth year of Smendes, Pinudjem I(13) adopted royal titles and wrote his name in a cartouche and passed his office of Chief Priest of Amun to a son. He named his virgin daughter Maatkare, to the post of god’s wife of Amun at Thebes. Maatkare, combined the roles of God’s Wife and chief of the priestesses of Amun, in one title: the Divine Adoratrice from this time on the position was held by virginal daughters of the royal house who selected their successor by adoption(14). At one point, the burial remains of this Divine Adoratrice was thought to provide proof that the office wasn’t virginal in reality, because found with her remains was another smaller bundle of remains thought to be her child. However, as examination proved it was actually a monkey’s remains not a child. This finding restored both the honor of the Divine Adoratrice Maatkare, and the office she held(15).

Her successor isn’t known and might have been a member of the 22nd dynasty Libyan royal house. The next known Divine Adoratrice was Karomama, the granddaughter of Osorkon I(16). Her successor apparently was taken from the 23rd dynasty, another Libyan royal house and was Shepenwepet I, sister of Takelot III, the children of Osorkon III. Together this sister and brother shared the privileges of rule over Thebes. She appears to have taken over the position of chief priest that her brother had given up to ascend to the throne. While along with her brother and their father, she appears on the temple walls of Osiris heka-djet (‘lord of eternity’) at Karnak(17). It wasn’t long after her brother’s death, and the short succession of his heir. That Pianky the Kushite King began his conquest of Egypt from the southern boarders of Egypt. Shepenwepet I would adopt this foreign King’s sister as her heir and with that adoption. Pianky’s control over Upper Egypt was cemented as he continued his conquest of Middle and Lower Egypt(18.

In this Kushite Dynasty of the 25th, the role of the Divine Adoratrice, the maiden princess of the royal house, dedicated to Amun was equal to that of a royal governor in Thebes(19) . Considering that Pianky was busy most of the time with his conquest of Lower Egypt, and then his brother Shabak, the first Pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty consolidating his rule over the rebellious northern Egypt. It was up to their female family members to control Thebes. This, Amenirdis I(20)did, as the adopted daughter and heir of Shepenwepet I.

Amenirdis I maintained the secular power of Amun’s chief priest, even after her brother Shabak revived the position for a son of his. It had remained vacant since Takelot III had given it up to become Pharaoh(21). She under took the building of her own mortuary chapel and tomb for herself within the temple enclosure at the 18th dynastic temple at Medinet Habu(22). She ruled Thebes into the reign of Pianky’s son Sebitku, when her adopted daughter Shepenwepet II, the daughter of Pianky succeeded her.

Shepenwepet II raised, along with another of her brothers Taharqa, a chapel to Osiris, Lord of Life, and another one to Osiris, Lord of Eternity at the temple at Karnak. Her building achievements continued with other sacred edifices in the Theban region. She adopted as her successor her niece, the daughter of Taharqa, who took the name Amenirdis II. Amenirdis II often appears next to her aunt in reliefs at Thebes, like a co-regent(23).

Assurbanipal, King of Assyria in 663 B.C.E. resumed Assyria’s attacks on Egypt. He conqueror Memphis and even reached Thebes sacking it. Despite this treatment Upper Egypt refused to accept Assyrian rule and continued support for the Kushite Pharaoh Tantamani, who had fled on to Kush. This state of affairs continued, until the Sais King Psamtek I 26th dynasty, given his power by the Assyrians, threw off the Assyrian yoke once and for all pushing them out of Egypt in 655 B.C.E.(24) shortly, after reuniting Egypt. With his daughter’s adoption, by the last Kushite Divine Adoratrice Amenirdis II in Thebes. At that time the elderly Shepenwepet II was still very much alive and had approved the adoption of Nitocris, by her own adopted daughter Amenirdis II. It was the first time in the history of the Divine Adoratrice, that there were three such ladies in Thebes.

Nitocris I lived and ruled in Thebes for another 70 years after her arrival in Thebes. Her own successor Ankhnesneferibre, daughter of Psamtek II mounted the throne of the Divine Adoratrice in 586 B.C.E. Two years later, she was invested officially with the office of high priest. Ankhnesneferibre was another long-lived God’s Wife ruling until her death in 525 B.C.E. The year the Persians invaded Egypt. Her successor Nitocris II, ruled only until the Persians took control of their new land(25). The office of Divine Adoratrice was over, the glorious royal women who served Egypt would never again offer sacrifices, adoration, or reenact age-old rituals in the Temple of Amun at Karnak.

1) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pg 155
2) Karol Mysliwiec, First Millennium B.C.E. The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, translated by David Lorton pg. 115
3) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pgs 43, 44
4) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pg 27
5) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pg 150
6) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pgs 43, 44
7) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pg 153
8 ) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pg 48
9) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pg 151
10) Robin Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, pg 150
11) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 313
12) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 288
13) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 312
14) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 314
15) Karol Mysliwiec, First Millennium B.C.E. The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, translated by David Lorton pg 34
16) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 332
17) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 331
18) Karol Mysliwiec, First Millennium B.C.E. The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, translated by David Lorton pg 57
19) Karol Mysliwiec, First Millennium B.C.E. The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, translated by David Lorton pg 94
20) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 335
21) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 345
22) Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, pg 344
23) Karol Mysliwiec, First Millennium B.C.E. The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, translated by David Lorton pg 111
24) Karol Mysliwiec, First Millennium B.C.E. The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, translated by David Lorton pg 108, 109
25) Karol Mysliwiec, First Millennium B.C.E. The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, translated by David Lorton pg 131″


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