Amaunet, ink on paper; the original is about two by four inches.
Amaunet is an ancient Egyptian Goddess of air or wind, Whose name means "She Who is Hidden", "The Invisible One" or "That Which is Concealed". She is one of eight primaeval Deities Who existed before the beginning of the world, and Who together made up the primordial ocean. There are several creation myths in ancient Egypt, depending on the place; many regions had a story of the beginning of the world that featured their local God. The myth in which Amaunet finds Herself is from the area of Thebes, specifically the town called Khmun, which is better known by its Greek name Hermopolis ("City of Hermes", the God the Greeks associated with the actual Egyptian patron God of the town, Djehuty, who is also better known by His Greek name of Thoth). The Hermopolitan Ogdoad was of such importance that the name "Khmun" simply means "Eight Town", and even today the modern name, el-Ashmunein, is derived from a Coptic word meaning "eight". As the number four was symbolic of totality to the ancient Egyptians so eight was even more complete, as doubling it served to intensify its meaning.
In the creation myth of Khmun, the primeval flood or ocean was made up of four elements, personified as balanced pairs of male and female Deities: Infinity (or Formlessness), represented by the God Heh and the Goddess Hauhet; Darkness, by the God Kek and the Goddess Kauket; Water, by the God Nun and the Goddess Naunet; and Air or Hidden Power, personified by the God Amun and the Goddess Amaunet. These eight Deities swirled in and among the primordial floodwaters until they came together in a burst of flame to create the first mound of earth, called the Isle of Fire. The Scribe-God of wisdom and the moon, Djehuty (Thoth) then landed on the island in the form of an ibis and laid an egg from which the Sun hatched, and Time began. Seven of the eight Deities then left to live in the Underworld, but Amun stayed behind in the land of the living. According to the people of Khmun, their version of the creation myth was supposed to be the oldest one, and Khmun was said to be the very location of the ancient Isle of Fire.
This primaeval ocean, which is an archetypal version of the annual flood produced by the Nile River, possessed in itself all the elements needed to make the world, and through its eight Deities found a totality of material and energies within its chaos.
Amaunet's name is the feminine version of Amun's, but She seems to be at least as old as He: The first mention of either Deity is as a pair, in a Pyramid Text dating to around 2350-2345 BCE, during the Egyptian Old Kingdom's Fifth Dynasty. The "Pyramid Texts" is the name given to a series of spells carved on the walls of the burial chamber of pyramids (natch) which were believed to protect the dead King and help him make his way through the afterlife. The texts (and the Gods mentioned) are quite likely even older than the Fifth Dynasty, for the spells appear as it were fully formed, and include language that was archaic for the time. Amaunet (and Amun) in these spells were regarded as protective Deities: They are adressed as "Amun and Amaunet, You Who protect the Gods, and Who guard the Gods with Your shadows". Though Nun and Naunet are described in a similar manner, it seems especially appropriate for Amun and Amaunet, Who both represent the mysterious and invisible hidden forces of nature, to give protection through their shadows; implicit in the idea of a shadow is that things can be hidden there.
When Amaunet was depicted with the other Deities of the Ogdoad, She, like the other Goddesses, was depicted as a woman with a snake's head; sometimes the Goddesses' feet were replaced with the heads of jackals. The Gods of the Ogdoad were shown with frogs' heads: both the snake and frog are associated with the Underworld, water, and transformation; and jackals additionally are linked with the dead or Underworld. These eight Deities were sometimes shown in baboon-form, much like Djehuty sometimes was. Amaunet could also be depicted in human form, however, and in this guise She was shown wearing the Red Crown of Upper Egypt (meaning the southern, or upstream, part of Egypt); She sometimes holds a papyrus staff, which can symbolize both the primeval waters as well as thriving new life, as the image of the papyrus-plant was used in hieroglyphs to write the verb "to flourish".
Though Amun was syncretized to the Sun-God Re as Amon-Re and became one of the most important of all Egypt's Gods, Amaunet seems to have primarily been a local Goddess of the area around Thebes. Amaunet was apparently superceded by the Vulture-Goddess Mut as Amun's consort (though it is sometimes said that Mut is not actually His wife), especially in Thebes itself. However Amaunet was never fully replaced, and continued to be worshipped Herself, especially in Karnak, which was Her main cult-center. In the great temple of Amun there was a colossal statue of Amaunet, and She had Her own priests there.
Amaunet is depicted in a small temple to Amun at Djamet (the modern Medinet Habu), just across the Nile from Luxor, dating from the 18th Dynasty which was begun by the Pharoah-Queen Hapshepsut in the mid-15th century BCE and continued by her successor/predecessor/co-regent (depending on when in the reign we're talking) Thutmoses III. The decoration of this temple nicely illustrates the war between Thutmoses and the memory of Hatshepsut; many of the reliefs have been altered or defaced, and the names changed in an attempt to erase Hatshepsut's legacy (though we can still read them—nice try, Thutmoses III!). On one of the pillars from this temple, Amaunet is shown with Thutmoses III, offering him life by placing an ankh to his mouth. She is depicted wholly in human form, and dressed in the archaic sheath-dress common to Goddesses, with the Red Crown of Upper Egypt on Her head. She clasps the upper arm of the king, who is wearing a headdress typical of Amun, thereby identifying him as Amaunet's husband. This same temple was built on and added to through Ptolemaic times, a millenium and a half later, where a door-lintel from that period is carved with Amun and Amaunet, showing that She was worshipped right up till the latest times of ancient Egypt. All told, Her worship spanned (at the least) a good 2300 years.
Amaunet was worshipped as a protective mother Goddess, Who, with Her roots in the beginnings of time and creation, was believed to play a fundamental role in keeping the natural forces of the universe going. Amaunet was invoked in some of the rituals of the King, including the Sed-festival, the royal jubilee that renewed the King's youth and vigor, enabling him to continue his reign in strength and prosperity. In Her protective role She was considered a mother Goddess—some sources call Her the Mother of Re, which with the linking of Amon and Re made Her both wife and mother of Her husband. As is not uncommon among Egyptian Serpent-Goddesses, Amaunet was sometimes shown suckling the king or future king to grant him health and protection. And from Her home in the Underworld, She and the other seven primordial Deities were responsible for making sure the sun rose each morning.
In Karnak She was sometimes associated with Neith.
Alternate spelling: Amunet, Amonit
Epithets: the Hermopolitan Ogdoad are referred to collectively as the "Eight Chaos Gods" and "Keepers of the Chambers of the Sky"