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Who is Goddess Seshat?

Seshat is a very ancient goddess. 


She has many layers of history and mythology, and her role was recorded in different ways at different points in Egyptian history. But her primary identity is always linked to her role as a scribe. Her name, in fact, translates to "Female Scribe."


In her earliest incarnations, she appears to be the goddess of knowledge and in charge of the scribes. Astronomy, astrology, mathematics, and architecture were also her domain. She saw no difference between words and numbers. They were all used to tell stories, make measurements, and record history. She can be traced far back, to the Old Kingdom of Egypt, where she was honored as the patroness of writing and measurements. She has been described as the Inventor of Writing, Goddess of the Written Word, Divine record-keeper, and a deity who reported daily occurrences through writing,


There are very few books about her in English and most Egyptian history books give her just a few paragraphs, if even. Yet she remains one of the most powerful goddesses the only known female scribe of the ancient civilization and the only female divinity who has that attribution. She shares the divine scribe title with the god, Thoth.


Anthony S. Mercatante described her this way in a brief entry in Who's Who in Egyptian Mythology. "Goddess of literature and the library. She was closely associated with Thoth, the god of wisdom. Her chief duties were connected to the writing of history. A king was considered very fortunate if his deeds were recorded by her.  In Egyptian art, she was portrayed wearing a close-fitting, panther skin garment and holding a scribe's palette, and writing reed. In this form, she was called 'the great one, the lady of the house of books.'"


She is described by historians and Egyptologists in a myriad of ways. They range from being described as a funerary goddess who helps people into the afterlife to a purveyor of knowledge through the House of Life. Some descriptions of her may are related to the different ways she was interpreted in different eras of Egyptian history and some may be related to the idea that her keen intellect and diverse skills allowed her culture to pile more duties onto her divine plate of responsibilities.


Public history was not a "thing" in ancient times, but Seshat was clearly engaged in recording, preserving, and writing history. It seems that like so many public historians, she quietly did her work behind the scenes. She was not flashy or as well-known as some of her divine counterparts, but her work in the creation of the Egyptian civilization was no less impactful. Perhaps this exhibit could also be called: Biography of a Lesser Known, but Very Important, Goddess.