Season: 1 & 6, Episodes: 3, Faction: The Island
The foster mother of Jacob and his brother murdered their birth mother Claudia just after the twins were born, and raised the twins herself. She was the protector of the Source until shortly before her murder by Jacob’s brother.
On the Island
6×15 – Across the Sea
Her presence on the island pre-dated any other individual known. Approximately 2,000 years ago, she found Claudia, heavily pregnant and shipwrecked on the Island. When Claudia asked her how she had arrived on the island, Mother replied “the same way you did; by accident.” When asked how long she had been there, Mother cut her off and flatly stated “every question you ask will only lead to more questions.” Moments later, Claudia went through labor, with Mother assisting her in the delivery. After Claudia had given birth to Jacob and his twin brother, Mother killed Claudia. Eventually, she would tell Jacob that she had done this because Claudia and the other people who were shipwrecked with her were bad people, and she did not want the infants to be raised by them and therefore become “bad”.
Jacob and the Man in Black grew up believing this woman was their mother. She told them no where other than the Island existed, and that her mother had died. She also said that she had “made it” so that Jacob and the Man in Black would not be able to hurt (or, kill) each other. When Jacob and the Man in Black were thirteen, she took them to a cave filled with water and light. She told them it was “the heart of the island”, and that she was its protector; she also said that someday one of them would have to take her place as the protector of the light.
After the Man in Black learned from Claudia’s ghost the woman had lied to him, he decided to leave her and live among Claudia’s people. Jacob decided to stay with the woman, but continued to visit his brother. After several decades, the Man in Black and Claudia’s people learned about the magnetic energy pockets on the island, and dug wells to learn more about them. In a chamber beneath one of these wells, the Man in Black had started to build a wheel which he hoped to use to leave the island. When the woman learned about his plans, she confronted him and knocked him out.
When he regained consciousness, he found the well had been filled in and all Claudia’s people were killed.
Meanwhile, the woman took Jacob to the cave of light, and gave him a cup to drink. She said by doing so, he would take on the responsibility of protecting this place for as long as he can, after which he will have to find his replacement. However, she told him never to enter the cave, and if he did, it would be “worse than dying”. With reservations (which arose because he believed the woman favored his brother), Jacob accepted the cup and the responsibility.
The woman returned to the cave where she lived and her belongings and loom were destroyed. As she examined the black playing piece from the Senet game, the Man in Black stabbed her from behind with his dagger. As she died, she said, “Thank you.” (“Across the Sea”)
After Jacob fought with the Man in Black and threw him into the cave of light (thus transforming him into the smoke monster), he took the woman’s body and the Man in Black’s body and laid them to rest in the cave, with a pouch containing one black and one white stone from his brother’s Senet game. (“Across the Sea”)
1×06 – House of the Rising Sun
Their skeletons were discovered millenia later by Jack Shephard and Kate Austen; John Locke subsequently nicknamed them “Adam and Eve”. (“House of the Rising Sun”) (“Across the Sea”)
6×08 – Recon
When telling Kate about Aaron now having a crazy mother, the Man in Black described his own mother as “very disturbed” and responsible for him having issues that he was still trying to work through. (“Recon”)
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Decoded Season 1 Characters
Decoded Season 6 Characters
Key Episode(s) to Decoding the Character
(Net) Neith, whose importance in Egyptian religion as a deity at once intimately involved in the formation of the cosmos but also engaged in its ongoing maintenance can be judged from the frequency with which the epithet ‘the Great’ is applied to her, is depicted anthropomorphically, often with a pair of crossed bows over her head, echoing her early cultic emblem of crossed arrows; she is also depicted wielding bow and arrow as huntress and warrior. Neith typically wears the crown of Lower Egypt. Her association with this crown is especially close inasmuch as its name – when it is not simply referred to as the deshret, or ‘red’ – is virtually indistinguishable, at least as it is written, from her own. Neith is one of the representative Goddesses of Lower Egypt; her city, Saïs, is the site of the ‘House of the Bee’, a temple of Neith which becomes a symbolic shorthand for Lower Egypt in general. Mother of Sobek and of other related crocodile Gods, Neith is sometimes depicted suckling a pair of crocodiles at her breasts or as crocodile-headed. Besides crocodiles, Neith is associated with a non-scarab beetle of indeterminate species, with the Nile perch, a fish venerated at Latopolis, and with the cow, although the latter seems to come about chiefly through her association with Mehet-Weret.
Neith is a principal figure in a cosmogony in which she is closely associated with Mehet-Weret and is the mother of Re. Neith’s function in this cosmogony seems to be to carry forward the creative impulse of Mehet-Weret into greater determinacy and articulation and to be the bearer of Mehet-Weret’s primordial authority in these latter stages of the cosmos; hence Neith is “regent of Mehet-Weret,” (Neith, p. 54) and “the cow Mehet-Weret is there [Saïs] as Neith,” (55). For her own part, however, Neith personifies the creative potency of the primordial waters, not as a passive substrate but as the very agent of the emergence of the cosmos, in particular through an identification between the flow of the primordial waters and the flow of time. A hymn from Esna states that Neith fashions the world “in her form of Goddess who reaches to the limits of the universe, in her material form of the liquid surface, in her name of unlimited duration,” (Esna, vol. 5, p. 111); “the extension of the water which makes eternity [heh],” “the stream which fashions everlastingness [djet],” (ibid., p. 114 n. i). Neith’s independence and autonomy are emphasized in her demiurgic activity. Thus it is often said that Neith is both feminine and masculine – “two thirds masculine, one third feminine,” (Esna, vol. 5, p. 110) – both mother and father, “who inaugurated birth when birth had not yet been,” (Lichtheim, vol. 3, p. 38), having “appeared from herself,” (Esna, vol. 5, p. 253). The primordial register in which Neith’s cosmogonic activity occurs can be seen from the fact that, in the version from Esna, Neith brings forth both Re, the principle of cosmic order, and Apophis, the principle of entropy.
Every deity whom the Egyptians regard under the aspect of a demiurge fulfills this function in a distinctive manner; Neith’s creative activity seems to consist especially in separating the elements of the cosmos out from their initial state of fluid confusion. In the primordial waters, Neith “separates islands from shores,” (Neith, p. 62). The Gods acclaim her for having “separated for us the bright dawn from the night, made for us a ground upon which we may take support, separated for us night from day,” (Esna, vol. 5, p. 257); she also distinguishes the units of time (Neith, p. 62) and is said to perform her work of cosmogenesis in eight hours which pass “in the space of an instant,” (Esna, vol. 5, p. 259), through four speeches or formulae (akhu) which at once embody the early stages of the creation and from which can be unfolded the future course of events (ibid., pp. 259-261). The potency of Neith’s creative intelligence and spoken word is emphasized: “All that her heart conceived was realized immediately,” (Esna, vol. 5, p. 256); “She created the thirty Gods by pronouncing their names, one by one,” (257). Neith’s demiurgic activity is sometimes expressed in terms of another activity with which she is associated, namely weaving. Thus she is “the Goddess who divided the comb of her loom [alternately, ‘the threads of her weft’] among the five who inhabit the heaven and the earth,” (Esna, vol. 5, p. 111). Neith’s association with the primordial waters as well as with the complex formulae of creation allows her sphere of activity to encompass the production of perfumes and pharmacological mixtures such as the “two kinds of stimulating drugs” mentioned in an inscription from Medamoud (Neith, doc. 224).
In the Conflict of Horus and Seth, when the sovereignty of the cosmos is to be decided between Horus and Seth, the assembled Gods summon Banebdjedet as judge, who advises that a letter be sent to Neith and that the Gods abide by her decision. Thoth drafts the letter, to “Neith the Great, the divine mother, who shone on the first face, who is alive, hale, and young,” (Lichtheim, vol. 2, p. 215). Neith responds, in her own letter, that the office of Osiris should be given to his son Horus, and that Seth should receive in compensation Anat and Astarte as wives. The assembled Gods agree with Neith’s decision, although they are unable to implement it straightaway. Significant in this myth is the exalted status Neith is accorded by the assembled Gods, and also her distance from them, which is signified by the deferred manner in which she is selected to judge the dispute, and especially by the necessity of a letter. The myth thus illustrates an important aspect of Egyptian religious thought, namely the hierarchical structure of the pantheon, with powers distributed on several relatively autonomous planes. This relative autonomy is also demonstrated by the impossibility of simply putting Neith’s judgment into effect without further ado. This aspect of Egyptian religion is balanced by the possibility of recentering the pantheon at any time around any deity who is selected as the object of worship.
Neith not only establishes the cosmic order but fights in its defense, combating its enemies on every level, on behalf of Re, of Osiris, of Horus, and of the pharaoh. In the Pyramid Texts Neith is already one of a quartet of Goddesses, the others being Isis, Nephthys, and Serket, who are “protectors of the throne,” (PT utterance 362) that is, guardians of the sarcophagus and the chests containing the vital organs of the deceased. These Goddesses are thus the counterparts in some sense of the four sons of Horus, a relationship which becomes systematized over time. Neith’s most distinctive role in the service of Osiris is as provider of the linen for the bandages in which he is wrapped and of the oils with which he is anointed: “You are mistress of the oil of unction as well as of the fabric,” (Esna, vol. 5, p. 111). The fabric, in particular, is itself understood as a kind of protection; in charge of it may be Neith’s children, the Sobek twins (Neith, p. 73). Neith is accorded her own Ennead – or pantheon – of Gods, consisting of Khnum, Nebtu, Menhyt, Heka, Tutu, Sobek, Osiris, Isis, and either Thoth or Re (Neith, p. 143f). She is also closely associated with the hemesut, a plural entity usually written with the same determiner as Neith herself. The hemesut are associated with sustenance and virtue through a connection to the formative moments of the cosmos. The hemesut are similar in many respects to the ka, and perhaps represent a parallel tradition (ibid., pp. 145ff), but are apparently envisioned literally as standing underneath one, as in PT utterance 273, where they are under the deceased king’s feet. In this connection it is significant that in CT spell 407 Neith is asked to come under one’s feet. The hemesut seem therefore to embody the primordial land which arose in the midst of the waters of the abyss due to Neith’s activity (Neith, p. 147f). Possession of the hemesut therefore seems to express a connection to this pre-cosmic territoriality.
Appearance: A woman carrying weapons of war, usually a bow and arrow and a shield.
Description: In the Old Kingdom she was a war deity, invoked as a blessing for weapons, both for the soldier and the hunter. Often weapons were placed in tombs surrounding the mummy as protection against evil spirits. These weapons were consecrated to Neith. In the New Kingdom her association with funerary rites is even greater. She stands, along with Isis, guarding the funeral bier of the pharaoh. In the New Kingdom the mummy wrappings were considered the “gifts of Neith.”
In may stories Neith is found being asked to arbitrate between two sides, her combination of military prowess and impartiality renders her very similar to Athena.
Worship: Cult centers in the Delta in the same area as Sobek, her son.
In Egyptian mythology, Neith (also known as Nit, Net, and Neit) was an early goddess in the Egyptian pantheon. She was the patron deity of Sais, where her cult was centered in the Western Nile Delta of Egypt and attested as early as the First Dynasty. The Ancient Egyptian name of this city was Zau.
Neith also was one of the three tutelary deities of the ancient Egyptian southern city of Ta-senet or Iunyt now known as Esna (Arabic: إسنا), Greek: Λατόπολις (Latopolis), or πόλις Λάτων (Polis Laton), or Λάττων (Laton); Latin: Lato), which is located on the west bank of the River Nile, some 55 km south of Luxor, in the modern Qena Governorate.
Name and symbolism
Neith was a goddess of war and of hunting and had as her symbol, two crossed arrows over a shield. Her symbol also identified the city of Sais. This symbol was displayed on top of her head in Egyptian art. In her form as a goddess of war, she was said to make the weapons of warriors and to guard their bodies when they died.
Her name also may be interpreted as meaning water. In time, this meaning led to her being considered as the personification of the primordial waters of creation. She is identified as a great mother goddess in this role as a creator.
Neith’s symbol and part of her hieroglyph also bore a resemblance to a loom, and so later in the history of Egyptian myths, she also became goddess of weaving, and gained this version of her name, Neith, which means weaver. At this time her role as a creator changed from being water-based to that of the deity who wove all of the world and existence into being on her loom.
In art, Neith sometimes appears as a woman with a weavers’ shuttle atop her head, holding a bow and arrows in her hands. At other times she is depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness, as a snake, or as a cow.
Sometimes Neith was pictured as a woman nursing a baby crocodile, and she was titled “Nurse of Crocodiles”. As the personification of the concept of the primordial waters of creation in the Ogdoad theology, she had no gender. As mother of Ra, she was sometimes described as the “Great Cow who gave birth to Ra”.
As a goddess of weaving and the domestic arts she was a protector of women and a guardian of marriage, so royal women often named themselves after Neith, in her honor. Since she also was goddess of war, and thus had an additional association with death, it was said that she wove the bandages and shrouds worn by the mummified dead as a gift to them, and thus she began to be viewed as a protector of one of the Four sons of Horus, specifically, of Duamutef, the deification of the canopic jar storing the stomach, since the abdomen (often mistakenly associated as the stomach) was the most vulnerable portion of the body and a prime target during battle. It was said that she shot arrows at any evil spirits who attacked the canopic jar she protected.
In the late pantheon of the Ogdoad myths, she became identified as the mother of Ra and Apep. When she was identified as a water goddess, she was also viewed as the mother of Sobek, the crocodile. It was this association with water, i.e. the Nile, that led to her sometimes being considered the wife of Khnum, and associated with the source of the River Nile. She was associated with the Nile Perch as well as the goddess of the triad in that cult center.
As the goddess of creation and weaving, she was said to reweave the world on her loom daily. An interior wall of her temple at Esna records an account of creation in which Neith brings forth from the primeval waters of the Nun the first land ex nihilo. All that she conceived in her heart comes into being including the thirty gods. Having no known husband she has been described as “Virgin Mother Goddess”:
Unique Goddess, mysterious and great who came to be in the beginning and caused everything to come to be . . . the divine mother of Re, who shines on the horizon . . .
Proclus (412–485 AD) wrote that the adyton of the temple of Neith in Sais (of which nothing now remains) carried the following inscription:
I am the things that are, that will be, and that have been. No one has ever laid open the garment by which I am concealed. The fruit which I brought forth was the sun.
In much later times, her association with war and death, led to her being identified with Nephthys (and Anouke or Ankt). Nephthys became part of the Ennead pantheon, and thus considered a wife of Set. Despite this, it was said that she interceded in the kingly war between Horus and Set, over the Egyptian throne, recommending that Horus rule.
A great festival, called the Feast of Lamps, was held annually in her honor and, according to Herodotus, her devotees burned a multitude of lights in the open air all night during the celebration. There also is evidence of an resurrection cult involving a woman dying and being brought back to life that was connected with Neith.
It is thought that Neith may correspond to the goddess Tanit, worshipped in north Africa by the early Berber culture (existing from the beginnings of written records) and through the first Punic culture originating from the founding of Carthage by Dido.
Ta-nit, meaning in Egyptian the land of Nit, also was a sky-dwelling goddess of war, a virginal mother goddess and nurse, and, less specifically, a symbol of fertility. Her symbol is remarkably similar to the Egyptian ankh and her shrine, excavated at Sarepta in southern Phoenicia, revealed an inscription that related her securely to the Phoenician goddess Astarte (Ishtar). Several of the major Greek goddesses also were identified with Tanit by the syncretic, interpretatio graeca, which recognized as Greek deities in foreign guise the deities of most of the surrounding non-Hellene cultures.
A Hellenistic royal family ruled over Egypt for three centuries, a period called the Ptolemaic dynasty until the Roman conquest in 30 B.C. Anouke, a goddess from Asia Minor was worshiped by immigrants to ancient Egypt. This war goddess was shown wearing a curved and feathered crown and carrying a spear, or bow and arrows. Within Egypt, she was later assimilated and identified as Neith, who by that time had developed her aspects as a war goddess.
The Greek historian, Herodotus (c. 484-425 BC), noted that the Egyptian citizens of Sais in Egypt worshipped Neith and that they identified her with Athena. The Timaeus, a Socratic dialogue written by Plato, mirrors that identification with Athena, possibly as a result of the identification of both goddesses with war and weaving.
E. A. Wallis Budge argued that the spread of Christianity in Egypt was influenced by the likeness of attributes between the Mother of Christ and goddesses such as Isis and Neith. Partheno-genesis was associated with Neith long before the birth of Christ and other properties belonging to her and Isis were transferred to the Mother of Christ by way of the apocryphal gospels as a mark of honour.