An ancient goddess for the info age






Seshat, also known as Seshet, Sesheta, and Sefkhet-Aabut, is an ancient egyptian goddess associated with knowledge, books, libraries, architecture, invention of writing, knowledge, and record-keeping.


In today's world this easily translates to database design, word processing, knowledge management, information management, graphic design and information architecture.


She is the original Information Architect!



The following excerpts are from the book, "Gods of the Egyptians" by E.A. Wallis Budge:


"Closely associated with Thoth in the performance of certain of his duties as the god of letters and learning, was the goddess Seshat, whos name is generally read Sefkhet-Aabut; the reading "Sesheta" has also been proposed for the hyeroglyphic sign which forms the symbol of the goddess, but both readings are merely guesses, for the phonetic value of the sign has not been ascertained, and even the sign itself has not been identified. All that is certain about about it is that in some pictures of the goddess the sign seeems to be compounded of a pair of horns inverted over a seven-rayed star, or flower with seven petals, suppported on a standard.


"From the pictures of the goddess and the titles wich accompany them it is quite certain what her functions were. We see her wearing her characterisic symbols on her head, with a close-fitting panther skin garment upon her body, and in her hands she holds a scribe's palette and writing reed; in this form she is called "the great one, the lady of the house of books". Thus she was a goddess of literature and the library.


"Elsewhere we see her without her panther skin garment, holding a writing reed in the right hand, and the cartouche, symbolic of "name" in her left; in this form she suggests the ideas of being a kind of recording angel, not so much of the deeds committed by man, but of their names, of which she, presumably, took note, that her associate Thoth might declare them before Osiris. In the title which accompanies this picture she is called "great one, lady of letters, mistress of the house of books".


"In another scene she holds a notched pam branch in her hand, and she appears to be counting the notches; the lower end of the branch rests on the back of a frog, seated upon the emblem of "eternity," and from the upper end hangs the symbol of the double Set festival. Thus she appears in the character of the chronographer and chronologist; the use of the notched palm-branch as a symbol of the counting of years takes us back to a custom which was probably prevalent in predynastic times.


"In yet another scene we find the goddess standing before a column of hieroglyphics meaning "life" and "power" and "thiry-year festivals", which rest upon a seated figure who holds in each hand (an ankh), "life", and who typifies "millions of years". In connection with this must be noted a passage in a text in which she declares to a king that she has inscribed on her register on his behalf a period of life which shall be "hundreds of thousands of thirty-year periods", and has ordained that his years shall be upon the earth like the years of Ra, i.e.: that he shall live forever.


"Other passages show that Seshat was supposed to be the "goddess of construction"..

"It is, however, certain from many passages that her chief duties were connected with the writing of history, and happy was the king who was fortunate enough to have his deeds recorded by the fingers of the goddess herself, and his abode in the next world built on the plan which she drew up in accordance with her attributes as the inventer of letters, the lady of the builder's measure, and the founder of architecture.

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