The worship of the Egyptian goddess Neith, a sometime mother of the solar deity Horus, is traceable to around 7,000 years ago, according to Dr. Wim van Binsbergen, chairman of the Foundations of Intercultural Philosophy at Erasmus University, who calls her an example of “female parthenogenetic cosmogenesis.” (van Binsbergen, 35)
“Neith never engaged in any kind of sexual union; that is, she was eternally a virgin. Yet, as the primordial Being, she was also generative. Thus, in Neith we have one of the earliest appearances of the archetype of the Virgin Mother, the Holy Parthenos, in her original, unadulterated form.”
Regarding the very ancient Neith and her parthenogenetic capacity, in her book Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity Dr. Marguerite Rigoglioso remarks:
…Neith was unequivocally portrayed as an autogenetic/ parthenogenetic creatrix in the inscriptions of the middle and late periods in Egypt, a depiction that may have characterized the goddess in her earliest cult as well. She specifically was both creator and “virgin,” a being whose peplos, or dress, no one had lifted. As one of the oldest deities of Egypt, who most likely was worshipped throughout ancient Libya, she thus represents one of the earliest appearances of the archetype of the Virgin Mother goddess in the ancient Mediterranean world. (23)
It is important in discussing Neith as autogene, or self-created Virgin Mother…first to establish her preeminence in the Egyptian pantheon. Neith…was one of the oldest of all Egyptian deities and one of the most important divinities during the early historic period. There is strong evidence that her worship was widespread in predynastic times… She is first documented iconographically in the last phase of the predynastic period (c. fourth millennium B.C.E.)… (26)
As a divinity of the First Principle, Neith was an autogenetic goddess who, in the ultimate mystery, created herself out of her own being. Budge notes…that an inscription on a statue of Utchat-Heru, a high priest of Neith, relates that she “was the first to give birth to anything, and that she had done so when nothing else had been born, and that she had herself never been born.” We see her autogenetic aspect echoed in both Egyptian and Greek texts. Plutarch…refers to an inscription on her statue in Sais…: “I am everything that has been, and that is, and that shall be, and no one has ever lifted my garment (peplos).”… That in the above-noted Saitic inscription Neith’s “garment” remained perpetually “unlifted” is also a sexual reference… The inscription therefore communicates that Neith never engaged in any kind of sexual union; that is, she was eternally a virgin. Yet, as the primordial Being, she was also generative. Thus, in Neith we have one of the earliest appearances of the archetype of the Virgin Mother, the Holy Parthenos, in her original, unadulterated form. (29-30)
Respected Egyptologist Dr. Claus Bleeker concurs with this assessment regarding Neith, remarking in The Rainbow: A Collection of Studies in the Science of Religion (139-140):
It appears that the connection between Neith and the primeval cow has several impolications. Neith is not only a primeval deity but also a goddess of the universe. An echo of the conviction that she exercises the latter function can be heard in the inscription on her statue in Sais, as it is quoted by Plutarch: [“The present and the future and the past, I am. My undergarment no one has uncovered. The fruit I brought forth, the sun came into being.”] Her quality as primeval deity is indicated in the explanation of her name which Plutarch offers, i.e…. “I came (into existence) out of myself.”… It is confirmed by a line in the myth of creation at Esna, which reads: “apparue d’elle-même” [“appeared from herself”].
The idea that Neith is a goddess who produces life out of herself is also expressed in the notion that she is androgynous…. She has no partner beside her. In Esna she is accompanied by two sons. She is the virgin goddess who procreates children without male assistance.
It is therefore not surprising that she is considered as a creator. (Emph. added)
It should be recalled that Neith is identified in antiquity with both the Greek goddess Athena, who is likewise a parthenogenetic creatrix or virgin mother, as well as Isis, about whom the same can be and is said. Among others, Isis is identified with the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin, likewise in antiquity. There are many such manifestations of the virgin mother, long before Christianity was ever conceived.
Bleeker, Claus J. The Rainbow: A Collection of Studies in the Science of Religion. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1975.
Rigoglioso, Marguerite. Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.
van Binsbergen, Wim M.J. “Skulls and tears: Identifying and analysing an African fantasy space extending over 5000 kilometres and across 5000 years” (1998), www.shikanda.net/ancient_models/fantasy_space_2006_expanded.pdf