Shed, the Savior God of the New Kingdom

Shed was a protective god who was venerated mainly from New Kingdom times, though he is known to us prior to that period. In fact, he appears to possibly be an Egyptian aspect of the Semitic god Reshef. Known as ‘He who rescues’ or ‘the enchanter’, he was the master of wild beasts of the desert and river as well as weapons of war. He was believed to pursue and kill dangerous animals. Hence, he was suppose to provide protection from dangerous animals such as the scorpion as well as from martial harm. In addition, he also a guardian against illness and inimical magic.

Shed was associated with Horus, and sometimes appears in the form of Horus-Shed, to the extent that by the Late Period he was largely subsumed by Horus. The iconography of Shed usually depicted a child or young man, most often with a shaved head except for the sidelock of youth. He wears a kilt, sometimes with a broad collar and a quiver slung over his back. He may grasp serpents and wild, symbolically noxious animals while standing on the back of one or more crocodiles. This is essentially the same iconographic attributes found associated with cippi of Horus. Shed is also sometimes depicted in a chariot that is pulled by a Griffin with a Seth animal head known as ‘the swift one”. It was popular religion that seems to have spawned Shed and we know of no temples or cult centers for his worship. His name is attested within individual’s personal names, and we find representations of the god on protective plaques, pendants and amulets known from a variety of contexts.

There were two staelae found in a chapel in the workmen’s village at Amarna that were dedicated to the god, which is unusual and shows his popular support, given the restrictive religion of that period. In fact, it may have been this period of uncertainty in Egyptian history that caused the rise of Shed as a savior god.

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