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Priestess (Ancient Egyptian: ḥmt-nṯr, "Servant of the God") was a religious occupational title and a highly valued role in ancient Egyptian society. The male equivalent of the title being Priest, though they might not need to be differentiated as their duties appear to have been very similar.[1] The title was common for women in the priesthood during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, but seized to be used by the time of the New Kingdom. Beside the common priestess title "Servant of the God", there was also a less common Wabt Priestess.[2] The most important and privileged female priestly role was the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, of which there was only one at the time.


Priestesses served primarily in the temple of Hathor and in some cases the temple of Neith.[3] Particularly in the priesthood of Hathor, women played a dominant role as priestesses while only few men occupied priestly positions.[4] There are some cases of women serving as priestess to male deities, though is was not very common.[5]


During the Old and Middle Kingdoms, women and men held similar roles in the priesthood. However, during the New Kingdom priests became predominantly male because the - now full-time - occupation was incorporated into the government bureaucracy, which was controlled by men.[4] By this time, the role of women in the priesthood focussed primarily on music and dance. These musician priestesses were called Chantresses and unlike the former priestesses, they served in the temples of both male and female deities.[3]

See also[]


  1. Gosline 1996, p. 27.
  2. Hawass 2000, p. 163.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Robins 1993.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hawass 2000.
  5. Lesko 1999.


  • Gosline, S., 1996: Female Priests: A sacerdotal precedent from Ancient Egypt. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Vol. 12, p. 25-39.
  • Hawass, Z., 2000: Silent Images: Women in Pharaonic Egypt. Harry Abrams Inc., New York.
  • Lesko, B., 1999: The remarkable Women of ancient Egypt. B.C Scribe Publications, Providence.
  • Robins, G., 1993: Women in Ancient Egypt. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.