Goddess of the Month: Nephthys

Nephthys

Nephthys is the goddess of divine assistance of Egypt, also known as a goddess of the transition of the dead. Nephthys is actually the Greek spelling and pronunciation of her name, but it is the one she is most commonly known as. The ancient Egyptians actually knew her as Nebthwt, which means “Mistress of the House.” She is a member of the Ennead group of Gods of Heliopolis, and is the daughter of Geb and Nut, making her the sister of Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Set. She is also Set’s wife. The Ennead and Ogdoad groups eventually merged, and at that time Ra gave Nephthys a seat on his boat so she could assist him on his journeys to the underworld. Nephthys was a companion whose role was to assist the dead in their journeys in the afterlife. While fearsome, she is also a goddess of mourning, known to comfort the loved ones of the dead. There were professional mourners, called the “Hawks of Nephthys,” who recognized her as the Goddess of Mourning. In one story, she assists Isis in collecting the parts of Osiris’ body and reconstructing it.

Nephthys is the female counterpart of Set, at least in the early mythology. She represents the air while Set represents the desert. Since Set is as infertile as the desert, Nephthys was considered barren as well, although later myths do claim she gave birth to the God Anubis after being with Osiris. She is also an air goddess who can transform into a bird, and the Egyptians believed she would transform into a vulture because she was barren. The Egyptians believed all vultures were female (because there’s no way to tell the males from the females, at least not up close) and didn’t actually reproduce, but that they were created from the air. Vultures were associated with death and decay due to their feeding habits, and thus Nephthys became associated with death and mourning. Interestingly enough, Nephthys was considered the source of rain, and the Nile River. She was also believed to protect women during childbirth. So while barren and a Goddess of death, she is still associated with life. Nephthys was usually symbolized by a hawk or a falcon, and other times as a woman with wings that are outstretched.

Nephthys is linked to the Pharaoh. She would protect them both in life, and in death. Egyptians believed that she gave Pharaohs the power to see what was hidden by the moon, which made her more popular with witches and magicians as well as linking her to the magic of darkness. She guarded the shrines of the Pharaohs.She also protected Hapi, one of the son’s of Horus, in his duties of protecting the sacred canopic jars. Hapi was the one who protected the lungs, and since Nephthys is the Goddess of Air she was able to be his guardian.

Although she was clearly of great importance, as time went by, her influence seemed to be usurped by Isis. Nephthys could be viewed as a counterpart to Isis in the sense that she was in charge of death while Isis was in charge of life, but since so many feared death and magic, what this did was lead to more worship of Isis. There seem to be no surviving temples dedicated to Nephthys today.

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-Shannon Tricia

shannontricia.wordpress.com

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