Greek Name: Nephthys
Egyptian Name: Nebthwt
Associated Objects: Basket and enclosure
Main Cult Center: Heliopolis, Senu, Hebet, Per-mert, Re-nefert, Het-sekhem, Het-Khas, Ta-kehset, and Diospolite
Role: Protection; Funerary
Often depicted in human form with a basket on top of an enclosure wall on her head, Nephthys can also be represented by a hawk, a kite (bird), or a vulture. Her name means “the Mistress of the House,” and she was described the head of the household of the gods. She was known to protect the matriarch of every household as well as women during childbirth. She is the youngest daughter of Geb (god of the earth) and Nut (goddess of the sky) and is the sister to Osiris, Isis, and Set. In addition to being his sister, Nephthys is the wife and counterpart of Set (god of the desert and chaos).
Similar to her husband, she was considered to be barren. However, later myths regarded her as the mother of Anubis, either by Osiris or Set. This occurred when Nephthys disguised herself as Isis to attract the attention of her neglectful husband. In the myths where she seduced Osiris, it was said Osiris left a flower on the floor, which Set discovered and recognized to be from his brother. This provided Set the justification he needed to murder Osiris in the Osiris myth. Nephthys then gave birth to Anubis, whom she abandoned to be raised by Isis.
Though Nephthys is the mirror image of her sister in appearance, her role and personality are the complete opposite. Where Isis represents life and growth, and Nephthys represents death and decay. For this, she was often associated with vultures. Though these birds were respected for the care they showed their young, Egyptians believed vultures could not bear children, much like the goddess herself. They also viewed all vultures as females because there is little difference between the male and female of the species.
- Hill, J. (2010). Ancient Egypt Online. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk
- Oakes, L., and Gahlin, L. (2003). Ancient Egypt: An illustrated reference to the myths, religions, pyramids and temples of the land of the pharaohs. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
- Mark, J (2016). Nephthys. https://www.ancient.eu/Nephthys/
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