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Nephthys, goddess of night and tomb
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in hieroglyphs

Purpose[change | change source]

Nephthys was known as the goddess of mourning. She was also one of the nine gods. She was the goddess of night, rivers, sleep, nature and mourning. When Nephthys became the goddess of mourning she also became a friend and protecter of the dead. Nephthys was important in Ancient Egyptian culture because Egyptians considered the afterlife to be very important. She always stood at the head of the coffin that would take the dead to the underworld with outspread wings. Nephthys explained the nether world for the Ancient Egyptians by protecting and caring for the dead. When people died their ''Ba'' would be tested by 40 gods. Many of the gods met up with Nephthys. This is a small list of gods and goddesses.

Ma'at Nut Shu Tefnut Ra Hathor Sobek Neith Geb Horus Anubis Isis Sekmet

Family[change | change source]

Nephthys had many siblings. Her parents were Geb the god of the earth and Nut the goddess of the sky. She was the sister of Isis, Osiris and twin of Seth. She was married to Seth even though she did not like him. She wanted to have a baby but Seth who was the god of death could not have them. Soon she left Seth and pretended to be Isis. [Isis] was married to Osiris. Isis and Nephthys had a strong relationship. Then Nephthys had a baby with Osiris pretending to be Isis.

Appearance[change | change source]

Nephthys was seen wearing a slender sheath dress. On her crown were the hieroglyphs of her name. She could be seen with the hieroglyph symbol of life, the ankh in her hand. She was usually seen at the head of a coffin. Some Egyptians saw Nephthys with blue skin and others saw her with tan skin.

Name[change | change source]

Nephthys was the goddess of mourning. “Nephthys” usually means lady of mansion or mistress of the house but it can also mean “good sister”, “friend of the dead”, “joyful one” or “sister of the gods”.

Cult[change | change source]

The Ramesside Pharaohs were particularly devoted to Set's prerogatives and, in the 19th Dynasty, a temple of Nephthys called the "House of Nephthys of Ramesses-Meriamun" was built or refurbished in the town of Sepermeru, midway between Oxyrhynchos and Herakleopolis, on the outskirts of the Fayyum and quite near to the modern site of Deshasheh. Here, as Papyrus Wilbour notes in its wealth of taxation records and land assessments, the temple of Nephthys was a specific foundation by Ramesses II, located close to (or within) the precinct of the enclosure of Set. To be certain, the House of Nephthys was one of fifty individual, land-owning temples delineated for this portion of the Middle Egyptian district in Papyrus Wilbour. The fields and other holdings belonging to Nephthys's temple were under the authority of two Nephthys-prophets (named Penpmer and Merybarse) and one (mentioned) wa'ab priest of the goddess.

While certainly affiliated with the "House of Set," the Nephthys temple at Sepermeru and its apportioned lands (several acres) clearly were under administration distinct from the Set institution (cf. 'Land Tenure in the Ramesside Period' by S. Katary, 1989). The Nephthys temple was a unique establishment in its own right, an independent entity. According to Papyrus Wilbour (Section 1. 28), another "House of Nephthys of Ramesses-Meriamun" seems to have existed to the north, in the town of Su, closer to the Fayyum region. Interestingly, yet another (probably contemporaneous) temple of Nephthys seems to have existed in the town of Punodjem. The Papyrus Bologna records a complaint lodged by a prophet of the temple of Set in that town regarding undue taxation in his regard. After making an introductory appeal to "Re-Horakhte, Set, and Nephthys" for the ultimate resolution of this issue by the royal Vizier, the prophet (named Pra'emhab) laments his workload. He notes his obvious administration of the "House of Set" and adds: "I am also responsible for the ship, and I am responsible likewise for the House of Nephthys, along with a heap of other temples." (Papyrus Bologna 1094, 5, 8-7, 1).

Nephthys in red dress

While the House-of-Nephthys in (ostensibly) Punodjem is not explicitly said to be a foundation of Ramesses II, it may be that Ramesses II founded a series of "temples of Nephthys" (as consort of Set) in order to complement the larger establishments dedicated to her spouse, much in the same way that the smaller temple of Nefertari at Abu Simbel was complementary to (and a dependency of) the "Great Temple" at Abu Simbel. In the roster provided by Papyrus Wilbour, no other divine-consort boasted a land-owning temple of their own within any particular town dominated by a male god. Apparently, Nephthys was deemed quite important enough to merit her own independent sanctuaries. In any event, as "Nephthys of Ramesses-Meriamun," the goddess and her shrine(s) were under the particular endorsement of Ramesses II. The foundations of the Set and Nephthys temples at Sepermeru finally were discovered and identified in the 1980s, and the Nephthys temple was no mere chapel—rather, it was a notable, self-sustaining temple complex within the Set enclosure(cf. 'Les Deesses de l'Egypte Pharaonique', R. LaChaud, 1992, Durocher-Champollion). Likewise, there can be little doubt that a cult of Nephthys existed in the temple and great town of Herakleopolis, north of Sepermeru. A near life-sized statue of Nephthys (currently housed in the Louvre) boasts a curiously altered inscription. The basalt image originally was stationed at Medinet-Habu, as part of the cultic celebration of the Pharaonic "Sed-Festival," but obviously was transferred at some point to Herakleopolis and the temple of Herishef therein. The cult-image's inscription originally pertained to "Nephthys, Foremost of the Sed [Festival] in the Booth of Annals" (at Medinet-Habu), but was re-inscribed or re-dedicated to "Nephthys, Foremost of the [Booths of] Herakleopolis."

References[change | change source]

  1. Relmer, Pat Egyptian Mythology A to Z
  2. Fisher, Leonard the gods and goddesses of ancient egypt
  3. Barett, Clive The egyptian gods and goddesses

Other websites[change | change source]