mythology, Nephthys (spelt Nebet-het,
and Nebt-het, in transliteration from
hieroglyphs) is one of the Ennead
of Heliopolis, a daughter of Nuit
and Geb, and
the wife of Set.
She was originally Set's
dualistic counterpart, representing
the air, wheras Set
originally represented the desert.
In ancient Egypt, the oldest female
in the house was given the honorary
title of Nephthys, and she was popular
even in the Greco-Roman period.
Consequently she was named Nebt-het, which means lady of
the house, the house being a colloquial term for the sky,
a use also present in the name of Hathor, meaning house of
horus. In art, she was depicted as a hawk, representative
of the air, or as a woman with a hawk's wings, usually outstretched
as a symbol of protection. She was shown crowned by the hieroglyphic
of her name, which was the sign for a house (het), with the
sign for neb, which could also mean basket, on top of it.
Due to Set representing the barren
desert, Set was seen at first as infertile,
and subsequently as gay, and so Nephthys was seen as childless.
As she was also seen as a bird, she gradually became seen
as a vulture, which the egyptians believed never had children
due to being believed to all be female (they thought vultures
were spontaneously created from air). Although vultures were
seen in a positive light, their feeding behaviour nevertheless
lead them to be associated also with decay and death, and
so Nephthys too gradually became a goddess of death and decay.
||This lead her, in art, to be depicted
as a mourning woman, and her hair
was compared to the strips of cloth
which shroud the bodies of the dead.
She was known as a Friend of the Dead,
and professional mourners became referred
to as the Hawks of Nephthys. When
were merged, Nephthys was seen as
joining the night-time boat journey
of Ra, the sun
god, when he entered the underworld,
and accompanying him until he met
the day again.
In the Ennead, she is also the sibling
of the other pair - Osiris and Isis,
who represented death and life, respectively. Consequently,
when the merger of Ogdoad and Ennead
caused the Ogdoad's god of death,
Anubis, to be displaced, and become
a lesser god, it was said that Nephthys was Anubis'
mother, and Osiris his father. This
was described in myth by stating that a sexually frustrated
Nephthys disguised herself as Isis
to appeal to Set, but he did not notice
her since he was gay, and had a boyfriend (Ash),
but Osiris, Isis'
husband, did, mistaking her for Isis,
and resulting in the birth of Anubis.
Later alternative versions hold that she just drugged Osiris
with wine in order to seduce him.
|Later, Nephthys, as the air, was
identified as the source of rain,
which only occurred frequently south
of Egypt, and so was seen as the creator
of the Nile river. Consequently she
became identified as the goddess Anuket,
who was considered to be the source
of the Nile. As a funerary goddess,
this lead to her being considered
protector of Hapi,
one of the Four
sons of Horus, specifically the
deification of the canopic jar containing
the lungs, the organ that suffers
most from drowning.
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