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Definition: Nephthys from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

In Egyptian mythology, the goddess wife of Set and sister of Isis. She mourned for Osiris in the form of a kite (bird of prey).

One of the four goddesses who protected sarcophagi and Canopic jars, she was represented as a woman with the hieroglyphs for her name on her head.

Summary Article: Nephthys
From The Encyclopedia of Ancient History

The goddess Nephthys is encountered most frequently in a funerary context, paired with her sister Isis. Her name, Nbt-Hwt, can be translated as "Lady (or Mistress) of Hwt," variously understood to mean mortuary foundation, temple, or royal installation. The interpretation of her name as "mistress of the house" in the sense of "housewife" (te Velde 1977: 30) seems less persuasive. She is situated in cosmogonies as a member of the Heliopolitan Ennead, as one of the four offspring of Geb and Nut. She is paired with her brother Seth in the Pyramid Texts, and in the Roman period portrayed as his consort in the oases of Dakhleh and Kharga. There is no known cult center exclusively dedicated to Nephthys until the Roman period, when the temple erected by Antoninus Pius at Komir contains reliefs and a hymn addressed to Nephthys and Anukhet, each named "mistress of the district of the gazelle" (es-Saghir and Valbelle 1983).

Nephthys most commonly appears as a woman, with the nbt-Hwt glyph on her head. As a kestrel, she appears with Isis as drty mourning birds, while the liturgies known as the Lamentations and Songs of Isis and Nephthys show her importance in a performative context.


Isis, Pharaonic Egypt.

References and Suggested Readings
  • Altenmüller, H. (1999) "Zum Ursprung von Isis und Nephthys." Studien zur altägyptischen Kultur 27: 1-26.
  • es-Saghir, M.; Valbelle, D. (1983) "Komir: I - The Discovery of Komir Temple: Preliminary report; II - Deux Hymnes aux divinités de Komir, Anoukis et Nephthys." Bulletin de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale 83: 149-70.
  • Faulkner, R. O. (1934) "The lamentations of Isis and Nephthys." In Mélanges Maspero, vol. 1.1: 337-48. Cairo.
  • Faulkner, R. O. (1936) "The Bremner-Rhind Papyrus - I; the Songs of Isis and Nephthys." JEA 22 121-40.
  • Hornung, E. (1992) Versuch über Nephthys. In Lloyd, A. B. , ed., Studies in Pharaonic religion and society in honour of J. Gwyn Griffiths: 186-8. London.
  • Lévai, J. (2007) Aspects of the goddess Nephthys, especially during the Graeco-Roman period in Egypt PhD dissertation, Brown University.
  • te Velde, H. (1977) Seth, God of confusion. Leiden.
  • Wendy Monkhouse
    Wiley ©2012

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