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Nebt-Het, or Nephthys (GR) was an Egyptian goddess seen to be a companion and guide for the recently deceased. She was also seen as a general protector of women, especially during childbirth.
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Name and titles
Nebt-het consists of two hieroglyphics, the symbols for basket and house, which literally translates to "Mistress of the House". This title was also given to the presiding female in an Egyptian household. In relation to Nephthys, the title refers to the sky as ruled over by Horus, which Egyptians saw as the way to the underworld.
She had many other titles, including "Lady of the Night", "Lady with Wings", "Friend of the Dead", and "Lady of Heaven".
Nephthys appears as a woman, nearly always with Isis, often only identifiable from her sister by her name in hieroglyphics above her head. She was sometimes given wings, representative of the kite which she was so closely associated with. Her hair was often depicted as the cloth funeral shroud of corpses.
Relationships with other deities
Nephthys was the youngest daughter of Nut and Geb, making her the sister of Osiris, Isis and Set and part of the Ennead of Heliopolis. She was also widely considered to be the wife of Set and mother of Anubis.
Many legends say that the father of Anubis was actually Osiris, whom Nephthys seduced in secret by disguising herself as Isis, as she grew tired of bearing no child through Set. Some sources even go on to say that Nephthys and Set abandoned Anubis after seeing that he bore compassionate tendencies rather than chaotic ones. Others also suggest that her affair was one of the reasons why Set wished to kill Osiris.
Role as a goddess
Nephthys was, essentially, the antithesis of her sister Isis. Isis represented the day, life and growth whereas Nephthys was associated with the night, death and decay. Duality was an important concept to the Egyptians, and so it made sense for Isis' opposite to be partnered with Set, who over time had become the opposite of Osiris.
However, both of the sisters shared the title of "Comforter" and a proficiency with magic, and so often worked together. Together they resurrected Osiris, helping to strengthen her role as a friendly aide to the dead. They were also thought to help in the delivery of children together, with Isis as the midwife and Nephthys as the protector and comforter.
Her role as the "Comforter" extended into the realm of the dead, where she would give guidance to the deceased and comfort the family. Early Old Kingdom texts show her as riding the nightboat on its descent into the underworld, accompanying the dead Pharaoh into the afterlife. She was not quite the Egyptian personification of death, but she was close to it, and it would not be far wrong to call her the goddess of the dead.
Nephthys is a relatively ignored Egyptian goddess, considering the fame of Isis and Osiris. Her worship was widespread, but it was on a much smaller scale. Her cult's center, if it is said that there even was a cult, was Heliopolis, where her chief sanctuary resided.
- Ancient Egypt: the Mythology - Nephthys (http://www.egyptianmyths.net/nephthys.htm)
- Crystalinks.com: Nekhebet, Nephthys (http://www.crystalinks.com/egyptgods9.html)
- Tour Egypt: Nephthys (http://www.touregypt.net/godsofegypt/nephthys.htm)
- Wikipedia: Nephthys (2005) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephthys)