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Nephthys

 
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Scholari
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2010 11:03 pm    Post subject: Nephthys Reply with quote

In many of my books it has Nephthys as being a cosmic negative of Isis. For instance I have a book called Ancient Egyptian myths and legends by Lewis Spence. In it it says apparently paraphrasing Plutarch

As Isis represents fruitfulness, so, he says, Nephthys signifies corruption.

Dr. Budge, commenting upon this passage, says that it is clear that Nephthys is the personification of darkness and of all that belongs to it, and that her attributes were of a passive rather then of an active character. She was the opposite of Isis in every respect. Isis symbolized birth, growth, development and vigor; but Nephthys was the type of of death, decay, diminution, and immobility. The two goddesses were, however, associated inseparably with each other. Isis, according to Plutarch, represents the part of the world which is visible, whilst Nephthys represent that which is invisible. Isis and Nephthys represent respectively the things which are, and the things which are yest to come into being, the beginning and the end, birth and death, and life and death.

Now these quotes I have found in numerous books but in none of them have I found evidence to back up the claim that Nephthys was a cosmic negative to Isis as far is the archeology and mythology is concerned. I mentioned this to another and was ridiculed and told that I was deluded with pop mythology. So I am curious if I am incorrect and by proxy the book.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i dont know much on the concept, but i wouldnt be surprised if part of this was true. what i know of nephthys, is that she was the twin of seth, and when osiris and isis paired off, nephthys and seth did too. i also know she had an affair with osiris and had anubis. she is also depicted as one in a pair of kites grieving over dead bodies at funerals with isis. in fact i think it was in this role, that isis conceived horus?

but if isis was the more popular goddess, i can understand why her roles would be more about life and fertility, and nephthys wouldnt. i also recall she had some sort of role in the home?

i think neseret will be able to answer these questions, she is very informative. i cant wait to see what she says either.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kylejustin wrote:
i dont know much on the concept, but i wouldnt be surprised if part of this was true. what i know of nephthys, is that she was the twin of seth, and when osiris and isis paired off, nephthys and seth did too. i also know she had an affair with osiris and had anubis. she is also depicted as one in a pair of kites grieving over dead bodies at funerals with isis. in fact i think it was in this role, that isis conceived horus?

but if isis was the more popular goddess, i can understand why her roles would be more about life and fertility, and nephthys wouldnt. i also recall she had some sort of role in the home?

i think neseret will be able to answer these questions, she is very informative. i cant wait to see what she says either.


Very little, sadly, is written about Nephthys. She and Isis are identical twins, while Osiris and Seth were considered fraternal (though same gender) twins. There is a myth that Osiris once mistook Nephthys in the dark for Isis (you get the point) and from that mistaken identity, Anubis was born. This seems to point to Nephthys "dark" quality, but that seems to be about as far as it goes.

Nephthys' Egyptian name is /nb.t Hwt/, "Mistress of the Mansion/Temple/Tomb." Her symbol is a combination of glyphs V30 and O7, which express her name in a rebus fashion: /nb(.t)/ (V30) over /Hwt/ (O7), thus forming combined glyph O9, which always means the goddess.

In general, Nephthys lives in harmony in the shadow of her sister Isis. She is wife and lady of the house in any sanctuary, a /nbt Hwt/, in parallel to the secular /nbt pr/, "mistress of the house", which is a title for married women, as head of the household. She is altruistic in her assistance, and acts as a sister of all the gods (Hornung 1992.)

She is the wife of Sutekh (Seth) but is badly used by him (there are no children, he has affairs with other goddesses (and gods) and basically abandons her). Thus she divorces Sutekh at some point and is taken into the home of Osiris and Isis. Goedicke (1990) argued that Nephthys as a divorcee found respectful acceptance in the home of her sister Isis, without ever fulfilling the role of Isis for her husband Osiris (in short, he disputes the Anubis birth myth as more of a scurrilous story about the goddess without any real mythological support).

Nephthys is known primarily for her funereal aspects in Egyptian religion beyond the dutiful sister/abandoned-divorced wife aspect. With her sister Isis, she is the lesser of the two main wailing women who weep for the deceased. Bleeker (1958) argued that all associated funereal weepers represent their mythical archetype, known as Isis (the senior wailer) and Nephthys (the lesser wailer). Obviously this comes from the Osiris myth in which Osiris, after dismemberment, is constituted into the first mummy and is thus bewailed by his two sisters as the first entity to die, mythically speaking.

Nephthys' character was established by the time of the Pyramid Texts (c.2400 BCE). According to the texts, she is one of the Ennead of Heliopolis, the daughter of Geb and Nut, and the sister of Osiris, Isis and Seth. Although she is Seth's consort, she supports Osiris, and is closely associated with Isis. When Osiris dies, Isis and Nephthys transform themselves into kites, lament his death, and restore his body, thus protecting it from decay. Together, they guard the young Horus and the deceased king, Isis and Nephthys are typically paired in royal iconography as women, or as various uraeii which are associated with the king in life (for both goddesses are /ir.t/ "doer" goddesses, who carry out the will of Ra, the sun god, as his protectors. As such, they serve as protector to the king in the same fashion, often as striking cobras).

While both are essentially beneficent, Nephthys can be associated with darkness, as when Isis represents the ascending day bark and Nephthys the descending night bark. Also in the funereal context, the wrappings which surround the mummy are sometimes called the "tresses of Nephthys", which may reflect the way Egyptian women, primarily today in the country areas of Egypt, in grief, will whip their hair across the body of the deceased as they wail.

The Pyramid Texts refer to Nephthys as the mother and nurse of the king, suggesting an association with divine birth, and the Westcar Papyrus portrays her aiding the birth of future kings. In solar religion, Isis and Nephthys assist Re, indicating a possible origin as sky goddesses.

In the funereal context, Nepthys serves as the constant mourner for the deceased (along with Isis), and is represented in the tomb as a kite or as a human female (or as a combination of both). By the 18th Dynasty, in particular, Isis and Nephthys have exact positions on the tomb of the king, with Nephthys occupying the foot (east) end of the coffin as opopsed to Isis at the head (west) end of the coffin. This can be seen (in microcosm) on the "coffin" of the She-Cat (Ta-Miaut) , where they appear in the same respective positions.

Nephthys also serves as a protector of the canopic jars, which also emerges in strict positions by the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom. Nephthys' association is with Hapy as the guardian of the lungs, and again stands on the east side of the canopic shrine, while her sister Isis protects the guardian Duamutef and the stomach in the west side of the canopic shrine.

Isis and Nephthys are depicted behind the throne of Osiris in the Book of Going Forth by Day (Book of the Dead ), occupying the solar bark in the Book of Gates, and beside the tomb of Osiris in the Book of That Which Is in the Underworld (Am-duat). The twins adorn the exteriors of New Kingdom royal sarcophagi; the feather patterns on Theban /mfa'/-coffins represent their outstretched wings, and they figure prominently in the vignettes on cartonnage coffins of the New Kingdom and later.

Funerary scenes in 19th dynasty private tombs show Nephthys at the head of the coffin, Isis at the foot, and Anubis administering to the deceased, a reversal of earlier New Kingdom pattern.

From the fifth dynasty onward, female /dryt/ mourners are shown portraying Isis and Nephthys in funerary scenes. Two Graeco-Roman versions of the Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys were intended to be performed by women impersonating the goddesses in temples and funerals respectively.

There is little evidence for an individual cult of Nephthys, although three 20th dynasty priests of her cult, and one from the Late Period, are attested.

The birthday of Nephthys was celebrated on the last epagomenal day (5th day of the five additional days of the year, bargained from Re by Thoth, so that Nut could bear her children, since Re would not allow them to be born in the regular 360-day Egyptian year).

Nephthys is usually portrayed as childless, except for the Anubis as Nephthy's-son-by-Osiris myth, which arose in the Greco-Roman period.

Nephthys is also attested as the mother of a son by Re and a daughter by Hemen. Although rarely associated with deities other than Isis, she is occasionally identified with Seshat or Anuket. In the Ptolemaic Period, Nephthys attends the Apis bull, and the Greeks sometimes identified her with Aphrodite or Nike (Doxey 2002: 276).

Reference:

Bleeker, C. J. 1958. Isis and Nephthys as Wailing Women. Numen (Leiden) 5/1 (January 1958): 1-17.

Cauville, S. 1981. Chentayt et Merkhetes, des avatars d'Isis et Nephthys. BIFAO 81: 21-40.

Doxey, D. 2002. Nephthys. In D. B. Redford, Ed., The Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion: 275-276. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goedicke, H. 1990. Nephthys, the Divorcee. Hathor (Lisboa) 2: 39-44.

Hornung, E. 1992. Versuch über Nephthys. In A. B. Lloyd, ed., Studies in Pharaonic Religion and Society in honour of J. Gwyn Griffiths: 186-188. Occasional Publications 8. London: Egypt Exploration Society.

HTH.
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kylejustin
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

absolutely fascinating. thank you for that. i have one question concerning the myth of thoth bargaining the extra 5 days, why 5 if there were 4 children? or do some myths consider two horus' a brother of osiris, and then his son?
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Scholari
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I remember right Horus the Elder was not entirely the same god as Horus the son of Isis and Osiris. Then again some versions of the myth give that Osiris and Isis copulated in the womb of Nut so they gave birth to Horus the Elder in the womb and came from Nuts womb with her parents.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scholari wrote:
If I remember right Horus the Elder was not entirely the same god as Horus the son of Isis and Osiris. Then again some versions of the myth give that Osiris and Isis copulated in the womb of Nut so they gave birth to Horus the Elder in the womb and came from Nuts womb with her parents.


Horus the Elder is not related to Osiris and Isis via the Heliopolitan myth cycle, but is a brother of Sutekh (Seth), without reference to Osiris (this indicates an older myth cycle usually at work). Usually the 5th birth is for Horus the Elder in some myths, and in some myths, it's explained as a way to accomodate the eventual birth of Horus Son-of-Isis at some later point.

It's very difficult to understand this, I know, but later syncretism of mythology (especially by the Later Period) often confuse the myths of Horus the Elder with Horus Son-of-Isis. The famous text of the Contending of Horus and Seth is probably a story more about Horus the Elder vying for kingship with his brother Sutekh in taking over the kingship from Ra. This was probably clearly known in earlier periods and kept as a separate story.

Most Egyptologists, for example, know that it is Horus the Elder as the "Horus" shown tying the /zmA tAwy/ emblem of unification of the Two Lands in iconography, for example.

However, by the Late Period, this story appears reinterpreted as a story of Horus-Son-of-Isis vis his uncle Sutekh. This fits in nicely with the later prominence of Horus, Isis and Osiris in the mythology of the Late Period, but there are elements to the story (a judgement by other deities, with Neith (the "eldest of the gods" as she is called) making critical decisions for the testing of these two warring gods: this tends, IMO, to point to a possible Old Kingdom origin to the story, which would predate the story before the the prominence of Osiris in Egyptian theology).

For more information on Horus the Elder, and the later syncretism into the mythology of Horus-Son-of-Isis, see

Fairman, H. W., Ed. 1974. The Triumph of Horus: An Ancient Egyptian Sacred Drama. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Griffiths, J. G. 1960. The Conflict of Horus and Seth: From Egyptian and Classical Sources. Liverpool Monographs in Archaeology and Oriental Studies. H. W. Fairman. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

HTH.
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Meryankh
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have one book which has A LONG explanation about Nephtys (and about her role in mythology). Because the text is so long (about 5 pages), I'll give you the name of the book and the pages:

E.A. Wallis Budge - The gods of the Egyptians vol. 2. pages beginning from 254 -->

Budge has mentioned why Nephtys is opposite of Isis, but she is associated with life too - she had a part in awakening Osiris with Isis.

So, Nephtys isn't only goddess of the death, she is also goddess of rebirth. Marriage with Seth makes her more "bad" than she really is - good lady to have around after all. Wink
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Meryankh wrote:
I have one book which has A LONG explanation about Nephtys (and about her role in mythology). Because the text is so long (about 5 pages), I'll give you the name of the book and the pages:

E.A. Wallis Budge - The gods of the Egyptians vol. 2. pages beginning from 254 -->

Budge has mentioned why Nephtys is opposite of Isis, but she is associated with life too - she had a part in awakening Osiris with Isis.


Which I covered. May I please note here that not reading Budge is probably better for understanding of Egyptian religion. Budge is notoriously unreliable in his approach to Egyptian religion (he works too hard to make it palatable to a Judaeo-Christian audience) and is woefully out of date (Budge died in 1934, over 70 years ago).

I list books below which are far better in explaining Egyptian religious concepts than Budge.

Reference:

Assmann, J. 2001. The Search for God in Ancient Egypt. D. Lorton, transl. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Bonnet, H. 1952. Reallexikon der Aegyptischen Religiongeschichte. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. (Reissued in 2001)

Hornung, E. 1982. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many. J. Baines, transl. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Morenz, S. 1973 (1960). Egyptian Religion. A. E. Keep. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Quirke, S. 1992. Ancient Egyptian Religion. London: British Museum Press.

Redford, D. B., Ed. 2002. The Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shafer, B. E., Ed. 1991. Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Wilkinson, R. H. 2003. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson.
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