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January 05, 2019 2 min read

Nephthys was regarded as the sister-wife companion of Set in Heliopolis. Although Nephthys's marriage to Set is part of Egyptian mythology, it was not included in the murder and resurrection of Osiris, in which she works more closely with her sister, Isis. She is, however, paired with Set's other aspect, the benevolent figure who killed the serpent Apep and part of the Ennead. In art, Nephthys was usually shown as a young woman, wearing a headdress in the shape of a house and basket.

Her name means "Lady of the Temple Enclosure" associating her with the role of priestess. She was also referred to as the “Useful Goddess” or “Excellent Goddess” in later Egyptian temple texts, which describe her as a goddess of divine assistance and protective guardianship. In some Egyptian myths, Nephthys is regarded as the mother of Anubis.

In contrast to her sister, Isis (who represents the experience of birth and life), Nephthys symbolizes the experience of death. Both Isis and Nephthys are invoked in funerary rites in connection with their role as protectors of the mummy of Osiris. Along with Isis, Nephthys represented the temple pylon, the monumental gateway of an Egyptian temple consisting of two towers. Nephthys was seen as a morbid, but essential force of heavenly transition. The Pharaoh gains strength for his journey to the afterlife through the intervention of Isis and Nephthys. Later, this power was applied to all the dead, who were advised to consider Nephthys a necessary companion.

As a nursing mother of Horus, considered a Pharaoh-god, Nephthys was regarded as the nurse of the reigning Pharaoh. Nephthys can be both fierce and dangerous and could incinerate the Pharaoh’s enemies with her fiery breath. Nephthys, along with Isis, was a force before whom demons trembled. Her magical spells were considered necessary for navigating through Duat, the underworld region of the afterlife.

Nephthys was also a festive deity and in some rites beer was consumed in liberal amounts. Nephthys is depicted in stone reliefs as receiving beer offerings from the Pharaoh, which she returned, with her power as a beer goddess. Nephthys's healing skills and skill in magical words is evidenced in an abundance of faience (quartz ceramic) amulets carved in her likeness.

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