Helios on Nephthys: Who here has ever felt alone? That there was no one on their side, no one to turn to? Feeling alone in this world, without any allies to call on, is a terrible thing. Luckily, this week’s asteroid goddess is here to help!
The Astronomy: 287 Nephthys is a large Main belt asteroid that was discovered by German-American astronomer C. H. F. Peters on August 25, 1889, in Clinton, New York and named after Nephthys in Egyptian mythology. It is classified as an S-type asteroid. It has an orbital period of 3.61 years (1318.4 days).
The Myth: The origin of the goddess Nephthys is unclear but the literal translation of her name is usually given as “Lady of the House,” which has caused some to mistakenly identify her with the notion of a “housewife,” or as the primary lady who ruled a domestic household. Her name means quite specifically, “Lady of the [Temple] Enclosure” which associates her with the role of priestess. This title, which may be more of an epithet describing her function than a given name, probably indicates the association of Nephthys with one particular temple or some specific aspect of the Egyptian temple ritual. Along with her sister Isis, Nephthys represented the temple pylon or trapezoidal tower gateway entrance to the temple. This entrance way symbolized the horizon or akhet.
At the time of the Fifth Dynasty Pyramid Texts, Nephthys appears as a goddess of the Heliopolitan Ennead. She is the sister of Isis and companion of the war-like deity, Set. As sister of Isis and especially Osiris, Nephthys is a protective goddess who symbolizes the death experience, just as Isis represented the (re)birth experience. Nephthys was known in some ancient Egyptian temple theologies and cosmologies as the “Useful Goddess” or the “Excellent Goddess”. These late Ancient Egyptian temple texts describe a goddess who represented divine assistance and protective guardianship. Nephthys is regarded as the mother of the funerary-deity Anubis in some myths. As the primary “nursing mother” of the incarnate Pharaonic-god, Horus, Nephthys also was considered to be the nurse of the reigning Pharaoh himself. Though other goddesses could assume this role, Nephthys was most usually portrayed in this function. In contrast Nephthys is sometimes featured as a rather ferocious and dangerous divinity, capable of incinerating the enemies of the Pharaoh with her fiery breath.
Nephthys was clearly viewed as a morbid-but-crucial force of heavenly transition, i.e., the Pharaoh becomes strong for his journey to the afterlife through the intervention of Isis and Nephthys. The same divine power could be applied later to all of the dead, who were advised to consider Nephthys a necessary companion. According to the Pyramid Texts, Nephthys, along with Isis, was a force before whom demons trembled in fear, and whose magical spells were necessary for navigating the various levels of Duat, as the region of the afterlife was termed. It should here be noted that Nephthys was not necessarily viewed as the polar opposite of Isis, but rather as a different reflection of the same reality: eternal life in transition. Thus, Nephthys was also seen in the Pyramid Texts as a supportive cosmic force occupying the night-bark on the journey of Ra, particularly when he entered Duat at the transitional time of dusk, or twilight.
Nephthys was also considered a festive deity whose rites could mandate the liberal consumption of beer. In various reliefs at Edfu, Dendera, and Behbeit, Nephthys is depicted receiving lavish beer-offerings from the Pharaoh, which she would “return”, using her power as a beer-goddess “that [the pharaoh] may have joy with no hangover.” Elsewhere at Edfu, for example, Nephthys is a goddess who gives the Pharaoh power to see “that which is hidden by moonlight.” This fits well with more general textual themes that consider Nephthys to be a goddess whose unique domain was darkness, or the perilous edges of the desert. Nephthys could also appear as one of the goddesses who assists at childbirth. An ancient Egyptian myth preserved in the Papyrus Westcar recounts the story of Isis, Nephthys, Meskhenet, and Heqet as traveling dancers in disguise, assisting the wife of a priest of Amun-Re as she prepares to bring forth sons who are destined for fame and fortune. Nephthys’s healing skills and status as direct counterpart of Isis, steeped, as her sister in “words of power,” are evidenced by the abundance of amulets carved in her likeness, and by her presence in a variety of magical papyri that sought to summon her famously altruistic qualities to the aid of mortals.
Why She Matters: Okay so I have been waiting for the right moment to do her, and I am so excited that I finally have the chance. Nephthys is a hugely complex goddess, and she MATTERED in Egypt. She was the priestess, the healer, the nursemaid of the Pharaoh, the goddess of festivals and healer, wife of the raging Set, paired goddess of Isis, Healer of Osiris… the list goes on and on. She gets ignored for the others though, because she is not as well understood, and I think that is a DAMN shame. Everyone and their brother does Isis, and sure she’s great, but here we like to do more underrepresented stories, not the mainstream.
Clearly, Nephthys is very fond of us mortals, far more than most of the gods and goddesses. She LOVES us, even if we don’t know her. She protects us, just as she protected the Pharaoh, and she is a powerful ally. She guides us, in life and in death, if we let her. She is part of the grand tradition of nursemaids hiding away the chief boy-god and taking care of him so that he can one day overthrow the tyrant god. You couldn’t do that if you weren’t a fearsome power in your own right. Even so, Nephthys doesn’t really act in terms of power, at least not in the overt way that some of the others do. She is the barrier between the sacred and the mundane, transubstantiating the ordinary and elevating it. She is bliss, as the goddess of festivals and drunkenness- BUT WITHOUT THE HANGOVER.
Nephthys is also a tempering influence on her brother/husband, the warrior Set. She takes the rage of his sandstorm and turns him into the kingly warrior, the force that slays Apep, the destroyer. When he goes too far, she reins him back in. She is his Priestess, his sacred woman, and he is her King, her stalwart protector. When he reigned as the chief god, after usurping his brother Asar, She would have been at his side. She was also hiding Horus at that time! That is mind-boggling and completely terrifying, having to do that because it was right, knowing that it meant betraying her love and sacrificing her own position and power.
My girl is like a combination of the Moon, Neptune and Vesta in the chart. She loves the dark places, the hidden truths and magics. She shows us “that which is hidden by moonlight.” which I take as being able to see clearly in the darkness, meaning any number of things. When you wander alone, in the night, Nephthys is there to help guide your way. Nephthys is also a point in the chart that is sacred, something that gets elevated from the everyday drudgery. As she is a complex goddess, who rules a great many things, I ask you for your input on her expression in your charts!
To find out where she shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, all the way at the bottom of the next page, there will be a menu of additional objects. Under that is a blank space where you can enter the number 287, for Nephthys. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Nephthys affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!