Nebt-Het, or Nephthys as She's commonly know in Greek, is the daughter of Geb and Nut, the sister of Asar and Aset, wife and sister of Set, and the mother of Anpu by Osiris. The name Nebt-Het, means "The Lady of the House", but by the word "house" we must understand that portion of the sky which was supposed to form the abode of the Sun-Neter Heru; in a most interesting fact 'Het' in the name Nebt-Het is used in exactly the same sense as 'Het" in the name Het-Hrw or Hathor, Her name meaning "House of Heru."
In the earliest times Nebt-Het was regarded as the female counterpart of Set and was always associated with Him, which is to be expected since She is His wife. Nevertheless, She always appears as the loyal sister and friend of Aset, and helps the widowed Neteret to collect the scattered remains of Asar and to reanimate His body. In the Pyramid Texts, She appears as a helpful friend to the deceased, and She maintains that character throughout every Recension of the Book of the Dead. Indeed, She as Nebkhat seems to perform for him what She did at Tep Zepi when She fashioned "The Body of the Company of the Neteru."
Nebt-Het was most often represented in the form of a woman who wears upon Her head a pair of horns and a disk, much like Het-Hrw, which is surmounted by the symbol of Her name, or just the symbol of Her name alone.
Like Aset, Nebt-Het is believed to possess magical powers, and Urt-Hekau was as much a title of the Neteret as of Her husband, Set-Nubti, The Great One of Two-fold Strength. Nebt-Het, also like Aset, has many forms, for She is one of the two Maat Neteretu, one of the two Mert Neteretu, as well as one of the two plumes which ornamented the head of Amun-Ra.
In Nebt-Het's birthplace, Het-Sekhem, or "The House of The Sistrum", the Neteret was identified with Het-Hrw, the Lady of the Sistrum. In the Serapeum which belonged to the city, or the House of the Bennu, Asar was re-born under the form of Heru, and Nebt-Het was one of His nursing mothers. Nebt-Het, as the active creative power which protected Asar, one of the Moon-Neteru, was called Menkhet, and in allusion to Her beneficent acts in connection with Him the names of Benra-Merit and Kherseket were bestowed upon Her, and the former appears to belong to the Neteret when She made Herself manifest under the form of a cat. Very interesting Indeed.
From Plutarch's treatise on Aset and Asar we may gather many curious facts about the Ancient Egyptian beliefs concerning Nebt-Het. Thus he tells us that the Egyptians call the..."extreme limits of their country, their confines and sea-shores, Nephthys (and sometimes Teleute, a name expressly signifying the end of anything), whom they suppose likewise to be married to Typho. Now as the overflowings of teh Nile are sometimes very great, and extend even to the remotest boundaries of the land, this gave occasion to that part of the story, which regards the secret commerce between Osiris and Nephthys; and as the natural consequence of so great an inundation would be perceived by the springing up of plants in those parts of the country, which were formerly barren, hence they supposed, that Typho was first made acquainted with the injury which had been done his bed by means of a Mellilot-garland which fell from the head of Osiris during his commerce with his Wife, and afterwards left behind him; and thus, they say, may the legitimacy of Horus, the son of Isis be accounted for, as likewise the spuriousness of Anubis, who was born of Nephthys. So again, when they tell us that it appears from the tables of the successions of their ancient Kinds, that Nephthys was married to Typho, and that she was at first barren, if this indeed is to be understood, not as spoken of a mortal woman, but of a Goddess, then is there design to insinuate the utter infertility of the extreme parts of their land, occasioned by the hardness of the soil and its solidity."
Plutarch tells us, moreover, that "On the upper part of the convex surface of teh sistrum is carved the effigies of a Cat with a human visage, as on the lower edge of it, under those moving chords, is engraved on the one side the face of Isis, and on the other, that of Nephthys."
From the above paragraphs it is clear that Nebt-Het is the personification of Shadow and of all that belongs to it, and that Her attributes were rather of a passive than active character. She is the opposite of Aset in most respects; Aset symbolizing birth, growth, development and vigour, but Nebt-Het was the type of death, decay, siminution and immobility. Aset and Nebt-Het were, however, associated inseparably with each other, even as were Heru and Set, and in all the important matters which concern the welfare of the deceased They act Together, and They appear Together in bas-reliefs and vignettes. Aset, according to Plutarch, represented the part of the world which is visable, whilst Nebt-het represents that which is invisible, and we may even regard Aset as the day, and Nebt-Het as the night. Aset and Nebt-Het represent respectively the things which are and the things which are yet to come into being, the beginning and the end, birth and death, and life and death.
We have, unfortunately, no means of knowing what the primitive conception of the attributes of Nebt-Het was, but it is most improbable that it included any of the views on the subject which were current in Plutarch's time. Nebt-Het is not a Neteret with well-defined characteristics (which makes most Her appealing to me!), but She may, generally speaking, be described as the Neteret of the death which is not eternal. In the Book of the Dead the deceased is made to say, "I am the Neter Amsu (or, Min) in his coming forth; may His two plumes be set upon my head for me." In answer to this question, "Who then is this?" the text goes on to say, "Amsu is Heru, the avenger of His father, and His coming forth is His birth. The plumes upon his head are Aset and Nebt-Het when they go forth to set Themselves there, even as His protectors, and They provide that which His head lacketh, or (as others say), they are the two exceeding great Uraei which are upon the head of Their father Tem, or (as others say), his two eyes are the two plumes which are upon his head."
This passage proves that Nebt-Het, although a Neteret of death, is associated with the coming into existence of the life which springs from death, and that She is, like Aset, a female counterpart of Amsu, the ithyphallic Neter, who was at once the type of virility, and reproduction, and regeneration. Aset and Nebt-Het prepared the funeral bed for Their brother Asar, and Together They made the swathings (which are often compared to Nebt-Het's hair!) wherewith His body wa swathed after death. They assisted at the rising of the Sun-Neter when He rose upon this earth for the first time, They assisted at the resurrection of Asar, and similarly, in all ages, They together aided the deceased to rise to the new life by means of the words which they chanted over his bier.
- "Lady of the House"
- "Lady of the Body of the Gods"
- "Dweller within Senu"
- "Lady of Heaven"
- "Mistress of the Gods"
- "Great Goddess, Lady of Life"
- "Sister of the God, Eye of the Ra, Lady of Heaven, Mistress of the Gods"
- "Lady of Heaven, Mistress of the Two Lands"
- "Sister of the God, the Creative Goddess who liveth within An"
The chief centers of Nebt-Het's worship were:
*Severly adapted from E.A. Wallis Budge's "The Gods of the Egyptians" Vol. 2*