Study Guide

Nephthys

  • Profile

    Purple and black clothes. Long black hair. Pale skin and a sad face. Isis' little sister Nephthys is the original Goth. But to be fair, she doesn't dress this way to be emo. She's the goddess of death and mourning and spends most of her day crying for the people she's lost. Can you blame her? Nephthys' big brother Osiris was murdered by her own husband, and she had to be the strong one at the funeral. Since then, she's gotten pretty good at funerals.

    Basic Information

    Name

    Nephthys (Nebt-het)

    Nickname

    Lady of the House, Mistress of Bandages, Mummy Mum, Miss Sobs-a-Lot

    Sex

    Female

    Current city

    The land of the dead (the Duat)

    Work & Education

    Occupation

    Mourner and grief counselor

    Education

    I've learned many things from my sister, Isis. She's very smart.

    Beliefs

    Political views

    Osiris is king of my world. (Remember: I don't live in yours.)

    Family & Friends (& Enemies)

    Parents

    Geb (or Ra) and Nut

    Siblings

    Osiris, Horus the Elder, Seth, Isis

    Children

    They said I couldn't have children, but then I had Anubis. Unfortunately, I had to give him to Isis to raise so Seth wouldn't kill him. I wanted to cry.

    Friends

    The Four Sons of Horus, dead people everywhere

    Enemies

    None

    Relationships

    Relationship status

    It's Complicated with Seth

    Interested in

    Men

    Favorites

    TV Shows

    The Walking Dead 
    Angel 
    Six Feet Under 
    Pushing Daisies 

    Quotations

    "Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore / so do our minutes hasten to their end."
    William Shakespeare, Sonnet LX

    "For certain is death for the born and certain is birth for the dead; therefore over the inevitable, thou shouldst not grieve."
    – The Bhagavad Gita

    "I hope the leaving is joyful; and I hope never to return."
    – Frida Kahlo

    "There was something awesome in the thought of the solitary mortal standing by the open window and summoning in from the gloom outside the spirits of the nether world."
    – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    "Don't fear the Reaper."
    – Blue Öyster Cult

    Books

    Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (This book makes me feel better about my crazy family.)
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (I bought this book because it sounded familiar—for us in Egypt, the West is where the quiet lands of the dead begin. But surprise, it was about World War I! It was still a powerful read.)
    A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway (It's not always dark here….)
    Endgame by Samuel Beckett (Hope is important, even when things get tough. Never forget this.)
    Inferno by Dante Alighieri (Dante got the special guided tour!)
    Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography by Douglas Keister (Know your graveyards! Here's a guide to all those things on modern tombstones. I only read hieroglyphs.)
    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (Wanna gross your parents out? Bring this book to dinner.)
    Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach (After she finished with the bodies, Ms. Roach wrote a book about my job.)
    The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks (Just in case something goes wrong.)
    Death: The High Cost of Living (The Sandman Library/DC Graphic Novel) by Neil Gaiman, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, Dave McKean, and Tori Amos (You get what everyone gets. You get a lifetime.)

    Music

    Cry Me a River by Justin Timberlake (After I heard this, I felt bad about sneaking off with Osiris. Sorry, Isis.)
    Help I'm Alive by Metric (I can fix that.)
    Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event (It's good to think about sad things, but don't dwell on them late at night.)
    Your Cheatin' Heart by Hank Williams (I didn't mean to! Well, maybe I did. Osiris is so cute.)
    Birthday by The Crüxshadows (What are you going to do before you die?)
    Anything by Prince (How could you not love His Purple Majesty? He would die 4 u!)
    Anything by Dead Can Dance, but I especially like Anywhere Out of the World 
    Genesis by VNV Nation (Maybe heaven is silent because it's creating?)

    Movies

    The Corpse Bride (One guy, two girls. I know this story, and it never ends well.)
    The Bucket List (Better get to work. You've got lots to do before I come to visit.)
    What Dreams May Come (I cried for a week!)
    The Underworld series (Way better than those sparkly guys.)
    ParaNorman (Someone has to mind the dead things if I'm busy. I like this kid.)
    Shaun of the Dead (Sometimes? It's laugh or scream.)
    Every Saturday, I watch silly old monster movies with Anubis, like The Creature from the Black Lagoon or Mothra versus Godzilla. Good thing we've got popcorn in the afterlife!

    Activities & Interests

    Likes

    Poetry
    Sad music
    Flowers
    Snow (We never had it in Egypt, but I like to make snow jackals.)
    Osiris (he's a hunk)

    Interests

    Photography
    Thanatology
    String theory
    Timepieces (I like sundials and hourglasses best)

    Groups

    Ancient Egyptian Gods  
    Death Angel 
    Edgar Allan Poe 

    • Spotter's Guide

      You'll definitely know Nephthys when you see her. She'll be the one all decked out in her Goth gear with jet black hair. Sometimes she appears as a bird, though, so watch out. And fair warning: this girl likes to talk about death. It can be kind of a downer.

      Sex: Female
      Age: Adult
      Build: Average female in human form. She can also appear as a bird: a hawk, a kite, a crow/blackbird, or a cobra with the hieroglyphs of her name on her head.
      Complexion: Pale yellow (like ancient Egyptian paintings of women), dark green, black, or white skin
      Hair Color: Black (wig or real hair)
      Facial Hair: None
      Scars/marks/tattoos: None
      Jewelry and accessories: A broad gold collar and bracelets in her human form. Sometimes she carries a sistrum (a musical rattle also used by the goddesses Bast and Hathor) and sometimes a tall stalk of papyrus with a flower at the top. Sometimes she wears the hieroglyphs of her name, a round basket atop a rectangular temple model, on her head.
      Clothing: In human form, a tight fitting dress, usually green, white, or red.
      Armor: None
      Type of Weapon: None

      Typical Companions

      Isis
      Anubis
      Osiris
      The Four Sons of Horus
      Less often, Seth and Seshat

      Known Hangouts

      The afterlife, in Osiris's throne room
      Tombs and graveyards
      Deserts
      Nighttime

    • Sightings

      Dec 21, 2019

      Pyramid Texts

      Nephthys is first mentioned in the pharaohs' funeral hymns, carved inside of their pyramids during the Old Kingdom. Some hymns talk about how nice she is. Others call her names (like an "imitation woman"), and some emphasize how scary she is. If you believe these texts, she's fake and her hair's made out of mummy bandages! Please.

      Dec 20, 2019

      Ozymandias's Gift: The Temple of Sepermeru

      Ramses II (called Ozymandias by the Greeks and Shelley in his famous poem) built two large temples for Seth and Nephthys in Sepermeru, near the Faiyum in middle Egypt. Today it's their only home still standing. Most of their houses were wrecked after the priests on Team Osiris started hacking up Seth's images all over Egypt.

      Dec 20, 2019

      Grave Matters

      When the Ptolemies and the Romans took over Egypt, nobody forgot Isis, Nephthys, and their family. People still painted them on tombs and temples and stelae (like modern gravestones). On the stela of a woman named Nehmeset-Rattawi, Nephthys is fourth from the left, sitting in front of Anubis, Hathor, and Horus the Elder. Nephthys herself is in the middle, behind Isis and Osiris, in a white wig. Late Period painters often made her outfits the exact opposite of whatever Isis was wearing. That's part of why people today think of Nephthys as Isis's "dark twin."

      Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

      Valley of the Golden Mummies, Bahariya Oasis

      Seth and Nephthys were the gods of Egypt's desert oases. It's creepy, but probably fitting, that Egypt's biggest cache of mummies ever found comes from one of these oases. Bahariya's Valley of the Golden Mummies, surveyed by famous Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass in 1996, contains up to 10,000 Roman and Egyptian coffins and mummies dating back centuries. That's a whole lot of Halloween bling.

      Jan 1, 1970 - Dec 20, 2019

      The Good Sister

      Way back in super-ancient Egypt, the temple of Kom Ombo was dedicated to the brothers Seth and Horus the Elder. When Seth killed Osiris and everybody got mad at him, he was removed from Kom Ombo and replaced his son Sobek. Nephthys didn't get removed. They just removed her trademark hat, changed her name to Tasenetnofret, or "the Good Sister"—a title she uses when helping Isis with funerals—and left her on Sobek's side of the sanctuary. Sneaky.

      Jan 1, 1970 - Dec 20, 2019

      Phoenix Rising

      In Ra's city of Heliopolis (Iunu), Nephthys was associated with the Temple of the Bennu. A bennu, or white heron, is the ancient Egyptian phoenix bird that was a symbol of the rising sun. Later on the bennu and phoenix continued to be her symbols—makes sense for a goddess of death and change—and in Diospolis Parva, where the bennu and Nephthys were BFFs, she got a special temple as the "mistress of the phoenix."

      Mysteries of Osiris and the Hall of Two Truths

      Nephthys helps her sister Isis recover her dead husband and prepare him for burial. Together the sisters are called Ma'ati, or "two truths," and the judgment hall in the afterlife where Osiris judges the dead is named for them. They get to sit on the steps with him and welcome anybody who survives the weighing of the heart. Thankfully, they've gotten over that whole awkward phase when Anubis was born. Thousands of images in temples, tombs, and papyri from the Middle Kingdom into the Roman period show all three hanging out in the hall.

      Chief Mourner

      Along with Isis, Nephthys also appears on the coffins and sarcophagi of dead people, mourning for them and welcoming them into the afterlife. Fancy painted coffins from the Middle Kingdom into the Roman period often depict the two sisters either with the soul of a dead person, or with the Djed pillar of Osiris, the hieroglyph for stability and life after death.

      Papyrus Westcar

      In an ancient story in Papyrus Westcar, Nephthys and Isis secretly help some pharaohs to be born. Isis kneels by their mother Reddjedet's feet, and Nephthys stands behind the bed. Why? Childbirth was dangerous in ancient Egypt, and many babies and mothers did not survive. Isis is the goddess of life, so she waits to bring out the new baby. Nephthys is the goddess of death, so she stands behind the mother to take her if she dies. Isis and Nephthys also do this for dead people. In any image where Isis and Nephthys appear with a mummy, or Osiris on an embalmer's table, Isis will be near the feet/bottom/front, and Nephthys will be the head/top/back. If the goddesses are standing side by side, Nephthys is always behind Isis from the viewer's perspective.