Goddess of Transition

by Moonwater Ashwood

"I am with thee; I shall protect thy limbs forever, eternally."
The Laments of Isis and Nephthys, Berlin papyrus 14225, circa 18th Dynasty (1550-1292 BCE)

"Death Which Is Not Eternal"

Death Which Is Not Eternal, That is my essence,
That is my title,
That is my promise.
I am Nephthys,
Twin sister of Isis,
Loving sister of Osiris,
Sister-wife of Set.
I was revered for millenia,
Guiding the souls of the dead,
Protecting the mighty Pharaohs,
Soothing the grief-stricken.
Yet who remembers me now?
The conquering tribes have
Erased me, sealing me away
In dark corners and tombs,
Spreading fear in their wake.
There was a time when I
Brought comfort and love
In times of sorrow;
Now death is seen with fear,
Anger, and disgust.
There was a time when death
Was a time of celebration,
A glorious ascension into the
Great Mysteries beyond this
Earthly realm; no more.
It is for that loss of innocence
And faith that I now weep.

Jennifer Runham-Stark,
January 26 2009

"I am Nephthys; I am come; I lay hold of thee; I have put
thy heart into thy body for thee."
The Pyramid Texts, circa 3000 BCE

Though often overlooked in modern times, Nephthys was worshipped not only by the Ancient Egyptians, but by the Greeks and Romans as well as the Roman Empire expanded. Nephthys is actually Her Greco-Roman name, meaning Death Which is Not Eternal (alluding to Her primary role as a Goddess of transition for the dead); She was known to the Ancient Egyptians as Nebet-het or Nebt-het, meaning Lady of the House of the Gods. She is called: The Useful Goddess; The Excellent Goddess; Lady of the Temple Enclosure; Protectress of the Sacred Phoenix; Dweller Within Senu; Lady of Heaven; Mistress of the Gods; Great Goddess, Lady of Life. She appears within numerous tomb inscriptions and papyrus scrolls, including the Pyramid Texts, the Book of the Dead, and The Burden Of Isis, as a protector and guide to the deceased, leading them through the various levels of the Afterlife as that they may move on into their next incarnation.

Nephthys is the twin sister of Isis, distinguished in paintings only by the hieroglyphs on their heads; while Isis is shown crowned by the throne hieroglyph, Nephthys is differentiated by a bowl balanced on top of a house (or pillar). She was seen as the eternal protector of the Pharaohs, guarding them in life and death, fighting off their enemies with Her fiery breath, just as She protected Her brother, Osiris. Despite Her marriage to Set, the murderer of Osiris, She helped Isis gather the pieces of His body, binding them together, and filling His lungs with the Breath of Life, resurrecting Him. It was the mournful cries of the Goddesses that summoned His spirit back to His body, as is seen in The Burden Of Isis, particularly in The Laments Of Isis And Nephthys. Within the Pyramid Texts, Her hair is described as the linen bandages of the mummy: "Raise thyself up, shake off thy dust; remove the dirt which is on thy face; loose thy bandages. They are indeed not bandages; they are the locks of Nephthys." Rather than focusing on death and decay, this shows Her as a figure associated with renewal and rebirth.

She also appears frequently with Isis, working with Her renowned sister. Both Isis and Nephthys appear on virtually every sarcophagus from the 18th Dynasty (1550-1292 BCE), protecting, guiding and healing the deceased. As such, they are invoked in virtually all of the funerary rites, arguably the most important magickal rites of the Egyptian culture. Not all of the transitions involving Nephthys surrounded death and rebirth, however. She is also shown as the nursemaid of Horus, son of Isis and Osiris. It was only with the aid of Nephthys' watchful gaze that Horus lived long enough to fulfill His revenge against Set. She also appears with Isis during childbirth, standing at the head of the bed to comfort the mother, while Isis serves as midwife. These Divine Twins complement each other beautifully: while Isis is primarily a Goddess of birth and life, Nephthys rules over death and rebirth; while Isis is a physical healer, Nephthys heals the mind and soul so that reincarnation may occur. It is little wonder then to see that both are said to ride with Ra in His boat, with Isis appearing at dawn, and Nephthys at dusk, showing their place among the Great Ennead, the nine original solar deities of Heliopolis (along with Ra, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris and Set).

"A stairway to heaven is built for thee, that thou mayest ascend. Thou judgest between the two
great gods, who support the Two Enneads. Isis weeps for thee; Nephthys calls thee...."
The Pyramid Texts, circa 3000 BCE

Transition of the Departed Ritual

Items Needed:
feather (optional)
bowl of salt water
3 rose quartz crystals (unconditional love)
3 moonstone crystals (healing, connection to Goddess)
3 amethyst crystals (heightened spiritual connection)
white candle for Goddess
candle for the departed (their favourite colour, or blue for male/pink for female)
purple candle for loved ones left behind
9 black candles to banish negativity
knife (to carve candles)


Carve an ankh on one side of the white Goddess candle and the hieroglyph for Nephthys (seen in the images on this page, crowning Her head) on the other side; if you can't fit this on the candle, write both symbols on a slip of paper and place it underneath the candle's holder. Carve the name of the deceased on their candle. Carve a heart on the loved ones' candle. Carve an ankh on each of the black candles. Place the departed and loved ones candles in the centre of the altar with the Goddess candle, forming a triangle or pyramid with the Goddess candle at the top point. Place the crystals in a circle around these candles, alternating rose quartz, moonstone, and amethyst. Then place the black candles in a circle surrounding the crystals and triangle of candles, so that you end up with a triangle enclosed in two concentric circles. You can decorate the space with pictures of the deceased, or cherished items that bring fond memories of him/her.

Purify the space and participants with salt water, sprinkling it either with your fingers or with a feather. Light the incense and black candles. Cast the circle. Call the elements. Invoke Nephthys, lighting the Goddess candle and saying:

"Lady of the House of the Gods,
Guardian of the departed,
Goddess of transition,
Transformation and magick,
Nephthys, hear this plea!
Come to this space, come to me!

Daughter of Nut who
Sparkles in the night,
Daughter of Geb whose
Body we walk upon,
Blessed Nephthys, hear this plea!
Come to this space, come to me!

Loyal sister of Osiris,
Protector of His body and soul,
Twin sister of Isis,
Loving Queen and Priestess,
Beloved Nephthys, hear this plea!
Come to this space, come to me!"

Light the candle for the departed, saying:

"Gone from our sides is _______________,
Gone yet never forgotten.
S/he has passed through the
Veil between our world and
That of the dead; s/he
Stands before You, needing
Guidance to her/his next life.
Wrap your comforting wings
Around _____________, bringing
Peace to her/his heart, healing
All ills, soothing all troubles.
There is no pain. There is no
Suffering. There is only
Love, hope and serenity.
We entrust our loved on
To you, beloved Lady,
Knowing s/he shall come to
No harm, and shall be reborn
At a time of her/his choosing."

Light the candle for the loved ones, saying:

"Still in this world dwell
Those whose hearts ache
Now with sorrow, longing
For ____________ who has departed.
May they feel the warmth
Of your breath upon their
Tear-stained cheeks,
And the loving weight of your
Mighty wings about their shoulders.
Wipe away their tears.
Bring a song to their hearts
Once again. Let their minds
Fill not with sadness, but joy,
Celebrating the life that was
Shared with them by ______________.
Truly they have been blessed

With countless hours of love;
May their souls dwell upon it,
Rather than pain and longing."

Ask the participants to share fond memories of the departed. When everyone has had a chance to share, have them all say in unison, "Safe journey to you, dear one!"

Close by saying:

"Beloved Lady,
She brings calm once more,
She who reveals that which
Is hidden in the moonlight,
Blessed Nephthys,
We whole-heartedly thank you.
Blessed be!"

Thank the elements. Open the circle. Extinguish the candles.

Share a feast featuring the favourite dishes of the deceased, and continue to share fond memories. Play music that was loved by the deceased, dance if you so choose, play games that brought you joy with the deceased. An extra place should be set at the table in honour of the departed. Have each person place a bite of food from their plate onto the plate of the deceased; likewise, have them place some wine/juice from their glass in the deceased's glass. If possible, bury these offerings with the body/ashes of the deceased, along with the remnants of the ritual; if not, bury them in a hole on the property of the deceased.

Jennifer Runham-Stark, January 31 2009

"Thy libation is poured by Isis, Nephthys has purified thee -- they two sisters great and powerful, who collected thy flesh, who bound together thy limbs, who made thy two eyes to appear in they face -- the boat of the evening and the boat of the morning, Atum has given to thee, and the Two Enneads have made for thee."
The Pyramid Texts, circa 3000 BCE

Source List

The Pyramid Texts. Translated by: Samuel A. B. Mercer, 1952.
The Book of the Dead. Papyrus of Ani. Translated by: E. A. Wallis Budge, 1895.
The Burden Of Isis: Being The Laments Of Isis And Nephthys. Berlin Papyrus 14225. Translated by: James Teackle Dennis, 1910.
365 Goddess. By: Patricia Telesco.


List of the titles of Nephthys
Roles of Nephthys
History of Nephthys
Sacred Texts (translations of inscriptions, scrolls, and major myths)

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