In February, I was beginning to despair that things weren’t going to work out the way that I wanted them to. I don’t know if anyone realizes this, but I tend to come down on the side of “never going to work out” because hope is a thing that I don’t really know how to have. It always works out best if I assume the worst because I’ll never truly be disappointed. But this year isn’t about assuming the worst; it’s about moving forward and being reborn. Unfortunately or otherwise, a part of that means that hope is a thing that has to happen.
During a conversation with one of my long-time friends where we were discussing what was going on with me, they mentioned that they had done a reading for me about the whole thing. As part of that reading, the cards seemed to indicate that I should reach out to Nephthys. I kind of laughed and said, “Are you sure?” They confirmed twice and said that I should probably look into it.
After doing the usual research (going to Butler’s entry on Nephthys), I found it interesting that Nephthys’s name is translated into “Mistress of the House.” According to Wikipedia, this could be a misnomer; a citation-less note on that page seems to indicate that her name could mean “Mistress of the [Temple] Enclosure.” Based on further reading I’ve done on her since, I have a tendency to think that it’s all the same; in either case, she’s still a mistress of some closed off space.
As I was going through various pages, trying to catch a glimmer of who this unknown-to-me goddess was, I kept coming back to the translation of her name and the fact that her name, when written in hieroglyphs, looks very much like the traditional house hieroglyph with a bowl plunked down on top. I was apparently not the only one to see this since TTR agreed that they, too, saw the same house image with a bowl placed on the roof.
I couldn’t get this bowl thought out of my head.
Whenever I would sit down to look deeper into this mystery goddess, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to the bowl on top of the house image. I kept picturing a house with a bowl to catch rain water. Sometimes I would picture the bowl filled with the same kind of crap you could expect to see in a gutter around a house, but mostly, I kept coming back to the idea of the bowl catching rainwater, or maybe even snow in the winter.
I assured myself that the bowl was immaterial probably; the important part was that she could help me out. But even with my own false assurances loudly ringing hollow in my own ears, I kept coming back to the hieroglyph of her name, of the square that I’ve seen a hundred times in similar position when I’m looking into Hathor for one reason or another: her name uses that same little box since her name translates to “House of Horus”.
The idea that Nephthys has a relationship to the home makes sense to me, although after doing further research on her, the translation of her name meaning temple enclosure could also fit. But before all of that deeper dig into the source material, the idea that Nephthys was related to the house wouldn’t leave me. And I kept asking myself: Well, why can’t she be a household deity?
We know little about the religion of the laity, a point I’ve made many times over. The bits that we do know seem to indicate that they had idols of gods like Hathor, Djehuty, Bes, and others in enclosures in their home. It’s not quite so different in a very broad way from what most pagans and polytheists are doing now except that we aren’t sure how those household deities were worshiped.
Now, I did look around to see if there was any evidence that a Nephthys idol could have been found in any of the homes that have been excavated and I came up with nothing. In fact, the more I looked into it, the more I began to feel like this was probably not something that was done in antiquity, but I wasn’t getting any negative push back from any of my household gods about it. To be blunt, the more I thought about it, the more I felt like this was A Thing that Should Happen.
To prevent myself from over-thinking it, I went back to the books, back to the research. If I was going to do something that was probably a-historical, then I should at least have a firmer base in history.
Nephthys didn’t have much on her own, all said and done. Her story is often tied with others: Osiris and Isis the most often, Set on occasion. It is the connection between her sister, Isis, and she that is most often discussed in the places I looked. The two of them are the professional mourners par excellence for Osiris and it is the two of them that protect him. There’s more to it than all of that, but I kept seeing that where Isis went, her sister Nephthys was sure to be there, to follow in her sister’s footsteps. But Nephthys was no slouch when she is depicted or discussed on her own though this seems to have not occurred often: she is a deity who can battle, who can heal, who can drink excessively, and who can do many more things besides. As with them all, she is multifaceted.
Nephthys also didn’t appear to have much in the way if a temple at all. There is record of one small place that seems to have been her own, but all other temple mentions indicate that she was included in the reindeer games of other gods’ temples. This brought me back to the idea of her being a household deity; I mean, after all, Bes was a household deity and he didn’t get his own temple either. Why couldn’t Nephthys be like him in that way?
When an idea won’t leave my head, I push back on it in every conceivable way and then, I give up. Sometimes the ideas are good; sometimes the ideas don’t work out. But this one had a feeling to it that made me think this could work out in my favor. I decided that I would at least give it a short, push to include Nephthys as a household deity with the rest of my household deities.
As I began looking over my household altar space, which is amusingly enough, situated on top of a box, I could practically picture a large bowl on top of it. The bowl color is the color of sand and within that bowl was… paper. Little tiny strips of paper that reminded me of the daily angel message strips my MiL was given when one of her good friends died. Those messages are filled with positive and happy messages, feel-good things that you are meant to focus on throughout the day to guide you ever forward.
The difference between those messages and what I was seeing in my head was that the strips of paper included things that I would want to see in my household. Happy and calm vibes; strong maintenance schedule; clear communication between the household members; etc. These were all things that you would, hopefully anyway, like to have occur in your house and amongst the people of your household.
I could see the bowl filled with various semi-precious stones to help attract the very things that you would want to see, but I could also see a giant feather of ma’at, too, because at the very base of it all, you would want ma’at to flourish within your home.
I pulled out the little purple card I had made for Nephthys many years ago when I began honoring the children of Nut and Geb on their birthdays and tried to figure out where to place it on my household altar. The box I have it not very big. It is just large enough for the things I had kept on it up to now, so I had to rearrange and move things around so I could make room for this sand-colored bowl and Nephthys’ name in addition to the pieces of my household altar space that I felt needed to be retained at all costs.
When I was done, I felt like this could work out at any rate. I placed the bowl behind my icon of Bes and his household deities-in-arms, Wenut, Tawaret, and Wadjet. I was actually very proud of the arrangement and felt like I had done the vision in my head proud (which is not always the case). I felt like this was functional enough for daily rituals but also that Nephthys’s specific function was segmented back enough from the other three so that, while they are all technically fulfilling the household deity dynamic, their paths are separated enough for me to focus on the grouping or specifically on Nephthys, depending on what I’m aiming for.
Then it came time to fill the bowl. My feather of ma’at amulet was the first thing to enter. I batted around the idea of including a magnet of some sort. TTR and I had discussed adding a magnet to attract all the things I was putting out there, perhaps with a feather of ma’at drawn upon its sides, but I couldn’t find a magnet that I felt worked for the moment, so instead, I sat down to write down all the things I wanted to see.
I took a small sheet of notebook paper and wrote down various items that I wanted. I wrote them down on one line apiece, if I could, but no bigger than two lines. And once I had filled an entire page of notebook paper, I cut them all down into strips to wrap them into the bowl around my feather of ma’at paper. This was actually harder than I thought it would be because the sandstone bowl I chose for this purpose is actually a lot smaller than the one I pictured in my head.
Once I was done, I stood back and found some remaining things that needed to be added: fake flowers. I love real flowers but I don’t like in a place where those live for very long. So I pulled some of the fake white flowers I have stashed everywhere and placed them all on top and around the bowl to cultivate what I want to see in my home.
I honestly don’t know if this working out so far. This setup hasn’t been up for very long: a little less than a month. But when I walk over to my household altar to do something in the morning, I can feel the difference. It was stagnated before (partially because I needed to clean and rearrange as I do every three months or so) but also because the feeling that I had needed to be fulfilled before the space could open itself back up to me.
It’s been opened up for three weeks or so now and I can feel the hard work that I put into it reflecting back into the walls and the people who live here. It doesn’t feel as if I have done something wrong or that I shouldn’t have done this. It feels right in that way that a polytheist or pagan will get when they know what they’re doing isn’t necessarily historically accurate but at least seems to be working for the time being.
I have another picture in my head of how this will change and evolve over time, but we’re not there yet. All I know is that I can see what the future of this endeavor will look like and it looks kind of awesome.
Thus far, I have had very little communication with Nephthys on the solo front. She has always been a silent goddess to me; she was never truly mine at any rate. I have had no dreams of her as I have had dreams of Bes and Wenut. I have heard not a peep and maybe that means she is quietly working away, diligently pushing forward the things I asked for with my little bowl of messages.
We’ll see at any rate.
She’s a household deity to me here, too, although in my case I’m not sure if it’s purely for domestic reasons or because I’ve lost someone in this house in a tragic way, which I never even considered til just now. I don’t feel her presence as interceding with the dead though, she seems to me very much “the helpful one” and considering when I prayed to her in a big way for help with the former 11 years ago the answer was a totally goofy happy cuddly Lab mix puppy (hi Wally!), the feeling I’ve always gotten was that she very much wants well-being and love in the home and lives to assist. I also never noticed it until this post, but I have a small bowl dedicated for her, too, with dried roses in it. Maybe bowls are a thing. I made a promise to be dedicated to her after she helped me out, but death deities really aren’t my thing and it seems she has been content to be a domestic presence and not hold me to it. She probably gets grieving people making grand gestures a lot and I don’t know if she really *likes* interacting with or giving feedback to worshippers. She’s never taken me up on it, and I’m grateful.
I’m sorry, it was 9 years ago. I’m a terrible dog mom and forgot how old he is now, LOL.
About Nebet Het’s name, it can be translated to mean “Home” as in “Temple”; “House”; “Palace”; or “Tomb”. I do agree that “Temple” is the most accurate translation. Nebet Het can be a domestic goddess as a protector, as one who is an averter of evil forces and as a cleansing goddess. As the Lady of Temple, she’d be in charge of maintaining everything in it, including keeping it clean. I’d think this maintenance could be transferred to the home. If you are interested, I have two books published on Nephthys: Lady of the Temple: Ancient Hymns for Nephthys and She Who Speaks Through Silence: An Anthology for Nephthys.