Egyptian Gods: Tefnut

Tefnut is member of the nine Ennead deities in Hermopolis. She is the daughter of the primeval god Atum-Ra. She is the wife and sister of Shu, the god of light and air. She is the mother of Nut, the goddess of the sky and Geb, the god of the earth. She is the grandmother of Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and Set. In another story, she was connected with the god Tefen who together with her perform duties is the halls of Ma’at in the Underworld. She is the goddess of moisture, dew, moist air and rain. She is also a lunar goddess connected with humidity. Likewise as a daughter of Ra, she is also a sun goddess associated with dryness. Her name, alternatively spelled as Tefnwt, Tefnuit, Tefnet, and Tefenet, literally means “She of Moisture” and has been associated with the English words moist and spit.

She is often depicted as a woman with the head of a lion or lioness. Less often, she can be seen as a woman or a lioness. However, regardless of what form, she wears the solar disc circled by two cobras and the Uraeus. She is also seen holding the scepter (signifying power) and the ankh (signifying the breath of life). Rarely, she takes the form of a cobra.

Originally, she was the lunar (left) “Eye of Ra” linking her to the moon, dew, mist and rain. Later on, she also became the solar (right) “Eye of Ra” linking her to the lack of moisture or dryness. As the protector of the sun god, she acquired the titles “Lady of the Flames” and Uraeus on the Head of all the Gods”. Such role, she shared with several other goddesses including Sekhmet, Bast, Isis, Hathor, Mut, Wadjet and Nekhbet.

Of the Ennead deities, she is the first one to be attached to a female nature, as other gods were believed to have a duality in nature. She is the first mother after the creation.

She is revered all throughout Egypt but her cult centers were in Hermopolis and Leontopolis. In Buto, she and husband, Shu were worshipped as the flamingo-looking children of the king of Lower Egypt that were believed to be mythical representations of the sun and the moon. In Leontopolis, she is a lioness who differs to Sekhmet for having pointed ears instead of round. There are no excavated remains of her temples because she was a cosmic deity. However, many scholars believed, that she had temples built to her name that only her priestesses and the pharaoh himself can enter after a ritual of purification in the deep stone pool.

Legends on Tefnut

In the legend of creation, it is believed that Atum emerged from the primordial waters of Nun and brought forth his sun Shu by spitting him out and his daughter Tefnut by vomiting her forth. Another legend would say that both children were products of the semen of Atum after he did the primeval act of masturbation. Atum swallowed his semen and spit it out to become his children.

In one legend, Tefnut was believed to be lost in the chaotic world of Nun. Her father, sorely missing her, sent out his eye to find her amidst the grand chaos. When she was finally found, Atum (or Ra) shed tears that brought about the first human beings.

In another story, Tefnut, in a fit if rage to her father, left Egypt and went to the Nubian desert. She took away with her all the moisture in the atmosphere leaving Egypt barren and dry. This marked the end of the Old Kingdom. In Nubia, she took the form of a lioness and went on a killing rampage – no human or god can go near. As her father missed her dearly, he sent forth her husband Shu and the baboon, Thoth, who managed to bring the goddess back by making her drink a red colored liquid to calm her down. On their way back, Tefnut brought back moisture and inundation to Nile through the pure waters coming out of her vagina. Every town they passed celebrated her return as the deities brought with them a band of musician, dancers and baboons from Nubia.

Tefnut the goddess of moisture Tefnut was the Egyptian Goddess of Moisture.