The Egyptian Goddess Tefnut
In the creation myth Ra embraced his shadow, and put his seed into his own mouth then spat out the newly formed Shu and Tefnut. And thus he went from one god to Three. His son Shu became God of Air and his daughter Tefnut became the Goddess of Mist.
Tefnut was depicted in various forms, most often as a woman with the head of a lioness, wearing the solar disk with a uraeus serpent encircling it.
In this form, she greatly resembles another lion-headed Goddess, Sekhmet, but the difference is seen in their ears with Tefnut’s pointed while Sekhmet’s are round.
Sometimes she was depicted solely as a lioness, still wearing the solar disk with the uraeus. And least often, she was depicted as fully human, also wearing the solar disk with the uraeus.
As the first husband-wife couple of the deities, Shu and Tefnut were charged with beginning the sexual and procreative activities of the gods.
“This is Shu with Tefnut, the two who have made the gods, begat the gods, established the gods.” – The Pyramid Texts, Utterances 301
They mated and Tefnut bore two children: Geb and Nut.
Their children were born in a pair as well, yet they were locked in an embrace so tight that they had to be physically separated in order to create the universe. And so Shu was charged with the eternal burden of lifting his daughter, the Sky, above his son, the Earth.
And as one soul, Shu and Tefnut became the atmosphere that fell in between earth and sky… air combined with moisture and sometimes rain.
The Angry Daughter
A myth says that one day Shu and Tefnut went to explore the waters of Nun, which were the primordial waters that begat creation.
After some time, Ra believed that they were lost, and sent his Eye out into the chaos to find them. While this original eye was gone, he got another one.
When Shu and Tefnut returned with the first eye, it was angered to see that it had been replaced. In order to appease it, Ra gave his first eye more power and magnificence – making it the representative of the sun.
His second eye became the moon, just as magnificent but less powerful than the first.
Tefnut somehow became the eyes of Ra in parts of the mythology. Being originally a lunar goddess she was linked to the lunar eye, although at times she was also associated with the solar and named “Lady of the Flame.”
As the Eye of Ra, she had gotten angry with her father and fled to Nubia. She took all the moisture away with her while blowing smoke and fire from her eyes and nostrils. Egypt was left in dryness and terror. Taking the form of a ferocious lioness that roamed around the land destroying and slaying all in her path. She would kill and feed on animals and humans alike…
Ra, missing his daughter, sent Shu and Thoth to convince her to return to Egypt. The first to find her was Thoth, disguised as a baboon, which is one of his forms.
In his great wisdom, he began to entice her with the luxuries and ease of life back home. She would not need to hunt as she did in this wilderness, there would be offerings in her name and feasts in her honor.
When her brother-husband caught up with them, he weighed in on the matter as well. He wanted to have his mate back. Together, they managed to change her mind and calm her down.
Once she was convinced, she started her journey home, becoming more and more docile the closer she got. As she proceeded, bringing moisture and life back with her, the people in her path rejoiced and the procession was full of festivities and glee.
She then finally returned home to Egypt, taking her place in the Great Ennead of Heliopolis.
Solar and Lunar Tefnut
Originally being a lunar deity, Tefnut took on the role of being the Goddess of Moisture, Humidity, Water, Dew, Mist and Rain. As such, she was also associated with the Lunar Eye of Ra as the Moon is associated with water.
Her absence caused the opposite to occur. Without water or moisture, the hot and dry climate would cause droughts, famines and destruction. And so, with her powers over the dryness of the atmosphere, she was also associated with the Right/Solar Eye of Ra as the hot Sun is associated with dryness.
And that is how she came to be both a Lunar and Solar goddess and represented both sources that provided light on earth for the ancient Egyptians. The effect of her absence was dangerous to life itself, as her return was a great cause for celebration. She was thus revered as not only the mother of the gods, but also sustainer of life.
Although she does not have temples of her own, festivities and offerings to the Great Ennead automatically included her, and because of the popular myth, her return to the land of Egypt was celebrated with musicians, feasts and drinks in her honor, as well as baboons.
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