Tefnut (Ancient Egyptian: tfn.t) is a goddess of moisture, moist air,
dew and rain in Ancient Egyptian religion. She is the sister and
consort of the air god Shu and the mother of
Geb and Nut.
2 Mythological origins
4 Cult centres
Literally translating as "That Water", the name
Tefnut has been
linked to the verb 'tfn' meaning 'to spit' and versions of the
creation myth say that Ra (or Atum) spat her out and her name was
written as a mouth spitting in late texts.
Like most Egyptian deities, including her brother,
Tefnut has no
single ideograph or symbol. Her name in hieroglyphics consists of four
single phonogram symbols t-f-n-t. Although the n phonogram is a
representation of waves on the surface of water, it was never used as
an ideogram or determinative for the word water (mw), or for anything
associated with water.
A menat (a musical instrument similar to the sistrum) depicting the
Tefnut and her husband-brother Shu.
Tefnut is a daughter of the solar god Ra-Atum. Married to her brother,
Shu, she is mother of Nut, the sky and Geb, the earth. Tefnut's
grandchildren were Osiris, (Wesir) Isis, (Aset) Set, Nephthys,
(Nebthet) and in some versions,
Horus the Elder (Heru Wer). She was
also a great grandmother of
Horus the Younger (Heru-sa-Aset).
Alongside her father, brother, children, grandchildren, and
great-grandchild, she is a member of the
Ennead of Heliopolis.
There are a number of variants to the myth of the creation of Tefnut
and her twin brother Shu. In all versions,
Tefnut is the product of
parthenogenesis, and all involve some variety of bodily fluid.
In the Heliopolitan creation myth, the solar god
Atum masturbates to
Tefnut and Shu.
Atum was creative in that he proceeded to masturbate himself in
Heliopolis. He took his penis in his hand so that he might obtain the
pleasure of orgasm thereby. And brother and sister were born - that is
Shu and Tefnut. Pyramid Text 527
In some versions of this myth,
Atum also swallows his semen, and spits
it out to form the twins, or else the spitting of his saliva forms the
act of procreation. Both of these versions contain a play on words,
the tef sound which forms the first syllable of the name
constitutes a word meaning "to spit" or "to expectorate".
Coffin Texts contain references to Shu being sneezed out by Atum
from his nose, and
Tefnut being spat out like saliva. The Bremner-Rind
Papyrus and the Memphite Theology describe
Atum masturbating into his
mouth, before spitting out his semen to form the twins.
Tefnut is a leonine deity, and appears as human with a lioness head
when depicted as part of the Great
Ennead of Heliopolis. The other
frequent depiction is as a lioness, but
Tefnut can also be depicted as
fully human. In her fully or semi anthropomorphic form, she is
depicted wearing a wig, topped either with a uraeus serpent, or a
uraeus and solar disk, and she is sometimes depicted as a lion headed
serpent. Her face is sometimes used in a double headed form with that
of her brother Shu on collar counterpoises.
During the 18th and 19th Dynasties, particularly during the Amarna
Tefnut was depicted in human form wearing a low flat
headdress, topped with sprouting plants. Akhenaten's mother,
depicted wearing a similar headdress, and identifying with
Hathor-Tefnut. The iconic blue crown of
Nefertiti is thought by
Joyce Tyldesley to be derived from Tiye's headdress, and
may indicate that she was also identifying with Tefnut.
Leontopolis (modern Tel el-Muqdam) were the primary
cult centres. At Heliopolis,
Tefnut was one of the members of that
city's great Ennead, and is referred to in relation to the
purification of the wabet (priest) as part of the temple rite. Here
she had a sanctuary called the Lower Menset.
"I have ascended to you with the Great One behind me
and <my> purity before me:
I have passed by Tefnut,
Tefnut was purifying me,
and indeed I am a priest, the son of a priest in this temple." Papyrus
Tefnut formed part of the Great
Ennead and was invoked in
prayers for the health and wellbeing of the Pharaoh.
She was worshiped with Shu as a pair of lions in
Leontopolis in the
Tefnut was connected with other leonine goddesses as the Eye of
Ra. As a lioness she could display a wrathful aspect and is said
to escape to
Nubia in a rage from where she is brought back by
Thoth. In the earlier
Pyramid Texts she is said to produce pure
waters from her vagina.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tefnut.
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^ The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, trans R.O. Faulkner, line 2065
Ancient Egyptian religion
Veneration of the dead
Four sons of Horus
Souls of Pe and Nekhen
Land of Manu
Book of Thoth
Crook and flail
Eye of Horus
Eye of Ra
Books of Breathing
Book of Caverns
Book of the Dead
Book of the Earth
Book of Gates
Book of the Heavenly Cow
Book of Traversing Eternity
The Contendings of
Horus and Seth
Book of the Netherworld
Great Hymn to the Aten
Litany of the Eye of Horus
Litany of Re
Temple of Set