When I compare the two Egyptian goddesses Nephthys and Taweret, I see a number of parallels, but I also see distinct differences. Consider:

  • Both are associated with childbirth, but whereas Nephthys is called upon for protection in the afterlife, Taweret is called upon for protection in this life.
  • Both appear in the myth of Isis and Osiris, but while Nephthys appears in the resurrection of Osiris, Taweret appears in the battle against Set.
  • Nephthys is typically represented as a young woman, but Taweret appears as a hippopotamus. At the same time, other goddesses, including Isis, were portrayed in hippo form when their myth related to protecting others.

This makes me wonder if we are talking about two distinct goddesses in the Egyptian mythos, or if they are two aspects of the same goddess, with those differences perhaps representing changes in belief systems over time. Is there any evidence of the two interacting with each other, or other indication that they were perceived as distinct by the ancient Egyptians?

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    I do not know the answer to your question but when I attended an Oxford University extension course on Ancient Egyptian religion a few years ago, the lecturer emphasised that the Egyptians did not require consistency in their theology. They were perfectly OK with different people saying, or even the same person saying in different contexts, that one god was, or was not, an aspect of another god etc. Only with Christianity did it become important to be clear as to whether e.g. Jesus was human, divine or both, whether God was one, three or three in one and so forth.
    – Timothy
    Mar 22, 2017 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


The "hippo form" of Egyptian female deities is generally linked to their protective qualities, especially in childbirth. The reason for this: the hippo female is a fierce protector of her young. In fact, the name "Taweret" means "she who is great" and is given to soothe the aggression of the (hippo) deity.

The essential difference between the two is that Nephthys plays an integral part in the Egyptian pantheon as one of the earliest deities from early after the creation myth as daughter of Geb and Nut. Tawaret is essentially a "household deity" worshiped by the common people and never had any significant centers of worship built for her.

Her appearance in the meth of Seth is actually a mixup in the later dynasties, where the original "actress" in this myth, Isis, incarnates as Taweret. Details for this can be found in the 20th Dynasty text "The Book of Day & Night":

As to this foreleg of Seth, it is in the northern sky, tied down to two mooring posts of flint by a chain of gold. It is entrusted to Isis as a hippopotamus guarding it."

When assuming a protective role, powerful goddesses like Isis assumed the form of Taweret, effectively becoming a manifestation of this goddess. Likewise, Taweret gradually absorbed qualities of these goddesses and is commonly seen wearing the Hathoric sun disc that is iconographically associated with both Hathor and Isis.

  • Fascinating -- so if I understand you correctly, you're saying that Taweret actually became confounded with Iset, not her sister. It sounds like I'll need to read the Book of Day and Night...
    – papidave
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:16

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