Tefnut: The Primordial Goddess of Moisture in Egyptian Mythology

Tefnut, primordial Egyptian goddess of moisture, is one of the first nine deities in the Heliopolitan Theological System. According to the genealogy of the priests of Heliopolis, she was created from the breath or saliva of the creator sun god Atum. She is the sister/consort of Su, and mother of Geb and Nut.

Her main cult sanctuary was in Heliopolis. Tefnut, like Su, can be one of several manifestations of the «eye of Re,» and as such she appeared either as a lion or in human form. According to the Pyramid Texts, she created pure water from her vagina. In a different context she took the form of a snake encircling the scepter. A.G.H.

 

Tefnut Egyptian Goddess

Tefnut, a prominent figure in Egyptian mythology, is known as the primordial goddess of moisture. She holds a significant place in the Heliopolitan Theological System, one of the ancient Egyptian religious belief systems. In this exploration of Tefnut’s mythology, we will delve into her origin, family connections, attributes, and roles in Egyptian cosmology.

 

Tefnut’s Origin and Creation

Tefnut’s mythological origin is traced back to the genealogy of the priests of Heliopolis, an important religious center in ancient Egypt. According to this tradition, Tefnut was created through the breath or saliva of the creator sun god Atum. This divine act marked her emergence as a vital deity in the Egyptian pantheon.

 

Family Connections

In the intricate tapestry of Egyptian mythology, Tefnut is intricately connected to other divine beings. She is recognized as the sister and consort of Su, another deity of great significance. Together, they form an essential pair within Egyptian cosmology. Tefnut is also noted as the mother of two pivotal deities: Geb, the earth god, and Nut, the sky goddess. These family connections underscore her role in the creation and organization of the cosmos.

 

Cult Sanctuary in Heliopolis

Tefnut’s primary cult sanctuary was located in Heliopolis, an ancient Egyptian city renowned for its religious importance. Within the walls of this sanctuary, she was revered and worshipped by devoted followers who recognized her as a deity with power over moisture and its life-sustaining qualities.

 

Manifestations of the «Eye of Re»

In Egyptian mythology, Tefnut, like Su, is considered one of several manifestations of the «eye of Re,» also known as the «Eye of Ra.» This multifaceted aspect of her character emphasizes her connection to the sun god and her role in maintaining balance and order in the world. As a manifestation of the «eye of Re,» she could appear either as a lioness or in human form, highlighting her versatility and diverse attributes.

 

Creation of Pure Water

The Pyramid Texts, ancient Egyptian religious texts that provide insights into their cosmology and beliefs, mention a remarkable aspect of Tefnut’s power. It is said that she created pure water from her vagina, symbolizing her role as a source of moisture and life-giving sustenance. This act of creation underscores her connection to the natural world and the fundamental elements of existence.

 

Transformation into a Snake

In different contexts within Egyptian mythology, Tefnut takes on various forms. One notable transformation is her manifestation as a snake encircling a scepter, which is a symbol of power and authority. This depiction highlights her ability to adapt and change, demonstrating her role as a dynamic and multifaceted deity.


Sources:

Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 32
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 255