I held the Nephthys mask for two rituals at the recent CloudCatcher WitchCamp and felt like a flood of information entered my brain. Nephthys is the least obvious of the four Egyptian God/desses we were working with; she is the one who sews the edges of things together, who dwells between one place and the next, on the boarders of the civilised and fertile lands, knitting desert to delta, and brother to sister… In their myths she is a loyal sister to Isis, a secret lover to Osiris and the consort of Set. Having worked with her through the month of February, I already had some relationship to her; seeing her not just as the quiet, inconspicuous one but also the one carrying the energy and presence of their mother, Nut, the night-sky Goddess.
We made beautiful masks – and beautiful altars – for all four of them, and on the first night of ritual invoked their presences into the masks. Inbetween rituals, the masks rested on their altars; Isis in the East, Set in the heat of the North, Nephthys in the West and Osiris in the South. The Nephthys mask is blue and silver, and just covers the upper face. It has wide eyes, lots of fluttery feather bits and references to both bird-face and butterfly-shape in its design. Holding it I felt her non-humanness very strongly. She seemed to me to have almost a clinical curiosity in the actions of others, an observant but uninvolved perspective.
The curious thing was how much her ‘being on the edges of things’ seemed to affect things; during the whole first ritual I held her (which was actually the second ritual) she was completely ignored by her brother and sister, Osiris and Isis; though she hung around, adoring them and following their every word and movement and focused only on them, they never noticed her. I also noticed our (the humans) tendancy to take pieces away from her – on our plans she led Osiris’s funeral procession, began the keening for him and on the third day, led the song. In fact by the time of the actual rituals, she did none of these things.
During my second ritual holding her mask (actually our third ritual) I came into a deep, deep place with her. Once again, she – and I! – felt totally ignored by Isis, who upstaged Nephthys completely during what was supposed to be a shared blessing, and I began to feel an unrest, a stirring which I thought could explain WHY Nephthys had colluded with Set in the destruction of Osiris; not maliciously, exactly, but because she wanted to stir things up a bit, tip the balance. She was really sick of that status quo, and that combined with her lack of attachment to outcomes meant she might have done it almost as an experiment, a diversion. In the final ritual I got a shot of deep, surprised satisfaction when my son, who was invoking Nephthys that night, lept in front of Isis (in the wrong order, Isis should have gone first) and rushed with her mask around and around the circle of people, demanding attention for her beauty and mystery!
I felt like Nephthys had so much to offer – she has a whole story there, that mostly we don’t even notice. I also felt a deep affinity with her, edge walker by preference and yet, still wanting some recognition, still needing involvement. I felt her sadness at Isis’ heedless demanding of all possible attention, though I still loved Isis deeply (and Nephthys does too, I am sure). I felt how it is interesting out on the edges, but lonely, and how a little recognition; like when Set made a deep formal bow to her in the second ritual, or when she lept in front of Isis that one time, feeds her so profoundly. Of all the four, she is the one whose voice cried out to me through this WitchCamp. JANE MEREDITH