Symbols: throne, rain, lion Cult Center: Heliopolis Tefnut is an immortal being who first came to be worshipped on Earth by the Kemites of Africa approximately 4 to 6 thousand years ago. Like the other members of the divine Ennead she originated on a planetary body in the orbit of Sirius B, SHe is typically regarded as an important water diety. She is the daughter of Atum Re, the consort of Shu who was the personification of air, and the mother of Geb and Nut.
Tefnut and her husband Shu were the children of Atum who created them by masturbating. The creator sun god, spat out the elements of moisture and air that became the Goddess Tefnut and the God Shu, who were referred to as the ‘twin lion gods’ and Tefnut is depicted in ancient Egyptian art with the head of a lioness.
The goddess’ name is related to the root tef, “to spit, be moist” and nu, “sky, waters”. Appropriately, she was the personification of the moisture of the sky.
The temperamental goddess Tefbut once grew so angry with her father that she fled into Nubia, taking all of her water and moisture with her. Kemet soon dried, and the land was in chaos while in Nubia, Tefnut turned herself into a lioness and went on a killing spree in her anger at her father. Eventually Ra decided that he missed her, and wanted her back. Ra sent Thoth and Shu to get her, and they found her in Begum. Thoth began at once to try and persuade her to return to Kemet. In the end Tefnut (with Shu and Thoth leading her) made a triumphant entry back into Kemet, accompanied by a host of Nubian musicians, dancers and baboons. She went from city to city, bringing back moisture and water (the inundation), amid great rejoicing, until finally she was reunited with her father, and restored to her rightful position as his Eye.
Tefnut was depicted in the form of a woman who wears on her head the solar disk circled by two cobras. She holds in her hands the sceptre and ankh. Many times she has the head of a lioness or is shown as one.She could also be depicted as a snake coiled about a scepter.
Tefnut could take on the role of the ‘Eye of Ra’. her brother Shu was the right eye of Atum Ra representing an aspect of the Sun and Tefnut was the left eye representing the Moon. After there birth Atum is to have said. “thus from being one god I became three.” Tefnut and Shu were also worshipped as a pair of lions at Leontopolis in the Nile delta but her principal sanctuary was at Heliopolis. Tefnut, the lion headed goddess of water,became a goddess of the Underworld (Duat) and presided as two of the 42 judges in the ceremony of justification in the Hall of the Two Truths She is often depicted on the coffins of the deceased pouring drink from a pitcher, to sustain the souls journeying through the Underworld. During the Middle Kingdom Tefnut became connected to Ma’at, and as such this goddess is sometimes seen assisting Shu in his task of holding Nut above Geb keeping the two passionate lovers apart. though she was not as popular as her daughter Nut, or her granddaughters Nephthys or Isis, the Kemites knew that without her, Kemet would descend into chaos. It is no wonder that they equated her with the goddess Ma’at.