Tefnut “Goddess of Moisture” is a deity 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.

Etymology The name Tefnut has no certain etymology, but it may be an onomatopoeia of the sound of spitting, as Atum spits her out in some versions of the creation myth. Additionally, 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 hieroglyphs consists of four single phonogram signs 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.

Mythological origins Tefnut is a daughter of the solar deity Ra-Atum. Married to her twin brother Shu, she is mother of Nut, the sky and Geb, the earth. Tefnut’s grandchildren were Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and, in some versions, Horus the Elder. She was also the great-grandmother of Horus the Younger. 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 the twins Tefnut and Shu. In every version, Tefnut is the product of parthenogenesis, and all involve some variety of body fluid. In the Heliopolitan creation myth, Atum sneezed to produce Tefnut and Shu. Pyramid Text 527 says, “Atum was creative in that he proceeded to sneeze while in Heliopolis. And brother and sister were born – that is Shu and Tefnut.

Iconography 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 an uraeus serpent, or an 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.