(Repit) The Hellenized name Triphis is generally thought to derive from fusing the definite article ta- to an Egyptian word rpyt, meaning ‘lady’, noblewoman, or heiress. Alan Gardiner, however, suggests deriving it instead from a different word rpyt meaning an image or statue, a word which moreover always refers to a female (a male image or statue being generally tut). Gardiner wonders if Ta-rpyt could in this context be “the Egyptian way of expressing what we might render as ‘type’, ‘model’, or ‘ideal’ of a woman,” or means simply “the ‘female counterpart’ of a god,” (109). Gardiner sees a connection between this interpretation of her name and an epithet that seems to belong to her, aperetiset, which some have taken as ‘Aperet-Isis’, and hence have treated the deity identified in these contexts as simply a form of Isis, but which, if the -iset is taken as the word meaning ‘throne’, ‘seat’ or ‘place’, rather than as a name, can be read as either ‘equipper of the throne’ or, in line with Gardiner’s interpretation, as ‘supplying the place’, i.e., of one absent or non-existent (110). Henri Gauthier attempts to derive ‘Triphis’ directly, by an unspecified morphological transposition, from Aperetiset (175ff), however scholars have not followed him in this.
Gauthier (173f) calls attention to the use of the term rpyt in BD spell 162, where it refers to the “image” or “figure” of the celestial cow used by the spell’s operator, identifying Triphis in this way with a “black cow of Min” referred to in an inscription in the Louvre (Stele C. 112). Rpyt also occurs in BD spells 99 and 168 (19th dyn.); in spell 99, the “thongs” of the netherworld ferryboat are identified with what Gardiner translates as “the hands of the female counterpart [rpyt] of Horus,” while Allen reads “the hand(s) of the dame [rpyt] (and of) Horus <who made> her,” while spell 168 (p. 171 in Allen) refers to “Re under the head of the dame [rpyt].”
Triphis is depicted as a lioness-headed woman wearing a crown with disk, horns and plumes like that of Hathor. Her consort is Min and their child is Kolanthes. Triphis is sometimes depicted standing behind Min, touching with her hand the flail which appears over his upraised hand, indicating their intimacy as well as her participation in Min’s power.
In a spell to treat a scorpion’s bite (no. 91 in Borghouts), a myth is recounted, typical of this genre of spell, in which the infant Horus, while in the marshes of Khemmis where his mother Isis has hidden him from Seth, is struck down by some venomous creature, a scorpion or snake, and must be revived by the magic which the operator of the spell calls upon, in turn, to heal the patient. In this particular version of the myth, a woman appears who lives in a town near the marshes, of whom Isis says she is “known in the town, a lady of distinction [repyt] in her district. She came to me bearing life—all their hearts [i.e., the local inhabitants] were full of confidence in her capacity.” The woman in question is most likely Triphis. Not every reference to a figure simply called ‘the Lady’ can naturally be assigned to Triphis, but the spell’s setting at Khemmis—Akhmim, the cult center of Min and Triphis—as well as the close association of Triphis and Isis in cultic contexts, lends support to the notion that Triphis is here intended. She goes on to make a brief speech about the safety of Horus in the region: “The child is safe from the evil intentions of his brother [meaning Seth], the bush is hidden and death will not enter it. The magic of Atum, the father of the Gods who is in heaven is what made my life. Seth will not enter this district,” and then urges Isis to investigate the cause of Horus’ malady. The ‘lady of distinction’ appears no more in the spell. A ‘lady of distinction’ occurs also in an enigmatic spell (no. 134 in Borghouts, with some elements recurring in no. 135) which invokes the protection of a miraculous dwarf who is “the great support that extends from heaven unto the Underworld,” that is, a kind of Atlas figure, and who is said resemble an elderly monkey. The end of the spell announces, “The shrine is open! The one who is in it has the face of a monkey. Woe, fire! The child of a lady of distinction [repyt] is a baboon!”
Triphis appears explicitly in PDM xiv. 528ff, a spell for a ‘vessel inquiry’ (i.e. divination by gazing into a bowl of water, oil, et al.) in which the operator states, “I am Pre [the late Egyptian form of the name of the God Re], the noble youth … I am he who came forth on the arm of Triphis in the east.” Triphis is here the mother of the solar child, Harsomtus (Horus-the-uniter). In an erotic spell (PDM xiv. 1026ff), the operator states, “I am this great one … who makes magic against the great Triphis,” perhaps thus identifying himself thereby with Min, who “makes magic against” Triphis by his powers of erotic attraction. PDM xiv. 585ff, a spell to treat the bite of a dog, is called “the fury of Amun and Triphis,” Amun and Min being often identified with one another by way of Amun’s ithyphallic form, Kamutef. The vignette (illustration) for BD spell 162 shows, alongside the Heavenly Cow of the spell, a Goddess who looks like Triphis, though she is not named in the spell.
A poetic fragment from the late third-early fourth century CE attributed to Palladas refers to “Triphis, who has suffered much,” referring perhaps to the desecration of her temple, however, rather than to mythological sufferings (Wilkinson, 12.33-4, pp. 168-9).
Allen, T. G. 1974. The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [BD]
Betz, H. D. 1992. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [PGM, PDM]
Borghouts, J. F. 1978. Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Gardiner, Alan. 1945. “The Supposed Athribis of Upper Egypt.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 31: 108-111.
Gauthier, Henri. 1903. “La déesse Triphis.” Bulletin de l’Institut Français de l’Archéologie Orientale 3: 165-181.
Wilkinson, Kevin W. 2012. New Epigrams of Palladas: A Fragmentary Papyrus Codex (P.CtYBR inv. 4000). Durham, NC: American Society of Papyrologists.