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December 24, 2018 2 min read

Atum created the first couple of the Ennead (nine Gods of creation), the god Shu and goddess Tefnut. They were the parents of Nut and Geb and grandparents of Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus the Elder. They were great grandparents to Horus the Younger and Anubis.

As the personification of dry air, Shu is a cooling, calming, influence, and pacifier. He is associated with Ma'at, ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality and justice. Shu represents the dry air between the earth and sky, separating the two realms after the First Occasion, the rising of the mound from the waters of Nu. In art, Shu was depicted wearing an ostrich feather, symbolic of lightness and emptiness. His bones were fog and clouds and he is also the wind. Shu is represented as a man, except when shown as a fighter and defender of the sun god, when he is shown with a lion's head. He carries an ankh (a sacred cross), which is the symbol of life. The Greeks associated Shu with Atlas, who held up the celestial spheres.

Tefnut is the personification of moist air, including dew and rain. In art she is depicted as human with a lioness head, or as a lioness, but sometimes is shown as fully human. In her human lioness form, she wears a wig, with a uraeus serpent (upright cobra signifying deity), or with uraeus and solar disk. She is sometimes depicted as a lion headed serpent. Sometimes Shu and Tefnut are shown together in a double headed form. Tefnut is referred to in Temple purification ritual of the wabet (priest) and had a sanctuary called the Lower Menset dedicated to her. Tefnut was invoked in prayers for the health and wellbeing of the Pharaoh.

Both the dry and moist air was important to a warm climate like Egypt, so when there were weather disasters Shu and Tefnut were invoked. After an argument with Shu, Tefnut left Egypt for Nubia (a much more temperate climate). A great drought followed bringing disaster and famine to Egypt. Shu missed Tefnut, but Tefnut had turned herself into a powerful cat that destroyed any god or man that went near her. Thoth, the moon god, eventually persuaded her to return and balance was restored to Egypt.

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