#05 Nut and Geb

December 24, 2018

#05 Nut and Geb

Nut and Geb were the children of Shu and Tefnut. Geb is the god of the Earth. He is depicted with a viper head and considered the father of snakes (one ancient Egyptian name for snake means "son of the earth"). Later images also depict Geb as a ram, a bull or a crocodile. Geb was considered as an early ruler of Egypt, who became a god of the Underworld, dwelling beneath the surface, with barley growing from his ribs and vegetation from other parts of his body. As such he was associated with the fertile watered land of Egypt.

Nut is Geb’s sister and consort. Whilst Geb represents the Earth, Nut is the sky goddess. She was depicted as a naked woman with stars over her body. Her headdress was a pot, possibly symbolising the uterus. Nut was sometimes depicted in the form of a giant cow whose body formed the sky and heavens, a sycamore tree, or a giant sow, with suckling piglets representing the stars. Nut’s sacred symbol was a ladder named maget and placed in tombs to protect the deceased and used to enter the sky and used by Osiris. The Egyptians believed the heavenly bodies, sun, moon and stars made their way across her body and when they disappeared, they she swallowed them and would pass through her body to reappear at dusk or dawn. Unlike most mythologies, Nut and Geb are unusual in that there is normally a sky father associated with an Earth mother.

In one mythological story Ra, the sun god, was the second to rule the world. Although a strong ruler, he felt insecure about contenders taking his throne. One day, he discovered that Nut was to have children and was furious. He declared "Nut shall not give birth any day of the year." The year in those days was 360 days. He conspired with Thoth (the god of wisdom), and developed a plan. Thoth gambled with Khonsu, the moon god, whose light used to be as bright as Ra's. When Khonsu lost he gave some of his moonlight to Thoth. Khonsu lost so many times that Thoth had won enough moonlight to add 5 extra days to the year, making it 365 days. Since these days were not part of the old year, it enabled Nut to have her children. She went to have five children; Osiris, Horus the Elder, Isis, Set, and Nephthys on these extra days.

When Ra found out about Thoth’s betrayal, he was furious. He then separated the sky goddess Nut from her husband Earth god Geb, using their father Shu to keep them apart. Both Earth and sky was considered to be solid and there are similar parallels to the separation of the Earth and Sky (the two firmaments) described in the Bible book of Genesis.


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