Geb and Nut

Geb, Nut, and Company

The Kemetic Orthodox Devotional Calendar lists today (Shomu 5) as “Geb and Nut are judged before the Netjeru” (Beautiful Feast of the Valley, Day 2). “Spend some of the day contemplating Geb and Nut.” So, inspired by Naydler’s Temple of the Cosmos, here we go:

Let’s review the Heliopolitan creation story:
Atum is the self-created one.  He bootstraps himself out of the primordial universe. Undifferentiated potential becomes “One”.  Next (depending on the story) “Atum was creative in that he proceeded to masturbate himself in Heliopolis. He took his penis in his hand so that he might obtain the pleasure of orgasm thereby. And brother and sister were born – that is Shu and Tefnut.” (Pyramid Text 527) In other versions Atum spits or sneezes.

Shu is associated with air (and with coolness, calmness, Ma’at, and Naydler says “space”) and Tefnut with water or moisture. (She also can act as a lion-headed Eye of Ra, so they have a “calm-violent” duality. The One has become Three.

From the union of Shu and Tefnut, Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) are born. Geb and Nut become locked in a sexual embrace, which could have apparently gone on for all eternity. Shu eventually separates them. (see above) That’s Geb lying exhausted on the ground. Now there is finally room for the unseen world to be created, in the combined mythology of the Nayler book.

So my question is: “Why weren’t Shu and Tefnut equally as inseparable?” Were they created as adults, where Geb and Nut grew up as children with parents, and had a model to develop from? Is there a cosmological reason for this?

The other difference I spot is that Dryness/Moisture and Calm/Violence extinguish or negate each other.  Sky and Earth compliment each other.

Any other insights?

(edit- I’m answering Madeline’s question up here so I can include the links.)

Hi Madeline-
That particular illustration comes from the old E.A. Budge Gods of the Egyptians, Vol 2,  and is taken from a New Kingdom papyrus.

That’s Shu between Nut and Geb. On the left and right we see the sun boat rising and setting, with Ra in the middle and Ma’at in front. I’m guessing that Heka is in the back of the boat, but you might want to ask on KIN. The personification of the Duat is on the lower right, receiving the sun boat with open arms as night falls.

If you can find a copy of Jeremy Naydler’s Temple of the Cosmos, or find a preview on Google Books or Amazon that includes pages 42-46, it’s well worth looking at.

  • Setken

    I am grateful for this posting as it signposted something for me: I am unaware of the Netjer Holy Days / Festivals (even though I have Tamara Siuda's Egyptian Prayerbook I just haven't been able to work the dates out!!!!). In my current meditation processes I am indeed "at" Geb and Nut. They are on my little altar right now. Synchronicity.I think that as Godhead developed, the generation of a model close to what we experience as humans perhaps needed to evolve – hence Shu and Tefnut being the intermediaries – and therefore removed or not subject to the same dynamics as humanity or god humans. This is all purely intelectual in theory of course.

  • Seshathotep

    If Geb and Nut had to be separated to create the otherworld (Naydler) or this one, does that mean they can't get together again until the universe ends? Again, cosmological meaning to this, if any? Interesting to say the least.

  • Madelle

    Hi, could you please say who is who on this picture? And where this picture was found? I would love to use this picture in an assignment I'm doing on ancient Egyptian religion.

  • Seshathotep

    I answered your questions in the main article because it wouldn't let me include links in a comment. I was planning a post on Shu, and that will probably be later today.