Look down—there's Geb. He's the earth you're walking on, from the mountains to the desert and then some. Now look up—there's Nut. Yep, she's the sky. It might be weird to think of Mother Earth as Father Earth at first. But that's exactly how the ancient Egyptians decided things were.
Geb and Nut (pronounced "noot" to rhyme with "boot")
Earth and Sky, Down and Up, Thing 1 and Thing 2
Geb is male, Nut is female
City? We fill the earth and the sky!
Being the earth and the sky is a full-time job
We contain all learning institutions
Ra is king (even if he's a jerk and didn't want to let Nut have her babies)
Shu (the wind) and Tefnut (the rain)
We are brother and sister, but have no other siblings.
Osiris, Horus the Elder, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys
Ra, Anubis, Ma'at, most gods
We're a little big for enemies…
Married to each other (Don't ask. There wasn't anybody else around.)
Planet Earth series with David Attenborough (BBC)
"When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other."
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
People (most of the time)
You really can't miss these two: they're the sky and the earth after all. But we're happy to give you a few deets just in case. Oh, but one thing first: you won't ever get to chat with them at the same time—they're always separated by their dad, Shu.
Build: A giant male (as big as the earth, usually shown lying down). Sometimes he's crowned and seated on a throne. Rarely, Geb has a snake's head, is (completely) a snake, or is shown as a crocodile or turtle.
Complexion: Reddish-brown or black, like Egypt's soil
Hair Color: Black, if it is shown
Facial Hair: A long black beard
Scars/marks/tattoos: None; though as earth, he has plenty: valleys, trenches, rivers, volcanoes, etc.
Jewelry and accessories: A gold collar and bracelets. Sometimes he wears a goose on his head (the hieroglyph for his name) or a tall white crown with horns like his son Osiris wears. He carries a Was scepter, the jackal-headed (or Seth-animal headed) staff that is the hieroglyph for strength.
Clothing: A white linen kilt, if he wears anything (he's often shown naked)
Type of Weapon: None (unless earthquakes count)
Build: Giant female (as big as the sky, usually shown curving over the horizon with her ankles and fingertips touching the ground). Nut can also be a cow, a giant sow (a female pig), or a sycamore tree.
Complexion: In human form, Nut is deep blue and covered in golden stars or has pale yellow skin (the color used for women in ancient Egyptian paintings). Almost all images of her are naked.
Hair Color: As black as night
Facial Hair: None
Scars/marks/tattoos: Sometimes she has stars on (or in) her skin.
Jewelry and accessories: Sometimes she carries the sun (in the form of a big red ball). She can also be shown with a gold collar and bracelets or with wings like her daughters Isis and Nephthys.
Clothing: Who needs clothing when you have clouds and stars? Every once in a while, Nut wears a tight-fitting dress in red, blue, gold, or white.
Type of Weapon: None
Shu and Tefnut
The star gods
Ra and the gods on his boat
Jan 1, 1970
Shiny! Geb and Nut first appear in paintings during Pharaoh Djoser's reign, at the temples in Heliopolis (Iunu in ancient Egyptian, called the "city of the sun" and the god Ra.)
Dec 20, 2019
A text about various goddesses and the god Ra is carved on the walls of the gold shrines from King Tutankhamun's sarcophagi tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It's called The Book of the Divine Cow and contains two stories. The first is about how Ra's daughter Hathor turned into Sekhmet, and how Sekhmet then went berserk and nearly destroyed the world. The second is about how Nut turned herself into a star-spangled cow (hence the title, duh) and carried Ra up to heaven.
Dec 20, 2019
KV9 (Valley of the Kings, tomb 9) is the tomb of pharaohs Ramses V and Ramses VI. It's hard to believe that this gorgeous tomb wasn't finished, especially when you see the giant (and complete) painting of Nut, stretching for dozens of feet across the burial chamber ceiling. It's a copy of the sky, hundreds of feet underground.
Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019
Temples built by the Macedonian/Greek pharaohs called Ptolemies (after the founder of the dynasty) had Nut all over the ceiling. Sometimes she's shown holding up the sky, and sometimes giving birth to the sun over a tiny image of the temple, like in the chapels of Hathor at Dendera and Edfu. Even if you're inside a giant, dark, stone temple, you could still "see" the sky.
Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 0099
This essay, from Plutarch's fifth book of the Moralia, is one of the only full versions of Egyptian myth about Isis and Osiris, and it mentions how they and their siblings were born from Nut. Plutarch didn't speak Egyptian (he was a Greek living in Egypt), so he got a few of the details wrong, including confusing Geb and Nut with the Greek Titans Kronos and Rhea, who also had a myth about children who couldn't be born. We're sure Geb never ate his kids, so it's safe to say it was a misunderstanding on Plutarch's part. Next time, he needs a better translator.
From the Middle Kingdom into Roman times, many images of Nut were painted into the lids or bottoms of wooden coffins and sarcophagi. Even after Romans took over ancient Egypt, they often included her picture on a burial shroud or coffin lid. Nut's image served as a map of the stairway to heaven—and they didn't even have to buy it.
Ancient Egyptians painted the inside ceilings in temples and tombs the color of Nut's skin—to represent the sky as if there were no roof. Many had five-pointed stars in gold, too. In some chapels they were just carved out, and in others they were painted. There are even stars on the inside lids of wooden coffins for the same reason. Modern museums, including the Field Museum in Chicago, have painted their ceilings in the Egyptian exhibits to match so their mummies don't get homesick. Isn't that thoughtful?
In the Late Period, a priest named Ankhefenkhonsu had a beautiful wooden stela painted for his tomb. The stela (kind of like a tombstone) shows Nut arching above the winged disk of Horus the Elder. Below them is a scene where the priest offers to Ra-Horakthy followed with a prayer. This stela was discovered in the late 1800s, and went to the Bulaq Museum in Egypt as artifact number 666. Between 1902 and 1904, English occultist Aleister Crowley viewed the stela at its new home in Cairo's Egyptian Museum. Crowley wrote a poem about the stela, where he named the goddess Nuit (the French word for night) and the disk Hadith (from the Egyptian word for "shadow"). His poem about the stela became the basis of a new philosophy called Thelema. Uncle Al was a controversial fellow who called himself "Beast 666," and claimed to be Ankhefenkhonsu reincarnated. Ozzy Osbourne wrote a song about it called Mr. Crowley in 1980, and the mystery (and a connection to Nut) lives on.