Study Guide

Geb and Nut

  • Profile

    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.

    Basic Information

    Name

    Geb and Nut (pronounced "noot" to rhyme with "boot")

    Nickname

    Earth and Sky, Down and Up, Thing 1 and Thing 2 

    Sex

    Geb is male, Nut is female

    Current city

    City? We fill the earth and the sky!

    Work & Education

    Occupation

    Being the earth and the sky is a full-time job

    Education

    We contain all learning institutions

    Beliefs

    Political views

    Ra is king (even if he's a jerk and didn't want to let Nut have her babies)

    Family & Friends (& Enemies)

    Parents

    Shu (the wind) and Tefnut (the rain)

    Siblings

    We are brother and sister, but have no other siblings.

    Children

    Osiris, Horus the Elder, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys

    Friends

    Ra, Anubis, Ma'at, most gods

    Enemies

    We're a little big for enemies…

    Relationships

    Relationship status

    Married to each other (Don't ask. There wasn't anybody else around.)

    Interested in

    Each other

    Favorites

    TV Shows

    Planet Earth series with David Attenborough (BBC)  
    (This was so cool. Nut thought it was like being right there with me.)
    Firefly 
    (You can't take the sky from us.)
    Supernatural 
    (These guys have even worse luck keeping things together than we do.)
    Falling Skies 
    (Geb's happy that Nut keeps track of space. Because nobody wants this to happen.)

    Quotations

    "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."
    – Margaret Wheatley

    "A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
    – Albert Einstein

    "We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds."
    – Anton Chekhov

    "Women hold up half the sky."
    – Chinese proverb

    "It's plain to see / this world is heavenly"
    – Michael Jackson, "Heal the World"

    Books

    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 
    (What happens to the land ultimately affects everybody.)
    Moby-Dick by Herman Melville 
    (Ever chase after something you're not allowed to have? Then you know what's it's like for Captain Ahab to chase the white whale, and for Geb to chase after Nut.)
    Number the Stars by Lois Lowry 
    (How far will you go to make sure people are safe? This book made Nut cry.)
    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli 
    (Nut might not be this weird, but she is this friendly.)
    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver 
    (Being married is tough. Especially when you aren't even allowed to touch each other.)
    Earth by James F. Luhr (Smithsonian DK Books) 
    (It's a map of Geb, with pictures! Mind the volcano on the cover.)
    Space, Stars and the Beginning of Time: What the Hubble Telescope Saw by Elaine Scott 
    (Nut's got a lot of patterns on her skin. Here's a nice map to the brightest of them.)
    Star Vistas: A Collection of Fine Art Astrophotography by Greg Parker and Noel Carboni 
    (Geb feels a little less lonely when he knows other people share his wife's beauty in books like these.)
    The Star-Bearer: A Creation Myth from Ancient Egypt by Dianne Hofmeyr and Jude Daly 
    (All about how Nut and Geb got separated. It's a beautiful but sad story.)
    Cry of the Benu Bird by C. Shana Greger 
    (It's another version of our story, told with beautiful paintings. We love this.)

    Music

    Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead 
    (We prefer the real thing.)
    Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan 
    (Which way does Shu blow, anyway?)
    We like happy music. Like Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys. 
    La Bamba by Ritchie Valens 
    (We'd dance the bamba, but Shu won't let us.)
    Earth Song by Michael Jackson 
    (If only it were this easy to fix what's wrong.)
    To the Sky by Owl City 
    (This is happy music. And the sky is very nice.)
    Fire Coming Out of a Monkey's Head by Gorillaz 
    (Those poor happy people.)
    Everything by Ladysmith Black Mambazo is beautiful, including their version of South Africa's national anthem.

    Movies

     The Odd Life of Timothy Green 
    (See? Boys can come from the earth.)
    The Jurassic Park series 
    (Nature really doesn't like it when you mess with things.)
    Ladyhawke 
    (Captain Navarre and Lady Isabeau don't get to be together either. But they have a friend who can help.)
    Wrath of the Titans 
    (Okay, so they aren't Egyptian gods. But they're still fun to watch!)
    Avatar 
    (If you ever do make it to another planet? Don't mess it up. Thanks.)
    Ferris Bueller's Day Off 
    (Everybody needs to have some fun occasionally. Even us!)
    The Secret World of Arrietty 
    (This is how big we feel, compared to tiny humans. But we still like you.)
    We like disaster films for stress-breakers. 2012 was a crazy one. We'd have to be very, very angry for this kind of mayhem. 

    Activities & Interests

    Likes

    People (most of the time)
    Sycamore trees
    Music
    Long distance relationships
    Really long movies

    Interests

    Geology
    Astronomy
    Plate tectonics
    NASA

    Groups

    Ancient Egyptian Gods  
    Space.com 
    OurAmazingPlanet 
    Stardoll 
    I've Survived 7000 Aftershocks, Bring It On Mother Nature 

    • Spotter's Guide

      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.

      Geb

      Sex: Male
      Age: Adult
      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)
      Armor: None
      Type of Weapon: None (unless earthquakes count)

      Nut

      Sex: Female
      Age: Adult
      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.
      Armor: None
      Type of Weapon: None

      Typical Companions

      Shu and Tefnut
      The star gods
      Ra and the gods on his boat

      Known Hangouts

      Earth
      Deep space
      Nighttime

    • Sightings

      Jan 1, 1970

      Sun City Gods

      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

      The Book of the Divine Cow (or Celestial Cow)

      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

      Tomb of Ramses V and VI (KV9)

      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

      Ptolemaic Nut Chapels

      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

      Plutarch's De Iside et Osiride

      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.

      Lady of the Coffins

      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.

      The Starry Vaults

      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?

      From Ancient Egypt to Modern Metal: Ankhefenkhonsu's "Stela of Revealing"

      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.