Study Guide

Geb and Nut Sightings

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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.

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