Study Guide

Nun Gossip

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Nun is pronounced like noon. In hieroglyphs it means first water, but it also means nothing at all. Confused? We are, too.

Nun was one of eight creator gods called the Ogdoad. The eight were four pairs of gods: Nun and Naunet controlled the waters of creation; Kek and Keket controlled darkness; Heh and Hehet controlled time; and Amun and Amunet controlled invisible air. Together, they created the universe.

Egyptians weren't the only people in the Middle East who thought of the universe as beginning from a boundless ocean. The Mesopotamians called their primeval waters Abzu or Apsu, and even the book of Genesis in the Bible talks about the "surface of the deep" over which God moves to create light, and then everything else.

Most of Egypt's creation myths talk about a big rock or an island that rises up out of Nun's water. Sometimes this land is called a god, named Ta-Tenen, and sometimes it's a perch for the bennu, or phoenix, that rises up to become the sun. In this myth, the land is called benben, or "shiny-shiny." Ancient Egyptians called obelisks (those stone pillars with points on top) benben stones, after the myth. So that means there's a shiny-shiny near the White House, in the form of the Washington Monument; another in Central Park; and still others all over Egypt, Rome, and Europe.

Nun isn't just the original water of creation: Ancient Egyptians thought a little piece of Nun existed in everything that contained water, from the Nile to a bucket, from a temple pool to a child's teardrops. Nun is still everywhere!

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