Study Guide

Shu and Tefnut Sightings

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Grossest Creation Story Ever

Atum (the creator) spits out Tefnut and sneezes out Shu, creating water and air. He then sets them on his face, to be his eyes. Later, but without being quite so gross, Tefnut and Shu create their children, Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky).

Eye am OUT of here!

Atum says or does something to offend Tefnut, who skips town. As the Wandering Eye, Tefnut heads all the way to Nubia, while Shu chases her and tries to convince her to come back. Eventually, Shu convinces their mutual friend Thoth to help, and the two gods tell Tefnut jokes and fables, until she calms down and comes home. Ancient Egyptians thought this happened every year, when fall and winter came, and ended with Tefnut's return around the summer solstice. Talk about a serious mad-on!

Sun City

In Heliopolis ("city of the sun" in Greek, part of modern Cairo), a big group of temples to the Great Nine Gods (Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys) included shrines for Shu and Tefnut. They were honored as the Two Eyes of the creator, and the sides of the horizon who protected Ra, the sun, as he went across the sky.

Holding Up Heads

Shu appears on headrests (the ancient Egyptian version of a bed pillow) to hold up people's necks while they sleep, just like he holds Nut up in the sky. Sometimes, like on this headrest that belonged to King Tutankhamun, Tefnut helps Shu, as one of the Twin Lions guarding the horizon.

Dec 20, 2019

Living Shu and Tefnut

Akhenaten (Pharaoh Amunhotep IV) and his wife, Nefertiti, appeared in public dressed like Shu and Tefnut, and called themselves "The Living Shu and Tefnut." Tefnut was shown as a sphinx wearing the tall cylindrical blue crown that Nefertiti wears, even slightly before this, on items belonging to Akhenaten's mother, Queen Tiye.
(Akhenaten as Shu/lion)
(Nefertiti head w/blue crown)
(Tiye in same crown)

Jan 1, 1970 - Dec 20, 2019

The City of Two Lions

Shu and Tefnut had a temple in Leontopolis (today's Tel el-Muqdam, Egypt), along with other lion-headed deities, including Bast, Sekhmet, and Ma'ahes. Sacred lions lived in the temples at the time Greek travelers started visiting this Nile Delta city. Leontopolis was very popular under the Libyan kings of Dynasty 23.

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