Egyptian Gods: Nut

Nut is one of the most important goddesses in Egypt and is a member of the Ennead. She is the daughter of Shu, the god of the air and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. She was believed to be the grandchild of the first god, Ra. She is the wife of her brother, Geb, the god of the earth with whom she has multiple children.

She was known by a good number of names including Neuth, Nuit, Newet, and Nwt that all signified the sky and became the basis of the English words night, equinox, and nocturnal.

She was originally the goddess of the day sky, a place where the clouds where formed. However, as time went by, she evolved into the personification of the whole sky and the heavens.

Nut is represented as a dark-skinned woman (black or midnight blue) standing on all fours whose fingers and toes touch the horizon. She is leaning over her husband Geb who is lying down as earth. Her body is covered with stars. It is believed that at night, Nut and Geb would meet as the goddess comes down from the sky causing darkness. During storms, Nut comes a little closer to Geb causing the weather disturbance. Their father Shu by the orders of the sun god, Ra, separates them from what was a tight eternal embrace. If Shu relents on his job, the eternal order would be disrupted causing unbelievable chaos.

It is thought that the four limbs of Nut points on the four cardinal directions – north, south, east and west. She is also believed to swallow the sun god, Ra during sunset and gives birth to him the following day at sunrise. Her association with Ra was further solidified in the Book of the Dead, where she is mentioned as the mother figure of the sun god.

As Mother Night, she is the unconscious Luna or moon – a representation of the feminine, emotional body. Here, she is depicted as two crossed arrows against the skin of a leopard associating her with the air, rainbows and sycamore tree.

She may be depicted as a sow whose teats are ready for the children (piglets in the form of stars) to suckle. Each morning, she would swallow the piglets to give way to the sun. Infrequently, she may be a woman carrying a pot (representative of the sky) on her head. In another myth, she is the mother whose laughter was the thunder and whose tears were the rain.

She was sometimes represented as a cow goddess known as the Great Kau from which all creations were born. Her udders were believed to have paved the way for the Milky Way. Her eyes represented the sun and the moon. In this aspect, she assimilated some attributes of Hathor. As a great solar cow, she carried the sun god, Ra when he retired from his duties as king of the earth.

As a mother who rebirths Ra everyday, she became connected with the underworld and the idea of resurrection and the tomb. She was a friend to the dead whose role resembled that of a mother-protector in the soul’s journey to the land of the dead. In fact, she often painted on the inside of the lids of the sarcophagus and coffins, protecting its content until the dead is reborn. In one myth, the soul of the pharaoh would enter her during death and would only come out at the time of resurrection.

Her sacred symbol is a ladder known as the maqet from which Osiris stepped on and climbed to enter the kingdom of the skies and the dwelling of his mother Nut. Such ladder symbol may be found in tombs as a protection of the deceased and to invoke the help of the deity of the dead.

Because of Ra’s wrath on Nut and Geb’s incestuous relationship, he cursed that Nut could not give birth on any day of the year. However, she is believed to be the mother of five children that were born on each of the five extra days of the Egyptians calendar by the help of Thoth (who added the five extra days). Osiris was born on the first day, Horus the Elder on the second, Set on the third, Isis on the fourth, and Nephthys on the fifth. Such days are better known as the five epagomenal days of the year and were widely celebrated in the whole Egypt with the following significance:

 Osiris – an unlucky day
 Horus the Elder – neither lucky nor unlucky
 Seth – an unlucky day
 Isis – a lucky day, known as “A Beautiful Festival of Heaven and Earth”
 Nephthys – an unlucky day

In her various functions, she was known by many epithets including “Coverer of the Sky”, “She Who Protects”, “Mistress of All”, “She who Bore the Gods” and “She Who Holds a Thousand Souls”.

Despite her many roles, no temples were built to her honor just like other cosmic deities because she is the representation of the sky. However, throughout the whole year, there were many festivals for her including the “Festival of Nut and Ra” and the “Feast of Nut”. Throughout history, she remains as one of the most well loved deities in Egypt.