Friday, October 17, 2008
GODDESS OF THE SKY
The Egyptian Goddess Nut was originally viewed as the Goddess of the Day Sky, which was the place above the Earth where the clouds were formed. She was known by a variety of names that included Neuth, Nuit, and Nwt (which is pronounced New-Eat), and it was from those names that the modern English words, "night," "nocturnal," and "equinox," and the French term "la nuit," which means "the night," were derived.
As time passed, Nut's influence grew extensively, and she became not only the personification of the day sky, but the Goddess of the whole Sky, as well. That also made Nut the Goddess of the Wind, and of everything else that fell between the place where the sun rose in the East, and where it finally made its descent in the West.
Several myths came about that describe the manner in which the Sun moved across the sky from the East to the West. One myth described how Nut, the sky, gave birth to the Sun every morning. Then, as the day continued, the Sun passed over Nut's body until he finally reached her mouth at sunset. It was at that point that the Sun entered Nut's mouth, and traveled through her body until he came forth from her vagina the following morning, to then repeat the cycle once again.
Alternatively, another version of the myth describes how the Sun sailed up, over Nut's legs and back, in the Atet (Matet) boat until high noon. At high noon, the Sun changed boats and then sailed in the Sektet boat over the rest of Nut's body until sunset finally arrived.
Because of Nut's strong connection to the sun's rebirth, she was associated, as well, with the religious belief in the resurrection of the dead. Her image was frequently used to decorated the inner lids of coffins from which, it was believed, the dead would one day be reborn. Since Nut was also seen as a Goddess of the Dead, it was believed that Pharaohs entered her body when they died, and then traveled through it until they exited it at the time of their resurrection.
Nut was a member of the Heliopolitan Ennead, and in her role as the mistress of all heavenly bodies, she was believed to be reaching across the sky from horizon to horizon, touching one with her hands and the other with her feet.
Nut was the daughter of Shu, the God of Air, and Tefnut, the Goddess of Moisture in the Heliopolitan genealogy. She was also both sister and wife to the God of the Earth, Geb, and the mother of Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys.
Nut was also a Goddess of the late historical period of Egypt, and as such, she absorbed a variety of attributes that had previously belonged to several other Goddesses into herself. Indeed, it is believed that in earlier times, Nut was a Mother Goddess that had a great many children, and she has often been confused with several of the older nature Goddesses, because she either shared many of their characteristics with them, or those characteristics were merged together within her, including those of the very ancient Goddess Hathor (Het-Hrt). The sharing of attributes was actually quite common among many of the Netjer.
Nut has frequently been portrayed as a woman wearing a vase of water on her head. Most often, however, she is looked upon as being the roof of the sky or heaven, with her body stretched out so that her hands and feet are touching the Eastern and Western horizons, or the four cardinal points, respectively, so that her body arches to form a semi-circle, with her arms and legs representing the four pillars upon which the sky rests.
Her father, Shu, holds Nut up in that position, while her husband, Geb, lies on the ground reclining on one elbow, with his knees up in the air. It is said that in this position, Geb depicts the hills and valleys of the land, and that Shu is holding up Nut with his arms in the same manner that the air was believed to hold up the sky.
This particular positioning is of great importance, because when Shu raised Nut(the sky) above Geb (the earth) he brought an end to chaos and, if he was ever to leave that position for any reason, chaos would return to the world.
In another version of this myth, Ra asked Nut to raise him into the heavens and remove him from the world below, because he found it to be quite distasteful. Nut rose upward carrying Ra on her back, but the higher she rose the dizzier she became. She would have definitely crashed to the ground had it not been for four Gods who steadied her legs, while her father, Shu, held up her belly.
These Gods became the four pillars of the Sky, and Nut's body became the firmament to which Ra then attached the stars. The combination of the Goddess of the Sky, Nut, the God of the Air, Shu, and the God of the Earth, Geb, formed the Egyptians' idea of how their world was designed.
There are several different versions of the Egyptian Creation Myth, and Nut played an important role in all of them.
The Creation Myth that belonged to the Lower Kingdom of Egypt stated that in the beginning, only the ocean existed. Then, out of an egg that suddenly appeared on the surface of the ocean, Ra, the God of the Sun appeared. Through his own secretions, Ra had four children, the gods Shu and Geb and the goddesses Tefnut and Nut. Shu and Tefnut became the atmosphere. Then they stood on Geb who became the earth, and raised Nut up to become the sky.
Ra was the supreme ruler of the world, and he ruled over everyone and everything. Geb and Nut eventually produced two sons, Set and Osiris, and two daughters, Isis and Nephthys. As time passed, and Ra grew old, he finally stepped down and Osiris succeeded him as the King of the Earth, assisted by Isis, who was both his sister and his wife.
Set hated Osiris with a passion, and he eventually murdered his brother, leaving Isis to embalm her beloved husband's body with the help of the God Anubis, who became the God of Embalming, and from that time on Osiris became the symbol of good, while Set became the symbol of evil, thus establishing the two poles of morality, and fixing them once and for all.
Isis, through working her powerful magick, was able to resurrect Osiris and he became the King of the Netherworld and the Kingdom of the Dead. Their son Horus the Elder, eventually defeated Set in a great battle, and then took his rightful place as the King of the Earth.
The Upper Kingdom Creation Myth is slightly different from that of the Lower Kingdom. It tells how, in the beginning, there was only Nun, the primal ocean of chaos, that contained the very beginnings of everything else that would ever be. It was from those waters that Ra appeared and, completely alone, he parthenogencally gave birth to Tefnut and Shu. Shu, the God of Air, and Tefnut, the Goddess of Moisture, then gave birth to Geb and Nut, the God of the Earth and the Goddess of the Sky. That was how the physical universe was created, and then mankind was created from Ra's tears.
It is believed that Geb and Nut were born in a sexual embrace, and that Ra, who did not approve of their incest, ordered Shu to forcibly interposed himself between them, thus separating the Earth from Sky. The myth in which the earth and the sky are married, and then become separated, is known throughout the world as a universal myth, having a wide assortment of variations.
One example of this is the Greek Creation Myth. The Goddess Gaea was the Earth and Uranus, who was the Heavens, was both her husband and her son. It was Gaea who made the decision to separate herself from Uranus, and she did so with the help of her youngest son Chronos, who castrated his own father, thereby separating the Earth from the Sky.
Even though Ra had forbidden Geb and Nut to continue in their eternal sexual embrace, they married anyway, and their refusal to separate caused Ra to become so furious with them that he ordered their father, Shu, to separate them, which he did. Ra then placed a curse upon Nut, to keep her from giving birth to a child on any given day in any given year. Unfortunately, though, a major problem existed. Nut was already pregnant with Geb's children and she did not know what to do.
It was then that Nut went to her dear friend Thoth, the God of Wisdom, who also happened to be Ra's son, and asked him for his help. Amazingly, Thoth actually did find a way to get around Ra's curse. First, Thoth went to visit Khonsu, the God of the Moon, and challenged him to a game of draughts. The longer they played the game, the larger the stakes became. In the end, it was Thoth who won, and what Khonsu had bet, which Thoth had won, was an amount of the element of light, which amount was exactly enough to create five additional days. Thoth placed those five days between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, thereby creating five days that did not fall upon any given day in any given year. Indeed, due to Thoth's great wisdom, Ra's curse was both upheld and defeated, and Nut was able to give birth to her children on those five days that once did not exist.
Nut was never actually personified in a truly human form. Rather, she was always depicted as a midnight blue or black skinned woman, arched above her father, Shu and husband, Geb, and was either covered with or imbedded with stars. Often, the Moon is seen resting in her genitals, while the Milky Way is leaking from her hanging breasts. While Nut may never have taken on a truly human form, each and every depiction of her shows her as a uniquely feminine and sexual Goddess. While Nut's love for Geb was so great, that she had to forceably be kept apart from him for all eternity, the story of that love will always remain a tale of eternal love and desire, just as the earth and the sky will forever seem to meet when you glance at the far horizon.