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Nut


Nut was the Egyptian sky goddess usually portrayed as a giant naked lady with her back arched over the earth. Su supported her so only Nut's fingertips and toes touched the earth. Though separated from her consort, Geb, the earth god, during the day, Nut descended to him at night, thus creating darkness. When storms occurred during the day, Nut was thought to have slipped part way down the four pillars or circle of mountains that supported her.

Sometimes Geb was said to be the father of the sun and moon; therefore Nut also was associated with them, either as their mother or as a great cow whose eyes they formed. Re in jealousy, either as a grandfather or a son, had forbidden Nut from marrying Geb; and when she did he ordered her not to have children in any given month of the year. Thoth when hearing this took sympathy on Nut and by playing draughts with the moon won from him a seventy-seventh part of his light. This amounted to five days, the five intercalated days before the New Year in the Egyptian calendar. On each of these days consecutively Nut was able to bear a child: Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.

It was believed that Nut bore numerous children, and was thought to be the original mother goddess. The hieroglyph of her name, which she wore on her forehead when depicted as a woman, is thought to be a womb as well as a water pot. She also was pictured as a sow whose belly was covered with countless suckling pigs, the stars, which she swallowed each morning.

In another myth when Re took a dislike toward humanity and decided to leave the boundaries of earth Nut assumed the figure of a beautiful cow. To achieve his wish the god Nun urged him to seat himself on the cow Nut. When in the morning, as men were still continuing their quarrelsome ways, the cow ascended with the god on her back and was transformed into the sky. Re was delighted when being raised so high; but the cow became fearful and trembled in every limb. So Re ordered other gods to support her legs and belly and they became stars. It is believed this was how the present world evolved; the heaven and earth, gods and men were separated.

Nut was actually both mother and daughter of Re, for in various fashions the sun was thought to be reborn of her womb each morning. According to legend, solar rebirth represented day and night. The sun, a child, entered the mouth of Nut in the evening, passed through her body during the night, and was born from her womb in the morning. This also was symbolized by her presence at the emergence of Khepri from the Underworld; when she would reach down to take the scarab from the solar barque held up from the abyssal waters by Nun. The blood she shed in giving birth to the sun was said to color the sky pink at dawn.

Through her association with Khepri, the reborn or resurrected sun, Nut became identified as the protectress of the dead, who were pictured lying in her starry bosom. She had her wings spread over them in this role. The firmament of her body was painted on the inner lids of coffins so that the soul of the deceased might join the blessed dead. A.G.H.


Sources:

Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman's Sons, 1980, p. 41
Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, pp. 30, 40
Ions, Veronuca, Egyptian Mythology, Feltham, Middlesex, Hamlyn Publishing Group, Ltd., 1968. p. 48