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In the Ennead of Egyptian mythology, Nut (alternatively spelled Nuit, Newet, and Neuth) was the goddess of the sky. Her name is translated to mean Night and she is considered one of the oldest deities among the Egyptian pantheon, with her origins being found on the creation story of Heliopolismarker. She was originally the goddess of the nighttime sky, but eventually became referred to as simply the sky goddess. Her headdress was the hieroglyphic of part of her name, a pot, which may also symbolize the uterus. The ancient Egyptians said that every woman was a nutrit, a little goddess. Mostly depicted in human form, Nut was also sometimes depicted in the form of a cow whose great body formed the sky and heavens, a sycamore tree, or as a giant sow, suckling many piglets (representing the stars).

Origins

A sacred symbol of Nut was the ladder, used by Osiris to enter her heavenly skies. This ladder-symbol was called maqet and was placed in tombsmarker to protect the deceased, and to invoke the aid of the deity of the dead. Nut is considered an enigma in the world of mythology because she is direct contrast to most other mythologies, which usually evolve into a sky father associated with an earth mother or Mother Nature.

The sky goddess Nut depicted as a cow


She appears in the creation myth of Heliopolismarker which involves several goddesses who play important roles: Tefnut (Tefenet) is a personification of moisture, who mated with Shu (Air) and then gave birth to Sky as the goddess Nut, who mated with her brother Earth, as Geb. From the union of Geb and Nut came, among others, the most popular of Egyptian goddesses, Isis, the mother of Horus, whose story is central to that of her brother-husband, the resurrection god Osiris. Osiris is killed by his brother Seth and scattered over the Earth in 14 pieces which Isis gathers up and puts back together. Osiris then climbs a ladder into his mother Nut for safety and eventually becomes king of the dead. A huge cult developed about Osiris that lasted well into Roman times. Isis was her husband's queen in the underworld and the theological basis for the role of the queen on earth. It can be said that she was a version of the great goddess Hathor. Like Hathor she not only had death and rebirth associations, but was the protector of children and the goddess of childbirth..



Some of the titles of Nut were:

- Coverer of the Sky: Nut was said to be covered in stars touching the different points of her body.

- She Who Protects: Among her jobs was to envelop and protect Ra, the sun god.

- Mistress of All or "She who Bore the Gods": Originally, Nut was said to be laying on top of Geb(Earth) and continually having intercourse. During this time she birthed five children: Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus the Elder.

- She Who Holds a Thousand Souls: Because of her role in the re-birthing of Re every morning and in her son Osiris's resurrection, Nut became a key god in many of the myths about the after-life.

Role

Nut was the goddess of the sky and all heavenly bodies, a symbol of resurrection and rebirth. According to the Egyptians, during the day, the heavenly bodies—such as the sun and moon—would make their way across her body. Then, at dusk, they would be swallowed, pass through her digestive system during the night, and be reborn out of her uterus at dawn, the red streaks in the sky symbolizing the blood and fluid passed at birth.

Nut is also the barrier separating the forces of chaos from the ordered cosmos in the world. She was pictured as a woman arched on her toes and fingertips over the earth; her body portrayed as a star-filled sky. Nut’s fingers and toes were believed to touch the four cardinal points or directions of north, south, east, and west.Because of her role in saving Osiris, Nut was seen as a friend and protector of the dead, who appealed to her as a child appeals to its mother: “O my Mother Nut, stretch Yourself over me, that I may be placed among the imperishable stars which are in You, and that I may not die.” Nut was thought to draw the dead into her star-filled sky, and refresh them with food and wine: “I am Nut, and I have come so that I may enfold and protect you from all things evil.” She was often painted on the inside lid of the sarcophagus, protecting the deceased. The vault of tombsmarker often were painted dark blue with many stars as a representation of Nut.The Book of the Dead says, “Hail, thou Sycamore Tree of the Goddess Nut! Give me of the water and of the air which is in thee. I embrace that throne which is in Unu, and I keep guard over the Egg of Nekek-ur. It flourisheth, and I flourish; it liveth, and I live; it snuffeth the air, and I snuff the air, I the Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, in peace.”

Modern Interpretation

Modern feminist are very fond of this story because Nut is a woman and a mother. According to mythology she and her husband were joined in intercourse day in and day out, stopping only when forced apart by wind. An American Folklore article pointed out that it was impossible for there to be life or the birth of the Sun king Ra without the work of Nut. She is regulator of night, day, and in essences the passage of time. She gives birth to the sun every morning and swallows him every night, releasing herself from the perpetual role of mother. She was a symbol who held much power during a time when women in most societies were at the mercy of their husbands and male family members. This is a reflection of the more modern thought processes of the Egyptians during this time when a woman was allowed to take her husband to court and was viewed as having rights of her own within Egyptian society.

Notes

  1. Mythology, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Principal Myths and Religions of the World, by Richard Cavendish ISBN 1-84056-070-3, 1998
  2. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, by Leonard H. Lesko, 2001
  3. Women of Ancient Egypt and the Sky Goddess Nut, by Susan Tower Hollis The Journal of American Folklore © 1987 American Folklore Society.
  4. "Egyptian goddesses" The Oxford Companion to World mythology. David Leeming. Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Southeast Missouri State University. 7 May 2009
  5. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, by Leonard H. Lesko, 2001.
  6. Clark, R. T. Rundle. Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1959.
  7. "Papyrus of Ani: Egyptian Book of the Dead", Sir Wallis Budge, NuVision Publications, page 57, 2007, ISBN 1595479147
  8. Women of Ancient Egypt and the Sky Goddess Nut, by Susan Tower Hollis The Journal of American Folklore © 1987

References

  • Collier, Mark and Manley, Bill. How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: Revised Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
  • "Egyptian goddesses" The Oxford Companion to World mythology. David Leeming. Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Southeast Missouri State University. 7 May 2009.
  • "Papyrus of Ani: Egyptian Book of the Dead", Sir Wallis Budge, NuVision Publications, page 57, 2007.
  • The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, by Leonard H. Lesko, 2001.
  • Women of Ancient Egypt and the Sky Goddess Nut, by Susan Tower Hollis The Journal of American Folklore, 1987.



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