The Egyptian God Geb
The Egyptian god Geb is the son of Shu and Tefnut, and the grandsom of the creator god Atum (or Ra). In the creation myth of Heliopolis, Atum was bored and lonely, and he lamented this mood and mentioned that if the earth was alive it would make his life more interesting.
And so the earth was created, as a playground and nice spot for resting. Geb is the god of earth.
It is interesting to note that in much of ancient mythology, the earth is usually given a feminine symbol or diety, while the sky is given a male one. But in ancient Egyptian mythology, earth was the male god Geb and the sky was the female goddess Nut.
Forms and Roles of the Egyptian God Geb
Earth was called “The House of Geb”. As he was the earth, he gave life to the beings on its surface as well as its vegetation. And he was also intimate with the bodies buried beneath and inside of the earth.
Another function was that of being one of the judges of the Weighing of the Heart Ceremony.
Geb was usually depicted in the form of a man. But his other common form is that of a man with the head of a snake, or with a goose on top of his head.
Snakes, so closely bonded to the earth, were the domain of the Egyptian god Geb. And one day, Ra was getting fed up with their behavior so he ordered Geb to keep a close eye on them and report on their activities.
But perhaps his most significant role was that of fathering the four gods that are involved in ancient Egypt’s most famous legend… let’s take a look.
Geb’s Love of Nut
At the beginning, Geb and Nut were created together as a pair, and they were born locked into such a tight embrace that their own father, the god of air Shu, had to separate them by holding Nut up above the earth.
Earth separated from the sky by air. Makes sense…
Nut is a very important ancient Egyptian goddess, and her myths are more numerous and elaborate than those of her husband. She was depicted in the form of a beautiful woman, usually naked and bent over the earth, covering his surface.
Geb’s love for Nut is, for me, just as poetic as that of Osiris and Isis. In the Pyramid Texts, there is a part that contains a poem spoken by Geb to his wife Nut that shows not only his adoration of her, but also shows us how truly beautiful and powerful she is:
O Nut! You became a spirit,
you waxed mighty in the belly of your mother Tefnut before you were born.
How mighty is your heart!
You stirred in the belly of your mother in your name of Nut,
you are indeed a daughter more powerful than your mother…
O Great One who has become the Sky!
You have the mastery, you have filled every place with your beauty,
the whole earth lies beneath you, you have taken possession thereof,
you have enclosed the whole earth and everything therein within your arms,
As Geb I shall impregnate you in your name of sky,
I shall join the whole earth to you in every place.
O high above the earth! You are supported upon your father Shu,
but you have power over him,
he so loved you that he placed himself – and all things beside – beneath you
so that you took up into you every god with his heavenly barque,
and as “a thousand souls is she” did you teach them that they should not
leave you – as the stars.
You can see the passion there. And so even though they were separated by the god Shu, some myths say that they would come back together in an embrace every night.
Other than being the earth and sky whose existence was necessary for life, these two were the parents of very powerful gods and goddesses in Egyptian mythology.
They had four children: Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys. And depending on the myth, Horus was sometimes thought of as their fifth child rather than their grandchild.
The Egyptian god Geb had given Osiris the lordship of the land and protected him from his enemies. When things got really troubling between Set and Horus, Geb tried to mediate between them by giving Horus Lower Egypt and Set Upper Egypt.
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