If Geb was the earthy type, his twin sister Nut was the original heavenly body. While Geb the earth lay under the feet of their father Shu, Nut arched herself over his head as the sky, her hands and feet standing at the four cardinal points:
Nut formed a vault over the world, stopping malevolent forces from the cosmos from invading Egypt. The stars travelled over the vault of Nut, and like many other heavenly bodies with star quality, pictures of Nut appeared everywhere, especially on royal tomb ceilings, like this one:
You can see a line of stars painted in blue, running over her shoulder and down her back like a tattoo. Nut had a tremendous appetite; every dawn, she ate all the stars for breakfast. Every evening for supper, she swallowed the barque of the sun god when it reached the western horizon. Every morning, presumably while stuffing her face with the stars, she gave birth to the ship, the god and his retinue, and the whole cycle began again. The red disks painted along Nut’s body represent the passage of the sun through her inner workings. The different parts of her body represented hours of the night. Her lips corresponded to the second hour of night, her teeth to the third, her throat the fourth, her chest the fifth and so on. Remember, if you’re tempted to snack as much as Nut was: a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips… But then, everything she ate seems to have passed straight through her. She doesn’t seem to have digested anything, just like all the other supermodels.
Nut was also a favourite pin-up on coffin lids, where she arched protectively over the deceased, offering the promise of rebirth and eternal life among the stars:
In the underworld, Nut was present as a sycamore fig tree, and provided air, water and nourishment to the departed.
Like certain supermodels, too, Nut wasn’t all celestial sweetness and light. Occasionally, she could appear as a cow or a pig. She was known to fight with her brother Geb; in one quarrel, he split her head right open. No wonder their Dad Shu is holding them apart. The quarrel was hushed up, though, and no-one was allowed to talk about it, for fear of spreading disorder in the company ranks.
Geb and Nut’s parents, Shu and Tefnut, were the first gods to produce children through sex and, like many parents, decided that the kids at better not know anything about it. This is another reason Shu is holding them apart. However, the more you deny them something the more they want it. You could say that Geb and Nut had a love-hate relationship. Geb’s passion for Nut did not only manifest itself in violence. Unable to consummate his lust, he became so frustrated that he resorted to blowing his own trumpet, so to speak. But Nut’s head did touch the ground at the western horizon. Geb was able to pass his semen to her secretly through a kiss, and in this way Nut became pregnant.
But that’s another story. We’ll have a closer look at her name first.