Have you had a proud mother come back to the office during her maternity leave, to show off the baby and horrify everyone with a blow-by-blow account of her labour? If so, you may want to choose Nut as the appropriate goddess of the offering formula you write in her congratulations card.
You’ll recall how Nut the sky and Geb the earth, separated by their father Shu, the air, had to resort to special measures to start a family, namely and to wit: passing semen mouth to mouth in a kiss. Well, they didn’t have turkey basters then. They didn’t even have turkeys.
It was unconventional, but it worked. Nut became pregnant. And it annoyed the hell out of the other gods. Well, the divine family firm was still a small to medium-sized enterprise then, and the pregnancy of a key worker like the sky can hit an SME hard. One of the senior directors, the sun god Re, took it badly and declared that Nut might be pregnant, but there was no way she was going to give birth on any day he was in charge of. (You can understand why: Nut’s job involved swallowing the sun at night and the stars at daybreak, and giving birth to them again at the appropriate time. If she had offspring in there as well, he must have been concerned about overcrowding in the workplace.) As the sun god, Re was basically in charge of days, so this presented a problem for Nut.
However, a good legal department can usually come up with a solution (even though the boss may feel they’re in league against him.) Nut visited the company secretary in the form of the god Thoth, scribe of the gods. Thoth did a quick stocktake and pointed out that, although Re was head of the day department, his department was not at full strength. The Egyptian calendar was based on three seasons of four months, with thirty days to a month, making a grand total on 360 days in a year. This immediately looks like a shortfall to us, but give them a break, they were making the market back then. Thoth looked in the stores and came up with an extra five days’ worth of light, which he shoehorned in between the end of one year and the beginning of the next. He told Nut she could have those five days off to give birth. Talk about coming straight back to work. (They never did figure out the extra quarter day. It caused the office party schedule no end of trouble in the long run.)
You’ll have noticed that the divine board of directors is becoming more complicated and causing more trouble with each generation. It was all so simple when Atum was a sole trader. He single-handedly brought up two kids, one of each, who didn’t give him a bit of trouble, probably because they were essentially cloned from himself. It was only when the second generation became a two-parent family that things started to be less than straightforward, and their kids took up unusual sex and violence. So what with that and Nut’s problem pregnancy, you can guess that the next generation is going to be even more interesting.
For a start, there were more of them. Nut made good use of her five-day maternity leave, and produced four children: Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. There are also rumours of a fifth child, called Horus the Elder, which would make sense given the five days of labour. The impact of this houseful of kids on the older gods was a bit like the baby boomer generation on the pre-war traditionalists: there were too many of them, they were selfish, they didn’t know how to behave and they were wrecking the place. The older gods called Nut’s children the “children of disorder”; little horrors, in other words.
And they did take over. As children of Geb and Nut, they laid claim to the earth and the sky, roaming around the land and circling the sky as stars, planets and constellations. Despite her vast and quarrelsome brood, Nut was back on the day and night shift without missing a beat. Sky goddess, fine; glass ceiling, no way.