Nut appears in the creation myth of Heliopolis 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 Set 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:
- 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
- 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 four children: Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys
(A fifth child named Arueris is mentioned by Plutarch. He was the Egyptian
counterpart to the Greek god Apollo, who was made syncretic with Horus in
the Hellenistic era as 'Horus the Elder'. The Ptolemaic temple of Edfu is
dedicated to Horus the Elder and there he is called the son of Nut and
Geb, brother of Osiris, and eldest son of Geb.)
- She Who Holds a Thousand Souls: Because of her role in the re-birthing
of Ra every morning and in her son Osiris's resurrection, Nut became a key
god in many of the myths about the after-life.
Nut was the goddess of the sky and all heavenly bodies, a symbol of
protecting the dead when they enter the after life. 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 at dawn.
Nut and the Sun
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
“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
She was often painted on the inside lid of the sarcophagus, protecting the
deceased. The vault of tombs 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
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.
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
tombs to protect the deceased, and to invoke the aid of the deity of the
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.