Egyptian mythology has fascinated the world for centuries; one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Egyptian mythology reflects the way the ancient people of this society viewed their world. They both feared and worshipped their gods in order to guarantee the annual flooding of the Nile which allowed them to stay alive in this harsh climate. The gods of ancient Egypt reflected the society of the Egyptians and we can see this in the significance and history of their deities.
The ancient Egyptian god Geb was one of the most important deities in the Egyptian pantheon. The god of the earth, Geb was both the brother and consort of Nut, as well as the oldest son of Shu and Tefnut, the deities of air and moisture.
One of his famous myths recounts the legend of how the earth and sky were formed. Geb and Nut were locked in a passionate embrace and Shu, or in other versions, the sun god Ra, separated them so violently that Geb formed the earth and Nut the sky. The distance between them gave enough space for Nut to give birth to their children. According to legends, Geb continued to grieve for Nut and his grief caused earthquakes (Cotterell & Storm, p.281).
Geb also played a leading role among the gods. In the Pyramid Texts (a collection of Egyptian texts concerning funerary rites), he is described as the spokesman of the gods against Set (Brandon, p.117).
The Egyptians viewed astronomy as an important part of life and in this, Geb also plays a vital role. The 160 day visible rising phase of the decan stars was called Geb, or evening/night (rising) and the 200 day withdrawing phase was called Nut, or day (rising). This Nut rising period was when the stars withdrew, and could reflect the explanation that the goddess swallowed her star children, although this theory has been amended (Conman, p.64). Geb becomes a prince of the decan stars because he “commands them to rise. He causes the stars to return to life after they have been swallowed. He is responsible for the heliacal risings of the decans. Considered an earth god, Geb has a distinctly non-chthonic side that includes an existence in the sky” (Conman, p.64).
Geb plays an important role in the history of both ancient Egyptian mythology and history. Through the study of this deity, we can gain new insight into the fascinating history of this ancient culture.
Brandon, S. G. F. (1958) A Problem of the Osirian Judgement of the Dead, Numen, BRILL.
Conman, Joanne (2003) It’s About Time: Ancient Egyptian Cosmology, Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, Helmut Buske Verlag GmbH.
Cotterell, Arthur & Storm, Rachel (1999) The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hermes House, Anness Publishing House.