Geb: Father… Earth?? Wait, what?

When I was thinking about this letter, I was coming up blank.  I did my first default thing to do when I come up blank on ideas and that was check the official prompt list.  And I read it and thought, “Oh… Gaia… God… Goddess…  I wonder if there are any Kemetic gods that start with G that I might want to write about…”  So I Googled and came up with exactly one: Geb.

Now, maybe I’m a bad Kemetic, but I don’t know every single Kemetic God and Goddess out there.  I might recognize a name, but when it comes to actually knowing the intimate details of this or that God or Goddess’s life, I’m going to draw a lot of blanks.  I mean, I don’t know a lot of my distant cousins’ names either.  And Geb is definitely NOT on my list of close deities.icon_geb

For one, he’s one of the oldest Gods there is.  He comes from a long line of even older Gods.  He’s a major player in one of many creation stories.  His parents, Shu and Tefnut, and his sister-wife, Nut are all responsible for the creation of the world itself.  Geb and Nut’s children are said to be the Gods that mediate between humans and the higher powers (Wesir, Aset, Set, and Nebthet).

As the story goes, Geb fell in love with Nut and they married without Ra’s, their grandfather’s, permission.  This pissed Ra off, and he cursed them to be permanently separated from each other.  Geb was so upset that he cried the rivers and oceans into existence.  This explains why the sky and the Earth never touch.  Ra also cursed Nut to be unable to give birth on any day of the year, and there’s a whole other story that goes along with that leading up to the Kemetic New Year, but I can talk about that in another post.

nutHere’s what I find absolutely most interesting about Geb: he’s Father Earth.  In a world where we almost universally believe that Earth is sacred feminine, Goddess energy and Mother Earth, we find that the Kemetics’ seemingly have it backwards: Earth is most decidedly male and sky is most decidedly female.  In my Western mind, this didn’t make sense, and I’ve spent a few days really thinking about why Earth is male here.

I honestly prayed about this because it took everything I knew and understood about a fundamental part of what is considered traditional Paganism and turned it completely upside-down.  I had always known the Earth as this feminine body where life grew out of Her.  Life comes from the planet.  We see this every day: plants sprout flowers and leaves, new creatures are born, the season change and the cycle continues.  The bringers of life area always female, and the Earth was the bringer of life.

But then I read something that really got to me: the Ancient Egyptians believed that life came from water.  And then suddenly this made a whole lot more sense.  The Earth provided a place for life to occur and live out its days, but the life itself had to be given water before it actually came forth.  The Ancients relied on the flooding of the Nile river.  If the river didn’t flood, their crops wouldn’t grow, and the people would starve.  Their whole entire way of life was built on this idea.

In fact, in the creation myths, the primordial waters from which all life came were all female (Mut, Nit, etc).  Now, there’s Nun as well, but according to the Kemetic Orthodox website, ” Nun, when personified, is referred to as the “Father of Fathers and the Mother of Mothers.”  Nun is both male and female, it seems.  I’m still learning a lot about all of this, so bare with me while I work through the details in other posts.  (I tried to make a family tree of everyone this week.  Crash. And. Burn.)

So here’s how I see it: When there’s new life, there’s water.  The Nile would flood: Life would grow.  Water plants: Life grows.  But it goes past that as well into the human realm (not just with plants).  If you’ve never witnessed a live birth before, take my word for what I am about to say: human babies are born into this world through a lot of liquids.  That baby comes out and there is a lot of fluids that come with it.  I realize that this isn’t water exactly, but it definitely includes some water.

The Ancients were so hyper focused on water and the need for water that it’s not surprising that they associated the water with the female-divine.  And honestly, this makes a lot of sense to me.  The Earth can provide life, but only if water is there to give it.  When we give offerings to the Gods to sustain Them, we give them wine and milk and water.  And we give them bread (which you had to make using water or some other liquid).

Don’t get me wrong: I can still see the other point of view that the Earth is female and the Sky is male (providing water to help the Earth grow the life she needs to), but at the same time, I can also see the Earth as male now.  I like the creation myths of the Ancients, where there was no life or anything but the primordial waters, and then life came out of the waters in the forms of different Gods and Goddesses followed by the rest of life that exists today.

In some aspects of paganism, the element of water is considered feminine energy and connected to emotions, so in the respect, if we’re talking feminine as the energy that physically brings forth life, then water would be connected to that idea.  Earth is the same way in this aspect, but with the Kemetics, it’s all about duality: male and female counterparts.

It all comes down to this: When the Ancients saw they Earth and they saw the Water, they had to rationalize which was the feminine energy and which was not.  The water was associated with the flood and then life coming immediately after this occurrence (just like with human birth), so the water (which fell from the sky, Nut) became associated with feminine energy, making the Earth (the counterpart) masculine in the form of Geb.




Posted on March 27, 2014, in Kemeticism, Pagan Blog Project, Paganism, PBP, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Water doesn’t fall from the sky in Kemet, Kemet is a desert. Water wells up from the earth, the seed goes up from the ground to the sky in the form of moisture. That’s why it’s backwards from the usual. Other cultures in deserts also often think of the sky as female and earth as male for the same reason, because the water goes up and not down.

    • This is going to be a ramble while I grapple with my thought process. 🙂

      That’s understandable, since it is backwards (I hadn’t thought of that or come across it in the reading I had done this week), but why is the direction of the water important?

      I’m sure it’s something that is right before my eyes that I’m missing. I’m just having trouble conceptualizing the idea that if water is feminine and it comes up, why that makes it different. If it’s inherently attached to the earth, why isn’t the whole body seen as feminine?

      Even in the myths, the water on the planet was cried into existence from Geb’s heartbreak over his separation from Nut. The Nile itself is seen as masculine through Hapi.

      It’s the primordial waters, the waters before existence, that are seen as the ultimate feminine and life givers.

      Honestly, now that I think about it, the direction really confuses me. (Thinking simplistically) If water is feminine energy because it causes things to grow and it comes from the sky (like with non-dessert cultures), wouldn’t that make the sky feminine then?

      Or is water seen as masculine in the idea that it could be seen as what causes the growth (like sperm)? In which case where ever the water comes from is masculine, aka the sky or earth? That makes sense. But is the sky simply feminine because the earth can’t be? It doesn’t grow actual life like the planet does, so other than that, I’m not sure why the sky is feminine.

      And where along the line, then, did water become thought of as feminine and associated with emotions?

      See, this whole concept is all new to me. I’m still working through a lot of it.

  2. I think the difficulty is that you are trying to rationalize a non-Western worldview with your decidedly Western one. The two do not align perfectly. In ancient Kemet, gender and sex weren’t a primary attribution for the forces of nature. The ancient Egyptians weren’t as keen to assign natural phenomena gender or sex as modern pagans are.

    For example, in your post you rationalize that the ancient Egyptians must have seen water as the primary generator of life and then therefore water must be feminine. However, the two most important bodies of water to them were the Nile and the Mediterranean, which were anthropomorphized, respectively, by Hapi and Wadj-Wer, both male (albeit with feminine characteristics such as breasts and pregnant belly).

    In contrast, some of the most destructive or ferocious deities were female: Bast, Sekhmet, and Mafdet, for example. And these goddesses were closely associated with the sun.

  3. In short, I don’t think there is much to gain by trying to affix a gender to the elements or natural phenomena. You will find that in ancient Egypt there was room for the answers to philosophical or theological realities to be A, B, and 3.

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