In the ancient Egyptian religion, Geb was the god of earth and was part of the Ennead, the collective name for the nine original deities of the cosmogony of Heliopolis (the birthplace of the gods). Being the god of earth, he controlled vegetation, mountains, valleys, and the underworld. Geb was the brother and husband of Nut, the sky goddess.
Name for Geb
Ancient Egyptian mythology has several names for Geb. Most ancient Egyptian writing record the spelling as ‘Geb’. Other recorded spellings include:
Another title for Geb that appear in ancient Egyptian writings is Kenkenwer, which translates to ‘the great cackler.’ The title originates from the Egyptian belief that earthquakes resulted from Geb’s laughter. Also, the title can be connected to the belief that Geb and Nut laid the egg containing the sun.
Geb fathered the Osirian gods. For that reason, he also had titles such as ‘father of the gods’ and ‘chief of the gods.’
The family tree originates from Geb’s grandfather, Atum, the self-created and creator god). Geb’s parents were Ahu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture.
Geb and Nefnut bore:
Set – the god of darkness and evil.
Osiris – the god of resurrection and death.
Isis – the goddess of wisdom and marriage.
Nepthys – the goddess of decay and death, and darkness.
According to some legends, Horus, the god of kingship, the sun, and the sky, was either Nut and Geb’s son, or Isis and Orisis’ son.
The statute of Geb was located in the inner sanctum of the Egyptian temple. Geb was depicted using the body of a man wearing a combination of the white crown and the Atef crown. People offered food and drink to his statue. However, they would only see him during important festivals when the statue was paraded in processions. The high priest conducted such ceremonies and recited incantations and prayers. But, another special priest, Medjty, was responsible for washing and oiling the statue.
In art representations, Geb is still a man, but he is holding has an ankh and a staff in his hands. The Ankh was the key to life. It was depicted as key with a handle. Sometimes, there is a goose on the headdress or crown. Egyptian gods could take the form of animals. Geb’s animal form was a goose.
Another popular depiction of Geb is an image that shows him lying at Shu’s feet and Nut bent above him. Sometimes Geb’s body is painted black or green skin to portray earth’s fertility.
The creation of the sky and earth
When the gods roamed the earth, Shu and Tefnut bore a twins, Geb and Nut. The two children were intertwined at birth in a perpetual embrace. Over time, it seemed as if they were meddling with each other, a situation that angered Atum Ra, their grandfather.
Ra commanded Shu to split his children. Shu did that by standing on Geb and lifting Nut towards the sky. The separation led to the creation of the atmosphere. Geb cried after the separation and Egyptians believe that his tears created water bodies such as rivers, oceans, and lakes.
Geb continued longing for his sister and is portrayed in art with his erect phallus pointed towards the sky. Before the separation Nut was already pregnant. She later gave birth to their children.
Geb’s infatuation with Tefnut
Geb’s lustful nature did not end with his sister. A legend from the Ptolemaic period tells a tale of his infatuation with his mother.
After a battle with the followers of Apep, the serpent, Shu was injured and tired and had to ascend to heaven to recuperate. Geb saw it as a window of opportunity to satisfy his lust for his mother by raping her. This act led to nine days of storm and darkness.
Shortly after, Geb went to take his father’s place as the new pharaoh. As he reached for the crown of Re, the cobra on the crown sensed his guilt. The cobra killed all his companions and left him badly injured. He was saved by a lock of Ra Atum’s hair.
Regardless of the transgression, Geb became the third pharaoh. He was a good king who was protective of his people and their land.
However, another legend suggests that Geb took the throne after challenging his father and winning. The story continues to say that as the king, Geb retaliated to the separation from his sister by making his mother, Tefnut, as his chief wife, thereby separating her from his father.
Geb, the god of the earth
In ancient Egypt, the earth was referred to as ‘the house of Geb’. The common belief was that barley grew from his ribs. Also, his name was associated with vegetation and productive farming along the River Nile. All that explains why the art representations show green patches of vegetation all over his body.
Geb was also the god of the harvest. For that reason, some Egyptians believed he was the spouse of the cobra goddess Renenutet. Egyptians believed that Geb supplied precious stones and minerals, and, therefore, he was also regarded as the god of the mines.
Geb, the god of the afterlife
Geb had authority over tombs as they were buried in the earth. He played a significant role in the path of the soul in the afterlife. Upon death, Egyptians carried out a ritual of weighing of the heart. Geb released the souls of those people found to be have led a righteous life to ascend to the heavens. He would trap the souls of the unjust in the earth. On a sarcophagus (coffin), the image of Nut appeared on the cover, while the image of Geb appeared at the base. That was a way to indicate that the souls of the righteous were protected by the two deities.