Egyptian Gods and Goddesses - Tefnut and Shu



Tefnut and Shu

The first beings created by Ra were the twins Tefnut and Shu. The name Shu means literally to raise: for it is he who holds aloft the sky. It was also said that he held apart his two children, Geb the earth god and Nut the sky goddess. He was therefore the god of air, and was also considered to be the god of light. In sacred art Shu is shown in human form with an ostrich feather on his head, the ostrich feather being the hieroglyph of his name.

Another of his symbols was a representation of the four pillars which stood at the four corners of the earth and aided him in his task of holding up the sky. While the priests of Hermopolis claimed that Horus followed Ra as king of Egypt, at Heliopolis it was believed that Shu was Ra's successor. He later abdicated in favor of his son Geb. His farewell party is reputed to have been a noisy affair which lasted the whole of nine days.

Tefnut was Shu's twin sister and wife. She was the goddess of moisture, and helped her husband in supporting the sky. The Greeks identified her with Artemis and in sacred art she is shown as either a lioness or a woman with a lion's head.

At Nay-ta-hut, which the Greeks named Leontopolis, the 'city of the lions', she was worshipped as a lion, and it was in the form of lions that Tefnut and Shu guarded the eastern and western horizons. Lions were also carved upon beds to protect the sleeper through the night.