Pinning down the correct theology of any member of the Egyptian pantheon can be difficult to do. The Goddesses of ancient Egypt — Hathor, Nut, Isis — trade headdresses of cow’s horns and sun discs, swallow and give birth to Sun Gods and absorb each others’ titles and attributes, growing and shrinking with the ebb and flow of political power and popular imagination. Like her fellow goddesses the roles and titles of the ancient Sky Goddess Nut seem to have changed. Her clearest identification is as the personification of the sky, a fact which in and of itself poses a challenge to later orthodoxy, which tended to place the feminine on earth “below” and the masculine above in the heavens.
Perhaps the Ancient Egyptians would have agreed with Ralph Waldo Emerson that consistency is the “hobgoblin of little minds.” Or perhaps any god who lives for thousands of years is destined to change in the popular imagination. Ancient Egypt was nearly 3,000 years old by the time it was conquered by the Greeks, after all. Whatever the reason, Nut appears to have shifted from a goddess of the daytime sky to a goddess of the sky in general, depicted often as the night sky, covered with stars. When shown in human form, she usually wears a water pot on her head. She is called mother to all the gods, but is also called granddaughter of the primordial sea and daughter of Shu, the Air God. Shu is often depicted holding up Nut as she arches over the world and her husband, the Earth God Geb. Geb is shown reclining, his body representing the valleys and hills of the world. The Sun God Ra is said to have flown, or sailed, into Nut’s body at night and to re-emerge each day. Similarly, Hathor (literally house of Horus, another Sun God) was said to swallow the sun and give birth to it and Isis, who also became a Sky Goddess and Queen of Heaven became Horus’ mother, frequently pictured with him on her lap in a fashion nearly identical to the much later Madonna and Christ.
Paintings of Nut lined the interiors of coffins and tombs and show her body arched protectively over humans engaged in their earthly tasks.