ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian deities: The primordial waters–Nun and Naunet
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The primordial waters: Nun and Naunet

    Nun and Naunet were the personification of the primordial watery abbyss. Ptah, who as lonely creator god, was neither male nor female, was identified with both Nun and Naunet in his roles of begetter and giver of birth:
The gods who came into being as Ptah:
Ptah upon the Great Throne...
Ptah-Nun, the father who begot Atum...
Ptah-Naunet, the mother who bore Atum...
Ptah, the Great, that is the heart and tongue of the Ennead...
Shabaka Stone [2]


    Nun was the embodiment of the primordial waters, existing in the chaos preceding creation, from which the creator god Atem arose, and will be the only matter to exist at the end of all things. He is variously called "the Eldest" and "Father of the Gods".
    The Hymn to Khnum, in which Khnum is identified with the earth god Tatenen, gives a different version of the creation:
When Nun and Tatenen first came into being,
They appeared as lotus on his (i.e. Khnum's) back,
As heir to Djed-shepsy at the start
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.3 p.115.
Nun carrying Re in his barque

Nun carrying Re in his barque
L.E. Lipiello, 2004; Symbolic Perceptions of New Kingdom Watercraft: Building Boats from Gods, p.13

    Bodies of water are often identified with Nun. Amenhotep III built a temple near Luxor
It is planted with all flowers; how beautiful is Nun in his pool, born of the lord of eternity.
The gods of Pe make jubilee to it (i.e. the sacred barge of Amen); the gods of Nekhen praise it; the two Nile-gods of the South and the North, they embrace its beauty, its bows make Nun shine as when the sun rises in heaven...
J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, § 887 f.

    Part of the Heliopolitan Ogdoad


    Naunet was the consort of Nun, one of the four goddesses of the Heliopolitan Ogdoad and as such had the form of a cobra. She played the role of sky-goddess over the watery expanse of Nun, paralleling the sky goddess Nut and the earthgod Geb.[1] If Nun was the primeval matter, Naunet could be referred to as primeval space. Naunet remained the heavens above Nun, which had become the okeanos surrounding the land of creation, and above the underworld.[3]

[1] Byron Esely Shafer (ed.), Religion in ancient Egypt: gods, myths, and personal practice, Cornell University Press, 1991, p.34
[2] Shafer, op. cit., p.96
[3] Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the gods: a study of ancient Near Eastern religion as the integration of society and nature, Oriental Institute publications,University of Chicago Press, 1978, p.155

© October 2005
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