Shu’s name is a synonym for light, the verb of light. Shu is the movement of light in the air. Light, like the breath of life, travels as part of the moment Now and disappears into the past in a moment. Ultimately, the movement of light defines the moment.
Shu is the fire of breath in the nostrils. His very name is an exhalation of breath, “Shu!” He is represented by the feather of Ma'at, symbol of reality. The passing of the moment from future to past is the immediacy of reality. Now is passing with each breath. Now is past and gone every time you exhale. The separation between living and dead is in a single breath. Shu is the atmosphere that separates Earth and Sky, Geb and Nut. Shu is visible in the columns of sunlight through clouds on the horizon. Shu is called the Support of The Sky. He is called upon in funeral texts, because the reality of the moment of death comes to slave and pharaoh alike. The moment Now passes in “the millions of years,” as it does in life, within the perception of Rae.
Tafnut is the twin sister of Shu. Tafnut has been labeled the “moisture of the air.” The verb associated with her powers is translated as “exuding moisture.” The hieroglyph for Tafnut is a mouth spitting out liquid. Her name is a classic example of the visual-verbal puns of which the ancients were so fond. Humidity is a vital issue in Africa and the ability to sweat enough is, literally, a life and death matter. To this day there is in use the Swahili greeting, “How do you sweat?” For ten thousand years, water has been collected in the desert from morning dew condensing and dripping off the outside of special pottery vessels.
Tafnut is the personification of a verb, of a process, and “sweating” is one of the politer translations. Tafnut is every kind of sweating, the ability of the very air to sweat water. Tafnut is moisture, condensation, humidity, osmosis, blood, menses, ejaculation, orgasm, all bodily processes which produce wetness. She is the motion of water flowing. She is the mystery of chemical action. All these are movements with the moment Now, with the immediacy of this moment, so that Tafnut is the physical twin of Shu.
In the creation myth of Atum, Time weeps tears of joy at the creation of the moment Now and the motion of life, Shu and Tafnut. Out of these tears of joy humanity is born.
In ancient Egypt, women were the carriers of creative energy and men were the activators of creation. Egyptian men saw their women as the enfolding mystery of the blue sky and the starry heaven, rather than as the earth at their feet to be plowed for seeding, the way she was represented in their contemporary societies. The social equality of the women of the Nile was established early because in their totally handmade world there was nothing without women — no society, no family, no one. Just rock, desert and mud.Egyptian mythology did not have the Earth Mother of Indo-Europeans. Isis as sister/wife of Osiris and mother of Horus is a sky Nayture. Earth was male. He was Geb, the goose-headed Nayture, the Great Honker whose voice first woke Rae out of the energy-fields of space/time.
Geb is the ground you stand on, and his name is spelled with a hill (“g”) and two feet, (“b”.) His emblem is the Egyptian goose, whose voice wakes Rae consciousness at the beginning of the world — and every morning thereafter. (Geese and ducks were the domesticated birds of the ancient world.)
Nut is the Sky. Rae travels along her body as he moves through time. Nut is the source of your interior climate — you can control the weather inside, but to do that you have to light your inner sky with a conscious view of yourself. In the celebrated story of the Birth of Osiris, Nut is the Great Mother who gives birth to the five greatest of the Naytures: Osiris, Isis, Horus, Suty and Nephthys. These are the five graces born anew with every human being. In other words, you are the child of the sky, made of star-stuff.
The story cycle of Shu, Tafnut, Geb and Nut featured in the annual festivals of the New Year, a five-day event of feasting, games, music, mystery plays, flowers and dancing. Much like our own New Year’s fun. More on this in the section on the calendar.