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Firmament Genesis
Geb and Nut
Fig. 1 Nut as a star-studded Firmament Arched over Earth as Geb lying below. The Solar Barque floats on the body of the Firmament as it journeys daily over Earth.

The Firmament and Great Ennead of Heliopolis

Ancient Egypt's Great Ennead of Heliopolis was a group of Nine Deities as the Greek appellation implies. The Great Ennead Gods were the issue of Atum, the "indivisible" one, the "complete one" and the origin for the word Atom today. Like the aggregation of matter formed the solar system, so did the Great Ennead. It was a creation story with a strong scientific bent. Atum as the atom was the smallest and indivisible particle. Atom aggregated into molecules of Shu and Tefnut so to speak. Shu personified air or the atmosphere and sometimes light and Tefnut personified water and moisture. From this "pair of molecules" in space, the Earth and Firmament of Genesis were created and personified as Geb and Nut. The Firmament was a star studded dome supported by her "father" Shu (the atmosphere).

Geb and Nut
Fig. 2 Geb and Nut Symbolism for the union of Nut and Geb or Adam and Eve over the star-studded Firmament. The apple is an ancient Egyptian symbol of marriage and symbolizes their union. The tree trunk and the intertwined uraei is again another symbol of the copulation of Earth and Heaven. Perhaps as graphic as a simile for coitus as is possible: his tree trunk enveloped in her symbol for the Heavens. A typical misinterpretation of the symbolism of the serpent is that it represents the male phallus rather than the feminine principle of the Heavens and the Firmament. This misinterpretation may have also helped in reversing traditionally female symbolism into male symbolism. It was not Eve who was tempted by the snake since she WAS the snake. It was Adam who was tempted by the snake. Adam was tempted to enter the Heavens, the living domain of his creator. She on the other hand is immaculate and virginal. The serpent was also associated with knowledge (Heavenly knowledge or the laws of nature) like sciences and mathematics which were associated with the feminine (Hypatia). Hence, since the feminine was vilified so were the sciences. Scientific study and womanly influence and power were equally heretical values. Galileo was lucky to have been a man. Clement of Alexandria wrote "For the rest of the stars, on account of their oblique course, they have figured like bodies of serpents;"

As personifications of the Earth and the Firmament (Fig. 1), Geb and Nut were typically depicted in the nude. As Earth and Firmament they felt no need to clothe themselves but somewhere along the line, they were shamed into an awareness of their nakedness. Geb and Nut as a couple were the precursors of the story of Adam and Eve. Without their copulation, we would not be here today.

The apple is an ancient Egyptian symbol of marriage. Hence a depiction of Adam an Eve in the nude with an apple is simply a depiction of the marriage or union of Adam and Eve or Nut and Geb. Nothing more and nothing less. Nut's father Shu was not thrilled about their union, but that is typical of any father. He tried to forbid her to give birth, but surely that tall order could not be complied with. Shu held his daughter responsible since she should have known better than to hang around with the likes of Earth, but there is no hint that Nut "tempted" Earth. Earth or Geb's exuberance for Heaven (Nut) was all of his own making and Shu is often depicted desperately separating the two. After all, would Earth have any problems in that department? The stigma attached to Nut/Eve for this misfortunate union was an inauspicious embellishment. The concept of Nut coming from a rib of Geb is another means to reduce Nut's prominence as the mother of humanity and increase Geb's. The idea of original sin was a clever means of indebting mankind to an organization capable of remediating this condition. Adam and Eve was a sign religion had become an overt business using Gods in their bidding. The transformation of the original Nut and Geb narrative to Adam and Eve were designed to achieve greater political gain and maintain gender inequity.

The parallels between Adam and Eve and Nut and Geb continue. Nut had two girls and two to three boys whereas Eve only had two boys, Cain and Abel although this would make it difficult to have any further descendants. Interestingly, however according to Midrashic tradition, Cain and Abel had twin sisters whom they were to marry making them not only identical to Nut's children but they also had the same source of conflict (their wives) resulting in one son dying at the hand of the other. Could it all be just a freakish coincidence?

God's rejection of Cain's offering of agricultural product in preference for Abel's herd product is symbolic of God's preference for the nomadic shepherding people over the settled children of the Nile or the agrarian society. This may seem like a trivial difference at first, but has a huge impact on societal values and boils down to a philosophical difference in the view of property ownership. The societal rift it imposes is economically similar to the conflict between Union and the Confederacy but better yet to that between the North American settlers and the nomadic indigenous American. Such clashes can be genocide-like, bloody and violent as each culture fights for their right to live in the ways of their ancestors and their right to strive economically. God explains the reason he rejected Cain's gift because "he does not do what is right" and "Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man" leading to the conclusion an agrarian society was not looked highly upon by God. God's noted preference marked a turning point on the "impartiality" of God and the recruitment of God in "taking sides" in political disputes. Cain symbolized Egypt who naturally kills Abel the symbol of the Israelites to unite and polarize the people against the enemy: Egypt. Cain's punishment speaks volumes of God's regard for agrarianism: a curse on his ability to produce agriculturally and his ability to thrive economically. The Bible praises the country as a land that "drinketh water as the rain of heaven cometh down" (Deut. 11:10–11), in contrast to Egypt which was irrigated. Contrast this to the Egyptian version where the quintessential agrarian teacher Osiris dies at the hand of his nomadic "wasteland" brother Seth. Each culture is theologically victimized by the other to polarize their people against one another. As compensation for these wrongful deaths, each side receives a replacement: Abel is replaced with Seth and Osiris is replaced with Horus. Perhaps Seth and Horus can carry-on the fight in perpetuity? Perhaps a third messiah might help unite and polarize the remaining people in a similar fashion against the Romans? Hence was the tremendous power and contribution of religion to the business of war making, institutionalizing hatred of thy brother and establishing the delusion war-making was righteous in the name of a God. For this transformation to occur, the influence of women in religion had to be radically reduced as they tended not endorse a war directive. Mothers tended to keep the brothers together, when she was eclipsed, there was no reason for the brothers to behave peacefully. The prominence and influence of women in a given society and religious belief is directly proportional to that nation's aptitude for peace. To achieve world peace is to simply achieve gender equality in all aspects of life. Ironically, the abject rejection of a heliocentric theory was not as much because it was true but because it re-opened the old wounds of the great Egyptian-Israelite rift: God was picking the wrong one side, the "heliocentric" side. Had He not shunned the children of the Nile? We are the legacy of the great Egyptian-Israelite divorce.

Returning to Adam and Eve, the banishment of man from the Garden of Eden is a metaphor for man's banishment from the Heavens (the Firmament/Nut) for which man must redeem himself by performing lifetime of good deeds. The variation between the narratives of Nut and Eve's children records the development of a major rift between religious sects who previously lived in harmony as brothers. Seth is vilified in one camp and a savior in another.

The symbolism of the Firmament or Nut depicted her bent over on all four limbs over him. She enabled rain to fall through her star-studded body and the solar barque to float across the sky on her body. She swallowed the Sun at sunset and birthed the Sun at dawn. At night the Sun travelled through her star-studded body. She was essential to life on Earth providing both Earth's water and a celestial river way for the Sun to travel the skies. Obviously, the importance of her role did not carry over into the Adam and Eve version.

Nut was ordered by her father, Shu not to procreate and he kept her as far apart from Geb as possible. Naturally, by a trick of fate, Nut and Geb created the next generation of the creation story: Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, Seth and a form of Horus. They were born on five epagomenal days. Therefore the nine Gods of the Great Ennead were Atum, Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris and Isis, and Nephthys and Seth.

Surely the Gods would continue to procreate beyond the Great Ennead. The Great Ennead merely established a Royal line or the idea of a birth right if you will. A tenth, a boy child would eclipse them all and will be discussed on a page dedicated to him. It is difficult to focus on the symbolism of the Firmament when her child, the Sun is invariably present around her.


Fig. 3 Egyptian Firmament with Constellations supported by four Nut Columns forming an X and the Sun as Horus, is also present.

Symbols of Nut as the Firmament

Nut, as depicted in the Great Ennead, was the personification of the Firmament, the path of the Sun in the sky, the Vessel of the Sun or the Vessel of God. She was the personification of the twelve zodiac constellations that the sun traversed in the year. As the physical manifestation of Heaven, she was of paramount religious importance. Her prominence has been diminished of late but many Churches symbolize her as their paramount and only symbol: entire church buildings are often consecrated to her as they represent the Firmament, the Heavens, the Vessel of God, the Womb of God or the House of God on Earth all of which are considered to be one and the same. Entering a Church is to enter the House of God or the Enclosure of God, the Womb of God, the Firmament of Genesis, or the Heavens of the Bible.

Although Nut and the Firmament are plainly Ancient Egyptian concepts, the Bible preserved these concepts and contains some of the best descriptions of her as Heaven. Her Egyptian iconography suggests she was a solid dome or river way above Earth enabling the Solar Barque to travel the skies (fig. 1). The Sun emerged from her as a new-born baby at dawn (East) and the Solar Barque was guided to sunset where Nut swallowed the Sun (West). At night, the Sun travelled through her body to emerge again at dawn as a new born. In addition to the daily cycle of the Sun, there was a yearly cycle with equinoxes and solstices. The Sun crossed the Milky Way on the equinoxes and "turned around" on the solstices. A third cycle caused the equinox and solstices to migrate relative to the background stars of the Firmament.

Nut's limbs were the four pillar of the Firmament. Her belly button represented the Sun at high noon. Her body was rigid enough to support the celestial waters and prevent them from crashing and flooding Earth, and porous enough to allow rain to fall. When she opened up the skies, she caused the river Nile to flood. She was indelibly associated with water and therefore life. Nut's symbol and Hieroglyph was simply a rounded water pot (see more Nut-like symbolism here). In a Nutshell, she was the Mother of the Sun, the Mother of God or the Mother of all creation. Without her there would be no Sun and no God. Without her, there would be no water on Earth. She was the Seed of Life on Earth.

There has been much research into the substance of the Firmament of Genesis. The ancient Egyptians depict her substance clearly and simply: she is strong enough to support the celestial waters and transparent enough for sunshine to reach Earth. She is akin to crystal or glass.

The word Firmament may well have been a Greek moniker of what Egyptians might have called glass. Since ancient Egyptians manufactured glass, they knew it flowed at high temperatures and "firmed" up upon cooling hence Firmament. If man could produce glass, why couldn't their Gods?

Symbolism origin

Artifacts unearthed in Egypt's eastern Nile Delta show glass was made there from raw materials around 1250 B.C. The artifacts were found at the site of Pharaoh Ramses II's capital city. The remains reveal the earliest known glassmaking site anywhere in the world and the only one dating from the Bronze Age.

... Rehren added that the next earliest known glassworks, in Rhodes, Greece, dates to around 200 B.C.--more than a thousand years after the ancient Egyptian glassworks.

...Other colors produced during the Late Bronze Age (1600 to 1100 B.C.) ranged from purple and cobalt blue to yellow and white.

James Owen for National Geographic June 16, 2005

Mystery of Egyptian glass making becomes clear

There are several important aspects of Nut's symbolism relative to the Sun: the birth of the Sun, the death of the Sun, the noon Sun and the path of the Sun through her body or the Underworld. The position of the Sun in the sky is depicted as red disks on or near her body. The path or domain of the Sun in the sky was delimited by her body. She was often depicted on the ceiling of tombs and coffins as the Vessel for rebirth like the Sun. To follow the path of the Sun was to follow the path to Resurrection in Heaven.

Symbols of Hathor as the Firmament

Lady of the Amentet as FirmamentHathor Cow as Firmament

Fig. 4 Lady of the Amentet as the Firmament symbolizing the entrance of Heaven in the Papyrus of Ani

Fig. 5 Celestial Cow with the usual symbolism of Nut with Shu supporting her, the Solar Barque and the sacred four pillars. Shu typically had outstretched arms symbolic of the expanse, another name given to the Firmament.

Another iconic symbol of the royal path of the Sun across the sky was a Cow with long horns and a Red Solar disk wedged between them. As a vessel of the Sun, the Firmament could also be symbolized by a Cow whose belly and legs were also supported as the sacred pillars of the Firmament. She was called Lady of the Amentet (Lady of the West-the West associated with death). She is shown at the end of the Papyrus of Any symbolizing the entrance to Heaven (Fig. 4). The icon of her horns and Red Solar disk were merged with a woman's body who became known as Hathor which literally translates to the domain or perimeter of Horus (her son). Nut and Hathor had similar roles as physical "Carriers," "Vessels" or chalices of the Sun, however one was associated with the star-studded night sky and the other was the day-time sky (i.e., the white and black Madonnas). During the day, the stars and the Firmament were eclipsed by the brightness of the Sun making them invisible. When the Sun was born, he would naturally be shown with Hathor rather than Nut. There is a symbolic image showing Hathor in the Nile Valley being illuminated by the rising Sun emerging from Nut. Hathor was shown in one of two ways, with the solar disk and horns or as a pillar (a support of the Firmament). When she wore the horns and Solar Disk, she had a normal human face but as a pillar when she lacked her iconic symbols, her face was triangular and she had cow like ears. She was also pictured with a gate as the portal to Heaven. In the Temple of Hathor in Dendera she is shown as six pillars of the Firmament. The Temple represented Heaven or the Vessel of God. Isis was a third Goddess who bore the Sun (Horus, Ra-Horakhty) although her symbolism was becoming closer to the final version of the Virgin Mary. Nut, Hathor and Isis represented an evolution of a concept that became the Virgin Mary as the Vessel of Christ. They are the three Heavens. To understand the life of Christ is to understand ancient Egyptian symbolism and the Heliopolitan Great Ennead.

The Firmament as described in the Bible

Now that we understand the Firmament symbol as the Vessel of the Sun as defined in ancient Egypt, let's take a look at her description in the Bible.

Symbolism origin

And God said, "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water."

Genesis 1:6 New International Version

Well, this is quite a good description of Nut, she is strongly associated with vaults by being depicted on the ceilings of tombs and coffins. She held back the celestial waters from crashing down on Earth and thus separated the celestial waters from waters on Earth.

Symbolism origin

Then God said, "Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth."

Genesis 1:6 New Living Translation

This sounds a lot like Shu, the atmosphere, who held up the Firmament above Earth. Shu separated the Celestial waters from the Earthly waters.

Symbolism origin

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”

Genesis 1:6 English Standard Version

This is the version that downplays the role of the Firmament. However, expanse is still a good description for the Firmament as she is very large and Shu could have been interpreted as gesturing the "expanse".

Symbolism origin

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

Genesis 1:6 King James Bible

There is no better description for Nut than the word Firmament and separating the Heavenly waters above from the waters on Earth.

Symbolism origin

Then God said, "Let there be a canopy between bodies of water, separating bodies of water from bodies of water!"

International Standard Version

Canopy is another good description of her as she protects Earth like the tall trees of a tropical forest hovering above Earth. A Canopy also gives the sense of a dome-like structure.

Symbolism origin

Then God said, "Let there be a horizon in the middle of the water in order to separate the water."

GOD'S WORD® Translation

This is an interesting translation since Horus-of-the-two-horizons was often depicted between Geb and Nut as a separation.

Symbolism origin

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 33:6

Starry Host of the LORD is perhaps even better than the previous descriptions of herso far.

Symbolism origin

And God made the arch for a division between the waters which were under the arch and those which were over it: and it was so.

Basic English Bible

Arch is also a very good description of Nut as the Celestial Dome supporting the celestial waters.

Symbolism origin

“And God called the FIRMAMENT HEAVEN.”

Just in case we had any remaining doubts on the equivalence of the Firmament and Heaven. What God created in the Firmament was Nut: the vaulted starry host of the LORD. Her long forgotten symbolism other than as a Vault, Space, Canopy, Expanse, Firmament, Horizon, Starry-Host, and Arch is her symbolism as a pillar or pillars to support the weight of the celestial waters. The Firmament symbolism was a pillar as either one, two, four, six or eight Pillars of Heaven and ubiquitous in Churches. Even holy water in a church is a symbol of Nut, the Firmament and Heaven.

Firmament Symbolism in Churches

Here is a long list of Nut or the Firmament symbolism in Churches or Temples. For more examples of vaults, arches, domes, circles, cupolas, star-studded, star-crowned or Firmament symbolism link to this page. The twelve stars of her crown represent the twelve constellations of the path of the Sun (the royal path or stations of the cross if you will). Not only has Nut's symbolism persisted as the starry host of God, but also the location of her depictions on ceilings, vaults, arches and domes has also been preserved. Because the Symbol of the Sun is invariably present in the Firmament, it is sometimes difficult to focus on her recurring symbol as opposed to that of her son, the Sun which will be discussed later.

Basilica of the Virgin Mary
Fig. 6 Basilica of the Virgin Mary, Krakow, Poland courtesy of TripAdvisor

Star-studded blue patterns on domed surfaces supported by four columns or three arches invariably represent Nut as the Firmament or the Heavens. Here are links to some examples: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, Hagia Sophia and panoramic photo, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, and cupola -- upside down cup and again, another clear depiction of her as a star studded round Firmament in Ravenna and a more creative one, The coronation of the Virgin Mary with her familiar star studded rounded Firmament icon and here, Church of San Silvestro associates the round Firmament and golden lamb with the Virgin Mary and child, Santa Maria in Trastevere Virgin Mary, and Christ in the center of the star studded round Firmament. Getsemane Basilica. Church of Holy Sepulchre with physical symbol of the Sun shining through a star studded dome. Firmament with four pillars with image of a Firmament supported by six angels with Christ in the center. Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem with Firmament circle in the sky enclosing Christ and a four pillared free standing structure in the foreground.

The Virgin Mary is commonly depicted in robes with such a pattern (here). Another depiction of the celestial hierarchy down to man represented as the lamb by Leonardo da Vinci and The School of Athens fresco by Raphael with the three matriarchal arches compared to the Egyptian version of the triple arches. The triple arches or trinity above Jesus on Boston Trinity Church. The Firmament and her four supports La Virgen de Guadalupe, Fresco in the Stanzo di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, Jesus in center of a Firmament. Another variation of the Firmament and four supports in Mexico. Firmament symbol with four columns combined with the triple arches and here. Basilica Santa Praxedes supported Firmament with Christ in center and the triple arches.

The four pillared free standing structure in a Church is called a baldacchino (baldachin) or ciborium which is coincidentally serves a similar function as the ciborium container which hold the body of Christ or Eucharist. The Firmament was the sacred Vessel of God or chalice. In other words the baldacchino is the symbolic representation of the Firmament or the Virgin Mary who represents the domain, womb or the House of Christ. The person standing underneath a Baldacchio is equated to the son of the Firmament, the sun-savior or Christ. If a Tarot card depicted a blue star-studded canopy, the person beneath it is the equivalent of Christ, the son of the Firmament.

The Chariot Tarot Card

Fig. 6 A Google sampling of The Chariot Tarot Card images showing the prevalence of the symbol of the Firmament: a blue star-studded awning with four pillars. The person under such a symbol is the son of the Firmament, the Sun or Christ. Few may recognize this symbolism as ancient Egyptian perhaps because of its prominence in religious art and architecture. Some like to think Tarot cards were the invention of a whimsical Renaissance artist rather than the embodiment of over 5,000 years of symbolism. This is just one aspect of this card and the chariot, horses and wheel are all pointed and intentional symbolism and not pure whimsical fantasy.

Nut's symbolism as the vault of the Vessel of God has been so ubiquitous that we have forgotten our own symbolic meanings. Churches are structures entirely dedicated to depicting the Firmament, Heaven or the body of the Virgin Mary also known as the House of God or God's domain. There are rarely any flat surfaces and they are replete with domes, arches, apses, baldacchinos, rosetta's and so on. Flat walls also often have symbols of arches in trompe-l'oeil paintings. For more iconography click here.

The Egyptians are often thought to have been obsessed with death. However, what they were really obsessed with was entering the Kingdom of Heaven after death. They had more symbols for the Heavens than we have words for the concept of Heaven. This is an obsession of man which has not diminished to any significant extent ever since. The idea of entering Heaven after death was a highly developed concept by the ancient Egyptians that many if not all subsequent religions have adopted as a central theme. We may have forgotten the meaning of the ancient Egyptian symbolism, but their concepts are ubiquitous in the modern world today and nearly unchanged.

He dies on her arm, on the solar path, hence the path of carrying the cross... As the path of the sun, she (the Heavens or the Firmament) is naturally present every "step" of the way.

Nut, as the Firmament, the star studded night sky, the triple arches or the Virgin Mary as she is commonly known today, was a very important Lady given her ubiquitous religious symbolism. The concept of a woman symbolizing the firmament is fairly extraordinary to have developed independently and so ubiquitously in so many religions and reveals the long and ancient history of the Virgin Mary as she transcended time. Religious beliefs are often much older than we prefer to admit. But if the history of her symbolism is not compelling enough, there is a more telling coincidence: her son. Who was he? Who was the son of this most royal line? Who was the son of the Firmament and the night sky or the Milky Way? Who was the person whose birth could be predicted by looking at the night sky? Well, it is a very old tale which goes back to the Great Ennead of Heliopolis.