The overall focus of this short discussion is Shu and Tefnut. Who are Shu and Tefnut, and why should they be the focus of any discussion? The answers to these questions are to be found in the ancient mythologies of Kemet.
The Kemites created a culture of gods and goddesses as a way of understanding the creation of the universe and human beings. Shu and Tefnut are part of the Kemite creation story.
And, as I begin to comprehend the records the Kemites left us, my understanding of the world, the process of creation, and human beings have developed new dimensions of understanding.
For example, Creation is an ongoing process; it is not an event that took place in the past. Creation is taking place every moment and day of our lives. Creation is eternally present, and as gifted, precious, promising members of Creation, we participate in Creation as it unfolds before our eyes.
The Kemites records tell us that there was a time when there was nothing; no time, no universe, and no life of any kind. Kemite records go on to inform us that there was a beginning, there was a process wherein Creation has its origin.
Wallis Budge; Egyptian Book of The Dead, Chapter XVII, says:
- I am the god Tmu in [my] rising; I am the only One. I came into existence in Nu. I am Ra who rose in the beginning. [He hath ruled that which he made].
- Who then is this? It is Ra who rose for the first time in the city of Suten-henen [crowned] as king in [his] rising. The pillars of Shu are not as yet created when he was upon the high place of him who is in Khemennu.
- “I am the great god who gave birth to himself (Nu), who made his name Paut Neteru as god.”
- “Who then is this?
- It is Ra, the creator of the names of his limbs, which came into being in the form of the gods in the train of Ra. “I am he who is not driven back among the gods. But who is this? It is Tmu, the dweller in his disk, or (as others say), it is Ra in his rising in the eastern horizon of heaven.”
The above quote from the Egyptian Book of The Dead represents a reference to the Kemite creation story. It is a story that credits the beginning of Creation, likewise, Creation itself to gods and goddesses who are emanations that emerged from a watery mass, i.e., a primeval ocean called Nu.
Wallis Budge tells us:
- “the Kemites at all times never placed the “gods” on the same level as God, and they never imagined that their views on this point could be mistaken.”
In the text above, which was taken from the Egyptian Book of The Dead, Temu and Ra represent the same god. The current cycle of Creation began around the year 36,000 B.C.E.
Therefore, as the priesthood of the Nubians/Kemites developed and migrated to new regions, the Supreme Being who manifested from the primeval ocean became known by various names (Atum, Tum, Temu, Ra-Tem, Atum-Ra or Asar and Path).
And so, Ra was the firstborn to the god Nu, the primeval watery mass, out of which all the gods came into being. Nu was self-produced, and the gods are simply the names of the limbs.
Here, we can also assert that Ra is Nu, and that the gods who are in “the train of Ra, are emanations or manifestations (names) of the androgynous primeval water mass (Nu, Temu, Ra).
Creation was never separate or separated from the Creator. Creation, i.e., the gods, goddesses, and human beings are all expressions or emanations of the Divine Creator, and not separate entities.
Creation is God who manifests in various forms or neteru: trees, cake, bread, human beings, metal, air, fire, water, animals, planets, space, electricity, etc.
The Kemites gave us Shu and Tefnut as a way to tell us something about ourselves. The Kemites, our Nubian ancestors want us to know that we are branches or limbs that sprouted from the Divine, with assignments, i.e., duty and service to perform each and every day the sun rises.
Revelation of Shu And Tefnut
Kemite theology is firm in the realization of the Supreme Being, who is the all-encompassing Absolute Divinity. The Supreme Being can be likened to the Sun, and the gods and goddesses are likened to the rays of the sun.
The gods and goddesses emerge with purpose and responsibilities that give shape to the universe. They also embody a divine charge to maintain their work in the universe throughout eternity and without faltering.
Shu and Tefnut are neteru; Shu is a god, and Tefnut is a goddess within the context of the above paragraphs. They belong to the company of gods related to Ra.
Shu is the principle of air and space. Space is the first thing necessary in order for Creation to be possible. Tefnut represents moisture, water, and rain. The rain fills the ocean and creates the power and strength of its currents.
Shu and Tefnut had children, Nut and Geb, and while the focus here is not Nut and Geb, they help us to understand the importance of Shu and Tefnut.
When Creation first began its work of creating, Nut and Geb were locked in an embrace, leaving no space between them. Shu, their father understood that for life to exist, it would require light and air.
Consequently, Shu inserted himself between them and pushed them apart, forcing Nut up, to form the sky, while Geb remained below, to form the earth.
Their father, Shu, the god of air and space created four pillars, which he holds at the four cardinal points, separating Nut and Geb for eternity.
Tefnut, is equally as important as one of the supreme powers of nature, for as the goddess of moisture/water/rain, she fills the oceans, rivers and lakes without which life could not exist.
Tefnut symbolized the energy, which is the Life Force within all creation. She is the essence that allows creation to have movement. Likewise, Tefnut is said to be connected with the supply of water to the dead.
Together, Shu and Tefunt are recognized as the Akeru divinities. They are the lion and lioness who guard the Akhet (horizon), which is the entrance to the Netherworld, i.e., they are the boundary between the Netherworld and the Physical World.
Brothers and Sisters
Tefnut was the twin sister of Shu, who are the children of Temu. And in the story of creation the god Temu says, after describing how Shu and Tefnut proceeded from himself, “Thus from being one god, I became three.” (Wallis Budge; Egyptian Religion, p.119)
Shu and Tefnut are brothers and sisters, who have parents. Temu tells us that from one god, I became three. No subordination is present, no demotion, no daughter submit to your brother, or wife submit to your husband.
There is no inferior status bestowed upon the female, nor is there a superior status awarded to the male. The two are the essence of one!
In the above quote from the Egyptian Book of the Dead we are told, “I am the great god Nu who gave birth to himself, and who made his names to come into being, and to form the company of the gods.”
The “company of gods,” is composed of both goddesses, and gods, who are emanations of the primeval waters of Nu. As Creation rose from the Nu, the Kemites saw that duality was a major feature of Creation. There was day and night, hot and cold, black and white, up and down; likewise, there is famine and masculine, or female and male.
There was no intention to create a hierarchy, nor was there an intention to create superior human beings. Likewise, there was no “survival of the fittest,” as if death is the destination for the unfit, i.e., embodied souls.
Creation is the process of creating, sustaining, and maintaining life.
In the revelation of Tefnet and Shu, we can clearly observe their interconnectedness, that is, oneness. All of life as we know it, i.e., women, men, trees and plants, animals and birds, fish, sea creatures, minerals, sky, earth, stars, etc., all are emanations of the primeval ocean called Nu.