(pronunciation as such from the Greek period onwards), formerly erroneously read as Seb
) or Keb
(in Egyptian originally: Gebeb/Kebeb, meaning probably: 'weak one', perhaps:'lame one', spelled with either initial -g- (all periods), -k-point (the latter initial root consonant occurs once in the Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts
as well as in a text from the Ptolemaic tomb of Petosiris at Tuna el-Gebel or written with initial hard -k-, as e.g. in a 30th Dynasty papyrus text in the Brooklyn Museum dealing with descriptions of and remedies against snakes and their bites) was the Egyptian god of the earth and a member the Ennead
. The oldest representation in a fragmentary relief of the god was as an anthropomorphic being accompanied by his name, dating from king Djoser's reign, IIIth Dynasty, and was found in Heliopolis. In later times he could also be depicted as a ram, a bull or a crocodile. Frequently described mythologically as 'father' of snakes and depicted sometimes (partly) as such. In mythology he also often occurs as a primeval ruler/king of Egypt. Geb could be seen as earth containing the dead, or imprisoning those not worthy to go to the heavenly Field of Aaru-
In the Heliopolitan Ennead, he is the husband of Nut
, the sky or visible firmament, the son of the earlier primordial elements Tefnut
('orphaness', later also conceived of moisture ('tef')) and Shu
('emptiness'), and the father to the four lesser gods of the system - Osiris
. In this context, Geb was said to have originally been engaged in eternal sex with Nut, and had to be separated from her by Shu, god of the air. Consequently, in early depictions Geb was shown reclining, sometimes with his phallus
still pointed towards the sky goddess Nut.
As time progressed, the deity became more associated with the habitable land of Egypt and also as one of its early godly rulers. As a chtonic deity he (like e.g. Osiris and Min) became associated with the underworld and with vegetation, with barley
being said to grow upon his ribs
, and was depicted with plants and other green patches on his body.
Some Egyptologists stated, that Geb was associated with a mythological divine creator-goose who had laid a cosmic egg from which the sun and/or the world had sprung. This is certainly wrong and brought about by a regular spelling of the name Geb with the help of an image of a Whitefronted Goose (Anser albifrons), also called originally geb(b): 'lame one, stumbler' (cf. C.Wolterman, "On the Names of Birds and Hieroglyphic Sign-List G 22, G 35 and H 3" in: "Jaarbericht van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch genootschap Ex Oriente Lux" no.32 (1991-1992)(Leiden, 1993), p.122, note 8). An alternative old name for this same goose species was trp meaning equally 'walk like a drunk, stumbler'. It is beyond any doubt, that said creator goose, called mythologically 'Ngg-wr' = 'the Great (or Oldest) Honker', appeared solely in the shape of a Nile Goose (=Egyptian Goose = Fox Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus), both within texts and vignets. Geb himself was never depicted as a Nile Goose, as later was the great god Amun, called on some New Kingdom stelae:'Amun, the beautiful smn-goose (Nile goose'. The only clear pictorial confusion between the hieroglyphs of a Whitefronted Goose (in the normal hieroglyphic spelling of the name Geb, often followed by the additional -b-sign) and a Nile Goose in the spelling of the name Geb occurs in the rock cut tomb of the provincial governor Sarenput II (12th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom) on the Qubba el-Hawa desert-ridge (opposite Aswan), namely on the left (southern) wall near the open doorway, in the first line of the brightly painted funerary offering formula. (text: drs. Carles Wolterman, Amstelveen, Holland)'''
His association with vegetation, and sometimes with the underworld, also brought him the occasional interpretation that he was the husband of Renenutet, a minor goddess of the harvest, who was the mother of Nehebkau, a snake god associated with the underworld, who was on the same occasions said to be his son by her. He is also equated by classical authors as the Greek titan Kronos.