Geb was married to his sister Nut and they had five children together, including the married pairs Osiris and Isis, and Set and Nepthys.
While Geb did have moments of wickedness in his mythos, like consuming the Eye of Ra, he went on to do good for the people of Egypt.
Green was the color ancient Egyptians associated with fertility, and as the god of the earth, Geb was decidedly a fertility god.
An important member of the Egyptian pantheon, Geb was an earth god who held sway over snakes, earthquakes, and the underworld. As the third king of Egypt (following Ra and Shu), Geb was closely tied to kingship and royal power.
While the meaning of Geb’s name has been lost to time, its spelling and pronunciation have been the subject of considerable debate. The famous Egyptologist Sir E.A. Wallis Budge referred to the deity as Seb, while his peer Heinrich Karl Brugsch favored Geb or Keb.1
“Geb” is used almost universally today, though older sources may still refer to him as Seb.
Geb was usually portrayed as a human with green skin representing his status as a fertility god. His body was sometimes adorned with plants, or their corresponding hieroglyphs. He was often depicted in a reclined position beneath his wife, the sky goddess Nut, with his phallus pointing in her direction.
When standing, Geb usually wore the Red Crown of Lower Egypt or a goose hieroglyph atop his head; the latter represented his name.2
As an earth god, Geb was associated with earthquakes, fresh water, and the underworld.3 Several myths have suggested that Geb also had control over snakes due to their dwelling within the earth. In addition to his control over natural elements, Geb was held in high regard for his healing powers, particularly in relation to scorpion stings.4
Geb was closely linked to kingship. Pharaohs were sometimes referred to as “heirs of Geb,” and the Egyptian throne was nicknamed “the seat of Geb.”5
Geb was part of the third generation of Egyptian gods. His parents, Shu and Tefnut, were the offspring of Ra.
Myths relating to Geb mostly dealt with his tenure as prince and later king of Egypt—although as a chthonic god, he was also involved with matters of the afterlife.
Chthonic deities controlled the underworld—and Geb controlled all that went on within the earth.
During Horus’s and Set’s dispute over leadership Geb served as one of the judges determining who should be king. Ultimately, Geb sided with Horus as he was the son of Osiris—Geb’s first born and favorite child.7
When Geb and Nut were born, they held each other so tightly that Nut could not give birth. Eventually, their father Shu forced them apart to allow the next generation of gods to be born. This myth explained how the earth and sky became separated.8
#Geb the Unruly Prince
Geb was an unruly prince at best and a downright seditious one at worst. On one occasion, he transformed himself into a boar and ate the Eye of Ra, then proceeded to deny it when his father confronted him on the matter. His denials were unconvincing, however, as the eye was bleeding through his skin. 9
The Eye of Ra was a solar disk who served as Ra’s feminine counterpart. A protector of kings, she could destroy enemies with her powerful gaze.10
Finally, in a myth only found only after the 30th Dynasty, (c. 400 BCE) Geb rebelled against his father, seized the throne, and forced his mother Tefnut to be his queen.11 This tale seems to have been derived from Greek mythology, where Cronus (Geb’s Greek equivalent) rebelled against his father Uranus.12
#Geb as King
Geb’s path to kingship opened when his father, Shu, abdicated the throne. After winning a major battle against the forces of Apophis, Shu returned to find his palace overrun by rebels. Fearing for his life, he fled to the sky, leaving earth—and his throne—behind.
Now the de facto king, Geb formally took his father’s throne following a monumental storm that kept everyone locked in the palace for nine days.
In an attempt to legitimize his rule, Geb made inquiries into the accomplishments of Shu and Ra. Upon hearing tell of a living uraeus (a rearing cobra) that once served as Shu’s headdress, Geb resolved to claim it for himself. The creature was sealed away in a hidden chest, but such obstacles did not hinder Geb for long; his followers soon recovered the priceless treasure and brought it before the king.
When they went to open the chest, however, the uraeus burst out and began breathing fire at the group. Geb’s followers were incinerated, and Geb himself was badly burned. Only through the magical wig of Ra was Geb able to heal his injuries.13
Geb’s future endeavors were considerably more successful. In retaking ancestral lands that had fallen to the forces of Apophis, he saved millions of settlements and restored Egypt to its former glory.14
For reasons that remain unclear, Geb abdicated the throne to make way for Osiris, his first-born son.