Shu, god of Egypt

Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses for kids - Shu

The Mythology & History of ancient Egypt surrounding Shu, the god of wind, the atmosphere, the supporter of the sky

Shu, god of Egypt
Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Shu, the Egyptian god of wind, the atmosphere and known as the supporter of the sky. Atum, the creator sun god, spat out the elements of moisture and air that became the Goddess Tefnut and the God Shu, who were referred to as the 'twin lion gods' and Shu is depicted in ancient  Egyptian art either with the head of a lion, or, more often, with a single ostrich feather. Shu took his sister Tefnut as his consort and together they had two children called Geb and Nut.

This quartet of Egyptian gods represented the earth (Geb), the sky (Nut) Tefnut (water) and Shu represented air.

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Who was Shu?
Shu was the Egyptian god of air. Egyptian gods and goddesses closely resembled the appearance of humans, many of their gods, like Shu, were also perceived as 'human hybrids'  depicted with human bodies with the heads of animals. The ancient Egyptians did not usually worship animals, these symbols were used as a recognition aid and a device to visually convey the powers, identity and attributes of the deity.

Facts about Shu
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Shu:

Shu Profile & Fact File

Egyptian Name: Shu: In ancient Egypt the word 'Shua' meant feather and the word 'Shu' meant light and space. The two words were easily connected to enable the ancient Egyptians to identify the god Shu just by the feather symbol.

Role & Function: The function of Shu is described as being the god of dry winds, the atmosphere and known as the supporter of the sky

Status: Shu was a member of the Ennead, the name given to the nine original, most important, Egyptian Gods and Goddesses of the cosmogony of Heliopolis (the birthplace of the Gods)

Symbols: Head of a lion, single ostrich feather, the ankh and 'was scepter'

Name of Consort: Tefnut, also his sister

Name of Father: Emerged from the moisture spat out by the creator god, Atum

Names of Children: Geb, god of the earth and Nut, goddess of the sky

Shu in Egyptian Mythology
Shu, the Egyptian god of air, featured in the stories, myths and legends in Egyptian Mythology. Shu was the twin brother of Tefnut the goddess of water and rain. Shu could assume the role of the 'Eye of Ra' and according to ancient Egyptian myths he was the right eye of Atum Ra representing an aspect of the Sun and Tefnut, his sister was the left eye representing the Moon. In the creation myth the god Atum Ra says, after describing how Shu and Tefnut followed from himself, "thus from being one god I became three."

Shu - a God of the Underworld
The gate of Tehesert in the Underworld was called the "gate of the pillars of Shu" According to ancient Egyptian mythology Shu and his sister Tefnut laid the foundations of the house in which the deceased would dwell. Shu became a god of the dead and connected with the supply of food to nourish the deceased souls in their Underworld journey to the afterlife. He was one of the gods of the Underworld (Duat) and presided as one of the 42 judges in the ceremony of justification in the Hall of the Two Truths. He also adopted the role as a god of punishment in the Underworld, leading torturers to torment the corrupt souls.

Shu the Sky-Bearer
Shu as the god of light who made himself manifest in the beams of the sun during the day and in the beams of the moon by night. He was also known as the 'sky-bearer' as light was declared to be the prop of the sky and to assist him in this role he placed a pillar at each of the cardinal points, and the "supports of Shu" are therefore the props of the sky. A legend tells that his children, the god Geb and goddess Nut, were inseparable leaving no space between the sky and the earth for Atum to continue creating. It was Shu who made his way between his children Geb and Nut, forcibly separating them.  He raised the goddess up to form the sky. In the following picture Shu is depicted standing over the figure of Geb, struggling to get up to reach Nut. Shu prevents him and raises his arms to hold up the giant symbolic figure of Nut depicted as the sky.

Nut, Shu and Geb

Depictions of Shu in Egyptian Art
The pictures and depictions of Shu in ancient Egyptian art can be found in the tombs, temples, manuscripts and hieroglyphics, artefacts and relics of ancient Egypt. The people of ancient Egypt were able to recognise and distinguish their numerous gods and goddesses by their depictions in art and could understand the meanings of colors and symbols which conveyed information about the deity. The following facts and information will enable you to decipher the art of ancient Egypt and understand the meanings behind the pictures of Shu.

  • Crown, or headdress: The ostrich feather was seen as a re-enactment of creation and made the ostrich a symbol of creation and light.
  • Shu is often depicted holding the Ankh, the key of life, that represented eternal life
  • He often holds the 'was' sceptre, a long staff, topped with a symbolic animal head, believed to embody magical powers, symbolizing divine power and an emblem of authority
  • He is also depicted with the head of a lion

Facts about Shu in Egyptian Mythology
Discover interesting information and research facts about Shu, the Egyptian god of air. The facts about Shu provides a list detailing fascinating additional info to increase your knowledge about the god of wind in Egyptian Mythology.

Mythology and Facts about Shu

Fact 1: Shu and Tefnut were also worshipped as a pair of Lions at Leontopolis in the Nile delta but his principal sanctuary was with the other solar gods at Heliopolis

Fact 2: Shu was the god of space that filled the atmosphere as Atum Ra was the god of heaven and Geb the god of earth

Fact 3: He was one of the gods who protected Atum Ra on his journey through the underworld, using magical spells to ward off the snake-demon Apep who was the enemy of Ra.

Fact 4: As the god of wind  he was particularly revered by sailors

Fact 5: It was from Shu that the Greeks derived their representations, and possibly their myth of Atlas

Fact 6: His headdress is adorned by a feather - the Egyptian word 'Shua' meant feather

Fact 7: Shu's grandchildren were Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys. His great-grandsons were Horus and Anubis (as shown below, in the picture of the Shu Family Tree)

Fact 8: In one of the creation myths the goddess Maat is named as the daughter of Shu. The feather became her symbol, as well as her fathers, and was used in the Hall of Truths when the heart was weighed on a set of scales against the feather of truth (because of its lightness, the feather symbolized truth)

Fact 9: There was a belief that the heat of the sun caused ostrich eggs to hatch. The assistance of the sun's rays was seen as a re-enactment of creation and made the ostrich a symbol of creation and light.

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