The Waters of Nun—Legend has it. . .

Aarna Pal-Yadav

According to Egyptian mythology, the world was created when four elements combined: water, nothingness, darkness, and infinity. Water is represented by Nun (or female Naunet). The world was first born when nothingness, darkness, and infinity slipped into the Waters of Nun, and so shall the world die when the elements slip back into the Nun’s comforting embrace. 

Although there were no priests or temples dedicated to Nun, he is honored by the sacred lakes that exist in all temples. In every particle of water, Nun exists, and it is thanks to him that all life exists. Every year when the Nile floods and brings life to the people at its banks, you have Nun to thank, for it was he who created the never-draining source of the Nile. Every temple that was ever created was built on the foundation of Nun, as Egyptians architects took advantage of the fact that water will always form a horizontal layer to ensure their temple foundations are perfectly flat. 

But water, like most elements, has two sides to it: as the giver of life, water moistens the fields so crops may grow and the people may live another day; as the taker of life, water floods the banks or, even more often, is withheld, causing droughts and famines that drain the life from Egypt. Similarly, Nun can prevent chaos—as when he protected Shu and Tefnut from the demonic snakes or told Nut to transform into the Solar Cow to carry Ra, God of the Sun, across the sky—or act as a force of chaos—as when he told Ra to punish the people who paid him too little respect by using the Eye of Horus to destroy mankind. 

Nun is the beginning and the end, revered and feared, chaos and order—talk about contradictions!