| Bes (also spelt as Bisu) was a god
thought to have been imported into Egyptian
mythology from that of Nubia, during
the Middle Kingdom. His name appears to
be connected to a Nubian word for cat, and
indeed, his first appearances have the suggestion
of a cat god. Egyptians kept cats in order
to attack snakes, and creatures that might
ruin crop stores, such as mice, and so Bes
was naturally singled out, amongst Nubian
gods, as worthy of worship in Egypt.
Bes gradually became a general household protector, responsible
for protecting homes through such tasks as killing snakes,
fighting off evil spirits, watching after children, and aiding
(by fighting off evil spirits) women in labour (and thus present
with Taweret at births). Consequently,
over time, his image became distorted, and he came to be seen
as what was effectively an hideously ugly dwarf, with long
tongue, bow legs, and some feline body parts, and sometimes
a lion's head.
Images of the god were kept in homes to ward off evil, and
so he was depicted quite differently from the other gods.
Normally gods were shown in profile, but instead Bes appeared
in portrait, ithyphallic, and sometimes in a soldier's tunic,
so as to appear ready to launch an attack on any approaching
|Since he drove off evil, he came to also
symbolise the good things in life - music,
dance, and generic, and sexual, pleasure.
Later, in the hellenic period of Egyptian
history, the female form of Bes' name, Beset,
became considered Bes' wife, rather than
just his feminine form. As a result, sometimes
chambers were constructed, painted with
images of Bes and Beset, naked, generally
thought by egyptologists to have been for
the purpose of a chamber in which people
slept so as to cure fertility problems.
Like many Egyptian, and indeed Nubian, gods, the worship
of Bes was exported overseas, and he, in particular, proved
popular with the Phoenicians and the (ancient) Cypriots.
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