Saturday, November 19, 2011


Patron of: the home, childbirth, infants, humor, song and dance.

Appearance: A fat bearded dwarf, ugly to the point of being comical. He is often shown sticking out his tongue and holding a rattle. When carved or painted on a wall, he is never shown in profile, but always full-face, almost unique in Egyptian art. There are also depictions of Bes with feline or leonine features.

Description: Bes is a very unusual god. He does not appear to be Egyptian at all, but where he does come from his largely unknown. He resembles gods found in central and southern Africa, and his function is very much like that of the Fool Shaman. Bes was primarily the protector of childbirth. During the birth, Bes would dance about the room, shaking his rattle and yelling to frighten away demons that would otherwise put a curse on the child. After the child was born, Bes would stay by the cradle entertaining the child. When a baby laughed or smiled for no apparent reason, it was believed that Bes was somewhere in the room making funny faces.

Bes' role as demon-queller also extended to driving off mischievous beings that were believed to cause minor misfortune, like tripping people and souring food. Bes was so ugly that even a statue of him would frighten away wicked creatures. Thus, many houses would keep a statue of Bes near the door to guard it.

Worship: Though there are no temples to Bes, and no formal ritual, shrines to him were found in many homes, especially those with children or pregnant women.

From: here
Originally a deity of protection of the pharaoh, he became a popular god of the every day Egyptian people, and was often depicted on household items such as beds, headrests, chairs, mirrors and ointment pots and even painted on the walls of the house. He was also depicted on various weapons, such as daggers, due to his fighter aspect. He was also often depicted of 'magic wands' that the Egyptian magicians used for their spells or on an amulet to ward off evil. His use as a god of protection for the daily people came to be a sign of joy and good humour, because he drove away ill humour and evil. He was thought to also be able to protect people from dangerous creatures of all types, especially when he was connected with the child Horus in the story of his growing up in the Delta area of Egypt:

Bes, Overlooking the Young Horus You protect me against all the wild beasts of the desert,
All the crocodiles of the river,
All the snakes and scorpions,
All the insects that bite with their mandibles and sting with their tail,
All the kinds of reptiles that attack in their caves.

-- On stela showing a young Horus protected by the face of Bes

He also became a god of childbirth, frightening away all of the evil spirits that could kill of the baby of newborn child. If problems arose during labour, a clay statue of Bes was often placed at the head of the expectant mother while spells were recited to the god, asking for his help. He was even depicted at royal birth scenes, especially in later times. He was linked with the hippo goddess of childbirth, Taweret, as they were both very popular deities of childbirth. Until Greek times, she was regarded as Taweret' wife. Amulets of both Bes and Taweret were found even at Akhetaten, the city of Akenaten. He could not banish these favourites - the Aten was no replacement for these two!

Come down, placenta, come down! I am Horus who conjures in order that she who is giving birth becomes better than she was, as if she was already delivered... Look, Hathor will lay her hand on her with an amulet of health! I am Horus who saves her!

-- Part of the birthing spell that was recited four times over the image of Bes

His status as a god of birthing became so great that, from the New Kingdom times he was often represented in the mammisi (Champollion's invented term meaning 'birth house') of temples. The first of these depictions was at Hatshepsut's (1473-1458 BC) mortuary temple, where her mother is to give birth to the child who would become Egypt's female pharaoh.

A Musician with a Bes Tattoo on her Thigh As another form of protection, an image of the dwarf god was tattooed on some women - different depictions of women, such as girls swimming, female dancers, acrobats and musicians, show them with Bes painted on their skin. The women with the image of Bes tattooed on her upper thigh an around the pubic area might be sacred 'prostitutes', the tattoo being used to ward off venereal disease. This was probably because of his association with music and entertainment, as well as being a protector of women and children. It could have also been a tattoo relating to sexuality or fertility.

In the Ptolemaic period, 'incubation' or Bes chambers were built at Anubieion with figures of Bes and a naked goddess - probably Beset - on the inside walls. Pilgrims might have spent the night there to have healing - or maybe erotic - dreams to renew their sexual power.

The Egyptians also saw Bes as one who not only protected but entertained children - when a child smiled for no reason, it was thought that Bes was pulling faces at the child to make him or her laugh! He was thought to entertain through dancing and singing, and so he was also thought to be a god of happiness and joviality.

Despite his fun-loving nature, he was also regarded as a god of war from early times. He used his lion-like, ferocious nature to destroy or scare the enemies of pharaoh, as well as the evil spirits that were thought to plague the people of Egypt (including sickness, dangerous creatures and other such troubles). He was thought to be especially protective of women and children.


From: Bes, God-Demon of Protection, Childbirth and Entertainment by Caroline Seawright
Images of the deity were kept in homes and he was depicted quite differently from the other gods. Normally Egyptian 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 evil.

Bes was a household protector, throughout ancient Egyptian history becoming responsible for such varied 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).

Since he drove off evil, Bes also came to symbolize the good things in life - music, dance, and sexual pleasure. Later, in the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian history, chambers were constructed, painted with images of Bes and his wife Beset, thought by Egyptologists to have been for the purpose of curing fertility problems or general healing rituals.

Many instances of Bes masks and costumes from the New Kingdom and later have been uncovered. These show considerable wear, thought to be too great for occasional use at festivals, and are therefore thought to have been used by professional performers, or given out for rent.

In the New Kingdom, tattoos of Bes could be found on the thighs of dancers, musicians and servant girls.[3]

Like many Egyptian gods, the worship of Bes was exported overseas, and he, in particular, proved popular with the Phoenicians and the ancient Cypriots.

The cult of Saint Bessus in northern Italy may represent the Christianization of the cult associated with Bes; St. Bessus was also invoked for fertility, and Bessus and Bes are both associated with an ostrich feather in their iconography.[4]

From: Wiki
A guardian god. Bes was a foreign god, an import from the land of Nubia. He was jolly, fond of music, and dancing. He was a popular god who was adopted by the middle classes; he was considered a tutelary god of childbirth and, strangely enough, of cosmetics and female adornments. Bes chased away demons of the night and guarded men from dangerous animals. His image was carved on bedpost. He eventually became a protector of the dead and, amazingly, competed with even the refined and magnificent god Osiris for the attentions of men. He was originally the protective deity of the royal house of Egypt, but came to be a popular household deity throughout Egypt.

From: here
...He was particularly protective of women and children and was often depicted with the young Horus protecting him as he matured. As a result, he also became a god of childbirth. It was thought that he could scare off and evil spirits lurking around the birthing chamber by dancing, shouting and shaking his rattle. If the mother was experiencing a difficult birth, a statue of Bes was placed near her head and his assistance was invoked on her behalf. Rather sweetly, Bes remained at the child's side after birth to protect and entertain them. It was said that if a baby laughed or smiled for no reason, it was because Bes was pulling funny faces. By the New Kingdom he was a regular feature of the illustrations on the walls of the mammisi ("birth house").

Bes also drove away the evil spirits who caused accidents and created mischief (just as mediaeval gargoyles were thought to scare evil spirits away from churches). Many Ancient Egyptians placed a statue of Bes near the door of their house to protect them from mishap. His protection could also be invoked by tattooing his image directly onto the body. Performers often had tattoos of Bes because of his association with dancing and music. It is also thought that sacred prostitutes may have had a tattoo of Bes placed near their pubic area in order to prevent venereal diseases, but it is also possible that the tattoos related to fertility.

It is often suggested that he was not a god of Egyptian origin, instead being imported from Africa during the Middle Kingdom. Certainly Bes was described in inscription as "Coming from the Divine Land" and was known as the "Lord of Punt". However, he is also mentioned in records found in Upper Egypt dating to the Old Kingdom suggesting that he may well be Egyptian, but that his worship was not widespread until the New Kingdom. At present there is insufficient evidence regarding his origins to be sure either way.


However, it was during the Ptolemaic Period that the worship of Bes reached it height. He appears in numerous temple reliefs, thousands of amulets and charms were made in his image, and there were even oracles of Bes to allow people to benefit from his wisdom. He was given a new wife, known as Beset, who was a female version of himself ."Incubation" or Bes chambers were constructed with images of Bes and a naked goddess (most likely Beset) painted on the walls. It is thought that these chambers were meant to promote healing, remedy certain fertility problems or promote erotic dreams. The Romans also loved Bes and depicted him dressed as a legionnaire.

From: here
Symbols: Lion, knives, bells, drums
Cult Center: the private home; during the Greek Period, Abydos

Bes was the god of music and dance, the god of war and slaughter, and a destroying force of nature. He was also a protector of children. Bes is most likely of equatorial African origin, although some think he is Semitic (Middle Eastern).

Bes was usually portrayed as a dwarf with a large head. He is bearded with his tongue sticking out. He has a flat nose, bushy eyebrows and hair, large projecting ears. Around his body, he wears the skin of an animal and its tail hangs down behind him and touches the ground. He wears on his head a tiara of feathers, suggesting an African origin. Sometimes he is shown in profile, but he is usually seen full face (highly unusual in Egyptian artistic conventions). As a god of music he is sometimes shown playing a harp. As a warrior he wears a short military tunic and holds a shield and a short sword.

One of the earliest portrayals of Bes is in the Temple of Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut was a female Pharaoh of the New Kingdom.

From: here
Protector of Women.
Protector and Entertainer of Children.
Guardian against Nightmares and Dangerous Animals of the Night.
Patron of Warriors, Hunters and Travelers.
Patron of Joy, Music, Dancing and Merrymaking.
Guardian of Families and Keeper of Domestic Happiness.
God of Good Fortune, Luck and Probability.
God of Commerce.
Guardian of the Vineyards.
Guardian Against All Manner of Misfortune.

From: Story of Bes (see site for more details about each aspect)
Bes - (Meaning unknown, but may be derivative from the same root as the Netjer-name of Bast) A Name of Netjer with unknown but probably Sub-Saharan origin, Bes is unusually depicted as a man of dwarf stature, facing forward (as opposed to the nearly universal canonical profile), wearing the mask and tail of a lion and carrying a large knife. Bes is the Name associated most strongly with protection of the household and specifically its children and pregnant women; he was also seen (possibly also explaining his depiction as a Pygmy-like being, as Pygmies were known to serve a court-jester function in the Old Kingdom) as the patron of laughter, dancing, happiness and fertility. Bes's masked face with lolling tongue can be seen on amulets and pieces of furniture throughout Kemetic history as well as funerary stelae of the Late Period.

From: House of Netjer
Blessing: Bes is a powerful protective deity, with a special concern for pregnant women and young children. His grotesque appearance and thunderous dances frighten away demonic spirits. He is also a god of fertility and sensuality, and presides over healing and oracles.

Epithets: Forthcoming

Alternate forms of name: Besa, Bsw (Besu), Aha

Equated with: Pan, Seilenos, Min; ”Pantheistic Deity”, often linked with Tawret in paintings and reliefs but not known to be fully syncretized with any other deity.

Associations: Knives, feathered plume, mask, sistrum, doorways and entrances; dancing and performance, especially comedy; tambourines, sistrums, and percussion instruments; mirrors, khol, make-up, perfumes and scented oils; eroticism, fertility, and childbirth; soldiers and guards; apotropaic wands; lions and lion skins, cats and felines; tattoos and prophecy.

Festivals: Besia (15 Payni); dancers dressed as Bes were also known to attend performances on regular festival days, in particular feast days to Bast.

From: Neos Alexandria

Also see:
Good article about him
Terracotta figurine with description
Short summary
Wepwawet Wiki profile
House of Netjer forum thread about him
And another HON thread
And one last HON thread
Short summary
Bes « Henadology

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