Who was Baba?
Baba was the second Egyptian baboon god to be worshipped in Hermopolis during the early Dynastic period in Upper Egypt. Hedjwer was represented as a baboon but unlike his benign predecessor was a malignant and violent god of the dark depths of the Underworld (Duat). The ancient Egyptians were wary of baboons as they exhibited many human characteristics that led them to believe that they were reincarnations of deceased ancestors. Baba possessed the dominant and aggressive characteristics of the male baboon which were attributes admired by the first kings of Egypt who fought for dominance in the land and their domains. Baba was associated with the power of darkness and worshipped as a moon (lunar) deity. The function of Baba included that of a punisher and executioner in the Underworld, similar to that adopted by the later goddess called Ammit, the crocodile-headed goddess of the Underworld (Duat), the 'Devourer of the Dead'. Statues of Baba were based on the 'dog faced baboon' (Papio hamadryas). Baba was eventually replaced as a major deity of Hermopolis (Khmunu) by the famous god Thoth.
Facts about Baba
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Baba.
Baba Profile & Fact File
Egyptian Name: Baba: Alternate names: Babi
Role & Function: The roles of the moon god Baba included punisher and executioner in the Underworld
Symbols: The baboon, the moon, the phallus
Cult Center: Hermopolis (Khmunu) in the Nile Delta lands of Lower Egypt
Titles: The "bull of the baboons" meaning dominant maleBaboon in Hieroglyphics:
Baba god of Virility
The baboon was also admired in Egypt for its intelligence and also for its sexual virility. Baboon faeces were an ingredient in Egyptian aphrodisiac ointments. His virility is reflected in myths about Baba. One myth tells that his phallus was the bolt on the doors of heaven another that the ferryboat in the Underworld ferryboat used the phallus of Baba as its mast. Baba was considered the god of virility of the dead and was offered prayers in order to ensure that an individual would not suffer from impotence after death. In different versions of the Book of the Dead there were spells to ensure successful sexual intercourse in the Afterlife.
Hermopolis (Khnum) - The Cult Center of Hedjwer, Baba and Thoth
The city of Hermopolis (Khnum) was an important religious center in ancient Egypt and was the cult center of Baba during the middle period of the Old Kingdom when his followers ousted the previous baboon deity, Hedjer. Many years later in the Late Period the city of Hermopolis then became the cult center of the famous god Thoth. Many of the gods of the ancient Egyptians were subsumed (meaning absorbed) into new deities. The practice of creating new deities, by combining them with the attributes of old gods, is called 'syncretism'. It is possible that this was the case with Hedjwer, Baba and then Thoth.
Baba and Thoth
According to ancient Egyptian mythology Thoth is connected with baboons but it is unclear that Thoth the god was actually represented as a baboon, as most would suggest. Given the history of Hermopolis and its strong association with baboon gods it seems logical that the tradition continued, by connecting Thoth with the baboon.
Baba the Executioner
The baboon connections to Thoth and the Underworld appear in many instances to relate to the dark god Baba rather than Thoth the god of knowledge and wisdom. Baba was believed to feed on human entrails so protective spells were required when the function of Baba the baboon god was believed to be that of a punisher and executioner in the Underworld, similar to that adopted by the later goddess called Ammit, the 'Devourer of the Dead'.
Baboons in the Underworld
Other depictions of baboons in the Underworld are as helpers or subsidiaries of Thoth. One of the Four Sons of Horus, Hapy was a funerary deity and protected the lungs of the deceased. Hapy was depicted as a mummified man with the head of a baboon and protected the lungs that were contained in a Canopic jar. Hapy was not connected with Thoth as he was under the protection of Nephthys, the goddess of the dead and divine assistance
Baboons in the Underworld
Baboons were believed to guard the first gate of the underworld in the Book of That Which is in the Underworld. In Chapter 155 of the Book of the Dead, four baboons were described as sitting as the corners of a pool of fire in the Afterlife. The instances of the baboon in the Underworld also include a baboon presiding over the scales in the 'weighing of the heart ceremony