The Egyptian god Bes
Bes was the Egyptian guardian and war god and a protector god of childbirth. He was believed to guard against evil spirits and misfortune.
Facts about Bes
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of the religion and worship of Bes:
Bes Profile & Fact File
Egyptian Name: Bes also known as Bisu
Role & Function: The function of Bes is described as being an ancient Egyptian guardian and war god and a protector god of childbirth. As the adversary of evil he eventually came to symbolize the good things in life, music, dance, and sexual pleasure
Status: Bes was primarily worshipped as a household god
Symbols: The Sa symbol was particularly associated with Bes as were musical instruments
Title: "The Lord of Punt" and the "Lord of Nubia" reflecting the belief that Bes was of Mesopotamian or of African origin, possibly connected to Pygmies a tribe of dwarfs reputed to live in Nubia (now Ethiopia)
Cult center: No cult center was dedicated to Bes, he was primarily worshipped as a private, household god but his images were found in temples at Thebes
The Egyptian god Bes
The ugly appearance of Bes was believed by the ancient Egyptians to act as a frightening deterrent to the enemies of ancient Egypt which was emphasized by his aggressive stance when holding a sword. In his role of a protector god of childbirth he was revered by the royal family of Egypt and depicted on scenes of royal births in the temples of Thebes. No cult center was dedicated to Bes, he was primarily worshipped as a private, household god and was depicted in the homes and shrines of the tomb workers in Deir el-Medina. The diverse roles of the dwarf god encompassed that of a benign, protective god who revelled in music and dancing and as a fierce adversary to enemies of Egyptians, including dangerous animals, snakes and scorpions. Normally the ancient Egyptian gods were shown in profile, but Bes always appears in full face and ready to attack on any approaching enemy, danger or evil.
The Role of Bes
The role and duties of Bes were:
- Protector god of childbirth and pregnant women
- Guardian of the royal family and royal births
- War deity
- Defender of Egypt and against evil
- Household god protecting against all intruders including snakes and scorpions
- Creator of loud music. He was depicted loudly playing various musical instruments to celebrate the birth of a newborn child but also to scare away the demons that might harm to the child
The Symbols of Bes - The Sa Symbol
The Sa symbol meant “protection of young life” and was often used as an amulet or good luck charm. The Sa was linked to both Bes and his 'wife' Taweret whose images were often engraved on amulets and good luck charms. The Sa appeared to be a modified version of the Ankh.
Symbol of the Sa
Symbol of the Ankh
The Symbols of Bes - The Plumed Headdress or Crown
Another interesting symbol of Bes is the plumed headdress or crown. The titles given to Bes included the "Lord of Punt" and the "Lord of Nubia" that reflected the belief that Bes was of African origin, possibly connected to Pygmies a tribe of dwarfs reputed to live in Nubia (now Ethiopia). Another Egyptian deity called Anuket also wore a similar headdress. The picture below shows an African headdress worn by a chief and the similarity between this and the crowns of Bes and Anuket is clear.
Headdress of an African chief