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Bes: Ancient Egyptian God of Childbirth, Humor, Song and Dance


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.

 

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