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Hap, or Hapi, The God of the Nile


Hap, or Hapi, The God of the Nile

It has already been said above that the god Osiris was probably in predynastic times a river-god, or a water-god, and that in course of time he became identified with Hap, or Hapi, the god of the Nile ; when such an identification took place we have no means of knowing, but that such was undoubtedly the case is apparent from large numbers of passages in texts of all periods. The meaning of the name of the Nile-god has not yet been satisfactorily explained, and the derivation proposed for it by the priests in the late dynastic period in no way helps us ; it is certain that Hep, later Hap, is a very ancient name for the Nile and Nile-god, and it is probably the name which was given to the river by the predynastic inhabitants of Egypt. One of the oldest mentions of Hep is found in the text of Unas {line 187, where it is said, "Keep watch, O messengers of Qa, keep watch, O ye who have lain down, wake up, O ye who are in Kenset, "O ye aged ones, thou Great Terror, {Setaa "ur, who comest forth from Hep, thou Ap-uat, who "comest forth from Asert Tree, the mouth of Unas "is pure." It is important to note that Hep is mentioned in connection with Kenset, now Kenset here means the first nome of Egypt, in which were included the First Cataract and its Islands Elephantine,, Sahel, Philae, Senmut, etc., and thus it would seem as if the Nile-god Hep, and Ap-uat, "the opener of the ways," were even in the Vth Dynasty connected with the places in which in later times the Nile was thought to rise. In the lines which Unas is to eat in the Underworld, and to the Sekhet-Aaru, or Elysian Fields, where he is to live, and it is clear that the Nile-god and Ap-uat were exhorted to send forth the waters of the river from Kenset in order that they might produce grain for the needs of the king. IN another passage {Unas, line 431 the destroying power of Hep is referred to, and it is said that the houses of those who would steal away the king's food shall be given to the thieves {?, and their habitations to Great Hep,. Hep, or Hapi, is always depicted in the form of a man, but his breasts are those of a women, and they are intended to indicate the powers of fertility and of nourishment possessed by the god. As the Egyptians divided their country into two parts, the South and the North, so they divided the river, and thus there came into being the god of the Nile of the South and the god of the Nile of the North. An attempt has been made to show that the Nile of the South was that portion of the river which flowed from the Sudan to Philae, but this is not the case, for the Egyptians believed that the Nile rose in the First Cataract, in the Qerti, or Double Cavern," and the Niel of the South was to a place some little distance north of the modern Asyut. The god of the South Niel has upon his head a cluster of lotus plants, the former is called Hap-Reset, and the latter Hap-Meht,. When the two forms of Hep or Hapi are indicated in as single figure, the god holds in his hands the two plants, papyrus and lotus, or two forms which he has believed to pour out the two Niles. By a pretty device, in which the two Nile-gods are seen tying in a knot the stems of the lotus and papyrus round, the emblem of union of the South and North, and as light modification of the design, was cut upon the sides of the thrones of kings, from very early times, to indicate that the thrones of the of South and North had been united, and that the rule of the sovereigns who sat upon such thrones extended over Upper and Lower Egypt. When once Hapi had been recognized as one of the greatest of the Egyptian gods he became rapidly identified with all the great primeval, creative gods, and finally he was declared to be, not only the maker of the universe, but the creator of everything from which both it all and all things therein sprang. At a very early period he absorbed the attributes of Nu, the primeval watery mass from which Ra, the Sun-god, emerged on the first day of the creation ; and as a natural result he was held the father of all beings and things, which were believed to be the results of his handiwork and his offspring. When we consider the great importance which the Nile possessed for Egypt and her inhabitants it is easy to understand how the Nile-god Hapi held a unique position among the gods of the country, and how he came to be regarded as a being as great as, if not greater than Ra himself. The light and heat of Ra brought life to all men, and animals, and to every living being would perish. There was, moreover, something very mysterious about Hapi, which made him to be regarded as a different nature from Ra, fro whilst the movement of the Sun-god was apparent to all men, and his places of rising and setting were known to all men, the Egyptians, it is true, at one period of their history, believed that the source of the waters of the Nile-god was unknown. The Egyptians, it is true, at one period of their history, believed that the Nile rose out of the ground between two mountains which lay between the Islands of Elephante and the Island of Philae, but they had no exact idea where and how the Inundation took place,and the rise and fall of the river were undoubtedly a genuine mystery to them. The profound reverence and adoration which they paid to the Nile, as found in a papyrus of the XVIIIth or XIXth Dynasty, it reads :---"Homage to thee, O Hapi, thou "appearest in this land, and thou comest in peace to make Egypt "to live. Thou "art the Waterer {or Fructifier of the fields which Ra hath "created, thou givest life into all animals, thou makest all the "land to drink unceasingly as thou descendest on thy from "heaven. Thou art the friend of bread and of TCHABU, {i.e., the god of corn, thou lord of fish ' when the Inundation riseth, the water-fowl do not alight upon the fields "that are sown with wheat. Thou art the creator of barley, and "thou makest the temples of endure, for millions of years repose "of thy fingers hath been an abomination to thee. Thou art the "lord of the poor and needy. If thou were overthrown in the "heavens the gods would fall upon their faces, and men would "perish. He causeth the whole earth to be opened by the cattle, and princes and peasants lie down and rest ......... Thy form is "that of Khensu. When thou shinest upon the earth shouts of "joy ascend, for all people are joyful, and every mighty man "receiveth food, thou art the mighty one of meat and drink, "thou art the creator of all things, the lord divine meat, pleasent and choice......Thou makest the "herb to grow for the cattle, and thou takest heed unto what is "sacrificed unto every god. The choicest incense is that which "fplloweth thee, thou art the lord of the two lands. Thou fillest the "storehouses, thou heapest high with corn the granaries, and "thou takest heed to the affairs of the poor and needy. Thou "makest the herb and green things to grow that the desires "of all may be satisfied, and thou art not reduced thereby. Thou 'makest thy strength to be a shield for man." The following passage is of particular interest, fro it proves that the writer of the hymn felt how hopeless it was to attempt to describe such a mighty and mysterious god of the Nile. "He "cannot be sculptured in stone, he is not seen in the images on "which are set the crowns of the South and North and the "uraei, neither works nor offerings can be made to him. He "cannot be brought forth from his secret abodes, for the place "wherein he is cannot be known. He is not to be found in "inscribed shrines, there is no habitation which is large enough "to contain him, and thou canst not make images of him in thy "heart ....... His name in the Tuat is unknown, the God doth "not make manifest his forms, and idle are images concerning "them." From this passage it is clear that the Egyptians paid peculiar honor to Hapi , and that he was indeed regarded as the "Father of the gods," and the creator of things which exist, and that the epithet of "Vivifier, was especially suitable to him. It must be noted too that in one aspect Hapi was identified with Osiris, i.e., Osiris-Apis, or Serapis, in late dynastic times, when every sanctuary of this double god was called a "Serapeum," Hapi was held to be included among the forms of the god. From a number of passages found chiefly in comparatively late texts we learn that the festival of the annual rise of the Nile was celebrated throughout Egypt with very great solemnity, and statues of the Nile-god were carried about through the towns and villages that men might honor him and pray to him. When the inundation was abundant the religious ceremonies connected with it were carried out on a scale of great magnificence, and all classes kept holiday. The ancient Egyptian festival has its equivalent among the Muhammandans in that which is celebrated by them about June 17, and is called Lelet al-Nukta, i.e., Night of the Drop, because it is believed that night a miraculous drop falls from heaven into the Nile and makes it to rise. It has been said above that Osiris was identified with Hapi, and this being so, Isis was regarded as the female counterpart of Hapi, but there is little doubt that in very early dynastic times other goddesses were assigned to him as wives or sisters. Thus of Hapi of the South the female counterpart was undoubtedly Nekhebet, but then this goddess was only a form of Isis in dynastic times, whatever she may have been in the predynastic period. In the north of Egypt the ancient goddess Uatch-Ura, appears to have been the equivalent of Nekhebet in the South. But Hapi was also identified with Nu, the great primevil water abyss from which all things sprang, and as such his female counterpart was Nut, or one of her many forms. The oldest form of this goddess appears to be Mut, or Mutt, or Mauit, who is mentioned in the text of Unas {line181. The text generally shows that the deceased king is identified with Hapi the Nile-god, and thus became master of the Nile-goddess of the South and North, for it is said, "O Ra, be thou good to Unas this "day as yesterday. Unas has been united to the goddess Mut, "and he hath breathed the breath of Isis, and he hath been joined "to the goddess Nekhebet, and he hath been the husband of the "Beautiful One,". The mention of Mut, Isis, and Nekhebet in this connection proves that all these three goddesses that even when the text of Unas was written the ancient goddesses Mut and Nekhebet were identified with Isis long before the copies of the Pyramid Texts which were written.


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