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Posts Tagged ‘Egyptian folklore’

Of all Egypt’s reptilian gods, the biggest and baddest was definitely Apep, a. k. a. Apophis. This primordial serpent god was a force of chaos without redeeming feature. The other two I’ve mentioned, Wadjet and Sobek, may have been dangerous but they were still firmly established with the “light” pantheon headed by the sun god, Ra. Apep ruled the “dark” pantheon, forces of chaos and destruction that sought to overthrown Egyptian society and traditions. As such, he was Ra’s natural enemy.

A chaos serpent had existed in Egyptian mythology from the earliest times, although actual reference to Apep by name starts around the time of the pyramids. He was depicted as a gigantic golden snake, 16 yards long (14.6 meters). Unlike Egypt’s other gods, he never had a human form. Apep was believed to live in Duat, the underworld. His restless movements caused earthquakes. When he ventured into the upper world, he would surely be confronted by Ra’s allies. Their battles were thought to create violent storms.

Egyption lore told that Ra traveled through the heavens each day in a golden barge. However, each night, he had to pass through Duat before he could reach the eastern horizon. Once Ra ventured into Apep’s domain, he was prey for the mighty serpent. In various tales, Apep tried to stun Ra and his companions with his terrible gaze. Or he might try to swallow the entire barge! Fortunately, Ra knew of the danger. He had an entourage of deities along for the trek through Duat, including another chaos god, Set, who was said to defeat Apep and ensure Ra’s escape from the underworld.

Clearly, Apep was not a god to be worshipped, but one to be warded off by any means necessary. Surviving papyrus and carvings include spells or curses to defeat the evil god. Small drawings or models might be made so that they could be stepped on, crushed, spat on, chained,  or stabbed with spears and knives. Apep’s power was so dreaded that it was believed dangerous to keep these for any length of time.

The only public celebration known to be associated with Apep had a similar purpose. Each year, giant snake replicas would be constructed. Through spells, all the evil in the world was imbued into these images — and then they were set on fire. Symbolically, this was to purify Egypt of Apep’s wicked influence for another year.

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Just a few of my books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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Another prominent serpent god of Ancient Egypt was Wadjet. Initially the patron goddess of Dep (modern day Desouk), Wadjet took the form of a cobra, or a woman with a cobra’s head. She was known as the Green One, as in the green of papyrus where cobras naturally lurked. In her early incarnations, she was depicted as a serpent coiled around a stalk of papyrus. Later, both kings and deities were shown with Wadjet coiled around their heads and reared back in threat.

Initially, Wadjet was a symbol of rulership in Lower Egypt — that is, the Nile Delta closest to the Mediterranean Sea. Her image was prominent on the Red Crown, or deshret, worn by early rulers. Perhaps due to the cobra’s lethal venom, Wadjet was believe to protect against evil. Women also prayed for her protection during childbirth.

When Egypt because unified into the form we now recognize, the Red Crown was joined with the White Crown, or hedjet, of Upper Egypt. This formed the the Double Crown, or pschent. Wadjet moved over to make room for Nekhbet, the vulture goddess who symbolized Upper Egypt. Together, these Two Ladies made up a symbol called the uraeus and were the traditional symbol of pharaonic rule.

As a protective goddess, Wadjet naturally became associated with the pantheon of Re, the Sun God. Her allies included Re, Hathor and Bast. She maintained her place as a guardian of Egypt throughout its long history.

Interestingly, Wadjet’s main festival, the Going Forth of Wadjet, took place on December 25th. Perhaps we’re all lucky her cult faded with the centuries, or we might have to sing about Christmas cobras instead of those cute flying reindeer!

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Just a few of my books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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The ancient civilization of Egypt has long fascinated with its stunning monuments and the lure of treasure-filled tombs. One of the culture’s most striking features was the animal-headed deities of its traditional religion. Although their mythology did not include dragons as such, there were several reptilian deities among the pantheon.

Perhaps the most recognizable of these is Sobek, the river god. Sobek (also translated as Sebek, Sobk, Sochet and more) was depicted either as a crocodile or a man with a crocodile’s head. From the most ancient times, this deity embodied a cluster of traits centered on the river. He was the powerful flood, and the gift of fertility in its wake. Since a crocodile was one of the most lethal creatures known along the Nile, Sobek also represented Egypt’s military might and the pharaoh’s power.

Initially, Sobek’s cult was centered in the Shedet region (modern day Faiyum) near Lake Moeris, where crocodiles must have been common. A great deal of building around Shedet was devoted to Sobek. Another cult center was at Kom Obo, in southern Egypt.

The worshipers had no illusion about the god’s capacity for violence. Among his titles were “he of pointed teeth,” and “one who loves robbery.” When people prayed to Sobek, they were asking him to moderate the cruelty of the river and ward off disasters such as real-life crocodile attacks.

With the passing of ages, Sobek became incorporated into the central myth of Osiris, Isis and Horus. After Osiris’ brother Set murdered him and flung parts of his body around the delta, Sobek helped Isis find the pieces and restore Osiris. As an associate of the sky god, Horus, his ferocity was turned to protecting the innocent and warding off evil. This also underlined Sobek’s association with kingship. He remained prominent in the Egyptian pantheon until it was displaced by modern religions.

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Just a few of my books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »