Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bes - Protector of Childbirth

      Bes was the Egyptian god who protected women during childbirth. He is usually portrayed either as a lion rearing up on its (bowed) hind legs or as a dwarf. He is also sometimes shown brandishing a large knife or sword. I am not aware of any temple of Bes at any point in Egyptian history, and his worship would seem to have been limited to households.

     This particular example, which dates to either Dynasty Nineteen or Twenty and is now in the Houston Museum of Natural Science, shows the god playing a double flute. The tenon at the bottom of the figure would indicate that this piece was originally part of a piece of furniture. The carving is of wood covered with plaster.

     One further interesting thing about Bes is that he is the only Egyptian god that I know of who is usually portrayed in a completely frontal view (Hathor is the only goddess about whom the same can be said).

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