Egyptian Gods

Egyptian Gods

Ancient Egyptian Gods, Goddesses and Religion



The god Hapy, 'father of the gods', clasping symbols of life, receives the worship of Ramesses iii in a scene of harvest and fertility.20th Dynasty. Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III. Medinet Habu. Western Thebes. Egypt.

Picture: The god Hapy, 'father of the gods', clasping symbols of life, receives the worship of Ramesses iii in a scene of harvest and fertility.20th Dynasty. Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III. Medinet Habu. Western Thebes. Egypt.

Mythology of Hapy

The god Hapy (to be distinguished from the son of Horus with the same name)was primarily identified by ancient Egyptians as the inundation of the Nile - its yearly flooding which brought fertility to the land through widespread watering and the new silt spread over the fields by the swollen river. While it is often stated that simply the Nile itself, then are some indications of overlap, so that it is sometimes possible to characterize the god as representing the divine power of the Nile in general. More usually, however, Hapy is clearly the Nile Flood and the inundation was called by the Egyptians 'the arrival of Hapy'. The Nile was both the primary source of life in ancient Egypt and, by virtue of its cyclic rythm, a manifestation of cosmic order so that Hapy is thus called creator god and even 'father of the gods' due to his life-giving and creative ability. He was also appealed to as a caring father and a god who maintained balance in the cosmos. Although th Nile was usually predictable, occasional weather disruptions in sub-Saharan Africa meant that severe famine could result from occasional excessively low or high levels of flooding, and thus it was Hapy who held the key to this proper balance of flooding and fertility. As a result of his nature, Hapy was called "lord of the fishes and birds", and numerous crocodile gods and frog goddesses were in his retinue. The power of Hapy was also expressed as both chthonic and sexual. The Late Period Famine Stela expresses these ideas in stating "It (the cavern which is the god's dwelling) is the house of sleep of Hapy... he brings the flood: Leaping up he copulates as man copulates with woman..." - imagery which was applied to many of the Egyptian gods who represented aspects of fertility and primeval creation.

Iconography of Hapy

Representations of Hapy usually show the god as a swollen-bellied man wearing an abbreviated belt or loincloth and with long hair and pendulous, female breasts. Often, the god was depicted with a clump of papyrus upon his head, and he is frequently shown carrying papyrus and lotus stems and bearing a tray laden with offerings. Most often he was shown with blue skin, though other colors are occasionally found. All of these attributes represented the fertility Hapy supplied and as such were inter-changeable with those of other so-called fecundity figures. Beginning in the 5th Dynasty (in the mortuary temple of Sahure), the lower registers of temple walls were often decorated with depictions of Hapy and other fecundity figures bearing offerings into the temple as gifts and sustaining supplies for the temple's divine owners. Statues showing Hapy bearing loaded offered trays were also made - sometimes with the features of the reigning king, thus linking the monarch with the fecundity deity. Beginning in the 19th Dynasty, reliefs portraying two figures of Hapy, one wearing the papyrus of Lower Egypt and the other the heraldic plant of Upper Egypt, and binding together the two halves of Egypt (symbolized by the respective plants being used as ropes around the sema or 'union' hieroglyph) were often carved on temple walls and on the bases of colossal seated statues of kings. An instance of Hapy depicted with the doublt head of a goose appears in the temple of Sethos I at Abydos.

Worship of Hapy

Hapy was especially worshipped in areas where the Nile was particularly turbulent such as Gebel el-Silsila and near the supposed source of the Nile where the god was believed to dwell in a cavern in the vicinity of Aswan. Although it was said of Hapy that 'he has no shrines, nor portions, nor service of his choice' (The Hymn to Hapy), he was widely venerated outside his cult centers and frequently depicted in the temples of other deities. One text relating how 1089 goats were sacrificed to Hapy, shows something of his importance. Many Egyptians celebrated the god's annual festival and composed hymns and paeans of praise to him.

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