Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
Page: 126Cynœlurus guttatus, whose skin formed his clothing. His cult existed over a long period—from the time of the Old Kingdom down to Roman times, in which his oracle at Abydos was consulted down to a late period—and his influence may be traced in Alexandrian, Hellenistic, and Phœnician art. The god Bes had varied characteristics. He was associated with birth, and one of the oldest representations of him is to be found in a relief in the temple of Hatshepsut, where he appears as attendant at the birth of the Great Queen. In this connexion he appears in all the 'Birth Houses' of Egyptian temples, places where the presiding god was supposed to have been born. As the child grew Bes was supposed to provide it with amusement, and in this aspect he is shown as laughing at it, dancing grotesquely[Pg 282] and playing on the harp. From this he came to be regarded as god of the dance, of music and joviality, hence of rest, joy, and pleasure; and his quaint figure is to be found carved upon the handles of mirrors, on palettes, and on kohl vessels. He was appointed guardian of the young sun-god, and therefore becomes the foe of all serpents, and is shown as gripping and strangling them in his hands, or biting them in pieces. In time he was wholly identified with his ward Horus, and depicted with all the symbols and attributes of that deity, though his peculiar solar province was the east. In the underworld Bes underwent a transformation. He became an avenging deity, carrying a menacing knife with which he essayed to tear out the hearts of the wicked, yet, even thus, to the good and deserving he never failed to be a true friend and cheering companion. In his menacing aspect he was called 'the Warrior,' and sometimes this character was ascribed to him on earth also, where, bearing a shield and wielding a sword, he wages war for those under his protection, and those who wear his image as an amulet.
It is undoubted that many local cults existed in different parts of Egypt and that gods of many and varied origins were the presiding deities, but usually their power remained purely local and never attained to any great influence or fame.