The popular yet demonic guardian of ancient Egypt, Bes, combines dwarfish and leonine features, and embodies opposing traits such as a fierce and gentle demeanor, a hideous and comical appearance, serious and humorous roles, an animalistic and numinous nature. Drawing connections with similarly stunted figures, great and small cats, sacred cows, baboons, demonic monsters, universal gods and infant deities, this article will focus on the animalistic associations of the Bes figure to illustrate that this leonine dwarf encompassed a wider religious significance than apotropaic and regenerative functions alone. Bes was thought to come from afar but was always close; the leonine dwarf guarded the sun god Ra along the diurnal solar circuit; the figure protected pregnant women and newborn children; it was a dancer and musician; the figure belonged to the company of magical monsters of hybrid appearance as averter of evil and sword-wielding fighter. Exploring the human and animal, demonic and numinous aspects of this leonine dwarf will not only further our understanding of its nature and function, but also its significance and popularity.
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