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Lovely Ugly Bes! Animalistic Aspects in Ancient Egyptian Popular Religion

1
Department of History, University of Groningen, 9712 EK Groningen, The Netherlands
2
Formerly Allard Pierson Museum, University of Amsterdam, 1012 GC Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dedicated in friendship to Robert Steven Bianchi.
Received: 20 February 2020 / Revised: 31 March 2020 / Accepted: 14 April 2020 / Published: 17 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animals in Ancient Material Cultures (vol. 2))
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: hybridity; dwarfs; animalism; demons; apotropaism; rejuvenation; fertility; popular religion; ancient Egypt hybridity; dwarfs; animalism; demons; apotropaism; rejuvenation; fertility; popular religion; ancient Egypt
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van Oppen de Ruiter, B.F. Lovely Ugly Bes! Animalistic Aspects in Ancient Egyptian Popular Religion. Arts 2020, 9, 51.

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