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Egyptian Deities: Bes and Min

Ancient civilizations that worshipped gods and goddesses looked for the guidance of specific deities to assist their everyday living or solve an issue. Some deities served as protectors, while others were thought to heal and bring good luck. In this article, you will encounter a god and goddess that ancient Egyptians associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and the home.

Bes (or Bisu)

Bes is an Egyptian god who was seen as the protector of pregnant women, children, and the household. While he possessed a look comparable to that of a savage, he still had a comical appearance in many artistic depictions. Sometimes, he is pictured with his tongue sticking out. Large ears and holding a rattle are other amusing features of the god. Bes is typically shown as a dwarf with a bearded large head and bow legs. His attire consists of the skin of a lion. Sometimes, he has a tail. Some believe that Bes originated from African or Semitic origins because he did not resemble the Egyptians.

Since Bes was a protector and entertainer of children, it was an ancient belief that the god would stay in the cradle of a newborn and entertain it. When babies smiled or laughed for no reason, the Egyptians felt that it was because Bes was in their presence , playing with the infant.

Bes was associated with keeping away dangerous creatures.  As protector of kids, women in labor, and the household, the god was associated with the good things in life. He had a reputation for being a “comic dwarf god” that brought good fortune and happiness to homes. Because of what he stood for, having a statue of Bes at home and worshipping the god was commonplace for many Egyptians. No cult center was constructed for Bes, but his statues have been uncovered in temples at Denderah and Abydos.

Min

During the 4th millennium BC, Min had a cult that originated in predynastic times of ancient Egypt. Represented in various forms, the god was often depicted as a male wearing a crown of feather and having an erect penis that is held in his hand. Elaborate festivals were held in Coptos and Akhmim to honor the god, where public processions and offerings took place.

When he was called Min (or Khem), he stood for the god of reproduction, and when he was called Khnum, he was seen as the creator of all things or the ‘maker of gods and men.’ Because he was known as a god of fertility, his skin was black to reflect the black mud of the Nile , another symbol of fertility. When the Nile flooded, an abundant fertile harvest would follow.  The ancient Egyptians would bring out the god’s image at the start of the harvest season in hopes of enjoying a blessed harvest. Min was also connected to the eastern desert and the god Horus.

Those who worshipped Min incorporated the wild prickly lettuce, which was used as an aphrodisiac because it possessed opiate qualities. Min represented male sexual potency and was honored during the coronation rites of the New Kingdom. This is the time where the Pharoah is expected to sow his seed.