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Sacred animal of ancient Egypt. Honoring the bull, cow, cat, mongoose, falcon

The ancient Egyptians believed that the gods, taking the shape of certain animals, surround them in the earthly world and, thus, affect the fate of people. Therefore, the sacred animals of Ancient Egypt, the list of which included bulls, cows, cats, crocodiles, as well as a number of birds and even insects, became objects of worship. Hunting was prohibited on them, and the violation of this law was punishable on a par with the killing of a person. The only exceptions were ritual sacrifices and those cases when incarnated deities began to multiply so rapidly that their numbers created a threat to people.

Sacred bulls in the temple and in the fields

Since in ancient times the inhabitants of the banks of the Nile were feeding mainly on the basis of the fruits of farming (the annual spills of the great river created the necessary prerequisites for this), during field work they could not do without a reliable draft force, which the bull was fulfilling. In accordance with the role he played in the life of a whole people, he was given one of the leading places among other deified representatives of the animal world.

The most revered sacred animal of Ancient Egypt is a bull named Apis, regularly selected by priests from hundreds of other animals. His cult was so great that the chosen one was given a place in the temple of the fertility god Ptah, who was in Memphis. There, this darling of fate lived, favorably accepting the honors to him, which, however, did not save his gatherings from hard everyday work under the scorching sun.

Life cycle of the god Apis

According to the belief, every night his wife, goddess of the sky Nut, taking the shape of a cow, went to his temple. After the god Apis fertilized her, the light appeared his next incarnation - a radiant ray of the calf-sun, ascended to heaven and made his day's way on it. By evening, pretty old, he again returned to the temple and took the same shape. The next night everything was repeated again.

So the god Apis in the form of a bull was both husband, father, and own child. When he was already dying, the priests had to find a replacement. To perform such an important mission, not every animal was fit, but only possessed certain attributes. In particular, the applicant had to have a white triangle on his forehead, a light spot on his side that resembles a crescent moon, and one more on his neck, but already in the form of an eagle.

The deceased himself was mummified according to all the rules of this ancient art and, placing him in a special sarcophagus adorned with jewels and sacred amulets, was placed in the underground Necropolis, located there, in Memphis, on the west bank of the Nile. If we consider that the life of a bull (even the sacred) is on the average 15-20 years, and worshiped it for centuries, it is clear that over time a whole city of the dead was formed from such sarcophagi.

The veneration of cows by the ancient Egyptians

Universal reverence on the banks of the Nile surrounded not only strong, but sometimes very aggressive bulls, but also their more peace-loving friends. The sacred cow has always been an inalienable character of the Egyptian pantheon of the gods and has never been used for sacrifice. This is explained by the fact that, according to the most ancient myths, she was a constant companion of another goddess - Hathor, who patronized femininity, love and fertility. In addition, the sacred cow, like any other, supplied milk to the family, which, naturally, deserved gratitude.

Over the centuries, Egyptian mythology included all new images. In the later period, the pantheon was replenished by the Great White Cow Heliopolis, which was under the auspices of the goddess Isis, as well as Hathor, who was in charge of the questions of love and the continuation of the human race. It is Heliopolis considered the mother of the sacred bull Apis, whose residence was in the Memphis temple.

Feathered gods of Egypt

Another very revered representative of the Egyptian fauna was the ibis bird, considered one of the earthly incarnations of the god of wisdom Thoth, always depicted with her head and human body. According to the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, he was the creator of writing and literature. In the rays of the glory of the god sage, this large bird was also bathed, endowed with a long, curved beak. According to the law of those years, the perpetrator of her death was subject to severe punishment up to the death penalty, and his victim was embalmed.

In the pantheon of feathered Egyptian deities, the falcon was also given a place of honor. In the early period of history he was identified with Horus - the god of heaven, sun and royalty. Until now, many of his images have been preserved in the form of a human figure with the head of a falcon or a winged sun. At a later stage of Egyptian history, the falcon became associated with the concept of the human soul-Ba, which was a combination of his emotions and feelings.

During the life of a person, she could freely travel both through the world of dreams, and dark labyrinths of the realm of the dead. Some time after the death of his master, the soul-Ba fell into a lethargic sleep. In the representation of the Egyptians, she looked like a falcon with a human head, which differed from the images of the god Horus.

Sacred animals of Ancient Egypt: a cat

However, the birds were only part of the pantheon of the gods. Another sacred animal of Ancient Egypt, which was the object of universal worship, is a cat. It is known that by its status it was not much inferior to the bull. In general, the history of these animals is directly related to Ancient Egypt. There is even an opinion that it was there that they were domesticated, and the monument was modern Egyptian cats Sphynx - a breed for which a complete lack of hair is characteristic.

Once upon a time the life on the banks of the Nile was for the cats a golden age. They were loved and protected, as in none of the other historical epochs. The cat was considered the keeper of the home, and if peace and prosperity reigned in the family, it was this merit that was attributed to it. In addition, protecting the harvest from rodents, they provided people with an invaluable service, saving them from hunger. This, in particular, was one of the reasons why cats were revered by the Egyptians as sacred animals.

It is known that in the event of a fire, earthquake or any other disaster, the cat was first of all taken out of the house, and after that they took care of the children, the elderly and all sorts of property. Not surprisingly, cat's death was as grievous as the death of any family member. The house was mourning, and the deceased was buried with the same honors as any relative.

Goddess with a cat's head

The gravest crime was to cause any harm to the cat, regardless of whether the malice was wrong or not. Sometimes it even reached the point of absurdity. Known, for example, is the case when the Persian king Cambyses during the conquest of Egypt ordered each of the soldiers of the advance detachment to tie to his shield on a live cat. As a result, the Egyptians surrendered without a fight, because they could not resist, risking injuring their favorites.

The playfulness and gentle nature of cats caused the goddess of joy and joy Bastet to be traditionally portrayed as a woman with a cat's head. A special distribution of such compositions in the form of drawings and figurines were received in the era of the New Kingdom (1070-712 BC). The favorite subject in them was Bastet, feeding her kittens. Well-known to us modern Egyptian cats the Sphinxes in their appearance in some way resemble this ancient goddess.

Deification of crocodiles

Just as the bull was revered because of the role that was assigned to it when cultivating the fields, another sacred animal of Ancient Egypt, the crocodile, accepted universal worship because of the fertility of the lands. It was believed that this reptilian was the living embodiment of the god Sebek, who controlled the floods of the Nile, which irrigated the fields and brought a life-giving silt to them.

Like Apis, the sacred bull in Ancient Egypt, a crocodile similar in status to him was also chosen by the priests from hundreds of his fellows. He settled in a specially built temple, and there, living in satiety and contentment, soon weaned from bad inclinations and became completely tame. Crocodiles in Egypt were forbidden to kill even in cases when their actions threatened people's lives.

Frogs and their connection with the afterlife

The ancient Egyptians also had great sympathy for all kinds of amphibians and reptiles. In particular, they included frogs in the number of sacred animals, since they were part of the retinue of the goddess Heketh, who patronized the women in labor. In addition, there was a belief that they have the ability to spontaneous generation. This gave reason to associate them with the afterlife in which all those who had completed their earthly journey were reborn.

Good and evil snakes

To snakes, the Egyptians had an ambivalent attitude, because in the understanding of the latter these creatures were carriers of both good and evil principles. For example, the mythical serpent Apop was the personification of evil and darkness. It was believed that when at night the sun god Ra keeps his way between the shores of the underground Nile, the insidious snake tries to prevent him by drinking all the water from the river. A struggle is tied between them, from which Ra always comes out as the winner, but the next night this story repeats itself.

At the same time, the red cobra was considered the patroness of Lower Egypt, which was the personification of the goddess Uajit, the guardian of royal power. Her stylized image - urae - always adorned the diadems of the pharaohs, being evidence of their reign both in this world and in the afterlife.

Fearless Mongoose

After talking about snakes, it is appropriate to recall another sacred animal of Ancient Egypt, which has the most direct relation to them - the mongoose. In Egypt, these small predators were abundant and easily tamed. Often they were kept as pets. The Egyptians were impressed by the courage with which they rushed to the cobras.

Since the snakes, as was said above, were perceived as carriers of not only good but also evil, it was believed that the mongooses exterminated precisely those of them who were filled with bad intentions. For this small animals enjoyed universal reverence and were also ranked among the sacred animals.

The veneration of the mongoose had such a wide scope that to this day among the ruins of temple complexes there are monuments erected in their honor. In addition, during the excavations in Egypt found a lot of bronze sculptures, as well as the amulets with images of the animal. It was believed that this accessory is able to protect from snake bites.

Beetle repeating the path of the sun

And finally, it is impossible to imagine Ancient Egypt without a scarab beetle that has become a living symbol of this unique civilization. Such an honor he was honored by his peculiarity to roll from the east to the west his dung balls.

He does this until the eggs interspersed with the manure are ripe and the larvae are not born. The Egyptians, who believed that this way a hardworking beetle repeated the path of the sun, considered it a symbol of the creative energy of this heavenly luminary.

It is characteristic that his supreme god Hepri - the creator of the world and people - they portrayed in the form of a man with a scarab instead of a head. To the universal glorification of this generally common beetle, the belief that according to which he, like the frog, possessed the capacity for spontaneous generation, and, like her, visiting the realm of the dead, helped to resurrect all newcomers there.

Loved by love

It is not right to think, however, that all animals without exception exclaimed and accepted honors. There were exceptions among them. For example, the cult of the widely spread Egyptian hippopotamus existed only in the Paprimit District. The rest of the inhabitants of the country were very wary of him, which, however, did not prevent them from portraying the goddess Tautt - the patroness of women in childbirth - in the form of a pregnant female of this animal.

The Egyptians did not like the pigs, which were considered unclean animals. There was even a belief that milk of pigs can cause leprosy. Once a year they were used to bring them as a ritual sacrifice, after which they were eaten. Apparently, hunger overcame superstitious fear.

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