Hapi (Nile god)

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This article is about the Egyptian Nile god. For Hapi, one of the Four sons of Horus, see Hapi (Son of Horus). For Hapi-ankh, bull deity of Memphis, see Apis (god).
Hapi, shown as a pair of genies symbolically tying together upper and lower Egypt.
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Hapi
in hieroglyphs

Hapi was the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. The flood deposited rich silt (fertile soil) on the river's banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops.[1] Some of the titles of Hapi were, Lord of the Fishes and Birds of the Marshes and Lord of the River Bringing Vegetation. He is typically depicted as a man with a large belly wearing a loincloth, having long hair and having pendulous, female-like breasts.[2]

Mythology[edit]

Another depiction of Hapi, bearing offerings

The annual flooding of the Nile occasionally was said to be the Arrival of Hapi.[1] Since this flooding provided fertile soil in an area that was otherwise desert, Hapi, as its patron, symbolised fertility. He had large female breasts because he was said to bring a rich and nourishing harvest. Due to his fertile nature he was sometimes considered the "father of the gods",[1] and was considered to be a caring father who helped to maintain the balance of the cosmos, the world or universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system.[1] He was thought to live within a cavern at the supposed source of the Nile near Aswan.[3] The cult of Hapi was mainly located at the First Cataract named Elephantine. His priests were involved in rituals to ensure the steady levels of flow required from the annual flood. At Elephantine the official nilometer, a measuring device, was carefully monitored to predict the level of the flood, and his priests must have been intimately concerned with its monitoring.

Hapi was not regarded as the god of the Nile itself but of the inundation event.[1] He was also considered a "friend of Geb" the Egyptian god of the earth,[4] and the "lord of Neper", the god of grain.[5]

Iconography[edit]

Although male and wearing the false beard, Hapi was pictured with pendulous breasts and a large belly, as representations of the fertility of the Nile. He also was usually given blue [2] or green skin, representing water. Other attributes varied, depending upon the region of Egypt in which the depictions exist. In Lower Egypt, he was adorned with papyrus plants and attended by frogs, present in the region, and symbols of it. Whereas in Upper Egypt, it was the lotus and crocodiles which were more present in the Nile, thus these were the symbols of the region, and those associated with Hapi there. Hapi often was pictured carrying offerings of food or pouring water from an amphora, but also, very rarely, was depicted as a hippopotamus. During the Nineteenth dynasty Hapi is often depicted as a pair of figures, each holding and tying together the long stem of two plants representing Upper and Lower Egypt, symbolically binding the two halves of the country around a hieroglyph meaning "union".[2] This symbolic representation was often carved at the base of seated statues of the pharaoh.[2]

Hymn[edit]

The Hymn to the Flood says:

Lightmaker who comes from the dark
Fattener of herds
Might that fashions all
None can live without him
People are clothed with the flax of his fields
Thou makest all the land to drink unceasingly, as thou descendest on thy way from the heavens.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Wilkinson, p.106
  2. ^ a b c d Wilkinson, p.107
  3. ^ Wilkinson, p.108
  4. ^ Wilkinson, p.105
  5. ^ Wilkinson, p.117

Further reading[edit]

  • Bonneau, Danielle (1964). La Crue du Nil: Divinité égyptienne, à travers mille ans d'histoire 332 av.–641 ap. J.–C., d'après les auteurs grecs et latins (in French). C. Klincksieck. 

External links[edit]