(Also ‘Hapy’/’Hapi’, but not to be confused either with Hapy (1) or (2) here) A deity whose incarnation was a sacred bull living at Memphis, the worship of whom apparently goes back as far as the First Dynasty. When this bull died, his successor was chosen based upon a series of criteria. The bull had to be black, with a white triangle on his forehead and wing-like markings on his back, a mark like a scarab under his tongue and the hair of his tail divided into two strands. Once chosen, the bull was housed in special quarters, complete with his own harem of cows, to be adored by worshipers, with oracular pronouncements being derived through interpreting his behavior. At his death, the Apis bull was embalmed and entombed in extravagant fashion alongside his predecessors. The Apis bull had a special association with the king, and participated in the Sed festival, at which the king periodically renewed his powers. The Apis bull was conceived from a virgin cow and the God Ptah, and was thus regarded as Ptah’s living representative on earth. The cow from whom he was born was known as the Isis cow, and was also venerated while alive and buried with elaborate ceremony. Apis also had a divine child called Kem or Gem (Dieter Kessler, ‘Bull Gods’, in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt p. 212). When the Apis bull died, it became ‘Osiris-Apis’, just as the deceased human is ‘Osiris-N.’ in the personalized afterlife texts; Osiris-Apis, however, also manifests a unity contrasting with the succession of historical Apis bulls. It is frequently asserted with great confidence that the Graeco-Egyptian deity Serapis is ‘Osiris-Apis’, but this remains problematic. It was, however, a common identification in antiquity, whether or not it came about in retrospect as an attempt to derive an indigenous pedigree for Serapis.

In one of the ‘ascension’ spells of the Pyramid Texts (utterance 539), the king says “My phallus is Apis; I will ascend and rise up to the sky.” Funerary stelae show the Apis bull carrying the mummy of the deceased on his back. In spell 31 of the Coffin Texts, the deceased is granted the boon of seeing the birth of the Apis bull “in the byres of the dappled cattle,” (Faulkner 1973 p. 20). Identification with Apis in the netherworld seems to express the idea of flourishing. Thus in spell 162, the east wind opens a path for the deceased into a field where s/he flourishes “like the condition of Apis and Seth,” (ibid. p. 140), Seth being associated with vigor; in spell 203 (spell 189 in the Book of the Dead), which is concerned with providing appropriate nourishment in the spirit world, Seth and Apis apparently reap and thresh grain for the deceased’s consumption; and in spell 204, similarly concerned with spiritual nourishment, the deceased affirms “I am Apis who is in the sky, long of horns … far-sighted, far-striding,” (ibid. p. 166), alluding to the bull’s oracular prescience. The milk which is imbibed by Apis from his mother is a purifying substance in CT 21/BD 169. The Apis bull is mentioned, along with Mnevis, another sacred bull, in the twenty-fifth instruction of the Demotic Papyrus Insinger, a text of ethical instruction, in a chapter against retaliation. The author says that “Apis and Mnevis abide at the window of Pharaoh forever. They will do good to him who will listen to these words,” i.e. they will reward the person who knows better than to seek retaliation (Lichtheim vol. 3, p. 213).

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One Response to “Apis”

  1. […] Apis was a bull, required to have specific color markings, who was the living icon of Ptah. His worship […]

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