(Also Baba, Bebon) A God depicted as a baboon, often with a prominent phallus. In the Pyramid Texts the door-bolt of the sky is referred to as “the phallus of Babi” (utterance 313), and the king identifies himself with Babi, “Lord of the night sky, Bull of the baboons” (320; similarly in spell 668 of the Coffin Texts, “To become Babi in the realm of the dead”) but also requires protection from Babi, as in utterance 549: “Get back, Babi, red of ear and purple of hindquarters!” In this spell it is said that Babi has stolen a portion of sacrificial meat allotted to an unspecified Goddess. Babi (like Seth) expresses the qualities of vigor and sexual potency in the fullness of their ambivalence, always testing any established limits whether social or natural. In the Coffin Texts the deceased says “I am the phallus of Babi” (822) and “my protection is Babi” (945), and in spell 359 “I am Babi, the eldest son of Osiris.” Babi is also mentioned as “having power over water” as “the oar of Re,” probably a phallic reference. The phallus of Babi, “which creates children and begets calves” is the mast of the netherworld ferry-boat in spell 397, and several other parts of the boat are identified with him in 398. Once again, however, Babi is ambivalent; for his phallus is also the mast of the boat of the netherworld fishermen who threaten the deceased with their nets (473); however this boat is given a positive value in the course of this spell insofar as the deceased is to be a passenger on it. The boat itself, then, of which Babi is an integral part, can either be a trap or a conveyance, depending upon the mode in which one engages it, hence the importance in these ‘boat’ spells of knowing the names of each of the boat’s parts, which form a system of divine identifications that make of the boat a model of the cosmos.

Another instance of Babi’s ambivalence is his seeming potential to cause symbolic impotence, which is implied by the reference in spell 548, a spell against being ferried to the east (indicating perhaps counter-solar motion) or “dying again in the realm of the dead,” to the phallus of Re “which goes awry for him in uproar, the inertness of which comes into being through Babi.” In the version of this spell appearing in the Book of the Dead, however (93), it seems as if the phallus of Re, which is “more active than he [Re] when passionate,” transforms Re’s “torpidity” into “that of Babi,” implying either that Re borrows Babi’s potency and therefore renders him ‘torpid’ instead, or that Re becomes no longer torpid, and thus like Babi. The deceased, at any rate, identifies with this purely phallic power in order to “grow more powerful thereby than the Powerful,” so as to threaten that if any harm comes to him/her “then this phallus of Re shall swallow the head of Osiris.” This is another instance in which the deceased, generally identified in the Book of the Dead with Osiris, identifies with forces transcending the passive aspect of Osiris. Naturally the phallus of the deceased is that of Babi in spell 576 of the Coffin Texts, a spell to charge an amulet that empowers the deceased to copulate in the other world. The reference to “Babi of the horizon” in 581 perhaps identifies Babi as chief of the baboons who are traditionally depicted greeting the sun at its dawning, or identifies Babi’s erection with this dawning, or simply applies his strength to this task. In spell 682 the deceased is “the Watcher who goes forth from food-offerings, Babi who goes forth from the Castle,” Babi perhaps being a symbol of the power of the Gods to enforce their will. In the Book of the Dead, Babi is a member, along with Shu, Re and Osiris of “the great Council that is in Naref,” a tribunal before which Thoth defends the deceased against his/her “enemies” (18). In spell 63 Babi is “first son of Osiris, whom every God united to himself,” as at Coffin Texts 359 where Babi “assembled every God,” presumably because his phallic potency is  common to all the Gods. And yet the deceased must still ensure (spell 125) that the Gods “rescue me from Babi, who lives on the entrails of the elders, on this day of the great accounting.” Thus the texts are remarkably consistent in their depiction of Babi as a force of sheer natural vitality whose disposition toward one is wholly dependent upon one’s ability to correctly harness it.

Return to Index

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: