Beset is the female counterpart to Bes, but since she appears typically on amulets which seldom label the deities depicted on them, the name ‘Beset’ is used to refer to a general type of female divinity either closely resembling Bes or accompanying him. Sometimes Beset looks so similar to Bes that some have spoken of a ‘hermaphrodite Bes’ rather than of a female counterpart to Bes (a thesis rejected by Ward 1972). Other depictions of ‘Beset’ are as a naked female, who is not a dwarf like Bes, but has a lion’s ears and tail (see Bosse-Griffiths 1977); or, in contrast, as a female dwarf without non-human characteristics, with a hairstyle typical of Nubians, usually nude, and sometimes pregnant. This latter type sometimes carries Bes on her shoulders, and sometimes stands atop an antelope, a frog or a papyrus stalk (see Bulté 1991). Beset, like Bes, may be shown holding snakes or mastering other dangerous animals, especially on ivory ‘magic knives’. Sometimes Beset is suckling an infant baboon or a Bes-like infant. Beset shares with Bes the function of protecting the health of the living, especially women and young children.

An enigmatic cosmogonic text from the temple of Horus at Edfu seems to refer, if not to Beset, then to a figure very much like her: “A lotus came forth in which was a youth who illuminates this land with his beams; and there was ejected a lotus bud in which was a dwarf maiden whom the shining one delights to see,” (Edfu I, 289/pl. 319). Similarly, a fragmentary demotic text (Berlin demotic papyrus 13603, 2, 8) has been read to say “a dwarf maiden has come forth from the lotus bud,” (cited in Ryhiner 1986, 143 n. 7). The cosmogony in which this “dwarf maiden” featured is not known other than from these allusions, but the surrounding material at Edfu places it in a Hermopolitan context involving the Ogdoad and Thoth. She invites comparison to Beset, not only as a dwarf, but also because of the joy she brings to the ‘shining youth’, reminiscent of the role Bes plays in entertaining Hathor and her son Ihy.

Bosse-Griffiths, Kate. 1977. “A Beset Amulet from the Amarna Period.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 63: 98-106.
Bulté, Jeanne. 1991. Talismans Égyptiens d’Heureuse Maternité. Paris: Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
Ryhiner, Marie-Louise. 1986. L’Offrande du Lotus dans les Temples Égyptiens de l’Époque Tardive. Brussels: Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth.
Ward, William A. 1972. “A Unique Beset Figurine.” Orientalia 41: 149-159.

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One Response to “Beset”

  1. […] Textual evidence for Beset is rare and tangential. She may appear in text as a “dwarf maiden” who emerges from a lotus bud (see Edward P. Butler’s Beset entry here). […]

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