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In Egyptian mythology, most gods had animal representations or were portrayed as animals themselves. That is the case of Babi, the baboon god of the Underworld and virility. He is not a major god, nor is he featured in many myths, but he was an influential figure nonetheless. Here’s a closer look at his story.
Who Was Babi?
Babi, also known as Baba, was one of the several baboon gods that existed in Ancient Egypt. He was essentially a deification of the hamadryas baboon, an animal that was commonly found in the more arid zones of ancient Egypt. The name Babi means ‘the bull’ of the baboons, implying his status as the leader or the alpha-male among the other primates. Babi was the dominant male of the baboons, and as such, an aggressive specimen.
According to some sources, Babi was the first-born son of the god of the dead, Osiris. Unlike other deities, he stood out for his violence and his fury. Babi represented destruction and was a god associated with the Underworld.
Baboons in Ancient Egypt
The Ancient Egyptians had strong opinions regarding the baboons. These animals were a symbol of high libido, violence, and frenzy. In this sense, they were considered dangerous creatures. Furthermore, people believed that baboons represented the dead, and in some cases, that they were the reincarnation of ancestors. Because of that, baboons were associated with death and with the affairs of the Underworld.
The Role of Babi in Egyptian Mythology
According to some sources, Babi devoured humans to satiate his bloodlust. In other accounts, he was the deity who destroyed the souls deemed unworthy after being weighed against the feather of Ma’at in the Underworld. He was an executioner, and people feared him for this job. Some people believed that Babi could also control dark and dangerous waters and keep snakes away.
Besides being the executioner, Babi was the god of virility. Most of his depictions show him with an erect phallus and uncontrollable sex and lust. There are some myths about the phallus of Babi. In one of these myths, his erected penis was the mast of the ferryboat of the Underworld. Besides being the god of virility on earth, people also prayed to this god for their deceased relatives to have an active sexual life in the afterlife.
Worship of Babi
The central worship place of Babi was the city of Hermopolis. People worshipped Babi and other baboon gods in this city, asking them for their favor and protection.
Hermopolis had been the religious center where people worshipped the first baboon god, Hedjer. After they ousted Hedjer, the people of Hermopolis took Babi as their principal deity during the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt. Years later, during the Roman rule, Hermopolis would become the religious center where people worshipped the god of wisdom, Thoth.
Symbolism of Babi
As a deity, Babi had all the features of a baboon. He was aggressive, sex-driven, and uncontrollable. This representation could have been a symbol of the wild side of Ancient Egypt.
Babi was a symbol of:
- Sexual lust
- High libido
People worshipped him to appease that violence and to retain virility both in life and in death.
Babi was a minor character compared to other deities of Ancient Egypt. However, his part in the events of Egyptian culture was significant. His sexual nature and his violent behavior earned him a spot among the most interesting gods of this culture. For this and more, Babi and the baboons had a valuable role in Egyptian mythology.