God Apis

The Apis bull is  a rare example of the Egyptians worshipping a living  animal as a god. The Apis was a special bull believed to  be a god by the ancient Egyptians. He was worshipped  during his life and then mummified when he died. The cult of the Apis was central to Egyptian  religion and dates from Egypt’s earliest settlements.  Because of its strength and virility, the bull was  associated with the pharaoh and his divinity. The cult  of the Apis, associated with Ptah, the creator god of  Memphis, was very popular during the reign of the  Ptolemies, Greeks who ruled Egypt from the city of  Alexandria (332–32 b.c.).

God Apis

According to the Greek historian Herodotus,  a bolt of lightning came down from heaven and impregnated the mother of the Apis. The Apis calf  had special markings: It was black with a white dia- mond on its forehead, an eagle on its back, a scarab  under its tongue, and split tail hairs. There was only one Apis bull alive at any time.  When the bull died, all of Egypt mourned, and a  search for the new Apis calf began. In general, the  Egyptian religion was based on the idea of resurrection: When a person died, he or she could resurrect  in the next world. When the Apis bull died, however,  the Egyptians seemed to believe in reincarnation,  that the bull would be born again in this world in the  body of another bull.

During its lifetime, the Apis was pampered, perfumed, and adored each day in luxurious surroundings  at the temple complex in Memphis. The cow that gave  birth to the Apis was also venerated and associated  with Isis as a divine mother; when the cow died, it was  buried in a special tomb called the Iseum. When the Apis bull died, it was mummified on a  huge alabaster table, and several of these mummifica- tion tables can still be seen at the site of the ancient  city of Memphis.

After the rites of mummification,  the Apis was taken in sacred procession to a special  burial place, the serapeum, an extensive underground  cavern at Saqqara that held the granite sarcophagus  of each Apis bull. After death the Apis became one  with Osiris and was called Osirapis (see Serapis).  The Apis bull was one of three sacred bulls in ancient  Egypt (see the Buchis and the Mnevis bulls). The cult of the Apis bull was so popular and so  important to the Egyptians that when the invading  Persian king Cambyses (ruled 525–522 b.c.) reached  the city of Memphis, he could think of no greater  insult than to kill and eat the Apis bull.


Egyptian Akhet 

The exact spot on the horizon where  Nut, the sky goddess, gives birth to Re the sun god  each morning. Egyptian mythology relates that at  the end of each day, when the sun set, the sun god  traveled through the 12 hours of night, crossing the Underworld.

When the sun appeared on the horizon  at dawn, it was recognized as a sign of rebirth and  renewal and a triumph over darkness. The heretic  king Akhenaten believed the akhet appeared on the  horizon to show him where to build Akhet-Aten, his  new city in the desert. Akhet is the hieroglyph for horizon, and the word  akhet is also the name of one of the three seasons in  the ancient Egyptian calendar. It was the first season  after the Egyptian new year and corresponds with  our month of July.

 Amulets in the shape of the akhet  represented Re the sun god and provided powerful  protection to the wearer. Akhet amulets are almost  always redcarved from carnelian or made of red  glass or faience.