Gods of Ancient Egypt: Banebdjed

Banebdjedet

As Osiris was the ancient Egyptian lord of the dead, his "Ba" was worshipped in its own right in Ancient Egypt (especially in the city of Djedet in the Delta) and name Banebdjed (sometimes the feminine form Banebdjedet was also used as he absorbed the position of his sometime consort Hatmehyt). This name is translated as "the ba (essence or power) of the lord of the Djed" and refers to the notion that the Djed pillar (which represented stability) was thought to be the backbone of Osiris. This gives us an interesting insight into the ancient Egyptian view of death. Although they feared death, they recognised the stability and balance inherent in the cycle of decay and rebirth.

Donation stele with curse inscription featuring Banebdjed, Third Intermediate Period of Ancient Egypt copyright one dead president

A person's Ba was not their soul, but their essence (it can be translated as power, effectiveness, reputation or charisma), and the Ba was represented by the hieroglyph for a "ram". As a result, Banebdjed was depicted as a ram or ram-headed man and a living "sacred ram" (thought to embody the god's essence) was worshipped in the city of Djedet (close to Osiris' cult center at Djedu). The rams were mummified and buried with all of the pomp and ceremony of a Pharaoh in their own necropolis.

During the late period. Banebdjed was referred to as "the goat of Mendes" by the Greeks who mispronunced the phrase Ba-neb-Djetet ('Ram lord of Djedet') and named the city Mendes. "The goat of Mendes" has been linked by some esoteric scholars to Baphomet (the "false god" the Templars were accused of worshipping) and transformed into a satanic stereotype by others. The only slight problem with this is that Banebdjedt was not a goat, but a ram, and he (or she) was not considered to be evil or even agressive.

Banebdjed was given the epithets "lord of the Sky" and "lord of life" echoing the titles of the sun god Ra. Over time Atum became associated with Re, who amongst other things was an important god of kingship. Osiris was, therefore, considered to be a descendent of Ra and the first Pharaoh. As Banebdjed, he was married to a local fish-goddess Hatmehyt ("Foremost of fish") who was associated with Isis, and was considered to have fathered Horus (the child).

copyright J Hill 2010
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