Worshiping lesser gods is common in all cultures, including traditional African culture. Europeans thought the lesser gods of Africa were evil, so they brought Christianity to them to change their “ungodly” ways. However, some of these lesser gods aided the ancient Africans in more significant ways.
Bes is one of the lesser gods who was popular in ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom because he assisted people in having children and caring for women. Bes, the ancient Egyptian god of pregnancy and childbirth, was also a protector of both mothers and unborn children. He was also worshiped as a sexual deity, a humorist, and a war god.
He is typically depicted as a short man with large ears, a beard and long hair, protruding genitalia, and bow legs. Before going into battle, warriors are said to carve images of Bes, the god of safety and protection, onto their shields and goblets.
Beset, Bes’ female counterpart, is invoked in rituals to exorcise ghosts, witchcraft, demons, and other supernatural evils. According to the World History Encyclopedia, Bes is a demon rather than a god. The term “devil” should not, however, be used in its modern sense.
Bes was first and foremost worshiped as a fertility deity associated with childbirth. If a woman was having difficulty conceiving, she could spend the night in the Bes Chamber (also known as an incubation chamber) at Dendera’s Temple of Hathor. There were images of a naked Bes with upright genitalia and a naked goddess in the Ptolemaic-era Bes Chambers. These were intended to aid fertility and health. According to legend, women frequently used or carried items that resembled the god and had tattoos of his image on their bodies.
Egyptian “old women” most likely retold stories about Bes, but those accounts have been lost to the passage of time. The majority of evidence for dwarf deities comes from visual artifacts. They’re common on makeup cases, dressers, and wands. Indeed, the Bes dynasty’s amulets and figurines were widely collected for nearly two thousand years. According to Egyptologist Geraldine Pinch, women have been known to get Bes tattoos in order to improve their sexual lives or fertility.
Since the New Kingdom, whenever representations of birth or fertility were made, Bes was usually shown next to Taweret, a female god who was usually pregnant. Pinch also claimed that during the first millennium B.C., both Bes and Taweret served as protectors of the celestial children venerated in temple Birth Houses. The god Bes is said to be responsible for releasing the uterine walls so that a baby can be born, according to magical and religious traditions.
Bes is one of the best Egyptian deities. While his size would not get him hired to walk our runways, his distinct and endearing appearance captured the hearts of Ancient Egyptians and spread to the Roman Empire, Cyprus, Syria, and beyond. Bes images were common in ancient Egyptian household decoration. His image appears on many everyday items as a form of protection, including mirrors, cosmetics containers, and even bedheads.