Symbol of fertility, eternity, divinity, and healing.

Apis was the most important bull deity of Ancient Egypt. Aspis was one of the first animals in Egypt associated with eternity and divinity. Aspis was a symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt. Many other bull deities existed in ancient Egypt, but Aspis was the dominant one. Apis was originally depicted as a walking bull with a serpent and solar disc between its horns. The solar disc is a representation of Hathor, the mother of Apis. In later periods of Egyptian history, he is depicted as a man with a bull’s head. He was always associated with the king of Egypt. Apis is also considered an embodiment of the god Ptah, the creator god.

Apis Bull

In order for a bull to be considered Apis in ancient Egypt, he had to have certain markings. There needed to be a vulture wing on its back, a triangle on its forehead, a white crescent on its right flank, and a scarab mark under its tongue. When a bull was determined to be Apis, it would be brought to the temple and worshipped as an incarnation of Ptah. The bull would be given a harem of cows and would be treated as an oracle. The bull’s mother would be treated specially and would be given a special burial. Apis would be led through the city wearing jewelry and flowers, and there would be a window in the temple where everyone could view him. His presence near someone would bless that person with strength, and his breath cured diseases. The bull was killed after twenty-five years unless it died sooner. The death of Apis symbolized the life cycle – life, death, and resurrection. When Apis was slaughtered to preserve his youthful looks, some priestesses would lift their skirts and bathe in his blood to promote fertility. After the ceremony, Apis would be mummified and buried in his own chamber. In the afterlife, Apis reconnects with Osiris and is reborn as another bull on Earth. Apis was considered to be a protector of the dead. His horns symbolized protection and were often found on pharaoh’s tombs. When Alexander the Great of Greece took over Egypt, Apis morphed into Osiris-Apis and then Serapis.

Apis Bull

When Apsis transitioned to Serapis, he became a bearded god whose right hand rested on Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the underworld, and whose left hand held an upraised sceptre. He was considered a god of fertility and healing with connections to the underworld. He was also worshiped as a Sun god. With the transformation to the god Serapis, his wife became Isis, who was the wife of Osiris, and his son was Horus.

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