Monday, 16 June 2014

Bes in Relation to Ancient Egyptian Medicine

Bes was the god of pregnancy and childbirth; protector of the home and particularly of women and infants.
Bes was believed to exert a particularly favourable influence in pregnancy and childbirth and therefore was often represented in birth houses attached to temples. His curative and protective powers were far ranging. His image was a popular amulet carried by the living and buried with the dead. Furthermore his head usually appears above the ‘Horus the Saviour’ on cippi.
The presence of Bes on these objects reflects the combination of the practical and the magic in Egyptian art.The kohl tube has two compartments, one for green paint and the other for black.
Besides its cosmetic value eye paint had medicinal uses. It was used to prevent diseases of the eyes , repelling flies and other disease bearing organisms. The ancient Egyptians were probably unaware of the diseases these insects transmitted and ascribed illness instead to the actions of malevolent supernatural forces. The grotesque figure of Bes, sometimes enhanced with a fearsome grimace was believed to deter the approach of such forces.

Dynasty 18, 1400 BC, glazed stealite, Edward S Harkness Gift, 1926.

Dynasty 27, 500 BC, Faience, gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989.

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