Apep (Apophis) the Dragon

Apep was the ancient Egyptian deity who embodied chaos and thus was the opponent of light and order. He appears in art as a giant dragon and was first mentioned in the Eighth Dynasty.

Apep [Also known as Apophis in Greece] was an Ancient Egyptian serpent demon that was the nemesis of the gods Set and Ra. When Set, Isis, and Ra decided that they too should be given power to rule over Egypt; Apep refused to give them anything. The three Gods rebelled against Apep and were able to defeat him and throw him to the underworld. Apep was furious and vowed to take his revenge on them. He made his way through the underworld, to a place where he knew Ra must travel to put the sun into the sky. So, every morning, Ra is forced to have a great battle with Apep. Most of the time, aided by Set, Ra prevails and kills Apep. So, the Sun rises. Beceause Apep is already at the underworld’s edge, he comes back to life in the underworld every time he is killed. So, the fight continues every day. On the rare occasion of a solar eclipse, the Egyptians say that Apep has actually manages to swallow Ra. The eclipse ends beceause the Gods traveling with Ra kill Apep and cut him open to free Ra. Apep was not worshiped, rather hated and put down by those that worshiped Ra.

Translation: Apophis, ‘he who was spat out’
Alternative names: Apep, Aaapef, Ap, Apap, Apepi, Pepi, Aapep, Apop, Apopis
Epithets: The Great Rebel, The Evil One, Evil Lizard, Opponent and Enemy to the World, the World Encircler, The Serpent of Rebirth
Type/Species: Sea Serpent
Origin: Egyptian Mythology

About Apophis

Apophis is often assumed to be the unnamed serpent-demon that tried to swallow the nun before creation, but was forced to regurgitate them. The monstrous serpent embodied the destructive aspects of chaos, constantly threatening to reduce everything back to the primeval state of singularity or ‘oneness’; in this way, even before creation existed, the world contained the basis of its own eventual destruction. Thus, according to some myths, Apophis was neither born nor created. He simply was an embodiment of the forces churning within the nun.

In the second century BC, on the wall of Esna temple, an alternative story of Apophis’s existence was described. The goddess Neith spat into the primeval waters, and he sprang up from her saliva. Alternatively, Neith was the first being on the primordial mound, and she gave birth to the sun. Ra, blinded by his own brilliance, couldn’t see his own mother when she called out to him, so he shed the tears that formed humanity and exerted the principle of duality: light could not exist without dark. Therefore, immediately after the creation of the sun, the darkness, Apophis, was born as the antithesis of Ra, from his very tears.

Unlike other deities, there was never a formal cult or any kind of popular veneration surrounding Apophis; he was always a power to be protected against.

In Egyptian mythology, he was the ‘moon-serpent’ that emerged from the great abyss, filling the underworld with his horrific roar. Apophis abided in the darkness and rebelled against all order. He was the most dangerous of the chaotic entities and constantly threatened the divine order, and it was widely held that he would continue to exist in an endless cycle of battle, defeat, and battle.

The serpent sometimes consumed the souls of mortals on their journey between this life and the afterlife, sending them into nonexistence, unless they were rescued by one of the other deities. However, even the gods themselves were not safe from the reach of the cosmic serpent. The underworld books of Egypt, such as the Book of Gates and the Book of Caverns, contain detailed maps of the underworld, which include depictions of each of the gates (also called ‘hours’ or ‘caverns’) with hundreds of monsters and deities. These books revealed vulnerability in the divine order by depicting the ordeals of the sun god and his companions by the actions of Apophis.

Symbolizing all the dark elements of existence, Apophis represents death, night, and storms. When not in the underworld, he lived deep in the Nile, where his presence explained the hidden sandbanks that presented unsightly danger to boats on the Nile. Frightening natural events were all directly connected to the work of Apophis, such as the sudden darkness from an eclipse or an oncoming storm. The movement of his body could create earthquakes, and his eyes were particularly feared. Thus, hymns to the sun contain passages of Apophis being pierced by lances or sliced by knives.

Apophis and the Sun

The sun deity, Ra, descended in the west, and for twelve hours, he traveled through the perilous underworld, where the monstrous serpent Apophis led the forces of chaos to thwart his progress. Ra and his boat were both protected by other deities, including the god Seth, who fought the great serpent every night. Event he souls of the dead participated in this struggle, fighting snakes, crocodiles, and even Apophis himself. This nightly battle must end in the victory of the sun, for Ra’s transcendence into dawn was vital to the continuing existence of all forms of life.

Every day, Apophis lay in wait for Ra to journey through the underworld. The serpent’s wide jaws were ready to consume the light of the world. The evil serpent was beaten back and slaughtered, by the guardians of Ra, such as the powerful serpent Mehen, but Apophis always came back to life, no matter how many times he was killed. The other forces of chaos presented their own dangers to the sun-ship, but Apophis attacked specifically at the seventh and twelfth hours, forcing the powerful deities of the solar barque to fight in kind.

As the embodiment of dissolution and non-being, Apophis hypnotized Ra and even his guardians; all except for the strongest of the gods, Seth, who resisted the deadly stare and repelled his attack with a spear, or lance, or sometimes a club. Apophis’s great coils, sometimes called sandbanks in their own right, could trap the solar barque; alternatively, the serpent might swallow the waters of the underworld to strand the boat. So every night, much of the Egyptian pantheon sought to destroy the chaotic snake, down to the last aspect of his being: his body, his name, his magic, and even his shadow.

Sometimes, Apophis would succeed and swallow down Ra and the solar barque, causing an eclipse, but the chaos serpent was always forced to regurgitate the deity, allowing for the sun’s re-emergence. In some variations of this myth, the regurgitation of the sun was seen as a metaphor of rebirth.

Apophis was indestructible, but in many stories he was dismembered, usually by Ra in the form of a feline. In one myth, Ra in the form of the Great Tom Cat battled Apophis till he decapitated him under the sacred ished tree “on the night of making war and driving off the rebels.” The Book of the Dead prophesized that the earth will return to the nun, to the endless flood as it was at the beginning. There will be no deities or monsters, just Atum-Re, the Lord of All, in his final manifestation as a serpent swimming through the great primordial ocean. The perpetual struggle between Seth and Apophis was likely related to the battle in the mythic past when the planet was still ruled directly by the deities. Seth challenged Yam who threatened to swallow the whole of the world, and overcame the sea monster to protect the earth.

Source: http://www.blackdrago.com/fame/apep.htm

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