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Apis, an Egyptian bull god, was the personification of the creator god Ptah in Memphis. He is an intermediary between the supreme god and human beings. His mother Isis could engender him in a lightening flash. The bull is depicted as being totally black, except for the small white triangle on its forehead, and having vulture wings. Between the horns are surmounted the dun disc, or in later times the moon, and the uraeus.

The cult of the bull is very ancient and is attested in Egypt since around 3000 BCE. According to the Greek author Herodotus, huge statues of Apis supported the temple of Ptah in Memphis. In a ritual of vitality, the king paced along side the bull to renew his strength. The average lifespan of an Apis bull was fourteen years, after which it was mummified and interred in huge sarcophagi, which was placed in the catacombs at the necropolis at Seqqara. The bull also possesses strong underworld connections.

According to the Hebrew Biblical tradition, Apis was the god, which Aaron modeled the Golden Calf after thinking it would be better to make an image of Jehovah in the well-known form of Egyptian idolatry than to risk the total alienation of the people to false gods. A.G.H.


Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 21
Smith's Bible Dictionary, Philadelphia, A. J. Holman, Co., Revised Ed., p. 1

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