Baal, properly Baʿal, was a title and honorific meaning "owner," "lord" in the Northwest Semitic languages spoken in the Levant during antiquity. From its use among people, it came to be applied to gods. Scholars associated the theonym with solar cults and with a variety of unrelated patron deities, but inscriptions have shown that the name Baʿal was associated with the storm and fertility god Hadad and his local manifestations; the Hebrew Bible and curated over a span of centuries, includes generic use of the term in reference to various Levantine deities, pointed application towards Hadad, decried as a false god. That use was taken over into Christianity and Islam, sometimes under the opprobrious form Beelzebub in demonology; the spelling of the English term "Baal" derives from the Greek Báal, which appears in the New Testament and Septuagint, from its Latinized form Baal, which appears in the Vulgate. These forms in turn derive from the vowel-less Northwest Semitic form BʿL; the word's biblical senses as a Phoenician deity and false gods were extended during the Protestant Reformation to denote any idols, icons of the saints, or the Catholic Church generally.
In such contexts, it follows the anglicized pronunciation and omits any mark between its two As. In close transliteration of the Semitic name, the ayin is represented, as Baʿal. In the Northwest Semitic languages—Ugaritic, Hebrew and Aramaic—the word baʿal signified "owner" and, by extension, "lord", a "master", or "husband". Cognates include the Akkadian Bēlu, Amharic bal, Arabic baʿl. Báʿal and baʿl still serve as the words for "husband" in modern Arabic respectively, they appear in some contexts concerning the ownership of things or possession of traits. The feminine form is baʿalah, meaning "mistress" in the sense of a female owner or lady of the house and still serving as a rare word for "wife". Suggestions in early modern scholarship included comparison with the Celtic god Belenus. Like EN in Sumerian, the Akkadian bēlu and Northwest Semitic baʿal was used as a title of various deities in the Mesopotamian and Semitic pantheons. Only a definitive article, genitive or epithet, or context could establish which particular god was meant.
Baʿal was used as a proper name by the third millennium BCE, when he appears in a list of deities at Abu Salabikh. Most modern scholarship asserts that this Baʿal—usually distinguished as "The Lord" —was identical with the storm and fertility god Hadad. Scholars propose that, as the cult of Hadad increased in importance, his true name came to be seen as too holy for any but the high priest to speak aloud and the alias "Lord" was used instead, as "Bel" was used for Marduk among the Babylonians and "Adonai" for Yahweh among the Israelites. A minority propose that Baʿal was a native Canaanite deity whose cult was identified with or absorbed aspects of Adad's. Regardless of their original relationship, by the 1st millennium BCE, the two were distinct: Hadad was worshipped by the Aramaeans and Baʿal by the Phoenicians and other Canaanites; the Phoenician Baʿal is identified with either El or Dagan. Baʿal is well-attested in surviving inscriptions and was popular in theophoric names throughout the Levant but he is mentioned along with other gods, "his own field of action being defined".
Nonetheless, Ugaritic records show him as a weather god, with particular power over lightning, wind and fertility. The dry summers of the area were explained as Baʿal's time in the underworld and his return in autumn was said to cause the storms which revived the land. Thus, the worship of Baʿal in Canaan—where he supplanted El as the leader of the gods and patron of kingship—was connected to the regions' dependence on rainfall for its agriculture, unlike Egypt and Mesopotamia, which focused on irrigation from their major rivers. Anxiety about the availability of water for crops and trees increased the importance of his cult, which focused attention on his role as a rain god, he was called upon during battle, showing that he was thought to intervene in the world of man, unlike the more aloof El. The Lebanese city of Baalbeck was named after Baal; the Baʿal of Ugarit was the epithet of Hadad but as the time passed, the epithet became the god's name while Hadad became the epithet. Baʿal was said to be the son of Dagan, but appears as one of the sons of El in Ugaritic sources.
Both Baʿal and El were associated with the bull in Ugaritic texts, as it symbolized both strength and fertility. The virgin goddess ʿAnat was his sister and sometimes credited with a child through him, he held special enmity against snakes, both on their own and as representatives of Yammu, the Canaanite sea god and river god. He fought the Tannin, the "Twisted Serpent", "Litan the Fugitive Serpent", the "Mighty One with Seven Heads". Baʿal's conflict with Yammu is now regarded as the prototype of the vision recorded in the 7th chapter of the biblical Book of Daniel; as vanquisher of the sea, Baʿal was regarded by the Canaanites and Phoenicians as the patron of sailors and sea-going merchants. As vanquisher of Mot, the Canaanite death god, he was known as Baʿal Rāpiʾuma and regarded as the leader of the Rephaim, the ancestral spirits those of ruling dynasties. From Canaan, worship of Baʿal spread to Egypt by the Middle Kingdom and throughout the Mediterranean following the waves of Phoenician colonization in the early 1st mill
Horus is one of the most significant ancient Egyptian deities. He was worshipped from at least the late prehistoric Egypt until the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Roman Egypt. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists; these various forms may be different manifestations of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most depicted as a falcon, most a lanner falcon or peregrine falcon, or as a man with a falcon head; the earliest recorded form of Horus is the tutelary deity of Nekhen in Upper Egypt, the first known national god related to the ruling pharaoh who in time came to be regarded as a manifestation of Horus in life and Osiris in death. The most encountered family relationship describes Horus as the son of Isis and Osiris, he plays a key role in the Osiris myth as Osiris's heir and the rival to Set, the murderer of Osiris.
In another tradition Hathor is sometimes as his wife. Horus served many functions, most notably being a god of the sky. Horus is recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs as ḥr.w "Falcon". Additional meanings are thought to have been "the distant one" or "one, above, over"; as the language changed over time, it appeared in Coptic varieties variously as hoːɾ or ħoːɾ and was adopted into ancient Greek as Ὧρος Hōros. It survives in Late Egyptian and Coptic theophoric name forms such as Siese "son of Isis" and Harsiese "Horus, Son of Isis". Nekheny may have been another falcon god worshipped at Nekhen, city of the falcon, with whom Horus was identified from early on. Horus may be shown as a falcon on the Narmer Palette, dating from about the 31st century BC; the Pyramid Texts describe the nature of the pharaoh in different characters as both Horus and Osiris. The pharaoh as Horus in life became the pharaoh as Osiris in death, where he was united with the other gods. New incarnations of Horus succeeded the deceased pharaoh on earth in the form of new pharaohs.
The lineage of Horus, the eventual product of unions between the children of Atum, may have been a means to explain and justify pharaonic power. The gods produced by Atum were all representative of terrestrial forces in Egyptian life. By identifying Horus as the offspring of these forces identifying him with Atum himself, identifying the Pharaoh with Horus, the Pharaoh theologically had dominion over all the world; the notion of Horus as the pharaoh seems to have been superseded by the concept of the pharaoh as the son of Ra during the Fifth Dynasty. Horus was born to the goddess Isis after she retrieved all the dismembered body parts of her murdered husband Osiris, except his penis, thrown into the Nile and eaten by a catfish, or sometimes depicted as instead by a crab, according to Plutarch's account used her magic powers to resurrect Osiris and fashion a phallus to conceive her son. After becoming pregnant with Horus, Isis fled to the Nile Delta marshlands to hide from her brother Set, who jealously killed Osiris and who she knew would want to kill their son.
There Isis bore Horus. Since Horus was said to be the sky, he was considered to contain the sun and moon, it became said that the sun was his right eye and the moon his left, that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. The reason that the moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as The Contendings of Horus and Seth. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until the gods sided with Horus; as Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as ḥr.w wr "Horus the Great", but more translated "Horus the Elder". In the struggle, Set had lost a testicle, Horus' eye was gouged out. Horus was shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as nfr ḥr.w "Good Horus", transliterated Neferhor, Nephoros or Nopheros. The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and royal power from deities, in this case from Horus or Ra.
The symbol is seen on images of Horus' mother, on other deities associated with her. In the Egyptian language, the word for this symbol was "wedjat", it was the eye of one of the earliest of Egyptian deities, who became associated with Bastet and Hathor as well. Wadjet was a solar deity and this symbol began as her all-seeing eye. In early artwork, Hathor is depicted with this eye. Funerary amulets were made in the shape of the Eye of Horus; the Wedjat or Eye of Horus is "the central element" of seven "gold, faience and lapis lazuli" bracelets found on the mummy of Shoshenq II. The Wedjat "was intended to ward off evil. Egyptian and Near Eastern sailors would paint the symbol on the bow of their vessel to ensure safe sea travel. Horus was told by his mother, Isis, to protect the people of Egypt from Set, the god of the desert, who had killed Horus' father, Osiris. Horus had many battles with Set, not only to avenge his father, but to choose the rightful ruler of Egypt. In these battles, Horus came to be associated with Lower Egypt, became its patron.
According to The Contendings of Horus and Seth, Set is depicted
Osiris is the god of the afterlife, the underworld, rebirth in ancient Egyptian religion. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned deity with a pharaoh's beard mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive atef crown, holding a symbolic crook and flail. Osiris was at times considered the eldest son of the god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son, he was associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, meaning "Foremost of the Westerners", a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead. As ruler of the dead, Osiris was sometimes called "king of the living": ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead "the living ones". Through syncretism with Iah, he is the god of the Moon. Osiris was considered the brother of Isis, Set and Horus the Elder, father of Horus the Younger; the first evidence of the worship of Osiris was found in the middle of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, although it is that he was worshiped much earlier.
Most information available on the myths of Osiris is derived from allusions contained in the Pyramid Texts at the end of the Fifth Dynasty New Kingdom source documents such as the Shabaka Stone and the Contending of Horus and Seth, much in narrative style from the writings of Greek authors including Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus. Osiris was the judge of the dead and the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River, he was described as "He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful" and the "Lord of Silence". The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death – as Osiris rose from the dead so would they in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic. Through the hope of new life after death, Osiris began to be associated with the cycles observed in nature, in particular vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile, through his links with the heliacal rising of Orion and Sirius at the start of the new year.
Osiris was worshipped until the decline of ancient Egyptian religion during the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Osiris is a Latin transliteration of the Ancient Greek Ὄσιρις IPA:, which in turn is the Greek adaptation of the original name in the Egyptian language. In Egyptian hieroglyphs the name appears as wsjr, which some Egyptologists instead choose to transliterate ꜣsjr or jsjrj. Since hieroglyphic writing lacks vowels, Egyptologists have vocalized the name in various ways, such as Asar, Ausir, Usir, or Usire. Several proposals have been made for the meaning of the original name. Most take wsjr as the accepted transliteration, following Adolf Erman: John Gwyn Griffiths, "bearing in mind Erman's emphasis on the fact that the name must begin with an w", proposes a derivation from wsr with an original meaning of "The Mighty One". Moreover, one of the oldest attestations of the god Osiris appears in the mastaba of the deceased Netjer-wser. Kurt Sethe proposes a compound st-jrt, meaning "seat of the eye", in a hypothetical earlier form *wst-jrt.
David Lorton takes up this same compound but explains st-jrt as signifying "product, something made", Osiris representing the product of the ritual mummification process. Wolfhart Westendorf proposes an etymology from wꜣst-jrt "she who bears the eye". Mark J. Smith makes no definitive proposals but asserts that the second element must be a form of jrj; however alternative transliterations have been proposed: Yoshi Muchiki reexamines Erman's evidence that the throne hieroglyph in the word is to be read ws and finds it unconvincing, suggesting instead that the name should be read ꜣsjr on the basis of Aramaic and Old South Arabian transcriptions, readings of the throne sign in other words, comparison with ꜣst. James P. Allen reads the word as jsjrt but revises the reading to jsjrj and derives it from js-jrj, meaning "engendering principle". Osiris is represented in his most developed form of iconography wearing the Atef crown, similar to the White crown of Upper Egypt, but with the addition of two curling ostrich feathers at each side.
He carries the crook and flail. The crook is thought to represent Osiris as a shepherd god; the symbolism of the flail is more uncertain with shepherds whip, fly-whisk, or association with the god Andjety of the ninth nome of Lower Egypt proposed. He was depicted as a pharaoh with a complexion of either green or black in mummiform; the Pyramid Texts describe early conceptions of an afterlife in terms of eternal travelling with the sun god amongst the stars. Amongst these mortuary texts, at the beginning of the 4th dynasty, is found: "An offering the king gives and Anubis". By the end of the 5th dynasty, the formula in all tombs becomes "An offering the king gives and Osiris". Osiris is the mythological father of the god Horus, whose conception is described in the Osiris myth; the myth describes Osiris as having been killed by his brother, Set
Isis was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Isis was first mentioned in the Old Kingdom as one of the main characters of the Osiris myth, in which she resurrects her slain husband, the divine king Osiris, produces and protects his heir, Horus, she was believed to help the dead enter the afterlife as she had helped Osiris, she was considered the divine mother of the pharaoh, likened to Horus. Her maternal aid was invoked in healing spells to benefit ordinary people, she played a limited role in royal rituals and temple rites, although she was more prominent in funerary practices and magical texts. She was portrayed in art as a human woman wearing a throne-like hieroglyph on her head. During the New Kingdom, as she took on traits that belonged to Hathor, the preeminent goddess of earlier times, Isis came to be portrayed wearing Hathor's headdress: a sun disk between the horns of a cow. In the first millennium BCE, Osiris and Isis became the most worshipped of Egyptian deities, Isis absorbed traits from many other goddesses.
Rulers in Egypt and its neighbor to the south, began to build temples dedicated to Isis, her temple at Philae was a religious center for Egyptians and Nubians alike. Isis's reputed magical power was greater than that of all other gods, she was said to protect the kingdom from its enemies, govern the skies and the natural world, have power over fate itself. In the Hellenistic period, when Egypt was ruled and settled by Greeks, Isis came to be worshipped by Greeks and Egyptians, along with a new god, Serapis, their worship diffused into the wider Mediterranean world. Isis's Greek devotees ascribed to her traits taken from Greek deities, such as the invention of marriage and the protection of ships at sea, she retained strong links with Egypt and other Egyptian deities who were popular in the Hellenistic world, such as Osiris and Harpocrates; as Hellenistic culture was absorbed by Rome in the first century BCE, the cult of Isis became a part of Roman religion. Her devotees were a small proportion of the Roman Empire's population but were found all across its territory.
Her following developed distinctive festivals such as the Navigium Isidis, as well as initiation ceremonies resembling those of other Greco-Roman mystery cults. Some of her devotees said; the worship of Isis was ended by the rise of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries CE. Her worship may have influenced Christian beliefs and practices such as the veneration of Mary, but the evidence for this influence is ambiguous and controversial. Isis continues to appear in Western culture in esotericism and modern paganism as a personification of nature or the feminine aspect of divinity. Whereas some Egyptian deities appeared in the late Predynastic Period, neither Isis nor her husband Osiris were mentioned before the Fifth Dynasty. An inscription that may refer to Isis dates to the reign of Nyuserre Ini during that period, she appears prominently in the Pyramid Texts, which began to be written down at the end of the dynasty and whose content may have developed much earlier. Several passages in the Pyramid Texts link Isis with the region of the Nile Delta near Behbeit el-Hagar and Sebennytos, her cult may have originated there.
Many scholars have focused on Isis's name in trying to determine her origins. Her Egyptian name was ꜣst, which became ⲎⲤⲈ in the Coptic form of Egyptian, Wusa in the Meroitic language of Nubia, Ἶσις, on which her modern name is based, in Greek; the hieroglyphic writing of her name incorporates the sign for a throne, which Isis wears on her head as a sign of her identity. The symbol serves as a phonogram, spelling the st sounds in her name, but it may have represented a link with actual thrones; the Egyptian term for a throne was st and may have shared a common etymology with Isis's name. Therefore, the Egyptologist Kurt Sethe suggested she was a personification of thrones. Henri Frankfort agreed, believing that the throne was considered the king's mother, thus a goddess, because of its power to make a man into a king. Other scholars, such as Jürgen Osing and Klaus P. Kuhlmann, have disputed this interpretation, because of dissimilarities between Isis's name and the word for a throne or a lack of evidence that the throne was deified.
The cycle of myth surrounding Osiris's death and resurrection was first recorded in the Pyramid Texts and grew into the most elaborate and influential of all Egyptian myths. Isis plays a more active role in this myth than the other protagonists, so as it developed in literature from the New Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period, she became the most complex literary character of all Egyptian deities. At the same time, she absorbed characteristics from many other goddesses, broadening her significance well beyond the Osiris myth. Isis is part of the Ennead of Heliopolis, a family of nine gods descended from the creator god, Atum or Ra, she and her siblings—Osiris and Nephthys—are the last generation of the Ennead, born to Geb, god of the earth, Nut, goddess of the sky. The creator god, the world's original ruler, passes down his authority through the male generations of the Ennead, so that Osiris becomes king. Isis, Osiris's wife as well as his sister, is his queen. Set kills Osiris and, in several versions of the story, dismembers his corpse.
Isis and Nephthys, along with other deities such as Anubis, search for the pieces of their brother's body and reassemble it. Their efforts are the mythic prototype for mummification and other anc
Malakbêl was a sun deity of the city of Palmyra in pre-Islamic Syria. The meaning, in Aramaic, is “Messenger of Baal" or "Messenger, or Angel, of the Lord"; the Greek identified Malakbel with Hermes, the Romans with Sol. He was similar to the Babylonian sun god Shamash. Malakbel is accompanied by the Moon god Aglibol, sometimes the goddess Allat
Atargatis or Ataratheh was the chief goddess of northern Syria in Classical antiquity. Ctesias used the name Derketo for her, the Romans called her Dea Syria, or in one word Deasura, she was a goddess of fertility, but, as the baalat of her city and people, she was responsible for their protection and well-being. Her chief sanctuary was at Hierapolis, modern Manbij, northeast of Syria, she is sometimes described as a mermaid-goddess, due to identification of her with a fish-bodied goddess at Ascalon. However, there is no evidence that Atargatis was worshipped at Ascalon, all iconographic evidence shows her as anthropomorphic. Michael Rostovtzeff called her "the great mistress of the North Syrian lands", her consort is Hadad. As Ataratheh and fish were considered sacred to her: doves as an emblem of the Love-Goddess, fish as symbolic of the fertility and life of the waters. According to a third-century Syriac source, "In Syria and in Urhâi the men used to castrate themselves in honor of Taratha.
But when King Abgar became a believer, he commanded that anyone who emasculated himself should have a hand cut off. And from that day to the present no one in Urhâi emasculates himself anymore." Atargatis is seen as a continuation of Bronze Age goddesses. At Ugarit, cuneiform tablets attest the three great Canaanite goddesses: ʾAṭirat, described as a fecund "Lady Goddess of the Sea"; the name Atargatis derives from the Aramaic form ʿAtarʿatheh. At Hierapolis Bambyce on coins of about the 4th century BCE, the legend ʿtrʿth appears, for ʿAtarʿate, ʿtrʿth mnbgyb in a Nabataean inscription; the name ʿAtarʿatheh is held to derive from a compound of the Aramaic form ʿAttar, a cognate of ʿAțtart minus its feminine suffix -t, plus ʿAttah or ʿAtā, a cognate of ʿAnat. Alternatively, the second half may be a Palmyrene divine name ʿAthe, which occurs as part of many compounds, it has been proposed that the element -gatis may relate to the Greek gados "fish".. So Atar-Gatis may mean "the fish-goddess Atar".
As a consequence of the first half of the name, Atargatis has though wrongly, been identified as ‘Ashtart. The two deities were of common origin and have many features in common, but their cults are distinct. There is reference in 2 Maccabees 12.26 and 1 Maccabees 5:43 to an Atargateion or Atergateion, a temple of Atargatis, at Carnion in Gilead, but the home of the goddess was unquestionably not Israel or Canaan, but Syria itself. At Palmyra she appears on the coinage with a lion, or her presence is signalled with a lion and the crescent moon. In the temples of Atargatis at Palmyra and at Dura-Europos she appeared with her consort, in the richly syncretic religious culture at Dura-Europos, was worshipped as Artemis Azzanathkona. Two well preserved temples in Niha, Lebanon are dedicated to Hadad. In the 1930s, numerous Nabatean bas-relief busts of Atargatis were identified by Nelson Glueck at Khirbet et-Tannûr, Jordan, in temple ruins of the early first century CE, her wavy hair, suggesting water to Glueck, was parted in the middle.
At Petra the goddess from the north was syncretised with a North Arabian goddess from the south al-Uzzah, worshipped in the one temple. At Dura-Europus among the attributes of Atargatis are the spindle and the sceptre or fish-spear. At her temples at Ascalon, Hierapolis Bambyce, Edessa, there were fish ponds containing fish only her priests might touch. Glueck noted in 1936 that "to this day there is a sacred fish-pond swarming with untouchable fish at Qubbet el-Baeddwī, a dervish monastery three kilometres east of Tripolis, Lebanon."From Syria her worship extended to Greece and to the furthest West. Lucian and Apuleius give descriptions of the beggar-priests who went round the great cities with an image of the goddess on an ass and collected money; the wide extension of the cult is attributable to Syrian merchants. Again we find the cult in Sicily, introduced, no doubt, by slaves and mercenary troops, who carried it to the farthest northern limits of the Roman Empire; the leader of the rebel slaves in the First Servile War, a Syrian named Eunus, claimed to receive visions of Atargatis, whom he identified with the Demeter of Enna.
In many cases Atargatis, ‘Ashtart, other goddesses who once had independent cults and mythologies became fused to such an extent as to be indistinguishable. This fusion is exemplified by the Carnion temple, identical with the famous temple of ‘Ashtart at Ashtaroth-Karnaim. Atargatis appears as the wife of Hadad, they are the protecting deities of the community. Atargatis, wearing a mural crown, is the ancestor the royal house, the founder of social and re
In ancient Egyptian religion, Apis or Hapis, alternatively spelled Hapi-ankh, was a sacred bull worshiped in the Memphis region, identified as the son of Hathor, a primary deity in the pantheon of Ancient Egypt. He was assigned a significant role in her worship, being sacrificed and reborn. Apis served as an intermediary between humans and other powerful deities; the Apis bull was an important sacred animal to the ancient Egyptians. As with the other sacred beasts Apis' importance increased over the centuries. During colonization of the conquered Egypt and Roman authors had much to say about Apis, the markings by which the black calf was recognized, the manner of his conception by a ray from heaven, his house at Memphis, the mode of prognostication from his actions, his death, the mourning at his death, his costly burial, the rejoicings throughout the country when a new Apis was found. Auguste Mariette's excavation of the Serapeum of Saqqara revealed the tombs of more than sixty animals, ranging from the time of Amenhotep III to that of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
Each animal was buried in a separate tomb with a chapel built above it. Worship of an Apis bull, experienced by ancient Egyptians as holy, has been known since the First Dynasty in Memphis, while worship of the Apis as a proper god, at least according to Manetho's Aegyptiaca, seems to be a adoption, purportedly started during the reign of king Kaiechos of the Second Dynasty. Apis is named on early monuments, but little is known of the divine animal before the New Kingdom. Ceremonial burials of bulls indicate that ritual sacrifice was part of the worship of the early cow deities and Bat, a bull might represent her offspring, a king who became a deity after death, he was entitled "the renewal of the life" of the Memphite deity Ptah: but after death he became Osorapis, i.e. the Osiris Apis, just as dead humans were assimilated to Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. This Osorapis was identified with Serapis of the late Hellenistic period and may well be identical with him. Creating parallels to their own religious beliefs, ancient Greek writers identified Apis as an incarnation of Osiris, ignoring the connection with Ptah.
Apis was the most popular of three great bull cults of ancient Egypt, the others being the cults of Mnevis and Buchis. All are related to the worship of Hathor or Bat, similar primary goddesses separated by region until unification that merged as Hathor; the worship of Apis was continued by the Greeks and after them by the Romans, lasted until 400 CE. This animal was chosen because it symbolized the courageous heart, great strength, fighting spirit of the king. Apis came to being considered a manifestation of the king, as bulls were symbols of strength and fertility, qualities that are linked with kingship. "strong bull of his mother Hathor" was a common title for Egyptian gods and male kings, being unused for women serving as king, such as Hatshepsut. As early as the time of the Narmer Palette, the king is depicted with a bovine tail on one side, a bull is seen knocking down the walls of a city on the other. Apis was pictured with the sun-disk symbol of his mother, between his horns, being one of few deities associated with her symbol.
When the disk was depicted on his head with his horns below and the triangular marking on his forehead, an ankh was suggested. That symbol always was associated with Hathor. Early on, Apis was the herald of the chief deity in the area around Memphis; as a manifestation of Ptah, Apis was considered to be a symbol of the king, embodying the qualities of kingship. In the region where Ptah was worshiped, cattle exhibited white patterning on their black bodies, so a belief grew up that the Apis calf had to have a certain set of markings suitable to its role, it was required to have a white triangular marking upon its forehead, a white Egyptian vulture wing outline on its back, a scarab mark under its tongue, a white crescent moon shape on its right flank, double hairs on his tail. The calf that matched these markings was selected from the herds, brought to a temple, given a harem of cows, worshiped as an aspect of Ptah; the cow, his mother was believed to have conceived him by a flash of lightning from the heavens, or from moonbeams.
She was treated specially, given a special burial. At the temple, Apis was used as his movements being interpreted as prophecies, his breath was believed to cure his presence to bless those around with strength. A window was created in the temple through which he could be viewed and, on certain holidays, he was led through the streets of the city, bedecked with jewelry and flowers. Details of the mummification ritual of the sacred bull are written within the Apis papyrus. Sometimes the body of the bull was mummified and fixed in a standing position on a foundation made of wooden planks. By the New Kingdom period, the remains of the sacred bulls were interred at the cemetery of Saqqara; the earliest known burial in Saqqara was performed in the reign of Amenhotep III by his son Thutmose. Ramesses II initiated Apis burials in what now is known as the Serapeum, an underground complex of burial chambers at Saqqara for the sacred bulls, a site used throughout the rest of Ancient Egyptian history into the reign of Cleopatra.
Khaemweset, the priestly son of Ramesses II, excavated a great gallery to be lined with the tomb chambers.