Bes often appeared at birth, but chiefly he was a marriage-God and presided over the toilet of women in Egyptian mythology.
Bes was a popular God who perhaps originated in the land of Punt of which he was sometimes called the Lord. He appears in ikformofarobust dwarf of bestial aspect. His head is big, his eyes huge, his cheeks prominent. His chin is hairy and an enormous tongue hangs from his wide-open mouth. For headdress he has a bunch of ostrich feathers; he wears a leopard skin whose tail falls Wundhim and is visible between his bandy legs. In bas-reliefs and paintings he is frequently represented full-face, contrary to the old Egptian usage of drawing only in profile. He is normally immobile, hands on hips; though occasionally he skips cheerfully but clumsily and plays the harp or tambourine or, again, brandishes a broad diggerwith a terrible and menacing air.
At once jovial and belligerent, fond of dancing and lighting. Be was the buffoon of the Gods. They delighted in his grotesque shape and contortions, just as the Memphite Pharaohs of the Old Kingdom enjoyed the antics of their pygmies.
At first Bes was relegated to the lowest rank among the host of genii venerated by the common people, but his popularity grew; ud under the New Kingdom the middle classes liked to place his Satuein their houses and name their children after him.
From this epoch we often see Bes represented in the mammisi of temples – that is to say, in the birth houses where divine accouchements took place. He thus presided over child caring and at Deir el Bahri he appears with Taueret and other tutelary genii beside the queen’s bed as a protector of expectant mothers.
He also presided over the toilet and adornment of women, who were fond of having his image carved on the handles of their mirrors, rouge boxes and scent bottles. Bedheads are also frequently found ornamented with various representations of Bes; for he was the guardian of sleep who chased away evil spirits and sent the sleeper sweet dreams.
He was moreover an excellent protector not only against evil spirits but against dangerous beasts: lions, snakes, scorpions, crocodiles. Against their bite or sting the whole family could be preserved by taking care to place in the house a little stela or pillar, covered with magic formulas, on which was sculpted Bes’ menacing mask above a figure of the infant Horus. standing on two crocodiles.
At the end of paganism Bes was even supposed to be the protector of the dead, and for this reason became as popular as Osiris.
After the triumph of Christianity Bes did not immediately vanish from the memory of man; for we are told of a wicked demon named Bes whom the holy Moses had to exorcise because he was terrorising the neighbourhood. To this day, it would seem, the monumental southern gate of Karpak serves as a dwelling-place for a knock-kneed dwarf whose gross head is embellished with a formidable beard. Woe to the stranger who. coming across him in the dusk of evening, laughs at his grotesque figure! I or the monster will leap at his throat and strangle him. He is the Bes of Ancient Egypt who, after long centuries, is not yet resigned to abandoning altogether the scenes which once witnessed his greatness.