What Do Babboons Symbolize in Egyptian Mythology?
The baboon was revered in Ancient Egyptian culture, being admired for its intelligence. In Egyptian mythology, Babi also Baba, was the deification of the hamadryas baboon and was therefore a sacred animal. It was known as the attendant of Thoth and so is also called the Sacred Baboon. His name is usually translated as “bull of the baboons”, roughly meaning “chief of the baboons”.
The earliest evidence of the worship of Babi and baboons comes from Early Dynastic ivory tags. He is depicted as a white-backed baboon. Excavations in the Delta at Tell Ibrahim Awad, have uncovered evidence of Babi/Thoth or baboon worship dating to the 2nd Dynasty. A small fiance statue of seven baboons in one boat was found along with numerous other fragments of statues dedicated to Babi and Thoth.
Since baboons were considered to be the dead, Babi was viewed as a deity of the Underworld, the Duat. Baboons are extremely aggressive and omnivorous, and Babi was viewed as being very bloodthirsty, and living on entrails. Consequently, he was viewed as devouring the souls of the unrighteous after they had been weighed against Maat (the concept of truth/order), and was thus said to stand by a lake of fire, representing destruction. Since this judging of righteousness was an important part of the underworld, Babi was said to be the first-born son of Osiris, the god of the dead in the same regions in which people believed in Babi.
Baboons also have noticeably high libidos, in addition to their high level of genital marking, and so Babi was considered the god of virility of the dead. He was usually portrayed with an erection, and due to the association with the judging of souls, was sometimes depicted as using it as the mast of the ferry which conveyed the righteous to Aaru, a series of islands. One spell in a funerary text identifies the deceased person’s phallus with Babi, ensuring that the deceased will be able to have sexual intercourse in the afterlife.