Part of a series of posts by the 2017-18 students taking the course CLE343: Supernatural Beings and Demons of Ancient Egypt / CL-M79 Ancient Egyptian Demons led by Dr. Kasia Szpakowska at Swansea University
Post written and designed by Sam Powell
*** Please note this is a purely fictional product review blog; this product does not exist – yet! ***
I was delighted to be asked to review the newest deck of Best Being cards – the Demon Things edition. My particular highlight of the pantheon was Babi the baboon – the highest scoring demon in the pack!
Babi is an ancient Egyptian demon usually depicted as a large male hamadryas baboon which is easily distinguished by his bulky size, large mane, prominent penis and bright red bum.
|A male hamadryas baboon.
Image from www.flickriver.com/photos/mharrsch/tags/baboon/
Babi is referred to in a range of funerary texts such as the Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead and the Amduat. Baboon beings are also represented in a variety of magical contexts, such as on ivory wands and on amulets. Although it is unclear whether any of the unidentified baboon beings in these images are the same demon, they certainly share a great many characteristics, as noted on Babi’s statistics card.
Guardian ranking – 100
Babi is described in the Pyramid Texts and the Book of the Dead as having his penis serving as the lock to the door of the sky. Baboon beings also surround the Lake of Fire in the afterlife which purified the deceased before rebirth. Baboons also appear as amulets throughout pharaonic Egypt. None of the other beings in the deck have this level of responsibility.
|Baboon beings surrounding the Lake of Fire
Image from Faulkner 1985:118.
Sexual potency – 100
My main negative comment on this product is the lack of an explicit content warning! These hamadryas baboons are typically depicted with a prominent penis. Many references are made to the sexual prowess of Babi. Coffin Text 576 starts “my phallus is Babi”, allowing the deceased to use Babi’s superior bedroom skills in the afterlife.
Power over fire – 100
As I’ve already mentioned baboon beings seem to be strongly connected with fire. As well as the Lake of Fire, the Papyrus Jumillhacincludes references to fire emerging from Babi’s penis as a defensive tactic.
Apotropaic level -100
Baboon beings such as Babi appear in a number of protective scenarios, with baboon amulets and depictions being included in magical practice, particularly when concerned with pregnancy and childbirth. Many of the other demons in the pack also seem to have played a similar role, but the baboons are often shown holding protective wadjet eyes or sa symbols – both of which send his powers into overdrive!
|Magical rod showing baboons tending a fire, MMA 26.7
Image from Wegner 2009:474, Fig. 13.
Danger level – 100
Babi is one angry monkey! Baboons are still well known as hostile creatures. Many of the funerary texts refer to the aggressive temper of Babi as something to be feared. This is likely why he was chosen to be a protective guardian, particularly for the vulnerable (to see more of the ferocious nature of hamadryas baboons, check out this video of a troop in the wild).
|Male hamadryas baboon
Overall, I was very impressed with the Demon Things edition of Best Beings. Whilst the pantheon of ancient Egyptian demons each has their unique qualities, I think Babi trumps them all.
If you’d like to search for more “Best Beings”, a catalogue of Ancient Egyptian Supernatural Beings is available on DemonThings.com, or the Egypt Centre in Swansea has a fantastic range of objects, including a pantheon of demons.
Derchain, Philippe 1952. Bébon, le dieu et les mythes. Revue d’égyptologie 9, 23-47.
Derchain, P. 1963. Nouveaux documents relatifs à Bébon (bAbAwj). Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 90, 22-25.
Faulkner, R. 1973. The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. Warminster: Aris & Phillips.
Faulkner, R. 1982. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. Warminster: Aris & Phillips.
Faulkner, R. 1985. The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. London : British Museum Publications.
Quirke, S. 2016. Birth tusks : the armoury of health in context – Egypt 1800 BC. London: Golden House Publications.
Vandier, J. 1952. La légende de Baba (Bébon) dans le papyrus Jumilhac (Louvre E. 17110). Revue d’égyptologie 9, 121-123.
Wegner, J. 2009. A decorated birth brick from South Abydos: new evidence on childbirth and birth magic in the Middle Kingdom. In (eds.) Silverman, D., Kelly Simpson, W., and Wegner, J., Archaism and innovation: studies in the culture of Middle Kingdom Egypt. Yale University. Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations; University of Pennsylvania. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.