The Ancient Egyptian religion highly revered the deity Hapi as the god of the annual flooding of the Nile. Hapi was one of the most popular gods in ancient Egypt. Every year the Nile River flooded and deposited dark and rich soil on the banks of the river. This soil was highly fertile and allowed the crops of Egypt to flourish. One could say that the annual flooding of Egypt sustained the entire country.
It also explains why people wildly celebrated Hapi throughout the land of Egypt. They also associated the god of annual flooding with wealth, abundance and nourishment.
Titles of God Hapi
Historians say that Hapi (Hapy, Hap, Hep) were most likely a prehistoric name for the Nile itself. It happened when people started worshipping him as the god of the river’s annual flooding. Later, people changed the name to the Nile or Iterw, “the river”. Hence, the ancient Egyptians also changed the name of the Nile god to “the river”, or Iterw.
To understand this better, the Egyptian word “Nwy” means water. And the name “Nile” comes from the Greek corruption of the “Neilos” that derives from “Nwy”. People gave Hapi other titles, including “lord of the fishes and birds of the marshes” and “green the two banks”. People also called him the “maker of barley and wheat” and the “master of the river bringing vegetation.”
Like the other Roman and Greek gods, legends believe Hapi has a benevolent and good personae. However, he also had a dark side that could bring unpredictable destruction. People also claim that the god worked under the influence of the pharaoh, who was also a living god. Moreover, texts describe him as the “friend of Geb“, the Egyptian god of earth and the “Lord of Neper”, the god of grain.
The Annual Flooding of the Nile
The Nile River played an extremely vital role in forming the Egyptian country. Sometimes an extent of upper Egypt would cross into Nubia. But, usually, the upper border above Aswan near Philae was the first cataract of the Nile. Aswan was previously the ancient city of Swenett. It acted as the frontier town of Ancient Egypt that faced the south during history.
Mythology tells us that the source of the Nile originated from a cave on Bigeh Island near Philae. The legend renders the reason for this origin to god Hapi’s choice to dwell in this place. A sacred serpent protected the entrance to the shelter. Additionally, ancient texts say that the course of the Nile snaked through the land of the dead. Then, it carried on through the heavens in the galaxy. Finally, it flowed into Egypt from the cave on Bigeh island.
Relevance of God Hapi
Every year a massive amount of water would overflow the banks of the Nile River and leave black silt. It would support the agriculture of Egypt and keep people fed. The Nile flooding on ‘inundation’ was so vital to the lives and economy of Egypt that the ancients based their lives around it.
Ancient Egyptian history refers to this annual flooding as the “Arrival of Hapi”. People celebrated this event with great festivals and carried out processions on the river. Followers from around the world would travel to the shrines of Hapi at Elephantine and Aswan. They would pray for the right amount of flood and silt, which would help them grow their crops.
One can only imagine the respect and devotion the god of Nile flooding would get. The importance of Hapi leads to some people worshipping him above the all-powerful sun god Ra. The god controlled the water of the Nile itself and hence influenced millions of people’s well-being.
Iconography and Representation
Hapi was a male god, but his imagery depicts him in an androgynous form. He wore a false beard, a loincloth, and pendulous breasts with a large stomach. It showed his job of maintaining fertility concerning the Nile River. Along with that, scribes also gave him blue or green-tinted skin that represented water.
Donald A MacKenzie speculated that the whitish muddy Nile bore similarities to milk. Hence, people associated the white muddy waters that flowed from the breasts of the god with suckling and nurturing. Since people considered Hapi fertile, they sometimes considered him the “father of gods”. Furthermore, people regarded him as a caring father who balanced the cosmos and made it harmonious.
Affect of Nature on Hapi Depiction
People gave or removed some attributes of Hapi according to the area they lived. In Lower Egypt, the god wore papyrus plants, and frogs attended him. In contrast, Upper Egypt had an abundance of lotus and crocodiles. Hence, people of the area linked the symbols of both with Hapi. Infrequently, ancients also used a blue hippopotamus to depict the god.
Plenty of images depicts Hapi carrying food offerings or pouring water from a jug. The iconography of the Nineteenth-century depicts Hapi as a pair of figures that hold and tie together the stems of two plants. These plants represented Upper and Lower Egypt; this described the binding of the two sections around a symbol of union.
People called the Hapi of Upper Egypt “Hap-Meht”, whereas the Lower Egyptians called Hapi “Hap-Reset”. One could find this symbolic representation carved at the base of the seated statues of the pharaoh. For example, one can find a stone carving of Hapi at the Luxor temple on the sides of the sitting Colossi of Ramesses II. Also, you can discover Hapi depictions on the giant Colossi of Memnon at the Temple of Amenhotep III.
Worship of Hapi
There are no temples of Hapi, but one can find several statues and reliefs of the god in the temples of other deities. People worshipped the god throughout the land of Egypt, but they revered him the most at Swentet and Gebel El-Silsila. People worshipped Khnum, Satet and Anuket at Elephantine with the god Hapi. His priests on Elephantine island had a nilometer to measure and monitor the levels of the Nile.
Ancient Egyptians greatly revered the god Hapi for multiple reasons, including harvest and overall welfare. Hapi was not only the protector of the people, but they also considered him to support the very life of ancient Egypt. To this date, people remember the god with fondness and respect.