Bes “God of Entertainment” together with his feminine counterpart Beset, is an ancient Egyptian deity worshipped as a protector of households and, in particular, of mothers, children, and childbirth. Bes later came to be regarded as the defender of everything good and the enemy of all that is bad. According to Donald Mackenzie in 1907, Bes may have been a Middle Kingdom import from Nubia or Somalia, and his cult did not become widespread until the beginning of the New Kingdom, but more recently several Bes-like figurines have been found in deposits from the Naqada period of pre-dynastic Egypt, like the thirteen figurines found at Tell el-Farkha Worship of Bes spread as far north as the area of Syria and as far west as the Balearic Islands (Ibiza) in Spain, and later into the Roman and Achaemenid Empires.
Origin People in Upper Egypt started venerating Bes long before people in Lower Egypt. The word “bes” means “cat” in Nubian, suggesting a possible Nubian or southern origin of Bes. Bes originally looked like a cat standing on his hind legs, before becoming more anthropomorphic and usually depicted with a leopard skin around his neck and resembling more a dwarf.
Worship Bes was a household protector, becoming responsible – throughout ancient Egyptian history – for such varied tasks as killing snakes, fighting off evil spirits, watching after children, and aiding women in labour by fighting off evil spirits, and thus present with Taweret at births. Images of the deity, quite different from those of the other gods, were kept in homes. Normally Egyptian gods were shown in profile, but instead Bes appeared in full face portrait, ithyphallic, and sometimes in a soldier’s tunic, so as to appear ready to launch an attack on any approaching evil. He scared away demons from houses, so his statue was put up as a protector. Since he drove off evil, Bes also came to symbolize the good things in life – music, dance, and sexual pleasure. In the New Kingdom, tattoos of Bes could be found on the thighs of dancers, musicians and servant girls. Many instances of Bes masks and costumes from the New Kingdom and later have been uncovered. These show considerable wear, thought to be too great for occasional use at festivals, and are therefore thought to have been used by professional performers, or given out for rent.