Egypt: Maahes, God of War and Protection, The Leonine Lord of Slaughter

Maahes, God of War and Protection,

The Leonine Lord of Slaughter

by Caroline Seawright

m3ahhsseye with makeup determinative

A statue of the lion-headed Maahes

Maahes (Mahes, Mihos, Miysis, Mysis) was the ancient Egyptian lion-god of war. Both a god of war and a guardian and a lord of the horizon. He was believed to help Ra fight against Apep in the solar barque each night, a god who protected the pharaoh while he was in battle. By Greek times, he was attributed as being a god of storms and winds. He also had links to perfumes and oils. Maahes was a god who seems to have first appeared in the New Kingdom, and is thought to have been a deity of foreign origin.

In Egypt, they worship lions, and there is a city called after them the lions have temples and numerous spaces in which to roam; the flesh of oxen is supplied to them daily... and the lions eat to the accompaniment of song in the Egyptian language.

-- Aelian

Usually depicted as a lion-headed man carrying a knife or a sword, Maahes sometimes wore the atef crown or the solar disk and uraeus

on his head. Occasionally he was portrayed as a lion devouring a captive.

Lions were bred in the god's temples. Maahes guards the door to the astral plane, and his eye and hand guard the gates of night. He was called 'Wielder of the Knife'... Another epithet, 'The Scarlet Lord' referred to his bloody sacrifices, while other titles included 'Helper of the Wise Ones', 'Lord of Slaughter', 'Manifester of Will', 'The Initiator', and 'Avenger of Wrongs'. Maahes repels evil, protects initiates, and stands guard during magical rites. He is a god of sight, sun god of the Nile Delta, and god of midsummer, who was invoked to bring forth the souls of men, gods, and underworld spirits for divination or to discover the truth of a matter.

-- Maahes, Terri Sharp

A Ptolemaic Bronze Inlay of Maahes' Sacred Animal, Found at Maahes' Temple at Leontopolis

Maahes was thought to be the guardian of sacred places, and the one who attacks captive enemies. He protected the innocent dead and condemned the damned. He was thought to be one of Osiris' executioners, and a defender of the solar barque against the attack of the snake-demon Apep and his followers. He protected the pharaoh while he was in battle, just as he protected the sun god Ra. He was also a god, and a protector of the horizon, due to his leonine form - lions were connected to the horizon by the Egyptian mind. He was also thought to be the personification of the summer heat, just as the Eye of Ra - different lioness goddesses - were thought to represent the burning heat of the sun.

As with the meaning of his name, 'See in Front' - m3eye with makeup determinative 'to see' (it was also the start of the word for 'lion') hhss 'in front of' - seemed to be related to seeing, because his name was followed by the picture of the eye. Yet the sound m3 was also used in the Egyptian word for truth and order - ma'at. His name might have even meant 'Truth Before Ma'at', among other things, maybe including a pun on the word for lion. Maahes punished those who violated Ma'at while the other deities set it right. Yet he was also called on to protect the innocent, despite being 'Lord of the Massacre', who killed with the knife or the sword.

Thought to be the son of either Bast and Ptah at Per-Bast (Bubastis) or the son of Sekhmet and either Ptah or the sun god Ra. In the tale of "The Taking of Joppa", Thothmose III was called 'Maahes, Son of Sekhmet'. The Egyptians confused the two goddesses, and their children. He was linked to Nefertem and Shesmu, both being lion-headed deities who were also related to perfumes and oils. Nefertem and Maahes were probably especially confused by the Egyptians due to their respective mothers - Sekhmet and Bast. He was also connected with the war-god Onuris as well as with the sky god Shu. There are suggestions that he might have been an assimilation of the Nubian lion-god Apedemak.

Layout of the Maahes Temple at the Temple of Bast in Per-Bast

This is the site of ancient Leontopolis... The temple of the local lion god Maahes (Greek Miysis), situated in the east part of the ruins, suffered the fate of many similar buildings in the delta: most of its stone blocks have been removed and reused, leaving even the date of the structure uncertain.

-- Atlas of Ancient Egypt, John Baines and Jaromr Mlek

His cult centre was at Leontopolis in Lower Egypt, but he was worshiped around Upper Egypt, and in Nubia. Maahes was depicted in the temple of Debod, which was moved to Madrid, Spain, before the Aswan Dam building would have flooded and destroyed it. Osorkon III (Dynasty XXII) build a temple to him in Per-Bast (Bubastis) while Nay-ta-hut (Leontopolis) housed a necropolis for lions, his sacred animal. Other major cult centres for Maahes included Djeba (Utes-Hor, Behde, Edfu), Iunet (Dendera), Meroe (the royal city of the Meroitic rulers of Nubia) and the Bahriya and Siwa Oases

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Last Updated: June 12th, 2011