Re in the form of a cat slays Apep

Under a sacred sycamore, the Great Cat of Heliopolis, one of the forms taken by Re called Miw-aa or the great cat, slays the evil serpent Apep (or Apophis), god of the underworld and symbol of the forces of chaos. Section of vignette of chapter 17 of the book of the dead.

Apep is sometimes depicted as a coiled serpent but, often, as dismembered, being cut into pieces, or under attack. The Sun God Re has always been the greatest god in Egypt. In the Old Kingdom (2800 BC), when Egypt established its institutions and expressed its royal ideology, the divinized king of Egypt was considered the son of the Sun God.

Re in the form of a cat slays the snake Apep
Re in the form of a cat slays the snake Apep

Re was believed to travel across the sky in his solar bark and, during the night, to make his passage in another bark through the underworld, where, in order to be born again for the new day, he had to vanquish the evil serpent Apep.

Apep, also known as Apophis in Greek, was the Egyptian god of chaos. Apep was the polar opposite of the godly personification of order, Ma’at, and the chief enemy of the king of the gods, the sun-god Ra. He took the form of a great snake. The Egyptians believed that the sun was Ra traveling along a boat in the heavens.

Every night, Apep would rise in attempt to kill Re to prevent sunrise and bring Egypt into eternal darkness. He is often noted for solar eclipses, which were often viewed as Apep being victorious over Re.

Apep was viewed as the greatest enemy of Re, and thus was given the title Enemy of Re, and also “the Lord of Chaos”. Apep was seen as a giant snake or serpent leading to such titles as Serpent from the Nile and Evil Dragon.

New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty, Ramesside Period, ca. 1189-1077 BC. Detail of a wall painting from the tomb of Inherkhau (TT359), Deir el-Medina, West Thebes.