The Egyptian Tree of Life, the Persea Tree, was guarded and protected by the Mau, the Great Cat. The sacred Persea Tree emerged when Ra (Re) as Atum the Sun-god first appeared at Heliopolis. The Tree played a part in the Creation Myth that explained how the nine gods who made up the Ennead of Heliopolis were created. The fruit of the Tree of Life gave eternal life and knowledge of the divine plan.
Apep was the Egyptian god of evil, chaos and destruction; depicted as a giant snake. He threatened divine order and attempted to prevent Re from bringing the sun into the sky each day. According to ancient Egyptian literature Re as the Great Cat Mau battled against Apep to prevent him from taking control of the Persea Tree of Life and the world. After many battles Mau defeated Apep and cut off the head of the serpent.
On the Book of the Dead written in the Papyrus of Ani there is this statement:
“I am the Cat which fought near the Persea tree in Anu on the night when the foes of Neb-er-Tcher (God of Creation) were destroyed.
Who is this Cat?
This male Cat is Re himself, and he was called ‘Mau’ because of the speech of the god Sa, who said concerning him: ‘He is like (Mau) unto that which he hath made; therefore, did the name of Re become ‘Mau.’ ” (Budge, 1895, p.287)
This papyrus shows Mau killing the snake with the ancient Egyptian knife, Khop.