Ipy (Apet, Ipet, Opet) was a hippopotamus goddess known as a protective and nourishing deity. Her name meant ‘favored place’ and she was depicted as a combination of human, hippopotamus, lion, and crocodile. This combination of attributes shows both her protective and nourishing aspects. Ipy was one of several goddesses, including Taweret, Reret and Heqet, who could take the form of a hippopotamus. All of these goddesses were associated with pregnancy and protection, and they could be difficult to distinguish from each other. However Ipy was a very ancient goddess, and a significant figure in the Pyramid Texts (circa 2400 BCE ) where in utterance 269, the pharaoh refers to her as “my mother Ipy” and asks that he may nurse at her breast so that “as for yonder land in which I walk, I will neither thirst nor hunger in it for ever.” Ipy is called the Mistress of Magical Protection and The Great Ipy.
Ipy’s worship predated the rise of Thebes as an important Egyptian city and she became particularly venerated in that city; her name, Ipy/Ipet, is the root of the name of the Thebes, Ta-Ipet. She could be considered the divine embodiment of Thebes which is the ‘favored place” of Amun. Local worship of Ipy indicated that her Temple at Thebes was believed to be the place where Osiris was reborn.
As the Mistress of Magical Protection, she is referred to in a spell for divination by lamp (Leyden Papyrus col. VI, ll. 18-19) as Ipy, “Mother of Fire.” Similarly, in the Book of the Dead, Spell 137B, “for kindling the flame” shows “Ipy, lady of magical protection” setting fire to a bowl of incense. An ostracon (inscribed pottery fragment) invokes Ipy as a protector against nightmares who massacres the demons responsible for them.
Ipy is depicted having apotropaic magic which is the type of magic intended to turn away harm or evil influences. She is shown holding a torch and lighting incense cones to provide light and heat for the deceased. She was featured on amulets for the ancient Egyptians to protect themselves from demons that harm pregnant mothers and newborn children. The amulets would help the women along in childbirth and guard them from creatures that were extremely dangerous such as crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Amulets are also apotropaic and were highly valued in protecting the living as well as the dead. The dead used the amulet in the tomb for the purpose of gaining the attention of a particular deity for protection in the afterlife.
I plan to create my next batch of Iseum Kyphi incense in honor of the Goddess Ipy, Mistress of Magical Protection and Mother of Fire.
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Budge, E. A. “The Gods of the Egyptians or Studies in Egyptian Mythology.” Chicago1904 (1904).
Butler, E. P. “Goddesses and Gods of the Ancient Egyptians.” Henadology 2010
Renouf, Peter Le Page. The Egyptian Book of the dead: translation and commentary. Vol. 2. Privately printed for the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1904.
Vernus, Pascal. The gods of ancient Egypt. George Braziller, 1998.
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