Ancient Egyptian Religion
The Apis Bull
3000 BC—4th century AD, Memphis, ancient Egypt.
The Apis Bull was an incarnation of the god Ptah, and after death, the god Osiris.
Nearly five thousand years ago, before the pyramids were built, and before the bluestones had been brought to the Neolithic henge at Stonehenge, the cult of the Apis Bull was instigated in ancient Egypt, according to the Hellenic-Egyptian historian Manetho, who wrote in the 3rd century BC.
Over a thousand years after the building of the pyramids, around the time of the warrior Pharaoh Ramses II, a vast cavern was excavated at Saqqara near Memphis to contain the burial chambers and lavish sarcophagi that would be the final resting place of these beasts thereafter. This rich burial ground, and its later extensions, was to be used for another fifteen hundred years.
The Apis Bull was an incarnation of the god Ptah, and after death, the god Osiris. It was kept in lavish temple surroundings, had its own harem and when it died, a search for the new Apis Bull, the new incarnation of Ptah as a bull, involved searching the whole of Egypt for a particular animal; just as the Tibetan monks once scoured the whole of Tibet for the young boy who was the old Dalai Lama reincarnated. But the god was kind. He gave away his identity when only a small calf by displaying a white diamond on his forehead, a white pattern on his otherwise black coat shaped like the wing of an eagle or a vulture, two white hairs on his tail and a scarab mark under his tongue. By these unique marks his new emergence into life could be recognised.
The Greeks later represented the Apis Bull as a man, Serapis,
a combination of the Egyptian gods Osiris and Apis, represented as a Hellenistic deity.