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The Anasyrma Fertility Ritual in Ancient Egypt: From Hathor to Hermaphroditus

Abstract

The anasyrma is a fertility ritual in which a person or a divinity lifts up their skirt to show the genitals. The first Egyptian attestation is the Chester Beatty I papyrus: Hathor lifts up her robe in front of the god Ra to make him laugh after he was offended by the god Baba. In Esna temple there is a sacred ritual linked to Hathor: on the 29th day of Athyr, two women expose their genitals and breasts in front of a representation of the goddess to bless the Pharaoh and the land. Herodotus (Historiae, II, 59-61) describes the festival of the goddess Artemis (Bastet) in Bubasti. He reports that, during the journey made by boat on the river Nile to reach Bubasti, some women lifted their vestment to show their genitals in front of villages and fields to bless them with fertility. This ritual can also be performed to be blessed by a god: Diodorus Siculus (Biblioteca Historica I, 85) writes that women went in front of the Apis bull lifting their robes to be blessed by his fertility powers. There are sixteen figurines depicting the god Hermaphroditus that were found in Egypt, all dating to the Graeco-Roman period, eight of them show Hermaphroditus Anasyromenos. This god was believed to be the inventor of marriage and to be part of the sacred cycles of Aphrodite and Dionysus, associated in Egypt with Hathor, goddess of sexuality, and Osiris, in his aspect of god of fertility. Even if we consider anasyrma as an apotropaic ritual, in Egypt it has a strong link with fertility. In a time when having an abundance of resources was vital for the progress of the society and the survival of people, it was of great importance to assure a copious harvest also through religious practices.
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Dates and versions

hal-04115937 , version 1 (02-06-2023)

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  • HAL Id : hal-04115937 , version 1

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Valentina Alessia Beretta. The Anasyrma Fertility Ritual in Ancient Egypt: From Hathor to Hermaphroditus. 10th Birmingham Egyptology Symposium, May 2023, Birmingham, United Kingdom. ⟨hal-04115937⟩
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