The Chaos of Apep—Legend has it. . .

Aarna Pal-Yadav

Apep is the Egyptian God of all things evil: darkness, chaos, you name it—if it’s evil, it belongs to Apep. As such, Apep is the archenemy of Sun God Ra, the Bringer of Light and Order. Every night as Ra sets the Sun, Apep roars and launches his attack on Ra’s divine procession. More often than not, Apep is depicted as an ever-growing snake, which is considered the incarnation of evil in a myriad of cultures.

It is said that long ago, when the world was new, Apep could hypnotize all of the Egyptian Gods to do his bidding—all, except Set, God of Storms and Chaos. Set, with his undeniable strength, was unwavering in the face of Apep’s hypnosis and saved the other gods by piercing Apep’s tail with a spear. Chagrined at his failure, Apep continued to trap Ra’s boat between his coils—they were so long that they were mistaken for sandbanks—or cause the waters of the Underworld to flood to distress Ra’s order.

Later, Apep is said to ally himself with Set, despite their previous issues with each other. Both of them, after all, are powerful Gods of Chaos, and woefully misunderstood. They rallied the Gods—including Isis, Neith, and Horus—as well as an army of divine monkeys against Ra. With the help of his army, Apep would swallow Ra in his Sun form, but followers of the Death God, She, would cut a whole in his side, allowing Ra to escape and the Sun to grace the sky once more. So, Ma’at—the Egyptian word for Order—was preserved, with Apep and Ra in never-ending conflict, with neither ever able to get the upper hand.

Throughout the ages, Apep has been graced with many epithets, including “the Evil Snake,” “the Encircler of the World,” “the Enemy of Ra,” and “the Serpent of Rebirth.” He is not respected—rather, he is considered an unreasonable force of evil, never to be trusted as Set might be—but feared. He is one of the few omnipotent Egyptian Gods: despite his constant conflict with Ra, he can never be destroyed, only temporarily defeated. To defeat the evil of Apep and his army of demonic followers for the year, Priest of Ra would perform the “Banishing of Apep,” in which an effigy of Apep is beaten, smeared with mud, and burnt.