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Hapi, shown as a pair of genies symbolically tying together upper and lower Egypt
Hapy, god of the river Nile

Hapi was a deification of the annual flooding (inundation) of the Nile River, in Egyptian mythology, which deposited rich silt on its banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops. When pairing of deities began to occur in the Egyptian pantheon, occasionally a token wife, named Meret (simply meaning beloved), was given to him. However, more usually, since the Nile was tied to the land, later, Hapi was said to become the husband of the patron of the land, which in Upper Egypt was Nekhbet, and in Lower Egypt was Wadjet. After a while, he became identified with Nun, a paired deification created for the primordial waters, Naunet, in the late Ogdoad cosmogony. Thus, Hapy gained her as wife also, since Nu was created to make a pair for Naunet.

His name means Running One, probably referring to the current of the Nile. Some of the titles of Hapy were, Lord of the Fishes and Birds of the Marshes and Lord of the River Bringing Vegetation. It may be the case that originally, Hapi (or a variation on it), was an earlier name used for the Nile itself, since it was said (inaccurately) that the Nile began between Mu-Hapi and Kher-Hapi, at the southern edge of Egypt where the two tributaries entered the region (its sources are two lakes, one of which is Lake Victoria).

The annual flooding of the Nile occasionally was said to be the Arrival of Hapy. Since this flooding provided fertile soil in an area that was otherwise desert, Hapi, as its patron, symbolised fertile lands. Consequently, although male and wearing the false beard, Hapy was pictured with a large belly, as representations of the fertility of the Nile. He also was usually given blue or green skin, resembling that of Nu, representing water.

Other attributes varied, depending upon the region of Egypt in which the depictions exist. In Lower Egypt, he was adorned with papyrus plants and attended by frogs, present in the region, and symbols of it. Whereas in Upper Egypt, it was the lotus and crocodiles which were more present in the Nile, thus these were the symbols of the region, and those associated with Hapi there. Hapi often was pictured carrying offerings of food or pouring water from an amphora, but also, very rarely, was depicted as a hippopotamus.

The cult of Hapi was mainly located at the First Cataract named Elephantine. Here, many temples were built that were dedicated to him. His priests were involved in rituals to ensure the steady levels of flow required from the annual flood. At Elephantine the official nileometer, a measuring device, was carefully monitored to predict the level of the flood, and his priests must have been intimately concerned with its monitoring.

The name Hapy can be spelled either Hapi or Hapi, but not to be confused with Hapi, one of the four sons of Horus.

Hapi's wives are also Two Ladies: Nekhebet and Wadjet.

The Hymn to the Flood says:

Lightmaker who comes from the dark
Fattener of herds
Might that fashions all
None can live without him
People are clothed with the flax of his fields
Thou makest all the land to drink unceasingly, as thou descendest on thy way from the heavens.

See also

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