chapter  3
65 Pages

Childbirth and domestic cult in Greco-Roman Egypt

WithAda Nifosi

Childbirth is a moment of pain and distress, and mothers-to-be have always looked for consolation and relief at this time. Across many cultures, the most common way of invoking help in childbirth is to call upon a deity to assist in the birthing room. In order to prevent the supernatural attacks, the domestic space had to become a sacred space, a temporary temple where the deity could descend safely and help the devotee. The clear association between these lamps and childbirth suggests that they may have been used in domestic cults to protect pregnant and childbearing women. In Greco-Roman Egypt, Seth-Typhon or Seth Incubus, a deity represented as an ithyphallic ass, was considered one of the worst supernatural threats to the house and its inhabitants. In it, the ass also represented all the obscure forces that were responsible for illness, in particular the miscarriage of women.