The shining ship sailed daily across the world (as well as through the twelve provinces of the underworld) by Ra the sungod, lighting the world (although at one point mortals complained of the intensity of the sun, and were duly punished).

Every day, as he sailed his solar barque across the celestial counterpart of the earthly Nile, a massive serpent rose from its depths. This was Apep, Ra's old advesary. Inevitably, the great snake of darkness opened its mouth to engulf the vessel. Sometimes Apep's attempts were very nearly successful, and then the world would be battered by dreadful storms, or plunged into an eclipse. But Ra used all his magical resources to defeat the beast. Some accounts tell that he deflected the scaly monster by whispering unknown but fearful words of awesome power. Others told of how he transformed himself into a great clawed cat, to lash out at the eyes that glittered a message of menace. It was also said that Set was appointed guardian of the barque, as punishment for his betrayal of Orisis and the war against Horus. This last tale would likely have occured later in Ra's life, as his powers and ability to defend himself faded.

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