Apophis was the great adversary of the sun Re and the embodiment of the powers of dissolution, darkness, and non-being. The huge serpent was believed to have existed from the beginning of time in the waters of primeval chaos which preceded creation and it was thought that he would continue to exist in an endlessly malevolent cycle of attack defeat and resurgent attack. The god is not attested before the Middle Kingdom [2055 BC] and seems to have come into being in the uncertain and fearful times which followed the pyramid age.
Like the god Seth, Apophis was associated with frightening natural events such as unexplained darkness, storms and earthquakes as well as his underlying threat to the very stability of the cosmos, so magical texts and rituals were produced to combat these things. The so-called Book of Apophis was a collection of these magical tests and spells dating to the late New Kingdom, through the best preserved example - the Bremner-Rhind Papyrus in the British Museum - was produced in the 4th century BC.
The 'great cat' of Re 'who dwells in Heliopolis' kills the serpent deity Apophis shown coiled around the sacred sycamore or persea tree which was a symbol of the sun. The scene reflects Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead, which states that the great male cat cuts off the head of Apophis, and which was often depicted in Egyptian funerary art. 20th dynasty [1187-1064 BC]. Detail from the tomb of Inherkha, Deir-Medina, western Thebes.