The ancient Egyptians could see that insects attacked dead bodies, but centipedes fed on the insects. They concluded that the centipedes protected the dead as they were an aspect of Osiris. In this form, he was known as Sepa or Sep (meaning centipede) and was depicted either as a centipede or as a mummified figure with two horns. As centipedes are venomous, Sepa was considered to have power over other venomous animals and could be invoked for protection against snake bites and scorpion stings. Centipedes also follow the earthworms which improve the fertility of soil, leading to their association with fertility. Sepa was sometimes given the head of a donkey (to reflect the fact that donkey manure was used to improve the fertility of soil).

copyright J Hill 2010
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Ancient Egypt Online

Predynastic period Early Dynastic Old Kingdom First Intermediate Middle Kingdom Second Intermediate New Kingdom Third Intermediate Graeco-Roman period Late period