The centipede god Sepa is attested from the Old Kingdom right through to the Greco-Roman Period. He was sometimes referred to as the “centipede of Horus” but was also closely associated with Osiris. The Book of the Dead also makes a connection between Sepa and Anubis.
“I am Anubis on the Day of the Centipede, I am the Bull who presides over the field. I am Osiris, for whom his father and mother sealed an agreement on that day of carrying out the great slaughter; Geb is my father and Nut is my mother, I am Horus the Elder on the Day of Accession, I am Anubis of Sepa, I am the Lord of All, I am Osiris.”
The ancient Egyptians could see that insects attacked dead bodies, but centipedes fed on the insects and so they concluded that the centipedes protected the dead. As centipedes are venomous, Sepa was also 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 Sepa’s association with fertility. He was honoured with a festival from the Old Kingdom onward, and had a temple dedicated to him in Heliopolis.
Sepa was usually represented as a mummy with the two antenna (or horns) of a centipede. Sepa was sometimes given the head of a donkey (possibly to reflect the fact that donkey manure was used to improve the fertility of soil).
- Budge, E Wallis (1904) The Gods of the Egyptians
- Faulkner Raymond (2000) The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by DayPinch, Geraldine (2002) Handbook Egyptian Mythology
- Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003) The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt
Copyright J Hill 2016