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Other Dog-like Deities of Egypt: Wepwawet, Khentymentiu & Sothis

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Written by   693
2 years ago (Last updated: 1 year ago)
Topics: Egyptology, History

This is a sequel to "Anubis" and deals with other dog-like deities of old Egypt: Wepwawet, Khentymentiu & Sothis.

Wepwawet

Wepwawet (Upuaut) was another dog-like deity whose species is unclear. Unlike Anubis, Wepwawet was grey or white-headed and has sometimes been associated with a wolf. This view is supported by the fact that one of Wepwawet's cult centres were in the area where Asyut is located. The Greek's name of Asyut was Lycopolis, wolf city. Otherwise, he is often called a jackal.

Early, Wepwawet was a funeral god, like Anubis, and he was worshipped in Abydos. There is also a certain similarity between Wepwawet and another dog-like deity, Khentymentiu.

Wepwawet, Bronze. From about 664-332 BC. Original at Brooklyn Museum. (No known copyright restrictions)

Wepwawet, or Upuaut, means "Opener of the Ways", which can refer to his function to lead the dead to the Duat, the "Underworld". Wepwawet was also a special companion of royal persons and his symbols were carried in front of the king in ceremonies, and later even in front of Osiris' symbols.

Wepwawet was a symbol of Upper Egypt, while Apis (the bull) represented Lower Egypt.

Clearly, at various times Anubis and Wepwawet were mixed and Anubis absorbed parts of Wepwawet's roles, while Osiris absorbed others - yet Wepwawet never disappered as a separate god.

Khentymentiu

Khentymentiu is another very ancient god with Abydos as his cult centre. His temple was probably the first temple there. He bore the name "The Foremost of the Westerners", where the west refers to the Underworld, or the Realm of Death, because the sun is "born" in the east and "dies" in the west. The same title was later attributed to Osiris. Khentymentiu is depicted wrapped in bandages and with the crown Upper Egypt on his head. He represented the dead king before Osiris took over that function. It seems, on the whole, as if most of Khentymentiu's functions were absorbed by Osiris, while some were taken over by Anubis, particularly after Osiris had already absorbed some of Anubis' previous features.

Khentymentiu is also associated with a dog-like animal, and the relationship between Khentymentiu and Wepwawet is far from clear. It may even be questioned whether Khentymentiu was a separate deity, or if it was a title or a kind of office, namely to be "The Foremost of the Westerners", that is the ruler of Duat (which is generally considered to mean the Underworld), or the one who controls the entrance to the Realm of Death, and that the position was held by various gods in the very long history of Ancient Egypt.

The name Osiris-Khentymentiu sometimes occurs, and before that Anubis-Khentymentiu. Is that syncretistic fusions of two deities, or just a statement of Osiris' and Anubis' status? It is impossible to give a definite answer, but I tend to see Khentymentiu as a "title" rather than a proper name, a title that was attributed first to Wepwawet, later to Anubis, and then to Osiris. We'll never know whether it started as a separate (and dog-like) deity some time in the very distant past.

Cerberus

It may be interesting to recall that a dog, Cerberus, is guarding the entrance to Hades, the Underworld, also in ancient Greek mythology. It is possible that the inspiration for Cerberus came from one of Egypt's dog-like deities, Wepwawet or Anubis, although Cerberus is portrayed as a monster in a way that is completely alien to the image of Wepwawet or Anubis. However, it may simply be a difference between Greek and Egyptian mentality.

Gustave Doré; Cerberus, detail of illustration from Dante's Inferno. (Public Domain)

Sothis

There is one more ancient Egyptian deity who, occasionally, is associated with a dog: Sopdet, "clever woman." The Greek name is Sothis. The goddess was associated with Sirius, the star that marked the flooding of the Nile and the New Year.

Over time, Sopdet became increasingly associated with Isis, although in the Pyramid Texts she is described as Osiris' daughter (Isis was Osiris' sister and wife).

Although initially depicted as a cow, later as a woman with the white crown of Upper Egypt, Sothis was sometimes shown as a dog. Later, during the Graeco-Roman period, she was mostly depicted riding on a dog.

Saft el-Hinna, near the current Zagazig in the Nile Delta, was the centre for the Cult of Sothis.

It should be noted that the oldest tradition associates Sirius with Sihor, which is another name for Anubis, another dog-like deity.

The name Sothis gave its name to a "Sothic cycle" or "canicular period" in English.

A "Sothic cycle" or "canicular period" is 1460 years. It is the period, according to estimates, between the times when Sirius' heliacal rising occurs exactly at the beginning of the civil year, according to the ancient Egyptian calendar. The calendar is not accurate, it provides a year of exactly 365 days, so there will be a delay of a day every four years. That means that they coincide again after 1460 years.

However, there are significant problems when trying to calculate the exact length of a "Sothic cycle" and the issue has not been finally resolved. Unfortunately, it is important for chronology, which, for Ancient Egypt, is very difficult to establish with any degree of certainty.

Read also the related articles "Anubis" & The Dog Star & The Dog Days, Sirius & the Egyptian Calendar”.

Copyright © 2020 Meleonymica/Mictorrani. All Rights Reserved.

All my articles about Egypt and Egyptology can be found here.

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Written by   693
2 years ago (Last updated: 1 year ago)
Topics: Egyptology, History
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Comments

These remind me of Ganesha a Hindu deity who has the body of a human but head of an elephant.

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2 years ago

In what way do you think they remind of Ganesha?

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2 years ago

I will tell you the story in nutshell. Lord Shiva and Parvati ( both gods) were husband and wife. Ganesha was their child. One day lord Shiva had gone somewhere. Parvati decided to take bath in a cave so she instructed Ganesha to stand outside and guard and not to allow anyone inside. Meanwhile Shiva came back and wanted to meet Parvati, but Ganesha wont let him go. Shiva tried to make him understand that he was her husband so it is OK. But Ganesha wont allow him as per order from his mother. Lastly Shiva got angry and cut off his head. Now when Parvati came out she made a hue and cry. The as the same head could not he attached again so a head of an elephant was attached to Ganesha's body. Ganesha used to move on a rat, so a rat is also take as a semi deity in India in many places. Ganesha is a prominent God in India.

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2 years ago

Yes, I know the story, but I wondered how you find it similar to the dog-like deities of Egypt?

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2 years ago

Oh I see, a cow would have been a better example as Cow Is revered in India just as a deity.

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2 years ago

I see, you referred to the association with animals. That is more like Hathor, an Egyptian goddess sometimes referred to as a cow.

In Egypt many gods where associated with animals. You can read about Sobek, he crocodile god here: https://read.cash/@Mictorrani/the-sacred-crocodiles-of-egypt-635185a8 and Horus, one of he major gods, were associated with a falcon, and there were many others.

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2 years ago

Thanks for enlightening me.

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2 years ago

This is really interesting . But I am a religious so don't believe in these deities . There is no power than Almighty. M sorry if I am hurting someone. But these are only myths 🙂

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2 years ago

Myths are real for those who believe in them. In that way they can shape history and life for millions. Then it doesn't really matter if they are objectively real or not, because they shape reality of a people at a certain time, and thus they are important for the understanding of history.

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2 years ago

Thank u for this article, i've learned something from egyptian mythology 'coz before i'm just into greek n roman mythology

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2 years ago

Very interesting 👍

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2 years ago

A nice way to finish off this series. Thank you and all the best,

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2 years ago