Neper (also Nepry, Nepri) is an ancient Egyptian god of grain—He is, in fact, the personification of grain and considered to be immanent in it. Often described as the son of Renenutet, a cobra goddess of the harvest, Neper is linked to Hapy, god of the yearly inundation, and to Wesir (Osiris), Who became associated with grain and the fertility of the land as His cult grew in popularity.
He is depicted as a man holding sheaves of wheat, with wheat in His hair, or covered in dots representing wheat or barley. He can also be shown as an infant suckling at Renenutet’s breast or as Hapy-like with an exaggerated belly and breasts to indicate the abundance and fertility inherent in Their aspects.
He is invoked in an apotropaic spell that possibly references a scorpion come from the grain fields or barns:
Oh Nepri-heti, stretch your arm towards it, scratch and drive away what you have brought!
In the Coffin Texts, there’s a particular spell (Spell 330) for becoming Neper, which is one of the rare times a god is said to live and die; the spell covers not only the cyclical death of the grain and the god, but also its/His pseudo-immortality as part of the cycle of life, as the grain feeds humans and animals, and Neper-as-ma’at (“truth” below) feeds the gods:
I live and I die, I am Osiris, I have gone in and out by means of you, I have grown fat through you, I flourish through you, I have fallen through you. I have fallen on my side, the gods live on me. I live and grow as Neper whom the honoured ones cherish, one whom Geb hides, I live and I die, for I am emmer, and I will not perish. I have entered into truth, I have upheld truth, for I am a possessor of truth. I have gone forth in truth and my shape is raised up . . .
Neper is invoked and identified with in other Coffin Text spells, often in the dual role of providing a supply of grain for the deceased and also feeding other Netjeru, netjeri (non-god, non-human-ghost spirits), and still-living humans. Neper is also called the “god of smoked grain,” which seems to be linked by fragrance or smoke to conveying the deceased soul to various places or even helping manifest the soul visibly. He may be linked to the visual manifestation of souls because grain was such a foundational element for “manifesting” civilization. See Spell 101 for Sending A Man And His Soul:
Go, go, yonder soul of mine, that yonder man may see you in your living face wherever you are. He stands up and sits down when you are in front of him. … It is this grain-god who lives after death and who removes you from the portal of the sunshine, and you go forth from it . . .
Dua Neper, god of all grains, Who feeds Netjeru and humans alike with His essence!
- The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts (R.O. Faulkner)
- Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts (J.F. Bourghouts)
- The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (R. Wilkinson)
- Nepry on Henadology