Today is a Feast Day for Sepa, the centipede god of ancient Egypt. Sepa is considered to be a protector against poisonous bites and stings, which is a common attribute among deities of venomous creatures, including scorpions (Serqet) and snakes (Wadjet and others). He’s also invoked against the Uncreated One in its serpent form, reinforcing Sepa’s ability to protect mortals against everyday snakes.
The Kemetic Orthodoxy calendar lists Him as Heru-Sepa, or Horus-Who-is-Sepa, and as a son of Sekhmet. Unfortunately, on short notice, the most reliable information I can find on Sepa is the aforementioned link to Henadology, and the primary reference for that article is in French (which is fine) but not among my personal collection (which is less fine), so I can’t verify it first-hand. Nothing in the Henadology article, nor in the quick’n’cursory research I did, shows me how Sepa is a form of Heru; it seems like Sepa is more thoroughly linked to Wesir (Osiris) and funerary purifications, only encountering Heru when He brings Sepa (linked to the inundation) to Cairo. I freely admit that my initial spark of curiosity about Sepa was due to His being a son of Sekhmet, but without knowing from whence that came historically, I am hesitant to put my full weight on it as a bridge to Him.
All the same, I have been thinking about seeking out Netjeru with Whom I am unfamiliar or unacquainted and saying hello. Centipedes freak me right the hell out, so why not start with their god? (I have a strange sense of what constitutes a good idea.)
Things I have been extrapolating, inferring, and/or contemplating, which I have not verified in any historical source:
- Most centipedes are primarily carnivorous and only eat vegetable matter when starving, but are otherwise opportunistic feeders. That means I feel pretty good about offering meats and/or cheeses to Sepa, but not fruits, and not really sweets (which are frequently grain-based).
- Centipedes tend to be nocturnal, which means approaching Sepa after dark is not only a-okay but potentially downright preferential.
- Centipedes are heavily dependent on water, since they dry out easily, so cool water is an exceptionally appropriate offering for a centipede god of the desert.
- And since centipedes are so water-dependent, perhaps that partially explains Sepa’s link to the inundation: centipedes flourish as the flood courses through the land, providing them the essential moisture to thrive.
- Some (unverified) online sites suggest that Sepa is associated with fertility for one or both of these two reasons: centipedes follow along after earthworms, which fertilize the soil as they pass; and Sepa has been depicted with the head of a donkey, linking Him to donkey manure used in fertilization of the fields.
- Likewise, some sites suggest that part of Sepa’s protective role, especially in regards to protecting Wesir, is due to the fact that centipedes will eat the bugs that feast on a dead body.
- Sepa has been depicted as a mummiform man with two small “horns” on His head; I wonder if these horns correspond with centipede forcipules?
- Here (unverified site; I want to look this scene up in a book soon), Sepa is invoked as a god of the east in a purification by a sem-priest; I can only imagine He’s being called upon to purify the body or ka of all toxins.
So, tonight, I did a light purification and laid a modest offering spread for the Feast of Sepa: sausage slices and sharp cheddar, cool water, incense, and a candle. I invited Him in to partake of the food and drink and spent most of the time in shrine contemplating what little I had learned of Him and what other parts I was guessing at. I wondered if I was the only Kemetic who, in that moment, was offering to Him, as He is not a well-known god, but rather than feeling the enormity of a mostly-undistracted Netjeru’s direct attention, I got the distinct sense that He stays quite industrious in the Unseen, in the underworld, working to protect Wesir and to purify the kau who come to be weighed against Ma’at’s feather. I did have the pleasure (eh-heh) of receiving a few impressions of a rather large centipede, enjoying the offerings I’d laid out on my altar; I haven’t the faintest whether it was my imagination, one of Sepa’s netjeri, or Sepa Himself. Took a bit of self-control not to flinch, either way!
I reverted the food offerings, but left the water on the shrine to evaporate naturally (a slow process in a humid environment), my way of providing a longer-term offering symbolic of that which sustains all life—including centipedes.
Dua Sepa! May You never thirst!