PBP Fridays: A is for Aker

PBP Fridays: A is for Aker

Alternate post title: Who The Hell Is On My Wall?

This is the hand-made painted tapestry that hangs over my shrine area:


I adore it. It was a gift from a one-time next-door-neighbor in Colorado, along with most of my other Egyptian paintings. It is one of my very favorite pieces my neighbor-artist graciously gave me.

I also don’t know, for sure, Who it depicts. I’ve run the gamut in my research and circled back, and forth, and sideways.

A lot of my sources suggest that these twin lions are, in fact, the lions of Yesterday and Today, Sef and Duau, which are akeru, the plural of the Egyptian god Aker, a pre-dynastic earth Netjeru. Other sources say this is Ruti, the “two lions.” Others say this pair is Shu and Tefnut, ancient gods of wind and moisture respectively.

Of course, since Kemeticism is full of polyvalent logic, this tapestry could easily depict all of the above. Conveniently, I am extremely fond of Shu and Tefnut, as well as deeply interested in Aker, so it’s pretty much a win-win situation for me.

For the purpose of this post, I’d like to talk a little more about Aker, Who is not one of the better-known deities of ancient Egypt. Aker is depicted as a single-bodied lion with a head at each end, symbolizing the rising and setting sun on the horizon; in this form, He is often shown with the barque of the sun god Ra on His back. The version we see in my tapestry, however, is of two physically-separate lions, with leopard-like spots, holding the sun rising or setting between two mountains. That sun-and-mountains symbol indicates the horizon, the akhet. Both two-headed and two-bodied versions of Aker can have human or lion heads, making Him occasionally a sphinx (or pair of sphinxes).

Aker, being the earth and the horizon, was both protector and gateway; He defended Ra and the king against serpents small and large, as well as allowing passage into and out of the underworld (which was His body). Because of His guardian aspects and funerary associations, twin lions were often placed near palaces, tombs, and thresholds as protectors and wards against evil. Additionally, Aker could neutralize poisons in those who had been stung by scorpions or bitten by snakes, or even had just swallowed something toxic. He was occasionally shown on protective amulets or apotropaic wands from the Middle Kingdom.

Some sources suggest that Aker’s differing depictions seem to have given clues to His intended role. As the two-headed horizon, He was a more passively beneficial earth deity that held the severed pieces of Apep imprisoned safely. In His form of two lions, however, He was more active in destroying evil, and references in the Pyramid Texts indicate the twin lions had to refrain from “seizing” the deceased king traveling through the underworld, which is likely why that depiction of Aker was more commonly featured on entryways to keep evil from passing through.

References include G. Pinch’s Egyptian Mythology, R. Wilkinson’s The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, G. Hart’s Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, and T. Siuda’s Kemet.org.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Last year’s first A post was Apotropaic Deities.