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lateness is not the same as failure

lateness is not the same as failure

I studied Sepa’s painted face, lit by flickering candlelight, and told Him I was four weeks behind. After Wep Ronpet, I had planned to do one entry in the Obscure Gods project every weekend, and I had only managed an average of one every other weekend.

I did not make excuses to Him. When He agreed to be the sponsor of my project, I had given Him the ability to hold me accountable for my promises and my work—in exchange for attention, time, offerings, and prayers that would flow His way every time I cracked open my books. I needed someone to invest in this project with me so I didn’t simply peter out and give up when the going got hard.

Well, the going was hard. I wasn’t capable of my usual style of catching up; I couldn’t do more than one entry in a day, not when one entry consisted of several hours of research, essay-writing, and creating prayers and hekau. It was exhilarating and exhausting and gratifying and draining, worth every minute and every word and every straining synapse… but not something I could rush or speed-write.

Sepa does not use words with me; we don’t have a particularly close or emotional relationship that might warrant words. He does His duty, purifying the dead, fighting isfet, and guarding against poisonous creatures, and His overwhelming efficiency and work ethic inspire me to get off my ass.

“Right,” I told His image, turning to the stack of books at my feet. “I’ll catch up.” My progress will be gradual, constrained by realistic estimations of my time and energy, but being late isn’t the same as failing to do it at all.

After all, there are little-known Netjeru waiting for some extra attention out there.

PBP Fridays: O is for Obscure Gods

PBP Fridays: O is for Obscure Gods

Point to a dozen of ancient Egypt’s most famous gods, and I will know Their Kemetic and Greco-Roman names and the basic mythological background of each, as well as Their characteristics and attributes. Tell me it’s one of the big festivals honoring one of those gods, and I will probably shrug and continue on my merry little way with no more than a respectful nod and libation. Tell me it’s the Day of Sepa or the Feast of Menhuy, which was yesterday, and I will go pawing through all my books to learn more.

In other words, I have a thing for obscure gods.

Menhuy (or Menhu, or possibly even Menew) is the Slaughterer. Egyptologist Tamara Siuda describes him as a protective form of Amun, the Hidden One. In Wilkinson’s The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, the name Menew is cited as a form of Bes, a popular apotropaic dwarfish deity, still with the meaning of Slaughterer. The main reference I can find to Menhu is of a tomb inscription from the Papyrus of Ani that states “Hidden in form, given of Menhu” is the name of the tomb. Menhu(y) is also referenced in the inscription of Hor-nefer as a falcon-headed god from Esna, which may link Him to Amun Who is in turn linked to Ra-Horuakhety, typically depicted as falcon-headed.

Finding out all of that stoked me, just as doing the initial research on Sepa or on Neper was intriguing and exciting. But the idea of making this post about the Opet Festival (a major celebration of Amun and Mut) didn’t light a fire under me, even though it would have involved the same amount of research. I have very little “connection” to most of the more well-known Netjeru, barring Sekhmet and Nebt-het. On the other hand, I am so enthralled by little-known deities that I have tentatively set up the framework for a year’s worth of research and personal writing on some 70+ obscure Netjeru… which would likely turn into a small book of cited information and modern litanies, hekau, and prayers.

My partner, who holds a biology degree, tells me that there is some small percentage of each population (human and animal alike) that is predisposed to be more drawn to novelty than to familiarity and safety. It helps keep the gene pool fresh and offers a beneficial mutation the opportunity to survive and thrive. Maybe one bird is a bizarre color, but perhaps that color is a better adaptation to its changing surroundings than its species’ usual color, and if another bird is willing to chance its reproductive future on the oddball, a new strain of successful babies can be born and spread that useful gene around. And while I have not had my genome mapped, I can look at myself and at my intense, inexplicable interest in the left-of-center ideas/people/looks/hobbies/etc and see that pattern reflected.

So I love obscure gods. Mainstream deities are challenging to me; I find it difficult to want to connect, with some few exceptions. This goes for plenty of other things in my life, making me something of an unintentional hipster with my insistence on originality and rarity. I also don’t like the spotlight, so I shy away from things with too much attention, lest I also get seen and noticed; that part’s probably an innate (but unnecessary) survival mechanism.

I’m not the only fan of the unknown, of course. Some of my fellow Kemetics pay a lot of attention to lesser-known Names, such as Wenut (a hare goddess) and Benebdjedet (a ram-headed god). I love seeing hidden gods raised up and dusted off; it elicits such a thrill of glee down my spine.

After all, the most widespread gods already have plenty of worshippers and researchers—They don’t need me that much. But if I and my books and my love can make a difference to a little-known Netjeru by offering my time, attention, and words, then I am elated and satisfied.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Sepa, Centipede God

Sepa, Centipede God

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!