Sepa, who is depicted as a centipede (not a millipede, as is sometimes mistakenly asserted) and is thus often referred to in Egyptological literature simply as ‘the Centipede-God’ or ‘the Centipede’, had an important cult at Kheraha, which gave its name to the modern Egyptian city of Cairo. Near Kheraha was a sanctuary known as the “House of Sepa,” which was one of the sites of the interment of Osiris, and the cults of Osiris and of Sepa were very closely intertwined in the region of Kheraha and Heliopolis (Egyptian Iunu or Ôn). Sepa is even sometimes called “the divine body of Osiris,” (Corteggiani p. 136 & n. 5). The southern crypt or cavern (imehet) of Sepa at Kheraha was considered to be the spiritual source of the Nile’s annual inundation in the north, like Biggeh in the south, and a ritual of “the new water of Sepa” seems to have involved breaching an earthwork dam to release the floodwaters into the irrigation canals in the area (ibid., 138ff). Frequent reference is made to a procession of Sepa from Heliopolis to Kheraha, sometimes referred to as “the festival of accompanying Sepa to Kheraha on his day,” (135). At Edfu Horus is identified as “he who brought Sepa to Kheraha in his reliquary/portable bark,” (136). This procession likely had some connection to the coming of the annual flood. Spells 31 and 69 in the Book of the Dead indicate that Anubis played some role in association with the “day of Sepa,” as one would expect if there were Osirian rites performed, and in one version of BD spell 17, the “seven spirits” or “blessed ones” who are stationed by Anubis as the protectors of the coffin of Osiris are said to have been “in the retinue of their lord Sepa.” Mention is made in spell 414 of the Coffin Texts of the “Mansions of Sepa” in which “a light has been kindled” against the “Furious One” who has rebelled against Re and threatens the solar bark. The “Furious One” here is presumably Apophis, and Sepa’s association with rituals against Apophis would provide the paradigm for a spell against snakes in the road (no. 143 in Borghouts) which protects the traveller by stating that “He is Sepa—he is on his way to Heliopolis,” a metaphorical reference to Sepa’s processional route (albeit in the opposite direction as the procession, which has always Kheraha as its destination). This procession lends its name to an actual “road of Sepa” to Heliopolis, mentioned in the “Victory Stela of King Piye” (Lichtheim vol. 3, 77), a “road of Sepa,” whether mundane or spiritual, having been mentioned as early as the Pyramid Texts (Corteggiani p. 135, n. 2). In CT spell 91, the deceased affirms, “I have gone forth from a myriad, I have appeared as Sepa,” perhaps alluding to the many legs of the centipede; earlier in the same spell, the deceased has stated that “he whose faces are many” shall engage his foe for him “so that I may go forth into the day.” The reference is made explicit in CT spell 280, for “Becoming the Elder Horus,” in which the operator, identified with the Elder Horus (Haroeris), is told “your legs are Sepa.”
Allen, T. G. 1974. The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [BD]
Corteggiani, Jean-Pierre. 1979. “Une stèle Héliopolitaine d’époque Saïte.” In Hommages à la mémoire de Serge Sauneron, 1927-1976, vol. I. Cairo: IFAO.
Faulkner, R. O. 1973-8. The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. 3 vols. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd. [CT]
Lichtheim, Miriam. 1975-80. Ancient Egyptian Literature. 3 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press.