(Wep-waut, Wepuat, Upwawet, Apuat, Greek Ophois) Wepwawet’s name means ‘Opener of the Way’, and he is depicted as a jackal (or jackal-like canid) or as a jackal-headed man. Although difficult to differentiate iconographically from Anubis in many cases, there are several ways. Wepwawet carries sometimes a mace and bow, in accord with the idea that Wepwawet ‘opens the way’ before the king in battle (or, as has been suggested, incarnate in the king’s hunting dog); and Wepwawet is frequently depicted atop a standard with the uraeus cobra of Wadjet in front of him, as well as an item called a shedshed (šdšd) of uncertain identification. One popular interpretation (from Frankfort 1948) sees in the shedshed a ceremonially preserved placenta, in token of the idea of Wepwawet as ‘opening the way’ of the womb as first-born; recently, Evans 2011 posits that it depicts the burrow or den of a wild canid. Wepwawet is somewhat more likely than Anubis to be depicted standing, rather than recumbent, and in pairs, rather than singly, a trait Wegner argues as indicating that the animal depicted is indeed a jackal, inasmuch as mated jackals hunt in pairs, unlike dogs and wolves which hunt in packs (Wegner 2007, 144). Many of the votive stelae from the Salakhana trove dedicated to Wepwawet (discussed in DuQuesne 2000) depict a group of canids, who may be manifestations, or bꜣ.w, of the God.

It appears to be impossible to distinguish Anubis and Wepwawet consistently as different species of canid. The strongest evidence for a differentiation is the Greek names for their respective cities, that of Anubis being Cynopolis, ‘dog city’, while that of Wepwawet was Lycopolis, ‘wolf city’, where ‘wolf’ likely means almost any wild canid. This may only represent motives specific to the Greek settlers, however. In addition, it must be borne in mind not only that Egyptian terms for canids answer to different motives than modern biological taxonomy, but also that “[o]ur terms ‘dog,’ ‘jackal,’ and ‘wolf’ are clearly inadequate for describing the full range of related canid species inhabiting the region of north Africa,” (Wegner 2007, 143).

A stela (BM 1632) discussed in DuQuesne 2003 shows Wepwawet in conjunction with four canines who seem to be domesticated dogs or wild dogs of the domesticated variety, as well as a ram-headed anthropomorphic deity perhaps identified as ‘Amun the hound’ (Meyrat 2008 reads ‘lion’ instead). Meyrat reads an epithet given to Wepwawet on this stela, shed-hrw, as ‘disrupter’, literally ‘loud of voice’. This is typically a negative trait in Egyptian literature, associated with Seth. Meyrat’s point is that the stela, which depicts Wepwawet harpooning a crocodile, shows Wepwawet having picked up some of the positive aspects of Seth associated with his defense of the solar boat against the serpent of entropy, Apophis. The suggested reading of the epithet could also suggest the apotropaic power of loud barking.

The iron instrument used in the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ ritual is called in PT utterance 21 “the adze of Wepwawet,” indicating that Wepwawet may have preceded Anubis in this role. In PT utterance 210 “the Wepwawet-jackal which emerged from the tamarisk-bush” is a symbol for the resurrected king, while the rising sun is hailed as Wepwawet in PT utterance 301, since it too ‘opens the way’, and Wepwawet opens the way to the sky for the king in utterance 302. In utterances 424, 539, and 734 the king’s face is said to be that of Wepwawet, similar to numerous passages in the afterlife literature in which the deceased is said to bear the face of Anubis, but perhaps with a special significance conveyed by the opener of the ways. In utterance 482, it is said of the deceased king that “you shall become Wepwawet,” an identificatory tendency also seen with Anubis; in utterance 535 it is said of the king that “your eyes have been given to you as your two uraei because you are Wepwawet who is on his standard and Anubis who presides over the God’s Booth [i.e. the embalming tent].” Uraei are fire-spitting cobras and hence light the way in the darkness, a function obviously related to that of Wepwawet insofar as a uraeus accompanies him on his standard. This association is underscored by the reference in utterance 569 to “the birth of Wepwawet in the per-nu,” the per-nu being the name of the shrine of Wadjet (the uraeus Goddess). In PT utterance 670 Osiris/the deceased is said to have “come forth from the Lake of Life, having been cleansed in the Lake of Cool Water and having become Wepwawet.” The link between emerging from water and ‘becoming’ Wepwawet perhaps has some connection to the waters of birth; in utterance 679, it is said of the deceased “You have your water, you have your efflux, you have your flood which issued from Osiris … may you divide them as Wepwawet.” Here it seems that the resurrection is envisioned by means of a transposition in which the exit of fluids from the body in embalming is identified with the exit of fluids accompanying birth.

DuQuesne, Terence. 2000. “Votive Stelae for Upwawet from the Salakhana Trove.” Discussions in Egyptology 48: 5-47.
—2003. “Exalting the God: Processions of Upwawet at Asyut in the New Kingdom.” Discussions in Egyptology 57: 21-46.
Evans, Linda. 2011. “The Shedshed of Wepwawet: An Artistic and Behavioural Interpretation.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 97: 103-115.
Frankfort, Henri. 1948. Kingship and the Gods. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Meyrat, Pierre. 2008. “Oupouaout-Rê, l’agitateur d’Assiout.” Göttinger Miszellen 218: 71-6.
Wegner, Mary-Ann Pouls. 2007. “Wepwawet in Context: A Reconsideration of the Jackal Deity and Its Role in the Spatial Organization of the North Abydos Landscape.” JARCE 43: 139-150.

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5 Responses to “Wepwawet”

  1. […] ethos is a part of how I behave (and aren’t contradictory), and every day I behave like my Father‘s daughter. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I am Kemetic, Heathen, a witch, a Vodousaint, […]

  2. […] Wepwawet @ Henadology. […]

  3. […] Wepwawet may be a more generally minor (or lesser known) Deity than Anup, but He is no less important. Besides His role as Opener of the Way, Wepwawet is the Lord of Victory, as well as the Lord of Sweet Joy. Wepwawet is a mighty force, a hunter, the jackal that attacks – savage, powerful, and battle-master. And yet, He is also a reminder of the happiness and pleasures of life, of luck and chance, of the multiplicity of opportunities and outcomes that exist whenever a decision is made. In my experience (UPG), Anup is the patient, steady calm before the storm…Wepwawet is the storm. They are two sides of the same coin, and yet not the same at all. They are the Jackal Lords. […]

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