Wepwawet is one of the oldest-referenced deities in ancient Egyptian history known as the 'Opener of the Way'. This can apply on the spiritual level where He facilitates communication with the various Netjeru (gods and goddesses), or He can work His title in more mundane areas. Kemetic armies often carried His standard into battle that He might clear a path through enemy ranks. Many also pray for His blessing at the start of new projects or phases in their lives.
In late Egyptian mythology, Wepwawet (also called Upuaut, Wep-wawet, Wepawet, and Ophois) was originally a war deity, whose cult centre was Asyut in Upper Egypt (Lycopolis in the Greco-Roman period). His name means, 'opener of the ways'. Some interpret that Wepwawet was seen as a scout, going out to clear routes for the army to proceed forward. One inscription from the Sinai states that Wepwawet "opens the way" to king Sekhemkhet's victory.
Wepwawet originally was seen as a wolf deity. Thus the Greek name of Lycopolis, meaning city of wolves, and it is likely the case that Wepwawet was originally just a symbol of the pharaoh; seeking to associate with wolf-like attributes, that later became deified as a mascot to accompany the pharaoh. Likewise, Wepwawet was said to accompany the pharaoh on hunts, in which capacity he was titled (one with) sharp arrow more powerful than the gods.
Wepwawet is dual-aspected with Yinepu [link] (the Greek name for Anubis). He may appear either as a jackal-headed man, or as a standing or reclining jackal, although the reclining position shown on a golden sledge (platform) is mostly used for Yinepu. In appearance, Wepwawet is much the same as Yinepu; only He may be brown or gray in color instead of black. This color differentiation may be a throwback to an earlier concept in which He was supposed to have been a wolf rather than a jackal; however, in later Greco-Roman portraits He is depicted as very wolf-like as well. But often the only way one can tell the difference between the two is through the interpretation of the hieroglyphs that accompany the portrait.
Like Yinepu, Wepwawet shares the secretive and wiley nature of the jackal who is also associated with the passage and guardianship of the dead. Unlike Yinepu, He has more to do with the mysteries of magic and intuition, and not so much with funerary aspects. He is perhaps the most pragmatic of the Netjeru. Hed get things done in the most efficient way possible within the boundaries of Maat [link] (a term referring to universal order, harmony and balance). Ma'at is also the name of a Netjert (goddess) Who embodies these virtues.
Wepwawet can be mischievous bordering on the irreverent, and can be compared to the Trickster in some Native American cultures.
Over time, the connection to war, and thus to death; led to Wepwawet also being seen as one who opened the ways to and through duat, for the spirits of the dead. Through this, and the similarity of the jackal to the wolf, Wepwawet became associated with Anubis; eventually being considered his son. Seen as a jackal, he also was said to be Set's son. Consequently, Wepwawet often is confused with Anubis. This deity appears in the Temple of Seti I at Abydos.
In later Egyptian art, Wepwawet was depicted as a wolf or a jackal, or as a man with the head of a wolf or a jackal. Even when considered a jackal; Wepwawet usually was shown with grey, or white fur, reflecting his lupine origins. He was depicted dressed as a soldier, as well as carrying other military equipmenta mace and a bow.
For what generally is considered to be lauding purposes of the pharaohs, a later mythos briefly was circulated claiming that Wepwawet was born at the sanctuary of Wadjet, the sacred site for the oldest goddess of Lower Egypt that is located in the heart of Lower Egypt. Consequently, Wepwawet, who had hitherto been the standard of Upper Egypt alone, formed an integral part of royal rituals, symbolizing the unification of Egypt.
In the late pyramid texts, Wepwawet is called "He who has gone up from the horizon," perhaps as the 'opener' of the sky. In the later Egyptian funerary context, Wepwawet assists at the Opening of the mouth ceremony and guides the deceased into the netherworld.
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