Wepwawet standing.svg
Wepwawet, the opener of ways. Wepwawet is depicted as a jackal, not to be confused with Anubis.
Major cult centerLycopolis
Symbolthe mace, hunting arrows, jackal, shedshed, standard
Personal information
ParentsSet and Nephthys

In Egyptian mythology, Wepwawet (hieroglyphic wp-w3w.t; also rendered Upuaut, Wep-wawet, Wepawet, and Ophois) was originally a deity of funerary, war, and royalty association, whose cult centre was Asyut in Upper Egypt (Lycopolis in the Greco-Roman period). His name means opener of the ways and he is often depicted as a jackal standing at the prow of a solar-boat. Some interpret that Wepwawet was seen as a scout, going out to clear routes for the army to proceed forward.[1] One inscription from the Sinai states that Wepwawet "opens the way" to king Sekhemkhet's victory.[2]

Wepwawet originally was seen as jackal deity, despite the Greek name of Lycopolis, meaning city of wolves, and is one of the earliest Egyptian Gods on record. Wepwawet was heavily seen in association with royalty and the Pharaoh (My face is that of Upwawet, Pyramid Texts), symbolizing and protecting their rise to power, accompanying them on hunts (in which capacity he was titled [one with] sharp arrow more powerful than the gods alone) or in the pharaoh's ascent to the Duat, or afterlife[3].

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, a deity that was worshiped in Asyut, eventually being considered his brother. Seen as a jackal, he also was said to be Set's son. Consequently, Wepwawet often is confused with Anubis.[2] This deity appears in the Temple of Seti I at Abydos.[2]

In Egyptian art, Wepwawet was depicted as a standing jackal (as opposed to Anubis, who was a recumbent jackal), or as a man with the head of a jackal. In rare cases, he appeared in fully human form. While many sources of misinformation have circulated both on the internet and in academic circles regarding Wepwawet being associated with the wolf, or to grey / white coloration, the foremost expert on Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt put this argument to rest in his book Jackal Divinities stating Wepwawet "was almost certainly coloured black".[4] The discrepancy in color is most often attributed to pigment degradation, or the pigment variety chosen by the artist (for Wepwawet, Anubis, and other Jackal Gods such as Duamutef[5]).

He was sometimes depicted dressed as a soldier, as well as carrying other military equipment—a mace and a bow.

For what generally is considered to be lauding purposes of the pharaohs, a later myth 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 later Pyramid Texts, Wepwawet is called "Ra" who has gone up from the horizon, perhaps as the "opener" of the sky.[2] In the later Egyptian funerary context, Wepwawet assists at the Opening of the mouth ceremony and guides the deceased into the netherworld.[2]

In popular culture

In Crusader Kings III, God Wepwawet is the supreme deity of the Kordofan faith.[6]

Wepwawet is the personal god or totem of Thu, the main character in the Lady of the Reeds books by Canadian author Pauline Gedge (House of Dreams, 1994; and House of Illusions, 1996).

Animal origin

Black-backed Jackal
Black-backed Jackal

While we don't know for certain the exact species of animal represented by the Ancient Egyptian sꜢb / sAb animal (Jackal), the African jackal (Canis lupaster) was one species thought to depict and the template of numerous Ancient Egyptian deities, including Wepwawet.[7] Other species theorized include the Black-backed Jackal also called the Silver-backed Jackal (C.mesomelas, Lupulella mesomelas) and Golden Jackal or Asiatic Jackal (Canis aureus).

The Egyptian jackal was listed as a subspecies of the golden jackal but molecular and osteological data has established that it is a unique species in its own right. It is native to Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia, though its post-Pleistocene range once encompassed the Palestine region.

Inter-breeding between species also cannot be ruled out, and it has been posited that a species sharing the characteristics of both African jackal and wolf species could be the missing link, such as the combination of c. aureas and c. lupus lupaster appearing as canis aureus lupaster.[8]


See also


  1. ^ Pat Remler, Egyptian Mythology A to Z: A Young Readers Companion, Facts on File Inc., 2000. p. 170 Note: Remler's reference only states that Wepwawet's name means 'Opener of the ways'.
  2. ^ a b c d e Remler, p.170
  3. ^ DuQuesne, Terence (1991). Jackal at the Shaman's Gate. Darengo Publications. p. 12. ISBN 1-871266-14-9. You will ascend towards towards the sky as Horus, Upon the celestial sledge of the Opener of the Ways" [Pyramid Texts §§796-799 (Sethe)]
  4. ^ DuQuesne, Terence (2005). The Jackal Divinities of Egypt (I). Darengo Publications. p. 116. ISBN 1-871266-24-6.
  5. ^ Wilfong, Terry G. "Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt".
  6. ^ "Religion - CK3 Wiki".
  7. ^ Remler, P. (2010). Egyptian Mythology, A to Z. Infobase Publishing. p. 99. ISBN 978-1438131801.
  8. ^ Pouls Wegner, Mary-Ann. "Wepwawet in Context: A Reconsideration of the Jackal Deity and Its Role in the Spatial Organization of the North Abydos Landscape". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt.