Listening to the coyotes communicating in howls and yips just yards away from our Sanctuary, brings to mind one of the most ancient Egyptian gods, Wepwawet (also known as Ap-aut and Sed) a wolf-like god whose worship originated in Upper Egypt. His name means “Opener of the Ways” and this has been interpreted as opening the way for king in battle, opening the pathway to the afterlife, and opening the way at one’s birth. However, we can also think of this as referring to the opening the way to choices or paths taken in life.
Wepwawet was linked to the power of the living pharaoh and was given the honor of going before the king during many ritual processions. He also accompanied the pharaoh when he was hunting and was given the title, “the one with the sharp arrow who is more powerful than the gods.”
Wepwawet’s connection with the pharaoh is demonstrated in an ancient celebration called the Sed Festival. The less formal name was the Feast of the Tail which was derived from an animal tail that was typically attached to the back of the pharaoh’s garment in the early periods of Egyptian history. Sed Festivals were jubilees celebrated after a pharaoh had held the throne for thirty years and then every three to four years thereafter, as long as the ruler reigned. The Festival was held to rejuvenate the pharaoh’s strength and stamina while still sitting on the throne, and celebrating the continued success of the pharaoh. Ramesses II reigned for 65 years, longer than any other pharaoh, and he celebrated 14 Sed Festivals. Ramesses, in addition to having the most Sed Festivals, also had the most lavish celebrations.
While Wepwawet was generally depicted as a wolf or a man with the head of a wolf, there is some debate as to whether he was in fact a wolf. Some Egyptologists believed he was a jackal and related to Anubis*. However, as he is often depicted with a grey or white head, it would appear that the Ancient Egyptians clearly identified him as a wolf. Recently, a series of analyses on African wolf DNA showed that they are closely related to coyotes.
*Anubis was originally thought to be based on the jackal and is often referred to as “the jackal dog” but this is not how he was known to the ancient Egyptians where he is always referenced as a dog as in his description as “the dog who swallows millions.”