The Scarab God - Khepri
I thought it might be fun to take a little time to introduce you to one of the key characters in both Genesis and House of Scarabs; the scarab-headed god, Khepri. He, after whom the entire series is named.
Khepri might not be the most beautiful of the ancient Egyptian gods, or even one of the most important but, to me, he's one of the cutest. Mind you, my favourite animal is a hippo so beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder.
I first became aware of Khepri back in 1990 when I took my first visit to Egypt. I'd saved up for an eternity to visit the country of my dreams and a gulf-war was not going to stop me going. In fact my visit was magical. Tourism had dried up so we had most of the temples and sites to ourselves and a gaggle of the tour guides vying for our attention... it was bliss.
I remember walking through Karnak my mouth hanging open in wonder and awe. No amount of books or photos had prepared me for the majesty of the towering columns and the intricacy of the hieroglyphs. I walked though a side entrance and there was the sacred lake with a stunted pillar topped with a huge scarab beetle.
I had three tour guides with me because my fellow boat companions had come down with food poisoning, as a vegetarian I was the only one to escape its ravages. They weaved such stories about that scarab - convincing me that if I walked around the pillar in a certain direction, a prescribed number of times, I would find true love and fertility. As a 21 year old the story tickled me so I did as they suggested... I now wonder if the true love I found was Egypt, and the fertility was the wealth of friends and happiness I would discovery within her glorious boundaries.
It was those stories and that amazing trip that developed the cult of Khepri within my heart and why I love the little fellow so much. When you see those tiny beetles rolling the huge ball of dung you have to admire their voracity and sheer determination.
Khepri - The God
Khepri was the god of creation and rebirth. He was responsible for rolling the sun across the sky each day and dropping it over the horizon each evening, only to carry it back up into the sky again at dawn. Therefore he was part of the mythology of creation.
There was no cult of Khepri because as a solar deity he largely fell under the auspices of Ra. However he is depicted in most temples as either a scarab beetle or a man with a scarab beetle for a head. The ancient Egyptians often wore bracelets or carried amulets of a beetle. As part of the mummification process the body cavity often had amulets of Khepri placed inside them to help them make a successful passage to the after life.
The ancient Egyptians referred to the Book of the Dead for all mortuary related things. In the book it stated that a dead person's heart would be weighed against a feather by Anubis. If the heart was heavier they would be denied access to the afterlife. The Egyptians believed that to pass this test they must have a scarab beetle with their body so that Khepri could support their bid for eternal bliss. Many of the amulets were inscribed with spells from the Book of the Dead
So when writing about resurrection and rebirth it was not just a matter of my fondness for the god but also a historical necessity that I depict him within the series. From there the title House of Scarabs was born, with Khepri as the key god supported by the strength and might of Sobek (the crocodile god) and the protective powers and intelligence of Bastet (the cat god).
Places of Worship
Unlike most of the gods there are no temples dedicated to Khepri, or at least none that I could locate. However in the reign of Amenhotep III he created the pillar at Karnak Temple and a number of plaques that were spread from one end of the kingdom to the other.
An Interesting Fact: I'd written Genesis and House of Scarabs and included references to both the pillar and the plaques. When it came to deciding which pharaoh would be featured in the next book I decided upon Amenhotep III and when I started researching him I realised that he was the creator of the pillars and plaques. I hadn't known that previously... as with so many elements of these books I feel my hand was guided by an unknown force when writing about these items.
Writing about Khepri
As I write paranormal action-thrillers I've had to endow my gods with a few more "superpowers", for want of a better word, than mythology has attributed to them. I've tried to maintain historical accuracy where possible but I am a strong believer that story must come first.
You will find more of Khepri and his two buddies in my forthcoming books House of Bastet and House of Sobek so keep your eyes peeled.
To read about the cat goddess Bastet, click here.
Until next time.... keep reading.