Ancient Egyptian God Khepri: Mythology, Symbol & Facts

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has been an adjunct professor of religion at Western Kentucky University for six years. They have a master's degree in religious studies from Western Kentucky University and a bachelor's degree in English literature and religious studies from Western Kentucky University.

The scarab beetle is a pervasive symbol in ancient Egyptian religion and was connected to Khepri, the god of the sun and rebirth. Learn more about Khepri's connection to the scarab and the significance of this in this lesson.

Khepri, the Sun God

How would you like people to associate you with a dung beetle? The ancient Egyptians, as you might know, were fascinated by dung beetles or scarab beetles—so much so that they even had a scarab beetle god! This god, Khepri, was usually depicted as a scarab beetle, though sometimes as a man with a scarab head, and was considered to be a sun god, among other things.

In fact, he first became associated with the scarab beetle because he was considered to the be the sun god. The ancient Egyptians thought Khepri pushed the sun across the sky; they noticed how this was the same as watching a scarab beetle push a ball of dung, which was one of the reasons why Khepri became connected with this symbol. They also noticed the similarity between a scarab's antennae sticking up behind a ball of dung and the traditional symbol of the sun god's horns set against a sun disk.

Khepri, the God of Rebirth

Khepri's Name and Origin

Khepri got his name from how he came to be, which is closely connected with his symbol. According to the ancient Egyptians, scarabs were born out of nothing: the eggs of scarabs are small and typically laid in carrion (animal carcasses), so they seem to just emerge from death. Khepri, similarly, was considered to have created himself, or kheper, which means ''to emerge'' and ''to come into being.''

Connection with Rebirth and Death

This connection with the scarab, which is born from death, (in the sense that it hatches from eggs laid in carrion) carried over to Khepri, who was associated with renewal and rebirth. He was often connected with Osiris, the god of the dead, because he embodied the idea of rebirth. His act of pushing the sun across the sky even represented this cycle of death (sunset) and rebirth (sunrise). This association caused him to be quite important in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a text used for guiding souls to and through the afterlife.

It was common practice for people, whether commoners or royals, to be buried with scarab emblems representative of Khepri. These emblems would be weighed against the feather of Ma'at, a symbol of balance and justice, in the afterlife and were inscribed with ''do not stand a s a witness against me'' as a hope that the person would pass though successfully to the afterlife.

Scarab emblem buried with a pharaoh
Scarab emblem buried with a pharaoh

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