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Story by Brandon L. Parsons (2014)
AKER: Ancient Egyptian Guardian of the Sunrise and Sunset...
The Egyptian pantheon of gods is jumbled mix of weirdness, a grab-bag of mystical, supernatural and sometimes-freakish awesomeness that spanned thousands of years of adventure and creation. Like most civilizations, the Egyptians had a god or goddess that represented something in nature that they couldn't explain at the time...which meant that there were hundreds of them! Mix in the Egyptians' fascination with all things feline, and you're bound to see a few pretty interesting deities. One of the oldest gods to gain street-cred to the dwellers along the ancient Nile River was indeed a regal cat of sorts, an earth-god who was believed to guard the gates of the dawn from where the sun supposedly rose from and set to each day; a two headed lion by the name of AKER (Ay-ker).
Sef and Duau; the two parts to Aker...
Ancient hieroglyphics depicting Aker...
To make things even more weird and difficult, Aker wasn't actually just one god; he was a two-in-one combo, with two lions sitting back to back. One was named SEF ("yesterday") and DUAU ("today"), and they represented the rising and setting of the sun, which in all physical descriptions of them is shown above them, half-way between setting and rising! So Aker definitely had some split-personality issues; not only was he Aker, but he could also be Sef and Duau at different times of the day. The symbol of the lions sitting back to back was known by the Egyptians as
, which to them was a symbol of the horizon. In fact, Aker's name actually means "he who curves" to describe how the horizon of the earth seems to do just that when you view it from high up (yep, the Egyptians figured out that the earth was round thousands and thousands of years ago!)
The entrance to the Egyptian underworld...
In addition to being the place where the sun entered and exited the world each day, the Gates of Dawn also doubled as the entrance to the Egyptian underworld. According to the myth, the dead had to plead their case to Aker before he would open the gates and allow them to head on to their final judgement. Being a pretty old, wise and knowledgeable god, it was said that only Aker had the power to cancel out the reason that a person had died so that they wouldn't have to suffer with that illness or issue when they went on to the underworld; for instance, he could draw out poison from a snakebite or scorpion sting before the person who had been ended walked through the gates. A pretty considerate guy he was, for sure.
Example of an Aker guardian statue...
As Aker was the guardian of the sunrise and sunset, ancient Egyptians would place twin statues of lions next to the front doors of their households, palaces and tombs, which served to guard those places from evil spirits, demons and other nasties intent on causing misery for people both alive and dead. Later on in history, even the Greeks and Romans picked up this idea and many of their tombs and houses would be seen with the twin symbols of lions crouching outside of their doorways. Because of his adoption by other cultures, Aker could be said to be one of the longest worshiped gods in Egyptian history; he was followed well into the Roman Imperial times, right up until the time when Christianity came to the Nile. Though he was wildly popular, Aker never had his own temples; he was seen as being connected to the earth itself and so didn't need them. Pretty cool to think that your whole temple would be the ENTIRE EARTH!
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