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Apep Attacks

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Jan 13, 2015 | 12:15 PM EST
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Illustration
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963 x 1282 px
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egyptian
battle
mythology
african

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Author Comments

Ra and Sutekh, two prominent Neteru (gods) from ancient Egyptian mythology, battle the monstrous serpent Apep while sailing through the underworld of Duat.

Sutekh (better known to Western audiences as Set) is often perceived as the Egyptian pantheon’s resident villain due to his power struggle with Heru (or Horus), but he was not always portrayed as an antagonist. Other traditions maintained that he helped Ra defend himself against Apep every night while their barge passed through Duat. OIf any entity in the whole Egyptian belief system represented evil incarnate, it would really be Apep rather than Sutekh.

While the long-nosed, long-eared creature commonly identified with Sutekh remains unidentified, I’m partial to the suggestion that it originally represented an aardvark, so I gave my rendition of Sutekh an aardvark motif. Since aardvarks have long claws for digging, the logical next step was to give Sutekh bracers with big claws on them, almost like Shredder from the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

You may notice that Sutekh has reddish dreadlocks and lighter skin than Ra. This references a condition called rufous albinism, a poorly-known form of albinism more commonly observed in people of African descent. It’s characterized by ruddy-brown skin, reddish hair, and hazel or brown eyes. Some sources claim that Sutekh had red hair and that red-haired people were considered to be his followers, so I thought rufous albinism would make sense for his human form.

As for Apep, his facial features are based off a subspecies of the Gaboon viper called Bitis gabonica rhinoceros, which has larger nose-horns than the other subspecies.