Khepri was a scarab-faced god in ancient Egyptian religion representing the rising or morning sun. By extension, he can also represent creation and the renewal of life.
Khepri (ḫprj) is derived from the Egyptian language verb ḫpr, meaning to “develop”, “come into being”, or “create”. The god was connected to and often depicted as a scarab beetle (ḫprr in Egyptian). The god and the scarab beetle represent creation and rebirth. Young dung beetles, having been laid as eggs within the dung ball, emerge from it fully formed, and thus ancient Egyptians considered that this god came from nothingness. Egyptians believed that the sun was reborn or created from nothing each day. In the same way, the beetle pushes large dung balls along the ground, and Khepri moves the newly-born sun across the sky. Khepri was a solar deity and thus connected to the rising sun and the mythical creation of the world.
There was no cult devoted to Khepri, and he was primarily subordinate to the greater sun god Ra. However, the sun god merged prominently in the creationist theory of Heliopolis and later Thebes. Often, ancient Egyptians regarded Khepri and another solar deity, Atum, as aspects of Ra: Khepri was the morning sun, Ra was the midday sun, and Atum was the sun in the evening. As a deity, Khepri’s four primary functions were creator, protector, sun-god, and the god of resurrection. The central belief surrounding Khepri was the god’s ability to renew life. In the same way, he restored the sun’s existence every morning. Archaeologists found mummified scarab beetles and scarab amulets in Pre-dynastic graves, indicating that Egyptians respected Khepri early on in the history of Ancient Egypt.
Khepri was principally depicted as a scarab beetle. However, in some tomb paintings and funerary papyri, he is represented as a human male with a scarab as a head or a scarab with a male human head emerging from the beetle’s shell. Egyptians also depicted him as a scarab in a solar barque held aloft by Nun. The scarab amulets that the Egyptians used as jewellery and as seals allude to Khepri and the newborn sun. The beetle carvings became so common that excavators found them throughout the Mediterranean.
The name “Khepri” appears most often in the Pyramid texts and usually has the scarab hieroglyph as a determinative or ideogram. Khepri (ḫprj) can also be spelt “Kheper”, which is the Egyptian term used to denote the sun god, the scarab beetle, and the verb “to come into existence”.
Kheper could also stand for “to change” and “to happen”.
It is thought that Khepri came into existence in the same manner as a young scarab beetle emerges from its dung ball fully formed.
Ancient Egyptians used to think that the beetles express the sun’s motion by rolling their faeces on the sand, which is why the sun god Khepri is associated with this particular species of beetle.
Another sun god, Atum and Khepri, is often considered part of Ra. As stated in The Book of the Dead, Khepri was also sometimes believed to be a part of Atum. Khepri was considered below the sun god Ra in rank, so no shrine was built for him.