In ancient Egyptian religion and mythology, the underworld, commonly referred to as the Duat or Amenti, was a complex realm of the dead. It was intricately described with regions of...
Aker is a lesser-known but still significant deity in ancient Egyptian mythology and religion, especially in relation to the concepts of the horizon and the underworld.
Aker is often depicted as two lions seated back-to-back, with one facing east (representing yesterday) and the other facing west (representing tomorrow). Sometimes, the two lions are shown as one and are named Sef (yesterday) and Duau (tomorrow).
Aker’s Role in Mythology
Aker’s primary function was as the guardian of the eastern and western horizons of the underworld. He was the horizon itself where the sun entered and exited, marking the transition between night (underworld) and day.
Relation to the Sun
Aker was closely associated with the sun god Ra. Every night, Ra would travel through the underworld, and Aker would protect Ra from the serpent demon, Apep, a chaotic entity that sought to consume the sun and plunge the world into eternal darkness.
The image of the two lions back-to-back is thought to symbolize the borders between night and day and between the living and the dead. This makes Aker a liminal deity, one who controls boundaries and transitions.
While there weren’t temples dedicated to Aker, he was frequently invoked for protection, especially in funerary contexts. His image often adorned tombs and coffins, providing the deceased with safe passage into the afterlife.
Did you know…?
The “Akeru” were, in later times, regarded as protectors of the deceased, ensuring their safe journey through the underworld. This protective motif of two lions continued into other cultures and epochs, most notably in the form of the Greek “Hercules’ Gates”.