Egyptian Gods: Anubis

Anubis is another ancient deity of Egypt mostly connected with the underworld. He is known as the guardian of the necropolis. He is also the protector of the dead as he ushers them into the underworld. He is also known as the god of embalming. He is represented as a man with the head of a jackal with alert ears and wearing a red ribbon. He is the son of Nephthys and Osiris. He is also known as Yinepu or Anpu from the Egyptian words “inpu” and “inp” that translates and relates to the words royal child and decay respectively. He is better known with the following epithets: Imy-ut or He Who is In the Place of Embalming, and nub-tA-djser or Lord of the Sacred Land.

In his human form, he is usually seen holding scepter in his hand. He may also be depicted taking the form of a jackal or a black dog usually seen accompanying Isis. He is seldom seen in full human form except in the cenotaph temple of Rameses II at Abydos. His sacred symbol includes the black and white ox-hide hanging from a pole, embalming material, flails and flag.

He was originally thought of as the son of Ra and his wife Hesat. However, later myths suggest that he was the son of Nephthys and Osiris or Set and Nephthys. There are many versions why Osiris sired a son with Nephthys – a loyal sister of Isis. One of the most popular story tells that Nephthys disguised Isis got Osiris drunk and seduced him. In other stories, he is believed to be the adopted son of Osiris.

He is attributed to the building of the first tombs. In ancient times, dogs and jackals always patrolled the desert adjacent to the burial sites. Tombs, usually of more elaborate designs, were built in order to protect the dead from these animals. This is presumably the reason why Anubis took the form of the jackal (the sAb) or the wild dog (the iwiw). His fur is black (a stark difference from the brown of the jackals) because the color symbolized fertility – an idea closely related to rebirth in afterlife.

Originally, Anubis was the god of the underworld in the Ogdoad cosmogony. However, the growing popularity of the Ennead in the Middle Kingdom, he was relegated into the shepherd of the dead and the lord of mummification as he voluntarily gave up his position in favor of his father. In the pyramid text of Unas, he was associated with the Eye of Horus that served as a guide for the dead in finding Osiris. In another legend, he together with Wepwawet guides the dead to the hall of Ma’at for judging. He is believed to stay throughout the process of weighing of the hearts and guarded the Scales of truth. After the ceremony, he would lead the innocent into a fruitful afterlife in Duat or the Field of Celestial Offerings while the sinful and guilty will be devoured by Ammit.

He is believed to have invented embalming – the first form of mummification. He is responsible for embalming the dead body of Osiris when he was killed by Set. Anubis preserved the body until his eventual resurrection. In his role as the god of mummification, in preserving of the body of the dead, Egyptians use sweet smelling herbs and plants because it would help the deceased on his way to afterlife. It is believed that Anubis would sniff the mummy and only those who smelled pure will be directed to Duat.

Tombs found in the Valley of the Kings were often sealed with the image of Anubis. This is done because the deity is thought to subdue the enemies of the state known as the nine bows thus the title “Jackal Ruler of the Bows”. The god, as many believed, was guarding the tombs both physically and spiritually. Similarly, another epithet tpy-djuf or “He who is on his Mountain” Anubis is seen keeping watch from the hill on top of the Theban necropolis. Moreover, Anubis is likewise known as khentyamentiu or Foremost of the Westerners because he protected the doorway to the Underworld (referred to as the place of the West).

He is also associated with Wepwawet and became the patron of lost souls including orphans as well as the funeral rites.

The worship of Anubis extends all throughout Egypt with its cult center in Hardai or Cynopolis located in the seventeenth nome of Upper Egypt, in Abt in the eighth nome of Upper Egypt and in Saut or Asyut, in the thirteenth nome of Upper Egypt. Like the cats of Bastet, a cemetery known as Anubeion is found in the desert of Saqqara dedicated to mummified dogs and jackals.