Egyptian Symbols: Imiut Fetish

The Imiut is a rather peculiar fetish that date as early as the First Dynasty. It is represented with a stuffed animal (usually made of genuine animal skin) of either a great feline or a bull that is hung and tied on a pole by its tail and planted in a pot. The pots are mostly made of alabaster with the tail attached to a papyrus or a lotus blossom. The animal skin was usually wrapped in bandages linking it to the science of embalming. Due to this, this fetish became associated with funerary gods, Osiris, Anubis and his aspect, Imiut. It may also be sometimes called as Anubis fetish.

The earliest use of the Imiut fetish, as scholars would suggest, was for protection especially of the king or pharaoh where it was placed by the royal throne.

The purpose of the Imiut is still subject for debate yet it has been well documented as an integral part of the funerary rites in ancient Egypt. Imiut (translates to “he who is in his wrappings”) was believed to be a very ancient god of the underworld. When he was assimilated by Anubis, he became connected with embalming and mummification thus these fetishes are often found in tombs. In fact, two of the most popular Imiut fetishes are found in Chapel of Anubis in Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple and in the tomb of Tutankhamen where it lined the each side of the west end of the corridors of the outermost shrine.

The fetish is alternatively known as “Son of the Hesat-Cow” (the cow that gave birth the Mnevis bull was linked to the cow goddess Hesat – an early form of Hathor and thought of as the mother of Anubis). The use of the bull’s skin at times may also have been linked to Anubis’ epithet as the Lord of the Cattle.

Proof of its ancient use and symbolism is well documented throughout history. In the Papyrus Jumilhac, it is explained how the fetish was used to protect the young Horus when he was hidden by his mother Isis in Chemmis.

The fetish is linked to the bandages used in mummification and has been an important part in celebrations like the “Heb Sed” or the Royal Jubilee Festival.