The Egyptian god Anubis (a modern rendition inspired by New Kingdom tomb paintings)
|Protector of the dead and embalming |
|Name in hieroglyphs||
|Major cult center||Lycopolis, Cynopolis|
|Symbol||the fetish, the flail|
Ra (early myth)
|Siblings||Horus (in some accounts)|
Anubis (pron.: // or //; Ancient Greek: Ἄνουβις) is the Greek name for a (presumably) jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion. He is the son of Nephthys and Set according to the Egyptian mythology. According to the Akkadian transcription in the Amarna letters, Anubis' name was vocalized in Egyptian as Anapa. The oldest known mention of Anubis is in the Old Kingdom pyramid texts, where he is associated with the burial of the pharaoh. At this time, Anubis was the most important god of the dead but he was replaced during the Middle Kingdom by Osiris.
He takes names in connection with his funerary role, such as He who is upon his mountain, which underscores his importance as a protector of the deceased and their tombs, and the title He who is in the place of embalming, associating him with the process of mummification. Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumes different roles in various contexts.
Anubis was associated with the mummification and protection of the dead for their journey into the afterlife. He was usually portrayed as a half human, half jackal, or in full jackal form wearing a ribbon and holding a flail in the crook of its arm. The jackal [Note: recent genetic studies show that the Egyptian jackal is actually a form of the grey wolf and has thus been renamed the "Egyptian Wolf"] was strongly associated with cemeteries in ancient Egypt, since it was a scavenger which threatened to uncover human bodies and eat their flesh. The distinctive black color of Anubis "did not have to do with the jackal [per se] but with the color of rotting flesh and with the black soil of the Nile valley, symbolizing rebirth."
Anubis is depicted in funerary contexts where he is shown attending to the mummies of the deceased or sitting atop a tomb protecting it. In fact, during embalming, the "head embalmer" wore an Anubis costume. The critical weighing of the heart scene in the Book of the Dead also shows Anubis performing the measurement that determined the worthiness of the deceased to enter the realm of the dead (the underworld, known as Duat). New Kingdom tomb-seals also depict Anubis sitting atop the nine bows that symbolize his domination over the enemies of Egypt.
One of the roles of Anubis was "Guardian of the Scales". Deciding the weight of "truth" by weighing the Heart against Ma'at, who was often depicted as an ostrich feather, Anubis dictated the fate of souls. In this manner, he was a Lord of the Underworld, only usurped by Osiris.
Anubis is a son of Ra in early myths, but later he became known as son of Set and Nephthys, and he helped Isis mummify Osiris. Indeed, when the Myth of Osiris and Isis emerged, it was said that when Osiris had been killed by Set, Osiris' organs were given to Anubis as a gift. With this connection, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers: during the funerary rites of mummification, illustrations from the Book of the Dead often show a priest wearing the jackal mask supporting the upright mummy.
Perceptions outside Egypt
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In later times, during the Ptolemaic period, Anubis was merged with the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis. The centre of this cult was in uten-ha/Sa-ka/ Cynopolis, a place whose Greek name simply means "city of dogs". In Book XI of "The Golden Ass" by Apuleius, we find evidence that the worship of this god was maintained in Rome at least up to the 2nd century. Indeed, Hermanubis also appears in the alchemical and hermetical literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Although the Greeks and Romans typically scorned Egypt's animal-headed gods as bizarre and primitive (Anubis was known to be mockingly called "Barker" by the Greeks), Anubis was sometimes associated with Sirius in the heavens, and Cerberus in Hades. In his dialogues (e.g. Republic 399e, 592a), Plato has Socrates utter, "by the dog" (kai me ton kuna), "by the dog of Egypt", "by the dog, the god of the Egyptians" (Gorgias, 482b), for emphasis. Anubis is also known as the god of mummification and death - unlike other jackals, Anubis' head was black to resemble his status as god of death.
Usually, Anubis is portrayed as the son of Nephthys and Set, Osiris' brother and the god of the desert and darkness. One myth says that Nephthys got Osiris drunk and the resultant seduction brought forth Anubis. Yet another says she disguised herself as Isis and seduced Osiris and subsequently gave birth to Anubis.
Misconceptions in Popular Media
The 2008 comic documentary Religulous refers to Anubis, as "Anup the Baptizer" and says that he performed baptisms in Egyptian mythology. There is no evidence for baptism and it is widely held by Egyptologists that Anubis' role was associated with the mummification and protection of the dead for their journey into the afterlife. Anubis and Wepwawet (Upuaut) led the deceased to the halls of Maat where they would be judged. Anubis oversaw the process and ensured that the weighing of the heart was conducted correctly. He then led the innocent on to a heavenly existence and abandoned the guilty to Ammit. 
Weighing of the heart
The weighing of the heart ceremony was an important factor of the Egyptian mythology. In this ceremony, the heart was weighed, by Anubis, against an ostrich feather representing Maat. If the heart was heavier than the feather the soul would be devoured by Ammit.
- The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, G. Hart ISBN 0-415-34495-6,
- Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Merriam-Webster, 2007. p. 56
- Charles Russell Coulter, Patricia Turner (2000). Encyclopedia of ancient deities. Mc Farland. p. 58. ISBN 0-7864-0317-9.
- The Tell Amarna Tablets. Books.google.ca. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The complete gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 188–190. ISBN 0-500-05120-8.
- Charles Freeman, The Legacy of Ancient Egypt, Facts on File, Inc. 1997. p.91
- "Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Ani". Britishmuseum.org. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- "Ancient Egypt: the Mythology - Anubis". Egyptianmyths.net. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- "Anubis Not Egyptian Jackal but African Wolf". archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- Freeman, op. cit., p.91
- Faulkner, Raymond O.; arol Andrews, James Wasserman (Reprint edition (1 April 2008)). The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day. Chronicle Books. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-8118-6489-3.
- "Hermanubis | English | Dictionary & Translation by Babylon". Babylon.com. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- "Gods of Ancient Egypt: Anubis". Britishmuseum.org. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
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