Anubis (Anpu) In Egyptian mythology, Greek name for the jackal-headed god of the dead, called Anpu by the Egyptians. Although the jackal was known to prowl the ancient cemeteries as a scavenger, the early Egyptians turned him into a god who protected rather than pillaged tombs. According to one myth, Anubis was the son of the goddess Nephthys, who had tricked her brother, the god Osiris, into adulterously sleeping with her. Nephthys abandoned Anubis at birth, and he was found and raised by Osiris’s sister-wife, the goddess Isis. He accompanied Osiris on his conquest of the world, and when Osiris was murdered and dismembered, Anubis helped find his body and then embalmed it so well it resisted the influences of time and decay. Thus, it was said, the burial rites were invented. In another story, the wicked god Seth, disguised as a leopard, approached the body of Osiris. Anubis seized him and branded him all over with a hot iron. According to this myth, this is how the leopard got its spots.
Subsequently, Anubis presided over funerals and guided the dead through the underworld into the kingdom of Osiris. In his function as guide of the dead he assimilated the character of the earlier Egyptian god Wepwawet (he who opens the ways). Anubis’s cult continued during Greek and Roman times. According to Plutarch, the Egyptian jackal god was common to both the celestial and infernal regions. This dual role was reinforced in Roman times by Apuleius’s Latin novel The Golden Ass (book 11), which describes a procession of the goddess Isis in which Anubis appears with his dog’s head and neck, a “messenger between heaven and hell, displaying alternately a face black as night and golden as day.”
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
Foremost of the Westerners
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Egyptian goddess Nephthys seduced her sister’s husband, Osiris, and conceived Anubis. (The name Anubis may be interpreted as “Royal Child.”) After his birth, Nephthys left him in the Necropolis, where jackals raised him. After Osiris’ death, Isis came looking for her husband’s son. She adopted Anubis, who became her faithful companion as she searched for Osiris’ body. During the journey, Anubis invented embalming and mummification: Osiris was the first mummy.
That’s one version of Anubis’ myth. The other is that he is an ancient deity who ruled as Lord of Death before Osiris and is older than Osiris. Jackal-headed figures abound in prehistoric North African rock art and may represent Anubis. As Osiris gained popularity, Anubis became subservient to him, at least officially. It was crucial that new myths incorporate Anubis into the new pantheon because, although Osiris may bear the title of Lord of the Dead, his role is largely passive. Anubis does most of the work. He is the most active participant in the death process. Anubis presides over rituals involving corpse and soul:
• Anubis is guardian of the door through which the deceased enter the hall of judgment.
• He leads the soul to the field of celestial offerings.
• Anubis presides over the weighing of the heart ritual: the ceremony of judgment that determines the soul’s fate.
• He himself places the heart on the scales of justice and personally feeds the souls of those who fail to pass the test to Ammit, the monster who devours them.
• He supervises the mummification process,ensuring that it is ritually correct.
• Anubis supervises the crucial opening-of-the-mouth ceremony, the ritual which ensured reanimation of the soul.
Egyptian funerary priests wore jackal masks, perhaps channeling Anubis.
Anubis traveled to Rome with Isis, where he was venerated as the ruler of hosts of infernal spirits. The Romans considered Anubis generally protective but also invoked his help with curses. The Romans carried Anubis throughout Europe: Anubis amulets are found as far as a grave on the Isle of Anglesey.
Anubis opens the path allowing spirits and humans to travel between realms. He serves as a guide if requested. Anubis will stand guard for you. Point his image in the direction of what must be protected or from whence you fear danger will emerge.
• Anubis knows the date of everyone’s death and may be petitioned to reveal it.
• Anubis locates lost articles but only if you have a statue of him: touch his ears and request his help.
• Anubis guards the dead, protecting against grave robbing and desecration.
• He guards mediums, ensuring that only benevolent spirits approach.
• Anubis may sometimes wear the mask of Saint Christopher.
Mediums, diviners, and those working in the funeral industry; Anubis protects children.
A black jackal or hound, a man with a jackal’s head
Although he is called a jackal, he is not portrayed as a realistic jackal; the Egyptians were not interested in realistic portraiture but in conveying spiritual and mystic truths via color and image.
Jackal, dogs; some see the image of Anubis as really resembling Egyptian hounds more than jackals: he may be the ancient prototype of modern Pharaoh Hounds.
Bloodstained black-and-white oxhide hanging from a pole
Star: Sirius, the Dog Star
Wepwawet; Isis; Horus; Nephthys; Thoth
Canis simensis, the Ethiopian jackal or wolf (like Anubis, there is dispute as to its true identity), is extremely endangered: offerings on its behalf or on behalf of Pharaoh Hounds in need (Pharaoh hound rescue) may be appreciated; alternatively an altar in your home or in a funeral parlor or cemetery; Anubis enjoys a drink: beer, wine, or spirits; give him macabre funeral- and death-themed toys and figures.
Anubis offers immortality in the 1933 Boris Karloff movie, The Ghoul.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.