Anubis is the Egyptian name for a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and life after death in Egyptian mythology. Anubis is a psychopomp god, meaning he helps and accompanies the deceased to their new destiny in the world beyond.
In the ancient Greek language, Anubis is known as Inpu, (variously spelled Anupu, Ienpw etc.).
The earliest known mention of Anubis is in the pyramid texts of the Old Kingdom, where he is associated with the burial of the king. At that time, Anubis was the most important god of the dead, but he was replaced during the Middle Kingdom by Osiris. He takes different names in relation to his funerary role, such as "he who is on his mountain", which emphasizes his importance as the protector of the dead and their tombs, and the title of "he who is at the place of embalming", associating him with the mummification process.
Anubis was the son of Osiris, the god of the underworld, and Nephthys, the sister and wife of Set. One night, Nephthys and Isis deceived Osiris. Nephthys never loved Set (Seth), but she always had a "liking" for Osiris. Since Nephthys and Isis were twins, they managed to trick Osiris into sleeping with Nephthys one night instead of Isis, which gave birth to Anubis. Kebechet is presented as the daughter of Anubis in some places.
Following the fusion of the belief systems of the Ennead and the Ogdoad, following the identification of Atum with Ra, and their compatibility, Anubis became a lesser god in the underworld, giving way to Osiris (more popular during the Middle Ages). However, Anubis was given a place in the family of gods as the son of Osiris and Nephthys, and in this role he helped Isis to mummify her dead father.
Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis took on different roles in various contexts, and no public procession in Egypt would be conducted without an Anubis walking at its head.
Anubis was the god who protected the dead and brought them to the afterlife. He was usually depicted as a half-human, half-knight or full jackal form, wearing a ribbon and holding a flail in the crook of his arm. The jackal was strongly associated with ancient Egyptian cemeteries, as it was a scavenger that threatened to uncover human bodies and eat their flesh. The Egyptian jackal, which was the inspiration for the Egyptian god Anubis, is actually not a jackal at all but a member of the wolf family.
The characteristic black color of Anubis had nothing to do with the jackal, per se, but with the color of decaying flesh and the black earth of the Nile Valley, symbolizing rebirth.
When the myth of Osiris and Isis appeared, it was said that at the death of Osiris, the organs of Osiris were given to Anubis as a gift. In this context, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers: during the funeral rites of mummification, the illustrations of the Book of the Dead often show a priest wearing the mask of a jackal supporting the standing mummy.
Anubis is represented in funerary contexts where we see him taking care of the mummies of the deceased or sitting on a tomb to protect it. He ensured: food and descent burial. In fact, during the embalming, the "chief embalmer" wore a costume of Anubis.
The scene of the weighing of the heart in the Book of the Dead also shows Anubis performing the measurement that determined the fitness of the deceased to enter the realm of the dead (the underworld). The seals of the New Kingdom tombs also depict Anubis atop nine arches symbolizing his dominion over Egypt's enemies.
Originally, in the Ogdoad system, he was the god of the underworld. He was said to have a wife, Anput (who was in fact only his female aspect, her name being his with an additional feminine suffix: the t), who was represented in exactly the same way, though female. He would also have taken as his wife the feminine form of Neheb Kau, Nehebka, and Kebechet, the goddess of the purification of the body organs especially placed in canopic vases during mummification.
One of the greatest science fiction/fantasy novels ever published, The Gates of Anubis, which draws on literary history, lycanthropy, the Templars, and a strange cast of characters, is one of the most original and memorable time travel stories ever published. It won the 1983 Philip K. Dick Award for best original science fiction paperback.
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