Representation: God of Underworld (Before Osiris), Embalming, Mummification and Cemeteries.
Common Names: Inpu, Anupu, Ienpw
When most people think of Ancient Egyptian gods, Anubis comes to mind. He is consistently showcased in modern culture throughout movies, books, and comics. His classic look, the head of a jackal and the body of a man, gives him a mysterious presence that is intriguing and interesting. This mysterious god is so well known that he remains a popular deity today much as he was thousands of years ago.
The Roles of Anubis
Anubis’s form was believed to have been adopted by the Egyptians due to the jackal’s nocturnal habits. They were often seen around tombs and graves hunting small rodents, which perhaps led the Egyptians to believe their presence protected the dead. For this reason, Anubis was associated with the deceased and therefore appointed the god of embalming and of cemeteries.
During the Old Kingdom, it was not uncommon for the Egyptians to pray to him for the survival of the departed’s soul in the afterlife; his standing as guardian and protector of the dead during this time was extremely important and played a huge part in the burial process. By the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, Anubis became less popular and Osiris eventually took on the role as overseeing of the dead.
Anubis also held an important role in the art of mummification. The act of embalming and mummification was practiced by priests who were believed to have worn the mask of Anubis. It was important the mask be worn while preparing the mummy—as Anubis oversaw the entire process and kept the procedure a secret. If done improperly and the body unrecognizable, the deceased’s soul would have been jeopardized and suffered the fate of forever wandering the earth. This ritual was so deep rooted into the Egyptian’s culture, that Anubis was often depicted in tomb art crouched over the deceased mummy and performing these sacred acts.
Though Anubis was mainly associated with embalming and mummification, he was also in the book of the dead accompanying the deceased to Osiris’s throne for the ritual known as the “weighing of the heart.” In that process, he would guide the dead to a scale where the heart was weighed against the feather of Ma’at. If the heart was heavy with wrongful deeds it was thrown out and destroyed by the demon Ammit. If the heart was destroyed, the existence of the deceased would then vanish and that would be the end—there would be no afterlife.
Anubis Funerary Objects
Many objects that were placed into the tombs of the dead were often associated with certain gods. The Imiut, also known as the Anubis Fetish or Anubis Emblem, was closely linked with Anubis. This funerary object was comprised of feline skin attached to a rod and affixed to a container. The bottom of the container had epithets with magical enchantments. It is believed these magical funerary items were perhaps used as a blessing to provide powers to the dead or to protect the body from harm.
The most famous example of these items is documented in the Burial Chamber of Tutankhamun (King Tut). Two Anubis Emblems were placed in the northwestern and southwestern parts near his shrine. Their inscriptions were “given life forever and ever” and “beloved of Anubis who presides over the embalming booth.”
Information as to the parents of Anubis is somewhat conflicting due to what era this information was collected. It was believed that Anubis could have been born from either the mothers of Nephthys, Isis, or Skhment and could have been fathered by Re, Set, or Osiris. Many argue that Set could not have been the father because he was infertile and therefore could not have children. In older texts that have been found, the parents were said to have been the cow goddess Hesat and the bull god Mnevis. As you can see, there is much conflicting information on this topic.
Images, Statues, and Temples of Anubis
Anubis was depicted throughout Egypt in tombs, statues, and in monuments. The more popular painting of Anubis today is often photographed in the tomb of Amenhotep II’s burial chamber. On one of the six pillars inside the tomb, Anubis is putting his hand on the pharaoh’s shoulder while welcoming him in the afterlife. In the other hand, he holds an Ankh. The more classic representation of him is found in the book of the dead. In this book, he is shown kneeling down beside a scale making adjustments while the deceased’s heart is being weighed against Ma’at.
The statues of Anubis are not as abundant; however, masks that were used by priests during the embalming and mummifying process have been discovered. The most popular statue found of Anubis comes from Tutankhamun’s tomb. There he is showcased in the full form of a jackal seated upon an Ark and guarding the entrance into the Treasury Room. Now the statue resides in the Cairo Museum and is on exhibit.
A small mortuary temple was devoted to him at Deir el-Bahri. Though the site was mainly dedicated to Hathor, a 12-columned hall and central rooms were erected to honor Anubis.