Anubis is the Greek translation for the Kemetic/Egyptian Anpu. He is the Jackal-headed Kemetic god of the dead. Although fearsome in appearance, Anubis is recognized as being a caring and nurturing god. He holds power over the spirits of the dead on their journeys after death. He is the personification of the Summer Solstice because he is associated with opening the way to the after-world. Anubis was integral in the conveyance of the dead seeking entrance into the Afterlife.
There is a quality of creation to his activities. He is credited with creating the process of embalming and mummification, and in Kemet/Egypt, he held domain over the cemeteries and protected them against Earthly perils. Anubis was instrumental in the judgment of the Dead and their fate. Satisfactory completion of the judgment trials of Maat permitted the Dead to enter into the Hall of Ausar/Osiris for an eternal joyous afterlife. However, should the Dead fail judgment, they were ushered into Amenti to be ravaged by Ammut. Anubis is an ancient Kemetic God of noble lineage; his origins are traced to the first family of Gods. His mother Nebt-bet/Nepbtbys is twin sister to Auset/Isis. Some say that his sect of worship was older than and rivaled that of Ausar. This entry looks at his functions, characteristics, and lineage.
The God's Role
Anubis holds dominion over the embalming aspects of mummification and holds sovereignty over decay caused by time and the resistance to decay. He appears numerous times in the Kemetic Book of the Coming Forth/Going by Day or the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as well as in funeral text and tomb and coffin texts. Anubis was the original god of the dead before Ausar's reign. During the reign of Ausar, he serves as an aid and a helper. The scope and importance of his influence is evidenced by his role in the resurrection of Ausar. It was Anubis who judged Ausar's worthiness at death. He is depicted in some texts professing to be the protector of Ausar. Anubis used his influence against time and decay when wrapping Ausar's body in his characteristic linens, which were made by Auset and her twin sister, Nebt-het. In this way, Ausar's body would never decay.
Figure, Egyptian statue, Anubis. Anubis was the guardian of the dead, who greeted the souis in the Underworld and protected them on their journey. Ancient art photographed in Carisberg Giyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark.
As aid to Ausar in the underworld, Anubis is often depicted in funerary text assisting with the balancing of the heart of the dead against the feather of Maat. He presides over the questioning of the dead in the affirmations of Maat by a tribunal of 42 Gods in the Hall of Maati or the Hall of Double Truths. Anubis balances the Tongue of Great Balance, depicted as a scale, and received the heart of the Dead. He relays the worthiness of the Dead to Ausar, receives and presents the symbols of the dead's worthiness, and acts as an intermediary between the Dead and the gods. However, he also protects, prepares, and cares for the Dead on their journey in the afterlife. Anubis is instrumental in the preparation of the body of the dead and preparing the dead for the trial of Maat.
During the embalming process, priests of Anubis completing the funeral rites would wear a Jackal headpiece. In this way, they would become the embodiment of Anubis as he was invoked and his protection sought. The worship of Anubis can be traced back thousands of years; it was long lasting and was introduced to both Greece and Rome from Africa. In Greece, the Kemetic name Anpu was changed to Anubis. Later his name was modified as it was combined with the Greek God Hermes. The center of Anubis' sect of worship was in Abydos. When Ausar unseated Anubis as god of the Dead and the afterlife, Abydos became the seat of Ausar's sect of worship.
Anubis is depicted with the head of a Jackal and the body of a man. He is shown on ancient papyrus in coffin and tomb texts with a dark blue or black Jackal's head and brown limbs. However, when Anubis is depicted in gold, he has golden limbs and an onyx Jackal's head adorned with gold. Anubis is rarely depicted as solely human, but can be found in full Jackal form more often. Later in his worship, he was associated with the Dog deity; this can be attributed to confusion between the Jackal and Dog by foreigners and in foreign lands.
In various times and places, Anubis was known by the names Anpu, Imeut, Am Ut, Kbent Sebet, Tep-Tu-f, Yinepu, Kbenty Amentiu, and Sekbem Em Pet. He is also called the Lord of the Necropolis, Lord of Passage, Guardian of the Veil, and Opener of Ways. Anubis has been combined with several other gods over time for various reasons. The combination of Anubis and Horas can be found. The Greek association of Anubis with Hermes resulted in Hermanubis/Heru-em-Anpu. Although Anubis is often mistaken for Ap-uat, they are distinct deities. Leading to this confusion could be the fact that both Anubis and Ap-uat have been depicted as Jackals.
Anubis has several patronages where his protection and guidance is invoked. Besides the patron of embalming and mummification, he is also the patron of orphans, the lost, the wandering, and victory over enemies for Pharaohs.
Anubis's mother is Nephthys or Nebt-het, the Kemetic goddess associated with the portion of the sky or heavens where certain gods dwell. Like her brother Ausar and sister Auset, she began life as a human in a royal house of a Pharaoh. Nebt-het is mostly linked with death, but also life and resurrection. The twin sister of Auset, she is credited with helping Auset gather the missing pieces of Ausar. Nebt-het is the daughter of Seb and Nut and sibling to Ausar, Auset, and Set. In some instances, where Nebt-het and Set are a formal couple, it was thought that Set might murder Anubis because the latter was Nebt-het's illegitimate son fathered by Ausar. In such instances, Auset is credited with raising Anubis as her own son, with influence from Ausar.
As one of the oldest Kemetic gods, Anubis has a long history of worship across varied geographical areas—Greece, Rome, and Italy—and several Gods have been credited with fathering him. Generally, his paternity has been attributed to Set, Ra, or Ansar. SetlSutekblSetesblSetb, the Kemetic God often associated with foreigners and foreign lands, is credited with Auset's murder. Set is sibling to Nebt-het, Ausar, and Auset. Associated with love, war, and kingship, he is often referred to as the God of Chaos and Storms. Ra/Re is the oldest and the first of the Kemetic Gods, called the Sun God; he is credited with taking his barge across the sky every day to pilot the Sun.
Ausar/Osiris was the first pharaoh and the son of Seb and Nut. He was sibling to Ausar, Nebt-het, and Set. Ausar was murdered by Set and resurrected by Auset with the help of Nebt-het and Anubis. He then supplanted Anubis as God of the afterlife and underworld.
Anubis has a daughter, Kabecbet/Kebebut. She is considered the Goddess of purification and assists her father in overseeing the embalming process. Kabechet is credited with providing water to wash the entrails of the dead during mummification by Anubis. She is also said to give drinking water to the dead awaiting judgment. Kabechet appears several times in passages from the Kemetic Book of the Coming Forth/Going by Day.
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- Kemp, B. (1989). Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. New York: Routledge.