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Anubis
by Frater Q.V.

     The patron god of embalming, guide of the Underworld was Anubis. Known as friend of the dead and Opener of the Way, Anubis was a deity that could be seen throughout all of ancient Egypt. . The name of this god is traditionally spelled (Inpu). The name here is read left to right, with an abbreviated image of Anubis finishing. Often, as with many of Egypt’s deities, the spelling of the name changes but one characteristic stays the same: the jackal at the end. In some cases the jackal is raised up on a pedestal to show its holy importance.

As the Hieroglyph indicates, Anubis is commonly seen as a Jackal. It’s believed that the jackal was chosen as the iconic figure for this deity due to the necropolis where the wild dogs of ancient times would often prowl to hunt for food. Some say that Anubis took the form of a jackal to help Isis and Nephthys search for the pieces of Osiris’s body. According to legend, and the story does vary, the brother of Osiris, Seth, lured Osiris into an elaborate coffin and had it sealed shut then threw the box into the Nile where it washed up on the Phoenician coast. Isis then retrieved her husband’s body. When Seth learned of this he had Osiris’s body cut up into pieces and scattered throughout Egypt. It was then that Isis and her sister Nephthys
in the form of Kite birds, and with Anubis in his jackal form, found all the parts of his body except the phallus. With the help of Thoth, the body was restored and Anubis wrapped it in linen; giving him the name “He Who is in the Place of Embalming.”

     Although there is some debate on the true animal that gave rise to the form of Anubis – some claim that the thick tail of the figure suggests that a jackal hybrid is the proper image – a jackal is always present in his form somehow. Many statues of Anubis were simply of a jackal upon a pedestal; as seen in most of the homes and villages of the kingdom. Often he was adorned with a golden tie or necklace. Though usually in temple settings, Anubis is depicted having a human body with the head of a jackal and tail of a lion. Since the time of the first Egyptologists, this is the most commonly accepted form of Anubis.

     The skin of Anubis is often seen as very dark black or with a tinge of red. His flesh is a representation of the earthy energies with which he is connected. The color of his flesh is similar to that of the dark soil along the Nile. This rich, fertile soil was highly prized and gave the ancient kingdom the name Khem, which means “The Black Land”. The color of Anubis could be an identifying link to Osiris, who’s green flesh represents the fertile fields.

     Anubis’s heritage is one of debate among historians. Some scholars suggest that Anubis is the son of Nephthys and Set. Another legend states that Anubis was spawned from Nephthys and Osiris. Both legends have equal understandings due to the connections that Anubis has through Nephthys and the Underworld. An interesting fact is that Anubis can be seen in two different forms, as Anubis and as Wepewat.

     As the mother of Anubis, Nephthys can be seen depicted with him in the Book of the Dead most often. She is usually seen as a goddess of night time and of darkness; this darkness could be the reason for the color of his skin. Being a goddess of darkness she is in opposition to her sister Isis, but maintains a friendly nature with her and Osiris. Nephthys and Isis worked together to find Osiris and bring him back from the dead and they stand behind him in the Hall of Truth to give eternal life to the deceased. It is said that Nephthys longed for the relationship and love that Osiris shared with Isis, so she disguised herself as Isis and seduced him.

     Osiris, son of Geb and Nuit, brother of Nephthys, Set, and Isis, father of Horus and (possibly) Anubis. Osiris is the god of the Underworld and Nephthys is the protector of the body of the deceased, mourning for the loss of her brother at the foot of his bier. One version of the Anubis legend states that Nephthys took on the form of Osiris’s beautiful wife Isis and tricked him into making love to her; this would make Anubis the half brother of Horus. The connection to Horus can be seen in the later years of Anubis worship when he was joined with – or at times replaced by – Horus; which was possibly a political move by the priests of that time. Nephthys is often depicted as being a goddess of the night time and of darkness; her union with Osiris would be a great balance of light and darkness to create Anubis, who represents both light and darkness. Osiris is the god of the Underworld, death, the Nile floods, and immortality. As stated before his green skin is a link to the fertility of the Nile – though some say his green flesh depicts a rotting corpse – which makes an obvious link the dark soil-colored flesh of Anubis. The legend of Osiris states that Anubis was the priest who oversaw the funeral rites of Osiris, embalmed and mummified him perfectly so that his body withstood the influence of time and decay. In the funerary rites for deceased Egyptians a priest was present wearing the mask of Anubis to assist in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony.

     The legend of Anubis being the offspring of Set and Nephthys is also understandable. Set is the god of darkness, night time, destruction, storms, and the barren desert. In the early days of Egypt he was seen as a friend of the dead but was later demonized. His form is that of a mysterious animal that resembles a cross between a jackal and an aardvark (over a decade ago, there was an animal caught and killed by peoples of the Salawa region that resembled the mythical Set creature, but there has been no further investigation). Set is said to be the wife of Nephthys; and being married to the god of such wickedness one could understand why she envied Isis. The natures of both Nephthys and Set make them fitting parents for the secondary form of Anubis called Wepawet; also seen as a jackal or wolf hybrid.

     Wepawet was originally seen as a god of war. His name could be seen on a military standard called a shedshed which lead armies into battle. This may have become the very meaning for his name, Wepawet, meaning “Opener of the ways”. The task of guiding the deceased through the underworld was shared between Wepawet and Anubis.. Images of Wepawet can be seen at Abydos where his standard held up the box which contained the head of Osiris. The two jackal headed deities were originally seen as one deity but have eventually become two separate forms; Anubis of the East and Anubis of the West, as seen in the Kerux and Sentinel.

     As guide of the Underworld, Anubis takes the soul of the deceased before the gods to give the negative confession. When the journey through the Underworld was nearly complete, the deceased was taken to the Hall of Ma’at to be judged. Anubis watched over the beam of the scale to see that it was in the proper position while Thoth recorded the result. Anubis also took care that the dreaded Ammut – a beast made up of the head of a crocodile, front of a lioness, and the hind-quarters of a hippopotamus - could not devour the heart, causing the soul to be restless for all eternity. After weighing the heart, if the deceased is found to be true of voice through its trials and negative confessions, Anubis brings them before Osiris to join him in immortality. These show obvious evidence of Anubis’s connection to the god of the Underworld.

     Some of the tools of Anubis are the Phoenix Wand, or Was scepter, and the Ankh. The Was scepter represents the rebirth and resurrection from death. There is a belief, however, that the Was scepter is directly linked to the power and strength of Set due to the oblong head of the wand and forked tail or prongs. The Ankh is the obvious symbol of life and could be referring to the eternal life that awaits the true of voice. With the image of Set in one hand and the symbol of life in the other, we can see that Anubis is balanced with both positive and negative forces. This balance makes him an excellent god to watch over the beam of the balance of Truth.

     In our tradition, Anubis can be found in the roles of the Kerux and the Sentinel. Both officers wear the form of Anubis, but there are two different forms. The two are Anubis of the East (Anwusi-G m-PeioT) and Anubis of the West (Anwubi m-RemnT). Anubis of the East is worn by the Kerux and is seen as the Watcher of the gods. He guides the candidates during their journey while also guarding the inside of the temple. Anubis of the West is worn by the Sentinel, who stands outside the temple and is armed with a deadly weapon. Anubis of the West is called the Watcher Without, guarding the outside of the temple. He is in charge of the candidate waiting to be admitted into the temple. Anubis of the West can be attributed to another jackal headed god by the name of Wepawet (the opener of the ways).

     Anubis is the guide and opener of the way. He is the protector and friend of the dead overseeing the deceased to the weighing of the heart. His mother is Nephthys but his father is uncertain. Either way, Anubis is a deity that shows perfect balance between mercy and severity. Wonderfully, he oversees the candidate in the Hall of the Neophyte or the Hall of Ma’at. Unlike the other gods of Ancient Egypt, Anubis doesn’t have a specific cult center. His worship was common in both Upper and Lower Egypt. Even today, when someone hears the name of Anubis they think of the jackal headed god and desert sands. Truly a figure head for all of Egypt, Anubis has opened the way for Ancient Egypt and given it eternal life.