God Anubis

The jackal  god of mummification and the guardian of the  cemetery, Anubis played three important roles in  the funerary rituals. First, he was the guardian of the  cemetery, where he often appears as the jackal wearing a collar decorated with magical inscriptions and  holding a flail or whip, a sign of authority. Second, mythology tells us that Anubis embalmed  Osiris and was the protector of the god’s body during  and after the embalming. Anubis’s most important  role is to prepare the mummy for its journey to the  Netherworld.

Third, Anubis is the guardian of the mummy in his  or her tomb. Images of Anubis are prominent in the  tomb of Tutankhamen. When the British Egyptolo- gist Howard Carter opened Tutankhamen’s tomb in  1922, he found the storeroom packed with magical  items that the king would need in the next world.  Between the paws of a statue of Anubis facing west was  a magical reed torch with a brick stand that had a small  hole in the middle in which the reed could be placed. 

Scratched on the brick was the ominous spell: It is I who hinder the sand from choking the  sacred chamber, and who repel he would repel him with the desert-flames. I have set aflame the desert(?),  I have caused the path to be mistaken. I am for the protection of Osiris.

It was the duty of Anubis to guard this room, which  in ancient times was called the “Treasury of the Inner- most.” Anubis was perched on a shrine that had several  compartments, each of which held funerary objects,  including four blue faience forelegs of a bovine animal  and two wooden amulets in the shape of a mummy. Different myths claim different gods as the parents  of Anubis. One myth says his mother was Nephthys  and his father was Osiris; in other myths his father  was Set. The Greek writer Plutarch wrote that  Anubis was the son of Osiris and Isis. Plutarch also noted that the dog (Anubis) “. . . is equally watchful  by day and by night, making him a good guardian.” Anubis’s home was the cemetery, and his most  important duty was to preside over embalming and  mummification.

Anubis is said to have mummified  Osiris and wrapped his body in fine linen bandages  woven by the sisters Isis and Nephthys. Tomb paint- ings show him attending the mummy in the tomb,  placing his hands on the mummy and saying, “I have  come to protect Osiris,” for every mummified body  was associated with Osiris, the god of the dead. Other  scenes show Anubis offering the heart to the mummy  in its coffin so the body will be complete when it  reaches the Netherworld. In actual mummifications, a priest wearing a jackal-head mask played the part of  Anubis. Anubis is mentioned in several mythological texts.  In the Book of the Dead, he is shown in the vignettes  or illustrations attending the weighing of the heart  ceremony in the Hall of the Two Truths. Anubis  stands next to the scale where the heart of the mummy  is weighed to make sure it is as light as the feather of  truth; if so, he will prepare the deceased for immortality while Thoth stands ready to record the decision.

 In the Book of Caverns, Anubis first wraps the head  of the deceased king, placing linen strips on the face  of the mummy to support and preserve it. It is Anubis  who prevents the corpse from decaying by anointing  the mummy with sacred oils and fragrant incense. The  seven magical unguents used in embalming were also  used in daily life. They were called festival perfume,  Hekenu oil, Syrian balsam, Nechenem salve, anointing  oil, best cedar oil, and best Libyan oil. Anubis’s several titles acknowledged his varying  roles as god of mummification: Imy-ut, “he who is at the place of embalming”  (guardian of embalming) Tepy-dju-ef, “he who is upon his hill” (Anubis  guarding the necropolis) Neb-ta-djser, “lord of the sacred land” (the actual  necropolis) Khenty-imentiu, “foremost of the westerners”  (first among the deceased) Khenty-seh-netjer, “lord of the god’s pavilion” (a  symbol for the tent where mummification  took place) AnubIs.

When the Greeks and, later, the Romans ruled  Egypt, Anubis was worshipped as a cosmic deity who  brought light to the people. Shown on the walls of the  catacombs in Alexandria, Anubis appears in the garb  of a Roman general while serving as the guardian of  Osiris. In second-century Rome, Anubis was described as  he appeared in the Procession of Isis by the author  Apuleius: Immediately after these came the Deities conde- scending to walk upon human feet, the foremost  among them rearing terrifically on high his dog’s  head and neck—this messenger between heaven  and hell displaying alternately a face black as  night, and as golden as the day . . .Anubis remained important as a guardian of the  dead until the Christian era, when mummification  was outlawed.

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