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The Gods Of Egypt
Anpu, or Anubis


Amen (Amon) and Amen-Ra, King of the Gods | Forms of Amen-Ra | Osiris, Asar | Worship of Osiris | Isis | Anpu, or Anubis | Horus | Nephthys | Asar-Hapi, or Serapis | Nut | The Gods of Heliopolis | Egyptian Mythology | Hieroglyphics | Galery

Anpu, or Anubis

Nephthys gave birth to a son called Anpu, or Anubis, and that his father was, according to some, Set; from another point of view he was the son of Ra. The animal which was at once the type and symbol of the god was the jackal, and this fact seems to prove that in primitive times Anubis was merely the jackal god, and that he was associated with the dead because the jackal was generally seen prowling about the tombs. His worship is very ancient, and there is no doubt that even the earliest times his cult was general in Egypt; it is probable that it is older than that of Osiris. In the text of Unas {line 70} he is associated with the Eye of Horus, and his duty as the guide of the dead in the Underworld on their way to Osiris was well defined, even at the remote period when this composition was written, from we read, Unas standeth with the Spirits, get thee onwards, Anubis, into "Amenti {the Underworld}, onwards, onwards to Osiris." In the lines that follow we see that Anubis is mentioned in connection with Horus, Set, Thoth, Sep, and Khent-an-maati. From another passage of the same text we find {line 207 ff} that the hand, arms, belly, and legs of the deceased are identified with Temu, but his face is said to be in the form of that of Anubis. The localities in which Anubis was especially worshipped are Abt, the Papyrus Swamps, Sep, Re-au, Heru-ti, Ta-hetchet, Saint, {Lycopolis}, Sekhem, {Letopolis}, etc. In the Theban Recesion of the Book of the Dead he plays some very prominent parts, the most important of all being those which are connected with the judgment and the embalmed the body of Osiris, and that he swathed it in the linen swathing which were woven by Isis and Nepthys, that it resisted the influences of time and deacy. In the vignette of the Funeral Procession the mummy is received by Anubis, who stands by the Book of the Dead the god is seen standing by the side of the mummy as it lies on its bier, and he lays his protecting hands upon it. In the speech which is put into the mouth of Anubis, he says, "I have come to protect Osiris." In the text of Unas {line 219} the nose of the deceased declares, My lips are the lips of Anpu." From various passages it is clear that one part of Egypt at least Anubis was the great god of the Underworld, and his rank and importance seem to have been as great as those of Osiris. {See Chapter liii.}

In the Judgment Scene Anubis appears to act for Osiris, with whom he is intimately connected, for it is he whose duty it is to examine the tongue of the Great Balance, and to take care that the beam is exactly horizontal. Thoth acts on behalf of the Great company of the gods, and Anubis not only produces the heart of the deceased in the act of receiving a necklace and pectoral from Anubis, who stands by grasping his scepter; in the vignette of the Chapter on the Papyrus of Nebseni Anubis is seen presenting the heart itself to the deceased, and in the text below Nebseni prays, saying, "May Anubis make my thighs firm so that I may stand upon them." In allusion to his connection with the embalmment of Osiris the god Anubis is called Am Ut, i.e., "Dweller in the chamber of embalmment;" as the watcher in the place of purification wherein rested the chest containing the remains of Osiris he was called Khent Sehet, i.e., "Governor of the Hall of the god;" and one of his names as the god of the funeral mountain was "Tep-Tu-f," i.e., "he who is upon his hill." In the cxlvth Chapter of the Book of the Dead the deceased says, "I have washed myself in the water wherein the god Anpu washed when he had performed the office of the embalmer and bandager;} and elsewhere the deceased is told that "Anpu, who is upon his hill, hath set thee in order, and he hath fastened for thee thy swathings, thy throat is the throat of Anubis {clxxii. 22} and thy face is like that of Anubis" {clxxxi. 9}.


The duty of guiding the souls of the dead round about the Underworld and into the kingdom of Osiris was shared by Anubis with another god whose type and symbol was a jackal, and whose name was Ap-uat, i.e., the "Opener of the ways;" formerly Anubis and Ap-uat were considered to be two names of one and the same god, but there is no longer any reason for holding this view. In the vignette to the cxxxviiith Chapter of the Book of the Dead we find represented the scene of setting up the standard which supports the box that held the head of Osiris at Abydos. On each side of it are a standard with a figure of a jackal upon it and a pylon, on top of which lies a jackal; and as it is quite clear from the groups of objects on each side of the standard that we are dealing with symbols either of the South and North, or the East and the West, we are justified in thinking that one jackal represents Ap-uat and the other Anubis. Moreover, from the cxlvth Chapter we find that the xxist Pylon of the House of Osiris was presided over by seven gods, among whom were An-uat and Anpu, and as in the xviiith Chapter {F.,G.} we have both gods mentioned, and each is predicated in the form of a jackal-headed man, we may conclude that each was a distinct god of the dead, although their identities are sometimes confused in the texts. The function of each god was to "open the ways," and therefore each might be called Ap-uat, but, strictly speaking, Anubis was the opener of the roads of the North, and Ap-uat the opener of the roads of the South' in fact, Anubis was the personification of the Summer Solstice, and Ap-uat of the Winter Solstice.


Anubis is called in the texts Sekhem Em Pet, and is said to be the son of Osiris, and Ap-uat bore the title Sekhem Taui, and was a form of Osiris himself. When, therefore, we find the two jackals upon sepulchral stelae, we must understand that they appear there in character of openers of the ways of the deceased in the kingdom of Osiris, and that they assure to the deceased the services of guides in the northern and southern parts of heaven; when they appear with the two Utchats thus, they symbolize the four quarters of heaven and of earth, and the four seasons of the year. On the subject of Anubis Plutarch reports {44, 61} some interesting beliefs. After referring to the view that Anubis was born of Nephthys, although Isis was his reputed mother, he goes on to say, "By Anubis they understand the horizontal circle, which divides the invisible, to which they give the name of Isis; and this circle equally touches upon the confines of both light and darkness, it may be looked upon as common to them both--and from this circumstance arose that resemblance, which they imagine between Anubis and the Dog, it being observed of this animal, that he is equally watchful as well by day as night. In short, the Egyptian Anubis and the Dog, it being observed of this animal, that he is watchful as well by day as night. In short, the Egyptian Anubis seems to be of much the same power and nature as the Grecian Hecate, a deity common both to the celestial and infernal regions. Theirs again are of opinion that by Anubis is meant Time, and that his denomination of Kuon does not so much allude to any likeness, which he has to the dog, though this be the general rendering of the word, as to that other signification of the term taken from breeding; because Time begets all things out of it self, bearing them within itself, as it were in a womb. But this is one of those who are initiated into the worship of Anubis. This much, however, is certain, that in ancient times the Egyptians paid the greatest reverence and honor to the Dog, though by reason of its devouring the Apis after Cambyses had slain him and thrown him out, when no animal would taste or so much as come near him, he then lost the first rank among the sacred animals which he had hitherto possessed." Referring to Osiris as the "common Reason which pervades both the superior and the inferior regions of the universe," he says that it is, moreover, called "Anubis, and sometimes likewise Hermanubis {i.e., Heru-em-Anpu}; the first of these names expressing the relation it has to be superior, as the latter, to the inferior world. And for this reason it is, they sacrifice to him two Cocks, the white one,as a proper emblem of the purity and brightness of things above, the other of a saffron color, expressive of that mixture and variety which is to be found in these lower regions."

Strictly speaking, Anubis should be reckoned as the last member of the Great Company of the gods of Heliopolis, but as a matter fact his place is usually taken by Horus, the son of Isis and of Osiris, who generally completes the divine part; it is probable that the fusion of Horus, with Anubis was a political expedient on the part of the priesthood who, finding no room in their system for the old god of the dead, identified him with a form of Horus, just as they had done with his father Set, and the double god possessed two district and opposite aspects; as the guide of heaven and the leader of souls to Osiris he was a beneficent god, but as the personification of death and deacy he was a being who inspired terror. From an interesting passage in the "Golden Ass" of Apeleius {Book xi.} we find that the double character of Anubis was maintained by his votaries in Rome even in the second century of our era, and in describing the Procession of Isis he says, Immediately after these came the Deities, condescending to walk upon human feet, the foremost among them rearing terrifically on high his dog's head and neck----that messenger between heaven and hell displaying alternately a face black as night waving aloft the green palm branch. His steps were closely followed by a cow, raised into an upright posture----the cow being the fruitful emblem of the Universal Parent, the goddess herself, which one of the happy train carried with majestic steps, supported on his shoulders. By another was borne the coffin containing the sacred things, and closely concealing the deep secrets of the holy religion."

This extract shows that even in the second century at Rome the principal actors in the old Egyptian Osiris ceremonial's were represented with scrupulous care, and that its chief characteristics were preserved. The cow was, of course, nothing less than the symbol of Isis, "the mother of the god," and the coffin containing the "sacred things" was the symbol of the sarcophagus of Osiris which contained his relics. Before these marched Anubis in his two-fold character, and thus we have types of Osiris and his mysteries, and of Isis who revivified him, and of Anubis who embalmed him. Had Apuleus understood the old Egyptian ceremonies connected with the Osiris legend and had he been able to identify all the characters who passed before him in the Isis procession, he would probably have seen that Nephthys and Horus and several other gods of the funeral company of Osiris were duly represented therein. On the alleged connection of Anubis with Christ in the Gnostic system the reader is referred to the interesting work of Mr. C.W. King, Gnostics and their Remains, Second Edition, London, 1887 {pp. 230,279}