- Anubis -

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Contrary to popular and some Egyptologists' opinion, Anubis was not associated with the jackal, but with the desert dog. This is based on incriptions stating that Anubis' face is "like (that of) a dog".

Although not generally accepted among Egyptologists, the name Anubis, a rendering in Greek of the ancient Egyptian  , inpw, may mean "puppy" or "young dog".

Other Egyptologists would like to explain Anubis' name as derived from a word meaning "royal child". This would indicate that Anubis was of royal birth and indeed, according to some mythologies, he was a son of Osiris, the king of the dead. 

Anubis is represented as a a man with a black dog's head or as black dog, the colour black being the colour of the world of the dead. In one rare example, in a chapel of Ramesses II in Abydos, Anubis is totally human in shape and in a painting found in the catacombs of Alexandria, he is dressed as a Roman warrior, with the lower part of his body like that of a serpent.


Anubis, weighing the heart of the deceased. From the papyrus of Ani.


A statue found in the so-called Treasury of the tomb of Tutankhamun shows Anubis as a crouching dog.

Anubis was not a god of the dead, in the sense that he was the ruler of the underworld, he was the god who supervised the embalming and burial of the deceased and who guided the dead to the underworld. The symbol of the "dog" seems to have been associated with the notion of "guiding": Wepwawet, another canine god, is often represented on the bough of a boat, leading the way. The name Wepwawet means "the one who opens the ways".

Once in the underworld, Anubis, assisted by the god Thot, supervises the weighing of the heart of the deceased. Only when the deceased's heart was found to be in balance with all that was as it should be, Maat, was he introduced to Osiris. 

The most important aspect of Anubis, however, is that of guardian of the necropolis. This is reflected by some of his epithets: 

  • "the one who is on top of his mountain", where the mountain was the western mountain or the necropolis, 
  • "lord of the holy land", where "holy land" is a name for the necropolis, 
  • "lord of the Memphite necropolis Ra-setaw", 
  • "lord of the cave", where "cave" refers to the tomb. 

Anubis is credited with many parents. According to one tradition, he is the son of Re and Nephthys. The Greek writer Plutarchus, however, names Osiris and Nephthys as Anubis' parents, whereas in the demotic magical papyrus pMag.LL II Anubis' mother is Isis-Sekhmet rather than Nephthys. Anubis' affiliation with Osiris can probably be explained as an attempt of the Ancient Egyptian priests to explain the relationship between Anubis and Osiris: both were closely associated with death and life after death.

In the earlier tradition of the Coffin Texts Anubis' mother is identified as the cow-goddess Hesat, whose principal cult centre was at Atfih. This tradition survived into the Late Dynastic Period, when Anubis was called "lord of the cattle" because of his affiliation with the cow cult.

In the same tradition of the Coffin Texts, however, the feline goddess Bastet is Anubis' mother. This is quite likely to derive from the writing of the name Bastet with an unguent jar that was used during mummification. 

Anubis was one of the few gods who was worshipped throughout all of Egypt during its entire ancient history. His most important cult centre was in the 17th Upper-Egyptian province Kynopolis, but he also had a cult centre in the 22nd Upper Egyptian province, where he formed a triad with the white cow Hesat and the black bull Mnevis. He was also adored in the South of the 4th Upper-Egyptian province and in the Memphite region. He was the guardian of several necropolises throughout the country. 

His presence in the legend of the divine birth, where he is represented as bringing the Moon to the newly born child, needs further examination.