Egyptian god of the dead

Anubis is the god of mummification, funerary rites, guardian of tombs, and guide to the afterlife as well as the patron god of lost souls and the helpless. Anubis was a faithful follower of Isis, who adopted him following his abandonment as an infant. A fierce fighter, he is known for routinely defeating the god Set in battle. 

He is depicted as a black canine, a jackal-dog hybrid with pointed ears, or as a muscular man with the head of a jackal. The color black was chosen for its symbolism, not because Egyptian dogs or jackals were black. Black symbolized the decay of the body as well as the fertile soil of the Nile River Valley which represented regeneration and life. The powerful black canine, then, was the protector of the dead who made sure they received their due rights in burial and stood by them in the life after death to assist their resurrection.

Anubis had many epithets, including:

Chief of the Western Highland (the land of the dead was thought to be in the west, where the sun set)

The First of the Westerners

Lord of the Mummy Wrapping

Counter of Hearts

Chief of the Necropolis

The Dog who Swallows Millions

The Egyptians

Following Osiris’s murder at the hands of his brother Set, his wife Isis set out in search of his body. It was during this search that she learned her sister Nephthys had born a secret child with Osiris without ever knowing. 

Having feared that her husband, Set, would discover her infidelity with his brother, Nephthys abandoned the newborn child. Isis, known for her maternal benevolence, tracked down the bastard child of her dead husband, and adopted him out of love for Osiris. She named the child Anubis.

Years later, Anubis went searching for the body of his father. What is significant, is when he recovered it, he intended to preserve it through embalming. The cultural practice of mummification was derived from this first embalming, and was intended to emulate Osiris’s journey to the afterlife. With some assistance from Horus and Thoth, Anubis wrapped the body in cloth and completed what would become known as the Opening of the Mouth ritual. This rite was meant to ensure that the mummified person’s senses would continue to work in the afterlife. 

During the embalming process, Osiris’s body was kept in the wabet, or place of embalming. Noting that Anubis left the wabet every night, Set devised a plan. In order to fully defeat his brother, death was not enough. He had to completely obliterate Osiris’ remains. Transforming himself into an illusion of Anubis, he strolled past the unsuspecting guards and stole Osiris’s body.

Set did not make it far, however, before Anubis discovered the theft and set out in pursuit. In an attempt to ward off his pursuer, Set turned himself into a bull. The jackal-god was not intimidated, however. Upon capturing Set, Anubis castrated him and imprisoned him. Thrice more times did Set escape and attempt to steal Osiris’ body. After his last attempt, Anubis had enough. After catching Set yet again, Anubis not only killed him, but flayed his skin and torched his body. To further make his point, Anubis donned Set’s still dripping, flayed skin around his armor and he snuck into Set’s camp. There, he slaughtered every single soldier in Set’s army through decapitation.

After this infamous act, Anubis’ viciousness became legendary, and he took his place among the rulers of Egypt.

The Greeks

The Egyptian pantheon was well known by the Greek Titans. Their close proximity across the sea made for natural frequent contact. In Ancient Greece, the phrase “by the dog” was used to refer to Anubis in particular, and was invoked as a means of guaranteeing the truth of a statement. similar to how we might now say “I swear on my mother’s grave” or “I swear to god.” Plato was fond of having Socrates invoke the phrase, and used it several times throughout his works. 

The Atharim uprising in Egypt almost perfectly coincided with the Olympian uprising over the Titans. In the aftermath of both wars, the Egyptian gods were overthrown and Olympus was ruled by Zeus and his council of 12. There is some conjecture that Zeus supplied the Atharim with the means to overthrow the Egyptians as an early distraction for the Titans, whom would have been very concerned for their counterparts across the sea. Regardless of whether it was strategy or coincidence, following the downfall of the Egyptian gods, Anubis was smuggled into exile into the Underworld by a long-time lover, Hermes. As Hermes was known to visit the underworld, when he did, it was often to share in the company of Anubis. Over time, legend united them into a single god, Hermanubis. 

But Anubis’ exile in the greek underworld was not without boon. As an Egyptian dead god, and a rather spiteful and vicious one at that, though he would forever be a guest there, he fit in well among the members of Hades’ court. However, by this time, Anubis was more reclusive than ever and passed the majority of his time assisting Thanatos in tending to Hades’ dogs. 


Quillon Hawke, The First Age



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