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The Egyptian God of the Dead: Anubis the Black Jackal

Updated on September 25, 2017
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Melissa has been practicing paganism and witchcraft for 18 years. She currently works with the Egyptian pantheon of Gods and Goddesses.

Anubis God of the Dead

My statue of Anubis as a Black Jackal
My statue of Anubis as a Black Jackal | Source

Anubis, also known to the Egyptians as Anpu, was the original Egyptian God of the Underworld prior to the Middle Kingdom, when he was usurped by Osiris.

He is also my patron God. I have done quite a bit of research on the Egyptian pantheon, specifically my patrons. After ten years of working with him, I have found there is much more to Anubis than meets the eye.

My anthropomorphic statue of Anubis.
My anthropomorphic statue of Anubis. | Source

The Form of a Jackal

Anubis took the form of a black jackal, or rarely in an anthropomorphic form of a man with the head of a jackal.

Jackals were seen frequently around cemeteries threatening to exhume the dead, thus they were linked to Anubis.

The color black to the Egyptians was associated with rebirth and fertility due to the color of the soil in the Nile River. Black was also the color of protection.

Anubis is depicted on the walls of several tombs of the pharaohs to protect their souls in the afterlife and guard their tombs.

Anubis as Psychopomp

Anubis was a psychopomp figure meaning he assisted the souls on their journey to the afterlife if they were found deserving.

In Jungian psychology, a psychopomp is one who plays intermediary between the conscious and unconscious domains. They, generally, manifest as a wise man or woman, or sometimes a helpful animal.

Psychopomps have been associated with assisting in the birthing process, helping the soul into its new world, sometimes called “midwife to the dying.”

The Egyptian jackal
The Egyptian jackal | Source

Mummification

Anubis was the original embalmer; he conceived the process of mummification when Osiris was killed by his brother Seth.

Anubis took the body of Osiris and after embalming it, dressed it in linens that had been made by Isis, the wife of Osiris, and Nephthys her twin sister.

This ensured that the body would not rot or decay before Isis, Goddess of magick, would bring him back to life.

Anubis performing the ritual of embalming.
Anubis performing the ritual of embalming. | Source

Embalming involved “violating” the deceased. The body was opened and the internal organs removed. The Egyptians believed this process could only be completed by Anubis himself.

The “Overseer of the Mysteries,” a priest who acted on Anubis’ behalf, wore a mask of the God during the ceremonial embalming and mummification process. The Egyptians believed these priests would become Anubis, making the practice legitimate in the eyes of the Gods.

After the embalming, the ceremony of the “opening of the mouths” was performed. The priest who became Anubis would chant incantations and purify the body with incense making it a suitable host for the soul in the afterlife.

Anubis determined which souls would journey to the Underworld by weighing their heart (the seat of the soul, or ba) against the feather of Maat (the Goddess of the principles, or neter, of truth, justice and moral integrity).

If the heart was found to weigh the same as the feather, Anubis escorted the soul to the Underworld and left them in the hands of Osiris.

The Weighing of the Hearts

Anubis performing the weighing of the heart against the feather of Maat.
Anubis performing the weighing of the heart against the feather of Maat. | Source

There is more to Anubis than just his funerary duties. If we look into the characteristics of the jackal, we find several attributes.

The jackal has good vision in low light for not only scavenging, but hunting as well. Perfect for a guide to the Underworld.

Jackals are also very loyal; they usually mate for life and travel in pairs, unlike wolves who travel in packs. Anubis was a very loyal guardian, and as a Patron God, even more so in my opinion.

Anubis as a Patron God

In pagan/spiritual terms, if you plan on working with Anubis, you must be ready to face his challenges.

His standard of moral integrity is higher than the majority of humanity could fathom, but he’s not above teaching that integrity to those who wish to learn. Be ready to face your fears as well. Part of his challenge is facing fear and showing courage.

He won’t sugar coat anything, so don’t expect him to be soft spoken. Anubis came to me in a dream when I first started on the pagan path. He appeared as a black dragon with torn wings. I was not afraid of him, but he was intimidating.

Fighting my urge to back away has rewarded me with many, many lessons in truth and integrity. I do feel Anubis has protected my family from harm as well, but I had to work hard to earn his respect. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, however.

© 2012 Melissa Flagg OSC

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    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      I did not know about the new research, I've always been fond of wolves. Although, I'm not entirely sure that it would have any bearing on the meaning of Anubis, mainly because he is referred to as a black jackal in the book of the dead and other Egyptian writings. So regardless of the findings on the Egyptian jackal (which was apparently improperly named!), Anubis would still be a jackal, although I suspect he wouldn't mind being likened to a wolf!! I'll definitely have to look into these findings however.

    • Radical Rog profile image

      Peter Rogers 4 years ago from Plymouth

      Interestingly, recent investigations into the DNA of the Egyptian Jackal has shown that it is in fact a member of the wolf family, not a jackal. The Egyptian wolf is related to both the African and North American wolf.

      In this its helpful that the attributes of a jackal compare well with the attributes of a wolf, but it also opens a new avenue of investigation when seeking to fully understand the nature of Anubis. Good hub and well researched, just hope I haven't thrown the cat among the pigeons.

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 4 years ago from Canada

      @ In Need of Help / Jessieka1123 - All the cool stuff really comes from the development of that personal relationship, just like relationships you develop in the physical world. Have a great time building and developing it ~*~

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      I did get it, I just haven't had a chance to respond, but I'll be sure to do so today :)

    • profile image

      Jessieka1123 4 years ago

      Alright, I sent you an email but I'm not sure how this site works, hopefully you got it.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @I Need of Help I feel your pain, unfortunately, not much is know about Anubis mainly because so much was lost when Osiris took over as God of the Underworld and Anubis became a minor deity. Working with him myself, I've learned quite a bit, all of which is more personal in nature than information you would actually find in Egyptian literature. However, if you're interested in him, I'd be happy to help. Feel free to email me by clicking on my profile, then fanmail, and then the link that says "send Daughter of Maat an email." Have you had any encounters with him as of yet?

    • profile image

      In Need of Help 4 years ago

      I've read many articles and personal information about Anubis but I keep on reading the same thing over and over. I'm very much Intrested on invoking him as my god but I need to do more research. Would any of you please help me on this journey. I'm very serious about him and I need all th help I can get.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      No, I don't mind at all, in fact I'm quite honored. Thank you!! :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi, I wanted to let you know that I linked this interesting hub to my "Egyptian Dog Names". If you prefer I take it off just let me know.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Well, I hope my hub helps you complete your project! :D

    • profile image

      Rose 5 years ago

      i am doing a project on this

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 5 years ago from Canada

      YES! lol

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      I agree, it's a hard habit to break, but it gets easier the more you do it. My problem now is I always think everyone knows everything I do. Stuff like common sense, or what my husband says is common sense to me. lol then after I realize they don't know, I'm like "Why don't they know this stuff?" lol

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 5 years ago from Canada

      Ditto! So thrilled to meet you!

      I did a painting of Anubis called, "Initiation" where he is ushering the viewer onto a golden pathway through the Unknown. I thought it was so inviting and positive, but when I've shown it to people, their reacts were ... well, not positive :-/ I didn't understand, but you've made excellent points about facing fears and that whole integrity thing. It's funny how humans automatically assume that everyone else thinks, believes, feels and act like them. I'm still guilty of that from time to time, as my husband has pointed out on occasion :-)

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      I so totally agree!! For some reason, people really don't like to face their fears, and everything associated with fear gets labeled as dark or evil. Drives me insane! I LOVE Anubis! I guess the whole integrity thing bothers people too. He has a very high level of integrity, and most people do not. I'm assuming that's intimidating lol. He's so fiercely protective though. I'll happily face my fears to gain the honor of his protection! It's so nice to meet someone else who's worked with him. He tends to be finicky and so I haven't met anyone else who's had the honor of him as a mentor. :D

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 5 years ago from Canada

      THANK YOU!!! Finally a write up on Anubis that doesn't portray him as some dark lord, villain or forbidding being. Very cool to read about your working with him. I enjoyed my time with him, very much and am always annoy by the usual "dark" portrayal. I guess when he makes folk face their fears, they're not likely to look favourably on him :-)

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thank you klara! I think there is still so much we can learn from these ancient dieties. There's a reason the Egyptians worshipped them for thousands of years, and that intrigues me. Of course a culture that lasted as long as the Egyptians did, obviously knows something we don't. :D

      I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub, thanks for reading and commenting!

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      klarawieck 5 years ago

      Daughter, this is all very interesting to me. It's such a distant and beautiful world than what we're used to nowadays! I marvel at the fact that there are still people who pay heed to these ancient Gods and Goddesses. I admire you and respect you for doing so. There is nothing wrong with learning the path of our ancestors and trusting the spiritual essence of the icons they used as guides on earth. Beautiful hub! Bravo!

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Why thank you iantoPF! I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub, and I will definitely check out that link!! Thank you so much for reading and commenting, greatly appreciated!!!

    • iantoPF profile image

      Peter Freeman 5 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Daughter of Maat' I came here after reading Kittythedreamer's Hub on the jackal. I have to say I am not disappointed. This is a very well written Hub an a subject I have an interest in., though I mainly write and speak about the Welsh pantheon I am not blind to the wisdom and beauty to be found in the Gods of other lands.

      Some time ago I recorded the invocation of Thoth. perhaps you might find it interesting;

      http://youtu.be/BYh40E_zI40

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thank you Jewels! I do have one coming soon on Seth. I love Egyptian mythology. It fascinates me, the myths themselves are so intricate and filled with subtle nuances.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!!

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

      Great article. Egyptian mythology has so many gems in it. So much of it can be aligned to other traditions, because it's those other traditions that have sprung out of Egypt. Sanskrit I believe, the oldest language known, has it's origins in ancient Egypt. Look forward to more of your articles on the myths.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @OldWitchcraft, thank you for you kind comment! I agree, the "dark side" (as most would call it) can be the most powerful, and they have an incredible healing ability which I have felt first hand. I think the power comes from the fear instilled. Many don't understand the "dark side," in this case Anubis. He has been a "loner" God for eons because of his the way he intimidates.

      Once you work with him, you will gain so much knowledge, and he too has healing abilities simply because of the work he did in embalming, and his closeness with Isis.

      Thanks again, for your comment!! :D

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      You're more than welcome! Something tells me it might be Anubis himself. Just a feeling I get, and it kinda came out of nowhere. Let me know if you find anything out!

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      That's a good idea Daughter of Maat. I need to do some work with that for sure. I think you are right, it's a spirit guide, showing me stuff...why? I think it will all come together at some point. Thanks!

    • OldWitchcraft profile image

      OldWitchcraft 5 years ago from The Atmosphere

      Very informative and a beautiful presentation.

      The spirits, gods, saints, etc., associated with death are usually the most powerful. Often, the most powerful healing and regeneration comes from them. I will give more consideration to Anubis after reading this. There's just a lot of great seeds of further research in your article.

      Accolades and vote up!

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Are you sure the one accompanying you isn't a spirit guide? Have you asked the "being" (for lack of a better term) who or what they are? Lucid dreaming can be the spirit world's attempt at contact. Hence my dream with Anubis. :D

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      They were in sleeping dreams. I have two kinds of sleeping dreams--just the ordinary run of the mill kind processing this and that--and another kind that are more vivid, intense, and often lucid or (it seems) accompanied by some other (whom I never see straight on). Weird, huh? I try not to get too wrapped up in it, but I do pay attention.

      Dreams are amazing. ;)

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thank you Hecate-Horus! I think what made Anubis so intimidating to me when I "met" him, was his morality. And you're right, many people confuse intimidating with evil and I think Anubis has been made to sound evil and I wanted to change that perception. I'm glad that came across in my writing!

      That painting is beautiful, I have yet to be able to find it in real life, but it's gorgeous!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! :D

    • hecate-horus profile image

      hecate-horus 5 years ago from Rowland Woods

      Awesome article, I learned a lot from it! Anubis IS very intimidating and some people confuse "intimidating" with "evil". You presented Anubis with the reverence and honor he deserves. Plus, I love that painting.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thank you CR Rookwood! We do think alike. Honestly, I hadn't thought of the keen eyesight, but you are so right!! It explains a lot actually!

      I wonder who the voice you heard was? Where these things in sleeping dreams? or meditation dreams? I agree anything related to the underworld is not for the faint of heart. Anubis himself can be VERY intimidating!

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Wow, this is a wonderful article. How fascinating that you were in opthalmology and your guide is associated with keen eyesight and moral principles! I love that.

      Lately I've been having dreams that seem to be showing me some layers of where people can go after death. At first I didn't understand why I was dreaming these terrifying things, but then, weirdly, during a dream I 'heard' a voice explain a part of it it, and I was like, Doh! I get it! But wow... not for the weak of heart...

      We definitely look at some things the same way. Thumbs up!

    • harmony223 profile image

      harmony223 5 years ago

      Such an amazing article. I have just started reading about Egyptian Mythology and this article has me wanting to read even more. Thanks!

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thanks Kitty! Not much is known to most people about Anubis prior to the induction of Osiris, so I thought it was worthwhile to share the fact that Anubis was the original Lord of the Underworld. I always thought he was more powerful than Osiris lol. :D Thanks for the votes!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

      I voted up, awesome, and beautiful. I never knew so much about Anubis. I knew the bare basics but this was awesome to read! Thank you for sharing your Patron God with us. :) Blessings.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thank you Marcy! I think I might end up doing a hub on each God of the egyptian pantheon, seems to be pretty popular! Thanks for the vote!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Super interesting, and (as always), well-researched! Voted up and awesome.

    • Dale Hyde profile image

      Dale Hyde 5 years ago from Tropical Paradise on Planet X

      That was the first time I had heard that word, "psychopomp". It does have a unique sound to it. :)

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thanks Dale! I just love the Egyptian Pantheon, there is so much to their Gods and Goddesses that is unspoken. Their symbols tell a lot about their characteristics. I actually learned a few new things about Anubis as well in my research. Like the word psychopomp, such a great word. Thanks so much for voting!

    • Dale Hyde profile image

      Dale Hyde 5 years ago from Tropical Paradise on Planet X

      A great and informative hub as always Daughter of Maat! You have shared quite a few details I was not aware of. I love learning more and more out the Gods and Goddesses! Thanks for sharing! Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Pcunix That word would be a lot of points though! I love this word, I had never heard it until about a year ago when I started studying Jungian psychology. It's a fun word to say too! Psycho Pomp ahahaha

      Mark thank you for the encouragement. I'm trying to decide which God/Goddess to do next, they are all so interesting!

      Rasta, I just read your hub about aloe vera and it's ancient uses. The Egyptians did, indeed, use aloe vera along with other herbs such as chamomile and orris root to keep the body from decaying and becoming pungent. While I, personally, think mummification in it's physical aspect is repulsive, I'm fascinated by their idea of the afterlife and how the soul remains connected to the body after death. The Egyptians were fascinating.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 5 years ago from SE MA

      Ahh. It's always a good day when I learn a new word! I wonder if my Scrabble game will accept "psychopomp". It would be a rare chance that would let me use it anyway, needing "hop" or "pomp" already on the board or some other arrangement where I could skip across..

      No, I checked.. not allowed. Oh, well: still a neat word.

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      markbennis 5 years ago

      This is a high quality Hub worthy of a mention on the front page of Hubpages, you did an excellent, voted up and gave it a tweet too you are on a role now.

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      Marvin Parke 5 years ago from Jamaica

      Anubis is one of the figures that I also study. I just did an article touching on mummification. I don't know much about paganism though. I'll look out for your articles as of now.