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By Judith Page
âThe dead man is at one and the same time in heaven, in the god's boat, under the earth, tilling the Elysian fields, and in his tomb enjoying his victualsâ
Book of coming forth by day
Anpu, commonly known as Anubis. is one of the most misunderstood gods, So much has been written, and documentary films produced on the subject of Egyptâs ancient past, its gods and goddess, but little about the dog-god Anubis. How did he rise from being manâs best friend to fetish and a major deity?
His name âAnpuâ is from the same root as the word for a royal child, âinpuâ. However, it is also closely related to the word âinpâ which means âto decayâ, and one versions of his name Inp or Anp more closely resembles that word. As a result it is possible that his name slightly changed once he was adopted as the son of the King, Osiris. He was known as âImy-utâ; âHe Who is In the Place of Embalmingâ, ânub-ta-djserâ; âlord of the sacred landâ. This may give us a clue as to why he was so closely associated with death. But who was Anubis?
Painting by Judith Page
Whoever he was, he was an extremely ancient deity who pre-dates Osiris. His name appears in the oldest mastabas of the Old Kingdom and the Pyramid Texts and as well as being a guardian and protector of the dead, Anubis became associated specifically with the embalming process and funeral rites.
As Master of the Mysteries: it is Anubis who conducts the candidate across the threshold of the unseen world into the presence of terrifying apparitions and onwards through the twelve gates to Amenti for the final judgement.
Like Nut relegated to the inner lids of sarcophagi, having no shrines or temples dedicated to her, so was Anubis usurped by another, Osiris, who stole his realm from him. Never-the-less, Anubis did have a strong following and was worshipped widely throughout all of Egypt, his main Temple was in Hardâai or Cynopolis, (17th Nome of Upper Egypt). There were cult centres at Abt, (8th Nome of Upper Egypt), Zawty (Asyut in the 13th Nome of Upper Egypt) and east of Ankh-Tawy (Saqqara), there was even a place known as Anubeion where the burials of mummified dogs and jackals was discovered.
Anpu was an ancient funerary deity who was manifest in numerous guises and took many appellations but essentially remained the great god of the dead and lord of judgement in the afterlife. Or not, dependent upon which priesthood was in power!
At other times Anpu took human form but with the head of a jackal, which was worn as a mask by his priesthood during the funerary rites symbolising the presence of the Neter, especially during the Opening of Mouth Ceremony.
Presenting the mummy with the Sebhur
Opening of Mouth Ceremony
The magnificence of the temples, the religion or the mysteries as they were more generally referred to are well named, as, from their very beginnings to the present day they continue to be mysterious, cloaked in an atmosphere of profound secrecy. The Anubis figure may have been intended to combine the role as a guard with him being a custodian of secret things, âHe who is over the secretsâ.
The scholarly has been balanced with the magical element of this deity. The Jungian theme came to be as we envisioned Anubis to be the one to guide us back to a sense of wholeness, to show us the Light and Dark and to finally integrate the fragments of our selves that have been scattered to the winds. As He guides the Dead so shall He guide the living. He leads us back to a spiritual state of being, clears the mists from our minds so that we remember who we are. So many of us live a life which is a living death and need to be freed from that BUT only if we are willing to change.
However we look at him, Anubis unlike any other Egyptian god is special. Out of all the other priesthoods of that land, his has survived, and the legacy of him lives on to this very day in every funeral parlor one goes to. Hail Anubis!
Anpu usually took the form of a black jackal and is referred to in some texts as âsabâ, but always a dark canine inhabiting the desert fringes and burial sites.
Over time, Anpuâs ascendant star in the heavens was overshadowed by the prominence of Osiris and eventually his attributes assimilated by him. Anpu was then gathered into the Osirian family as the offspring of Nephthys and Osiris.
The Neterâs many epithets give an indication of his most important duties as guardian of the dead. As Khentamenthesâ âForemost of the Westernersâ he held authority over the dead in cemeteries, most of which were on the West Bank of the Nile.
Originally Khentamenthesâ was an older canine deity whose cult centre was at Abydos. In his guise of Tepy-dju-ef âHe who is upon his mountainâ he watched over the dead and kept hostile forces at bay from a vantage point overlooking the burial grounds. As Khenty-she-netjer, the one âpresiding over the godâs pavilionâ he took charge over the embalming tent and secure burial chamber, which in the case of royalty was known as the âGolden Hallâ.
Anpuâs association with mummification was recognised during the Pyramid Age and his epithet of Imy-ut âHe who is in the place of embalmingâ emphasises the importance of his role in the process, especially in the preservation of the kingâs body from decomposition. The imy-ut was also a fetish associated with the Neter; it took the form of a headless animal skin, usually a feline, which was tied to a pole stuck into a pot. It was Anpu who was said to have taken charge of the embalming of Osiris.
From the tomb of Rekmire, West Bank, Luxor
As with certain of His brethren, Anpuâs image and mythology have become blurred and buried beneath fabrication and re-telling. We must use more than physical sight to see beyond into the shadows to find the Golden One shrouded within the velvety darkness of night and the starless skies. The great god of the dead waits impassively and patiently for us to learn well the lessons of life before we enter the Hall of Judgement to face the ultimate, the judging of OUR HEART.
Weighing of the heart
From the papyrus of Ani (British Museum, London)
Manâs best friend
...one hunted for me (and) caught fish and birds for me, apart from the prey of my harriers.â from The Tale of Sinuhe
Man and dog have been partners in hunting and friends around the campfire for countless thousands of years. If the dog is not, as the proverb claims, man's best friend, he is without a doubt, one of our oldest. Not only did they serve as family pets, but at times, as war dogs.
The ancient Egyptian word for dog was âIwiwâ, which referred to the dogâs bark â this was possibly a good reason why dogs were used as guardians of people, places, for homes and temples - organised warfare is but a small step removed from sentry duty.
In June 2000, George Cunningham, an American helicopter pilot working in Cairo, was indulging in his hobby of searching for fossilised sea shells, whereupon he discovered cave drawings near the Ain Sokhna Road, about 25 miles (40.2 km) south-east of Cairo. There were several levels of civilisation in the cave, but the earliest drawings, according to Egyptian scholars from the Supreme Council of Antiquities, date to approximately 7000 BCE; they clearly show men and women, armed with bows, hunting alongside domesticated dogs. This is not the only example of such prehistoric representations of human-dog hunting scenes being found in the Nile Valley.
The earliest reference to dogs in Egypt comes to us from the pre-dynastic period. Many bones of domesticated dogs have also been discovered dating to the fifth millennium BCE in Egypt, and we find the first representation of domesticated dogs on domestic pottery known as the âMoscow Cupâ, from the Badarian Culture, from about 4400 to 4000 BC.
We begin to find natural representations of dogs with collars on the Ashmolean Palette and the Hunting Palette. These palettes date from the pre-dynastic era during the Naqada II period (3500-3000 BC). But we find many more domesticated dogs in murals starting in the Old Kingdom.
Hunting Palette, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Some scholars believe it was the Hyksos (the invaders of Egypt who governed from Avaris in the Delta) who popularised the use of spike-collared dogs in war. Along with light and speedy battle-chariots, both of which were widely used during the New Kingdom, in particular by the expansionist Pharaoh Ramses II, who was known to cry: âhavoc and let slip the dogs of warâ. Although, it is quite probable that earlier dynasties also used war dogs, though perhaps not to the extent seen later.
As Egypt appears not to have had any wolves that could have been domesticated, the first dogs may have been imported to Egypt during a pre-dynastic period, which might be an indication of the level of trade existing in the Mediterranean region even at that early time.
A tomb stela of Horus Wah-ankh Intef II, of the 11th Dynasty (before unification) depicts the king with his dogs, and as they all have Berber names it is likely that they were introduced from the West, while Hatshepsut's sailors brought dogs from Punt along with other riches. Among the animals presented as Nubian tribute to Pharaoh Ramses II, was a dog.
Various breeds were popular during different periods of Egypt's history that includes the Sloughi and Saluki thought by some to be the world's oldest breeds. A Sloughi look-alike with a trumpet-shaped tail was widespread during the Old Kingdom. Short legged dogs began to appear during the 5th dynasty and were all the rage during the Middle Kingdom, while New Kingdom Egyptians preferred the small ketket, or the fleet harrier, which during the pre-dynastic seems to have had upright ears and from the Old Kingdom on increasingly lop ears and whose speed, to coin the phrase, was âswifter than the harrier and faster than the shadow â. The dogs of later times were generally slender and medium sized, but large mastiff-sized and small spitz-type dogs were also found buried in the dog cemeteries.
Almost as soon as domestication of the canine species began in ancient Egypt, so too did selective breeding, but not to the extent of obsessive breeding practised today which is a relatively modern invention, dating from the Middle Ages.
However, the Egyptians recognised certain traits and were able to breed native African and Middle Eastern dogs with certain distinctive characteristics. Certain breeds were more highly valued than others, as is still true among dog fanciers; some were so greatly prized only the nobility of Egypt could own them.
Then, just as now, a dog did not have to be a pure bred champion to be a beloved family pet. Indeed, âmutsâ and âmongrelsâ were just as common in ancient Egypt as in the modern world, but infinitely better treated, since even the lowest of breeds were still a child of Anubis.
Unlike other animals, dogs were given names, just like a member of the family. Some of the names given to Egyptian dogs were human names, just as we give them to our dogs today. A popular dogsâ name was âabuâ, that could have been the Egyptian equivalent of our âbow-wowâ.
We even know many of the ancient Egyptian dogsâ names from leather collars, stela and wall reliefs. They included such names as, Good Herdsman, North-Wind, Brave-One, Reliable and even âUselessâ. Other names come from a dogâs colour, âBlackyâ, and others were given numbers for names, such as âthe Fifthâ. There were also names of endearment, whilst others convey just the dogâs skills or capabilities.
Yet, even as in modern times, there could be negative implications to dogs, due to their nature as âservantsâ of man. Some ancient texts include references to prisoners as âthe kingâs dogsâ.
Whilst it may be true for religious purposes cats were the most honoured of animals in Egypt, for example, worship of the cat goddess Bastet, and for practical use, such as pest control. According to Diodorus Siculus:
âCats were so clever they fooled us gullible humans into believing them sacredâ. He goes on to describe the peopleâs anger when particular animals were killed:
âThe killer of a cat, or dog or an ibis has to die, whether he killed the animal on purpose or by mistake; a crowd gathers and without any decision of a judge they maltreat the perpetrator in the cruellest way.â
Herodotus describes how the Egyptians mourned the death of a family cat or dog:
âIn every house that a cat has died those who dwell in that house shave their eyebrows, but those in which a dog has died must shave their whole body and also their head.â
It was also illegal to kill a dog in Egypt, to do so â the penalty, was death!
So, the dog may have beaten the cat as the most beloved of family pets, if only because the dog is closer to man in temperament, needs and goals. It is rare that the cat will comfort his master at the end of hard days work, but seems to be normal for most dogs.
In other words, the Egyptians worshipped their cats but preferred dogs as pals, as well as being hunting companions, many masters had the mummies of their canine companions placed in their own tombs, so the bond between them would continue after death.
Part of the cemetery at Abydos was set aside for dogs near the graves of women, archers and dwarfs. A vast number of dog cemeteries and dog mummies, particularly in the surrounding area of the ancient city named Hardai (the Greeks called Cynopolis or âDog Cityâ) stand as a silent witness to the close bond of affection between dogs and their masters.
In 1938 Dr. G. A. Reisner who has been excavating in Egypt with the Harvard-Boston Expedition found an inscription recording the burial of a greyhound-like dog named Abu-wti-yuw, with all the ritual ceremonies of a great man of Egypt carried out by the King of Upper and Lower Egypt:
âHis Majesty ordered that his guard dog Abu-wti-yuw be given a coffin from the royal treasury, fine linen in great quantity, incense, perfumed ointment and that a tomb be built for him by the gang of masons. His Majesty did this for him in order that he might be honoured.â
Other cities like Hardai where dogs were lovingly buried were considered sacred to the dog-god Anubis, like the dogs who honoured him, were a friend of mankind.
Regardless of the favourable reference to the dogs such as the Greyhound in the Bible, in general dogs were held in low regard in the lands outside Egypt. Judeo-Christian writings regard them as vicious scavengers. In the Islamic faith dogs are considered unclean animals.
At present, in countries such as Iraq and Iran, there is somewhat a âslaughter of the innocentsâ going on. Many dozens of dogs are murdered daily, rounded up by the government officials. Only the richer classes secretly practise the illegal ownership of dogs.
In North America and Europe, thousands of dogs are âput downâ, not from any religious conviction, but merely for convenience, for example around vacation time, and an excuse of âpublic healthâ are often mentioned.
In the Far East dogs as well as cats are on the menu â but we wonât go down that road.
In particular, Greyhounds are ill-treated and killed when they reached the end of their racing careers. If they are not rescued by charitable organisations, they are turned into dog food. If the ancient Egyptians were around today, they would certainly not understand the mal-treatment dogs are accorded in this modern world of ours, and neither would mans best friend.
Perhaps the only conclusion we can draw with any degree of certainty is that the ancient Egyptians loved their dogs, and, in turn were loved unconditionally by them. From the lowest Egyptian to the mightiest of Pharaoh, in the eyes of a dog, he was their best friend. For, just as dogs never lie, they never judge â but what of Anubis?
It is interesting to note that during the conversion of the ancient Egyptians to the Coptic religion, they took the image of Anpu with them giving him the new role as âProtector of Travellers Abroadâ.
As Christianity in Egypt took its hold, this god underwent yet another change, his dog head was replaced for a human guise and was renamed St Christopher, Patron Saint of Travellers. Often the suggestion is seen in historic accounts that St. Christopher was the product of a tryst between a human being and an Anubis, a demon-like creature based on the Greek Anoubis, which came from the Egyptians jackal-headed god who was believed to lead the dead to judgment. St Christopher is frequently represented on icons and frescoes of the Orthodox church as âCynecephalosâ, the âDogheadedâ. According to this conception he belongs to the mythological race, which in antiquity was believed to be the living in the âOikumeneâ, the edge of the inhabited world. To convert this people was to conclude all missionary work on earth.
Saint Christopher, Greek, end of 18th century
Whatever his guise may be, Anpu continues to remain with us to this day, as our protector in life, and death.
Judith Page & Ken Bales authors of Invoking the Egyptian Gods published by Llewellyn Worldwide ISBN 9780738727301
This book is both spiritual and practical. Not only will it be an aid to the advanced practitioner, it will also be a valuable learning tool for those who are just beginning to practice invoking.
Throughout the book, you will be calling on many gods and goddesses based on ritual invocational rites.
Each chapter is accompanied by a brief outline explaining the meaning and purpose behind each invocation. Our invocations and meditations are not empty verbalism; they greatly enhance and enrich our lives as we enter into the realm of the gods.
As Ken Bales rightly says, âWhen you invoke a god or goddess, you are invoking part of yourself. You are communicating with that part of you that is divine.â
Many invocations that have been written are so cosmetically perfect, offering you only a faĂ§ade and never really getting in touch with the chosen god.
This book is only the tip of the pyramid, as so much more has yet to surface. A lot of rituals and invocations are purely ceremonial with no intent of reaching out to the god. Our work is an elegant way to approach an Egyptian god. It is also to the point, and truthfully written. We have held nothing back.
We have attempted to understand the spiritual and aesthetic aims of the ancient Egyptians. In short, we have endeavored to reconstruct their creative process. Clearly, it is possible only partially to succeed in doing so. We may have an idea of what it may have been to perform invocations to the ancient gods, but as much as we try, we must accept that these were people working against a background very different from ours. We cannot put ourselves in their place, even with the help of the knowledge we have collected about their civilization.