Anubis is the Greek name for the ancient Egyptian god of the dead, who looks like a man with the head of a jackal. A jackal is a scavenging and hunting animal, native to Africa, that is closely related to wolves.
Anubis's Purpose[change | edit source]
Anubis, as the god of the dead, was closely associated with mummification and burial rites. Egyptian jackals had an association with the dead, as well. They were often found digging up buried bodies and eating them, which may be why Anubis was depicted as part jackal. The priests who mummified the dead kings (called pharaohs) wore costumes to make them appear like jackals.
The Egyptian people believed that Anubis helped decide the fate of the dead in the afterlife. The heart of the dead was weighed against the feather of truth (representing the goddess Maat), to see if the deceased was worthy of entering the afterlife. If the person had lived a bad life, his or her heart would weigh heavy, and he or she would be eaten by Ammit (the Devourer). If a person was good, the heart weighed light, and he or she could continue on to the afterlife uneaten.
In Greece and Rome[change | edit source]
In later times, during the Ptolemaic period, as their functions were similar, Anubis came to be identified as the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis. The centre of this cult was in uten-ha/Sa-ka/ Cynopolis, a place whose Greek name simply means "city of dogs". In Book XI of "The Golden Ass" by Apuleius, we find evidence that the worship of this god was maintained in Rome at least up to the 2nd century. Indeed, Hermanubis also appears in the alchemical and hermetical literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Although the Greeks and Romans typically scorned Egypt's animal-headed gods as bizarre and primitive (they mockingly called Anubis the "Barker"), Anubis was sometimes associated with Sirius in heaven, and Cerberus in hell.