Nov 27, 2015

Posted by in Gods and Godesses, Mythological Characters, Paganism | 0 Comments

Anubis: Egyptian Psychopomp

Picture of wall painting from the tomb of Senn...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anubis is a god of the ancient Egyptian religion that is associated with mummification of dead bodies and ushering of souls into the afterlife. Anubis is a very ancient god and was once thought to be the god presiding over the underworld. However, in later Egyptian mythology Anubis was replaced in this role by Osiris. Anubis ultimately became the god who oversees the embalming of the deceased and is the protector of the dead.

Anubis is often pictured as a black jackal-headed person or just as a black jackal. Because jackals could often be seen roaming the graveyards looking to scavenge something to eat, they were associated with death. Anubis was also colored black to represent the color of the embalmed bodies he was so closely associated with. Additionally, the color black was representative of the rebirth of souls into the afterlife.

One of the key responsibilities of Anubis was overseeing the funerary process and deciding which souls would be permitted into the afterlife. Anubis would attend to the weighing scales in the “Weighing of the Heart” proceedings. This would be how he determined which souls would be allowed into the realm of the dead. Egyptian priests who were called upon to oversee a funeral would often wear an Anubis mask during the preparation of the body and the following ceremony.

The first known mention of Anubis in ancient Egyptian text appears in the Old Kingdom when he was the powerful god of the dead. By the Middle Kingdom, Osiris had taken his place as the leader of the underworld. Anubis was often illustrated holding the hands of the dead and guiding them to meet Osiris during the Roman era. Although he is one of the most depicted characters of the Egyptian pantheon, Anubis rarely appears in the actual myths. He does, however, have a female counterpart called Anput and a daughter who is known as Kebechet, the serpent goddess.

As guardian of the dead, Anubis is responsible for protecting graves and cemeteries, along with tombs of the pharaohs. For this reason, many tombs had prayers to Anubis inscribed in them. He was sometimes called “He who is upon his mountain” (tepy-dju-ef) – meaning that he was keeping guard over the tombs from above. He was also known as the “Lord of the sacred land” (neb-ta-djeser), which indicates that he was god of the desert necropolis. It is thought that Anubis watched over the dead from a vantage point in the desert and came running to protect them should the need arise.

In his role as psychopomp, or “guide of souls”, Anubis was regularly depicted guiding souls from the realm of the living into Duat, the underworld. During the Roman period Anubis could be seen in funerary art as guiding people dressed in Greek clothing into the presence of Osiris. Sometimes this job was also performed by a cow-headed god, but it was much more likely that Anubis be chosen to play the role. He was not only the protector of tombs and graves, but a protector of souls as well. So, if you were an ancient Egyptian you could meet your death with peace, knowing that Anubis would be there to guide and protect you on your journey into the world of the dead.


  1. Anubis: Egyptian Psychopomp | Amiee Boyd - […] Source: Anubis: Egyptian Psychopomp […]

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