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Anubis Embalmer in the Ancient Egyptian Mummification Tradition

Anubis, the jackal headed god, was the God of Embalming, and associated with the dead and cemeteries. He had the title 'Foremost of the Westerners', showing his high position in the West, the land of the dead.

Like many of the Egyptian gods, Anubis has the head and the body of a human. Other animals represented in this way include the Lioness - Sekhmet, Cat - Bastet, Ram - Khnum, Crocodile - Sobek, Ibis - Thoth, and even the scarab beetle as Khepri form of the sun god Re. Anubis (and the other gods) could also take the whole animal form, and thus is also portrayed as a jackal.

Eye of Horus
Picture: Eye Of Horus Pendant

As God of Embalming, he is shown in the embalming tent, with embalmers. Some of the tomb paintings suggest that at the main ceremonies associated with the burial, the chief embalmer wore an Anubis mask and carried out rites associated with Anubis. At the time of burial Anubis was involved in the ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth of the deceased, and his part may have been played by the chief embalmer.

Weighing of the Heart

Anubis is often shown in the paintings on the walls of tombs and in the papyri of the Book of the Dead, a book of magical spells designed to help the dead in their. great journey of eternity. In the latter he is shown at the ceremony of the Weighing of the Heart, when he holds the scales that weighs the heart of the dead person against the feather of Maat, and thus was the guardian of the balance. In the tomb of Tutankhamun, Anubis as a jackal, protected the king's canopic chest containing his internal organs.

Egyptian Shabti Ushabti
Picture: A modern depiction of Ushabti in a form of jewellery.

In the Pyramid Texts, Anubis is the 'fourth son of Ra' Later myths record that he was part of the family of Osiris and that Nephthys, left without children by Seth, bore him adulterously to Osiris. When fully grown Anubis accompanied Osiris on his conquest of the world, and when Osiris was murdered he helped Isis and Nephthys bury him. It was on this occasion that Anubis, it is said, invented funerary rites and bandaged up the body of Osiris as a mummy to keep him from contact with the air and subsequent corruption. He was therefore 'Lord of the Mummy Wrappings'.


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