Anubis - God of Embalming
by Chris Coleman

This is Anubis embalming a pharaoh

        Anubis was the Patron of Embalming. He was also the Keeper of Poisons and Medicines. He provided unguents and rare herbs to help Isis and Nephthys with the embalming of Osiris. Anubis, then performed the funeral of Osiris, which would be the model for all funerals to come. As he received the mummy into the tomb, he performed the "Opening of the Mouth" ceremony.
        In the "Hall of Maat", Anubis appears on behalf of the diseased. It was Anubis who saw that the beam of the great scale was in the proper position as he supervised the weighing of the heart of a deceased person against the "Feather of Maat." The God of Knowledge, Thoth, records the results. It is also Anubis that protects the dead from Ammut, the "Devourer."

A tomb painting of Anubis embalming a pharaoh

         Anubis was also connected with the arts of magic and medicine. He was able to foresee the destiny of men, and so became the Announcer of Death.
        Anubis was also spelled Anpu or Anup, in ancient Egyptian religion and mythology. He was the jackal-headed God of Embalming who guided the souls of the dead through the underworld kingdom of Osiris, his father. Anubis was considered benevolent and good, and was present in the underworld (Duat) at the weighing of the dead person's soul, and was also at home in the heavenly sky realms of Ra.

A picture of Anubis covered in gold

        Anubis' mother was the goddess Nephthys. Nephthys, Isis, Set, and Osiris were all the children of the Sky Goddess Nut and the Earth God Geb. Nephthys was married to her brother Set, and Isis was married to her brother Osiris. Occasionally Anubis is considered the son of Set, but in the more prevalent myth, Nephthys left Set and seduced her sister's husband, Osiris. She conceived Anubis, but when he was born she abandoned him in the wilderness. Isis found Anubis with the aid of some dogs, and she raised him. When Anubis grew up, he guarded his foster mother faithfully, and he accompanied Isis and Osiris whenever they journeyed through the world. When Set murdered and dismembered his brother Osiris, the sisters Isis and Nephthys, now reconciled, searched for his body, and Anubis helped and comforted them. When they found all but one of the pieces of the Osiris' body, it was Anubis who invented the art of embalming and mummification so that his father could live again and reign in the World of the Dead.

The Protector Anubis

        Anubis is often depicted as a man with the head of a jackal or a dog, but is also sometimes shown as having the body of a jackal or dog as well. Sometimes he is depicted with one side of his face white or golden and the other black, to symbolize his position in both the celestial and the underworld realms.


        As the God of Embalming, Anubis' guiding spirit was present during the mummification of the corpse so that it would be a proper receptacle for the reincarnated spirit. Another duty of Anubis was carried out during the weighing of the dead person's heart; it was Anubis' role to carefully observe the procedure to make sure that it was properly done. If, according to the Great Balance, the person was not pure and honest and free of sin, Anubis would take the heart from the scale and throw it to the beast Ammit, who would devour it, destroying the person forever. If, on the other hand, the scale showed that the deceased was free of sin, the soul could go on to eternal life.
        A number of reasons have been suggested why a jackal or dog would come to play an important role in death and embalming. The jackal is a nocturnal animal, feeding on carrion, and perhaps at an early date was deified as a means of beseeching it not to devour the bodies of the dead. As a guide through the underworld, the dog would have excellent homing instincts and could faithfully guide the soul through its perils. In ancient Egypt semi-domesticated dogs were known to prowl in cemeteries at night and may have also been purposely used as guards for tombs.

This is a statue of Anubis

        Anubis was assisted in his tasks on behalf of the dead soul by another dog, or jackal-headed god, Wepwawet (also spelled Upuat or Upuaut, meaning "opener of the ways"), who was also depicted as a helper and guide for the dead. Wepwawet was probably an early funerary god whose function was similar to Anubis'; sometimes Wepwawet is considered another form of Anubis.

A small picture of Anubis

        The worship of Anubis was very ancient, probably even older than the worship of Osiris. Anubis was the local deity of Abydos and was also worshiped at Lycopolis, Abt, and other cities. Although the god 's name is translated in texts as Anubis, this is actually the Greek form of the Egyptian name Anpu. Greeks and Romans continued the worship of the god in classical times. There was a votive statue of him in Rome, and the Latin writers Plutarch and Apuleuis mention him in their works.


"The Ancient Egyptian Gods" @, 5/10/00

"Mysteries of Egypt" @, 5/10/00

"Goddess Gallery Ancient Egypt Page" @, 5/10/00

"Anubis" @,5/10/00


Picture #1 - "Embalming of a Pharoah" from:

Picture #2 - "Tomb painting" from:

Picture #3 - "A picture covered in gold" from:

Picture #4 - "The Protector Anubis" from

Picture #5 - "Anubis" from:

Picture #6 - "Statue of Anubis" from:

Picture #7 - "Small pic of Anubis" from: