1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anubis

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ANUBIS (in Egyptian Anūp, written Īnpw in hieroglyphs), the name of one of the most important of the Egyptian gods. There were two types of canine divinities in Egypt, their leading representatives being respectively Anubis and Ophois (Wp-w,’-wt, “opener of the ways”): the former type is symbolized by the recumbent animal Anubis symbol 1.jpg, the other by a similar animal (in a stiff standing attitude), carried as an emblem on a standard Anubis symbol 2.jpg in war or in religious processions. The former comprised two beneficent gods of the necropolis; the latter also were beneficent, but warlike, divinities. They thus corresponded, at any rate in some measure, respectively to the fiercer and milder aspects of the dog-tribe. In late days the Greeks report that κύνες (dogs) were the sacred animals of Anubis while those of Ophois were λύκοι (wolves). The above figure Anubis symbol 3.jpg is coloured black as befits a funerary and nocturnal animal: it is more attenuated than even a greyhound, but it has the bushy tail of the fox or the jackal. Probably these were the original genii of the necropolis, and in fact the same lean animal figured passant Anubis symbol 4.jpg is s,’b “jackal” or “fox.” The domestic dog would be brought into the sacred circle through the increased veneration for animals, and the more pronounced view in later times of Anubis as servant, messenger and custodian of the gods.

Anubis was the principal god in the capitals of the XVIIth and XVIIIth nomes of Upper Egypt, and secondary god in the XIIIth and probably in the XIIth nome; but his cult was universal. To begin with, he was the god of the dead, of the cemetery, of all supplies for the dead, and therefore of embalming when that became customary. In very early inscriptions the funerary prayers in the tombs are addressed to him almost exclusively, and he always took a leading place in them. In the scene of the weighing of the soul before Osiris, dating from the New-kingdom onwards, Anubis attends to the balance while Thoth registers the result. Anubis was believed to have been the embalmer of Osiris: the mummy of Osiris, or of the deceased, on a bier, tended by this god, is a very common subject on funerary tablets of the late periods. Anubis came to be considered especially the attendant of the gods and conductor of the dead, and hence was commonly identified with Hermes (cf. the name Hermanubis); but the rôle of Hermes as the god of eloquence, inventor of arts and recorder of the gods was taken by Thoth. In those days Anubis was considered to be son of Osiris by Nephthys; earlier perhaps he was son of Rē, the sun-god. In the 2nd century A.D. his aid was “compelled” by the magicians and necromancers to fetch the gods and entertain them with food (especially in the ceremony of gazing into the bowl of oil), and he is invoked by them sometimes as the “Good Ox-herd.” The cult of Anubis must at all times have been very popular in Egypt, and, belonging to the Isis and Serapis cycle, was introduced into Greece and Rome.

See Erman, Egyptian Religion; Budge, Gods of the Egyptians; Meyer, in Zeits. f. Aeg. Spr. 41-97. (F. Ll. G.)