If you're into sci-fi thiller/dramas, there's a great show on NBC called "Grimm". I won't go into too much detail about it but it features Wesen (mythological characters) and Grimms (humans meant to hunt and kill violent Wesen). It's set in modern times and is quite a good show.

Anyway, I was watching one of the newer episodes a few nights ago and it featured a pair of Anubi: dog-Wesen that look like the Egyptian god Anubis. I realized I didn't know enough about the god Anubis and so I decided he should be the subject of this weeks LMAW Insider issue.

Meet Anubis

Anubis is the early Egyptian god of Death and Rebirth, and also of embalming and mummification. He's known by different names depending on how you're discussing or addressing him. If you're referring to him as the son of Osiris, you call him Sekhem Em Pet. You call him Sekhem Taui when speaking about him as a form of Osiris. He's also known as Yinepu Anpu, or simply Anpu.

He was the son of Osiris and Nephthys, and the husband of Anput. He was unrelentingly loyal to Isis and once even helped to bring her husband back to life. For more on this, visit the bonus episode link at the end of this issue.

Before Horus worship rose to prominence, Anubis was a very big deal. His primary responsibilities were to:

  • Supervise the embalming process
  • Perform the "Opening of the Mouth" ceremony and
  • Guide souls in the Field of Celestial Offerings

Anubis and Embalming

Anubis embalming someoneWorshiped as the creator of the embalming process, Anubis was present at all mummification procedures. When he was not, or when his roles were later assumed by Osiris, the embalmers would wear masks and metaphorically becomeAnubis during the wrapping of the dead.

After the mummification, Anubis would receive the newly deceased in his temple. There he would perform the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and allow the dead to pass into the spirit world for judgement (more on this in a moment).

The Opening of the Mouth

Ancient Egyptians believed that in order for a person's soul to survive after initially crossing over into the afterlife, they needed to have food and water in the land of the living. The Opening of the Mouth ceremony was as it sounds: a ceremony by which Anubis would assist in the symbolic opening of a statue's mouth in order that it may receive food, water, and breath. A statue was created specifically for this ceremony and specifically for the person who had passed.

This wasn't really as straight forward as it sounds, however. The ceremony lasted for weeks and was composed of 75 "episodes". The episodes were as follows:

  • Episodes 1-9: Preliminary rites
  • Episodes 10-22: Animation of the statue
  • Episodes 23-42: Meat offerings aligned with Upper (southern) Egypt
  • Episodes 43-46: Meat offerings aligned with Lower (northern) Egypt
  • Episodes 47-71: Funerary meal
  • Episodes 72-75: Closing rites

The ritual illustrates the concept of sculpture (the statue being made) as birth. This concept also finds expression in the Egyptian language, in its vocabulary for sculpture: the fashioning of the image is 'giving birth', the sculptor is 'the one who causes to live'. In the 'Opening of the Mouth', the special ritual implements for consecration may derive from blades used in childbirth, and the accompanying meat offerings would have involved an outpouring of blood that evokes implicitly the blood of childbirth and of life.

Guiding Souls

Anubis's most important role was the balancing of the Scales of Justice in Duat (the Egyptian underworld); it was a process known as "Weighing the Heart". On one side of the scale was the Feather of Ma'at (truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice) and on the other was placed the judged's heart. If you were in balance, you were permitted into Duat as a spirit of the dead. However, if you were out of balance, your heart was devoured by Ammit, the "Devourer of the Dead". You would die a second time in that moment and live forever as a discontent and incomplete spirit. For Egyptians, this was the worst fate imaginable.

Part crocodile, part lion, part bear, Ammit was not worshiped; she was feared. She embodied all that the Egyptians were afraid of: eternal restlessness. Anubis's role in this whole ordeal wasn't to ensure that the scales were balanced evenly, no. His job was simply to ensure the scales would give you a fair trial and that Ammit would not eat you prematurely.

The Speech of Anpu 

The Speech of Anpu, (again, Anpu was another name for Anubis), was a speech given during embalming ceremonies and was the first step in Anubis receiving the deceased on the other side.

Anubis the dweller in the mummy chamber, Governor of the Divine House, layeth his hands upon the lord of life, the scribe, the draughtsman of Ptah, Nebseni, the lord of fealty, begotten of the scribe and mason Thena, born of the lady of the house Mut-rest, whose word is truth, and devoting himself to him as his guardian, saith:

Homage to thee, thou happy one, lord! Thou seest the Utchat. Ptah-Seker hath bound thee up. Anpu hath exalted thee. Shu hath raised thee up, O Beautiful Face, thou governor of eternity. Thou hast thine eye, O scribe Nebseni, lord of fealty, and it is beautiful. Thy right eye is like the Sektet Boat, thy left eye is like the Atet Boat. Thine eyebrows are fair to see in the presence of the Company of the Gods. Thy brow is under the protection of Anpu, and thy head and face, O beautiful one, are before the holy Hawk. Thy fingers have been stablished by thy scribe's craft in the presence of the Lord of Khemenu, Thoth, who hath bestowed upon thee the knowledge of the speech of the holy books.

Thy beard is beautiful in the sight of Ptah-Seker, and thou, O scribe Nebseni, thou lord of fealty, art beautiful before the Great Company of the Gods. The Great God looketh upon thee, and he leadeth thee along the path of happiness. Sepulchral meals are bestowed upon thee, and he overthroweth for thee thine enemies, setting them under thy feet in the presence of the Great Company of the Gods who dwell in the House of the Great Aged One which is in Anu.

Other stuff

Egyptian mythology, I dare say, and in relation to depth and fullness of the pantheon, give Greek and Norse mythologies a real run for their money. If you'd like to hear the Egyptian Creation Myth, pop on over to the website and listen to the bonus episode from November 11th, 2015. You can get there by clicking here.

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