In the early days of ancient Egypt, Anubis (or Anpu) was the god of the dead. Later, when Osiris took over this role, Anubis became the god who oversaw funerals. He was also the guardian of the underworld, where he escorted the dead to the hall of judgment and helped weigh each person's heart against the feather of truth before presenting the soul to Osiris.

Anubis was the son of the goddess Nephthys, who had tricked her brother Osiris into fathering her child. The goddess's husband, Set (Seth), hated Osiris and planned to murder the child when he was born. Nephthys therefore decided to abandon the infant at birth. She hid him in the marshes by the Nile River, where he was found by Isis, the wife of Osiris. Isis raised Anubis, and when he reached adulthood, he repaid her by becoming her protector.

Later, when Osiris set out to conquer the world, Anubis accompanied him. Osiris was murdered by his old enemy Set, who tore his body to pieces. Anubis helped find the pieces of Osiris's body and embalmed the body so well that it never decayed. Anubis is said to have performed the first Egyptian burial rites and to have introduced the practice of embalming the dead.

underworld land of the dead

embalm to treat a corpse with oils or chemicals to prevent or slow down the process of decay

jackal small, doglike mammal native to Asia and Africa

Images of Anubis depict him as a jackal or as a man with the head of a jackal. Jackals prowled Egyptian cemeteries at night, looking for food and even eating corpses. The Egyptians believed that Anubis, in the form of a jackal, would keep jackals away and protect the dead. The Greeks and the Romans also worshiped Anubis, whose name is actually the Greek form of the Egyptian name Anpu .

See also Egyptian Mythology ; Isis ; Osiris ; Set .

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