Anubis is the Egyptian god of death, mummification, embalming, the afterlife, cemeteries, tombs and the Underworld. He is usually depicted with the head of an African golden wolf.

Symbols: African golden wolf, flail, mummy gauze, fetish
Cult Centre: Cynopolis and Lycopolis
Parents: Nepthys and Set
Siblings: Wepwawet
Consort: Anput
Children: Kebechet
Greek equivalent: Hades or Hermes
Roman equivalent: Pluto or Mercury

Anubis attending the mummy of the deceased. The Tomb of Sennedjem.

Anubis was depicted in black, a colour that symbolised regeneration, life, the soil of the Nile River and the discoloration of the corpse after embalming.

Changing Roles

Anubis was depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100-2890 BC) and was also an embalmer. By the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC) he was replaced by Osiris in his role as lord of the Underworld. One of his prominent roles was ushering the souls of the deceased into the afterlife. He attended the weighing scale during the Weighing of the Heart ceremony, in which it was determined whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead.

Statue of Anubis, c. 100-138 AD, from Tivoli. Vatican Museum.

Weighing of the Heart ceremony

One of the roles of Anubis was the Guardian of the Scales. The critical scene depicting the weighing of the heart, in the Book of the Dead, shows Anubis performing a measurement that determined whether the person was worthy of entering the realm of the dead. By weighing the heart of a deceased person against Ma’at (truth), who was often represented as an ostrich feather, Anubis dictated the fate of the souls of the deceased. Souls heavier than the feather would be devoured by Ammit and souls lighter than the feather would be allowed to enter the Underworld.

The Weighing of the Heart ceremony. The Book of the Dead of Hunefer.


In the Osiris myth, Anubis helped Isis to embalm Osiris. Indeed, when the Osiris myth emerged, it was said that after Osiris had been killed by Set, Osiris’ organs were given to Anubis as a gift. With this connection, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers; during the rites of mummification, illustrations from the Book of the Dead often show a wolf-mask-wearing priest supporting the upright mummy.

Priest of Anubis performing the opening of the mouth ritual. The Book of the Dead of Hunefer.

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