Anubis: Egyptian Dark Lord of the Abyss
Among the first of all Egyptian Gods, Anubis the jackal emerged in Egypt’s ancient mythology before the First Dynasty (c. 3150–2890 B.C.E.). The jackal god witnessed the rise and fall of pharaohs, protecting them as they shed their mortal coils and crossed to the underworld. Surprisingly, Anubis, one of the most prevalent mythological figures of Ancient Egypt, did not have his own temple. His striking image is found in figurines, statues, and hieroglyphs, and portrayals are ubiquitous in tombs, cemeteries, and books of mortuary rituals (such as the Book of the Dead).
The earliest records of Anubis show that he was revered as the King of the Dead, and is even more significantly regarded than Osiris, who was later introduced into Egyptian mythology as Anubis’ father. Osiris assumed the title “God of the Underworld,” stripping Anubis of his prestige, then overtook him in importance during the Middle Kingdom period (2040-1782 B.C.E.).
Anubis thereafter came to be known as Osiris’ assistant in the underworld and protector of his tomb in the mortal world. Even so, the jackal god remained a top-tier deity with numerous grave responsibilities for the dead.
A Gnarled Family Tree
There are a few different stories of Anubis’ origin, but the most popular tells of his birth to Nephthys, a goddess who represented protective guardianship and was known as a “Friend to the Dead,” and Osiris, the god of the underworld. Nephthys was married to the god Set, for whom she had little use or affection. She did, however, have feelings for Osiris, who was married to her twin sister, Isis. As the myth goes, one fateful night Nephthys posed as her sister, plied Osiris with alcohol, and then seduced him. As a result of their union, Anubis, the funerary God, was born.
The Powers of Anubis
In perhaps the most well-known ancient Egyptian myth, Set, angry that Osiris had relations with his wife, sought revenge. He eventually found Osiris, killed, and dismembered him, and flung the 14 pieces of his body into the Nile. Isis organized a search party of scorpions, her sister, and Anubis, but were only able to find 13 pieces of Osiris’ body.
She reconstructed the final part with her powerful magic. The story of Isis miraculously reassembled her husband became legendary, and Anubis was credited with inventing mummification to preserve his body. With this act, the jackal god secured his role as the patron god of embalmers. For this reason, illustrations in the well-known Egyptian Book of the Dead depict priests wearing jackal masks when conducting funerary rites.
After the death of Osiris, Anubis became his father’s right-hand assistant in the underworld as well the world of pharaohs, queens, and mortals. With his expertise and knowledge of preserving the dead through mummification, Anubis was highly revered as their protector.
Whenever a mortal passed into the underworld, Anubis led the soul to the Hall of the Two Truths, where he would then decide the fate of the soul. He was thus also known as “The Guardian of the Scales.” The Book of the Dead shows Anubis acting as a judge, weighing a person’s heart on a set of scales, against a feather of truth. Those who had earned eternal life were led to heaven; the condemned were devoured by Ammit, the goddess of retribution.
An amorphous character, Anubis was not only associated with embalming and death but also with secrets beyond the ken of human beings, as he was well-versed in the mysteries of the afterlife. It was for his special knowledge that Anubis was perceived more as a trusted guide than as the taker of lives.
Notably, because of Anubis’ embalming skills, he was considered to have an exceptional understanding of anatomy, which led to his eventual role as the patron of anaesthesiology. His priests were also credited as being well-versed in herbal arts.
Symbolism of Anubis
As with any god, every aspect of Anubis’ appearance is symbolic. Most commonly depicted with the head of a jackal and the body of a muscular man, Anubis also appears as a jackal. In either form, his head is covered in black fur, which differentiates him from the carnivorous scavenger animal of the wild, with characteristically brown fur.
Black represents death, but it is also the color of rebirth in the afterlife, modeled after the Nile’s rich soil, which was then seen as a symbol of fertility. Anubis’ ears are always perked and alert — on guard and sensing any trouble afoot, beyond the range of human senses.
The reason the god of embalmment was depicted as a jackal is no more than an educated guess. It is thought, however, that the myth stemmed from early issues in keeping wild animals from feasting on the dead post-burial. Perhaps the early Egyptians believed a powerful jackal would be the best defense.
Anubis is also shown as having an Imiut fetish, which was thought to embody the magical powers of a spirit so that he could create a connection between the mortal world and the underworld. Imiut fetishes were buried in the tombs of dead pharaohs and queens — including those of Tutankhamun and Hatshepsut.
In some illustrations, Anubis poses with a flail, a crook, and a long pole (known as a was scepter). The flail, an agricultural tool, and a herding crook represented both the pharaoh’s role as provider and shepherd of his people. The was scepter, another magical fetish, symbolized the divine power of the pharaoh.
Anubis Knew Death Was Not the End
Since the beginning of humanity, there has never been a greater mystery to the mortal experience than death. And it seems that the ancient Egyptians, including the great pharaohs, placed as much interest in the afterlife as their daily existence. Anubis became the symbol of the great unknown, always present to usher the dead into the abyss beyond the mind and body. The striking figure of the jackal god has persisted through millennia like no other deity, etching a core belief into the rich history of an ancient civilization — that this fleeting life is but the beginning of a never-ending journey.
Freemason Secrets: Ancient Masonic Rites, Rituals, and Myths
My father, uncle, and grandfather were Freemasons. My grandfather held the title of Worshipful Master (akin to a president) at a New York City lodge near the turn of the century and had some fascinating clothing and accessories — his ring was beyond cool.
I remember asking Pop about his lodge when I was in kindergarten. Replying in his thick German accent, he said, “There is nothing for you to know at this time, boy.” I love that answer.
“George Washington was a Mason, along with 13 other presidents and numerous Supreme Court Justices. Benjamin Franklin published a book about Freemasonry on his own printing press. Nine signers of the Declaration of Independence were Freemasons, including the man with the biggest signature: John Hancock.”
— “Secrets of ‘The Lost Symbol,” MSNBC 10/27/09
The History of Masonry
The Masons most likely grew as extensions of the membership rules of Scotsman William Schaw’s stonemasonry tribe and The Knights Templar — a secretive group of Christian warrior-monks that protected the aspirants who traveled along the pathways to the Holy Land.
At the turn of the 16th Century, William Schaw developed his own club-like culture, housed within a lodge, and infused with a set of rules for sworn members, including, “They shall be true to one another and live charitably together as becometh sworn brethren and companions of the Craft.”
When diplomats and politicians joined the organization in the mid-1600s, the stonemason lodge movement began its climb as a stealthy phenomenon. If you were politically active and wanted to connect with the power structures of the times, you would do just about anything to become a member of The Masons.
In 1717, Masonry created a formal organization in London, when four lodges united to form the first Grand Lodge. This gave the organization credibility and added to its membership’s mystical allure. Men flocked, begged, coerced, and maneuvered to become members. Everybody wanted in.
The Freemasons of The United States
The United States Masons, otherwise known as The Freemasons, were a highly political society in the 1700s. The first US lodge was opened in 1730 in New Jersey, where they initiated early plans and strategies used to fight the British. With its growing vault of secrets, expanding political influence, and stealth missions, it was an exciting time to be a Freemason.
Initially, the Freemason creed declared anti-Catholic, anti-Royalty, and Republican virtues, including self-government, personal freedom, and free enterprise. The basic tenet was that no person or organization should be controlled or oppressed by a government or religion, or their respective laws and doctrines. At their start, and for centuries, The Freemasons were a feisty, calculating, and powerful coalition.
Much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church, the early Masonic organization’s philosophy evolved from Deist ideology, which believes God does not interfere with creation, as it runs itself according to the laws of nature.
If you were a Mason in Europe in the 1700s, you stood against the notion of natural selection as it pertained to royalty. As Masonry developed and grew, you rooted for the wild, unruly kids across the pond – the Americans.
In 1870, The Shriners, a group of elite Freemasons, created their first rituals, emblems, and costumes based on Middle Eastern themes, when 11 Master Masons were initiated into the organization.
And while it seems they were rigorously involved in politics, Freemasonry describes itself as a “beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”