Dr. Jack Shephard was a spinal surgeon and the survivors’ de facto leader. Before the crash, his obsessive personality wrecked his marriage and his relationship with his father. On the Island though, the survivors sought his guidance during many crises and missions, and he united them until they cooperated and formed a society.
Jack developed romantic relationships with Kate and later Juliet, and his jealousy sparked a rivalry with Sawyer. His rationality, so useful when solving problems, prevented his accepting the Island’s mystic properties and caused friction with “man of faith” John Locke. Problems arose that Jack could not fix despite his obsession and self-sacrifice. Though he tried to repress his guilt, he often broke out with violence or tears.
After suffering a kidnapping and almost negotiating his own rescue, Jack escaped the Island with five other survivors. Off-island, he laid his father to rest and proposed to Kate, but visits from John Locke and his father’s ghost sent him toward depression and substance abuse. Yet he gained new faith, and he led the survivors back to the island, believing it was his destiny. He then found himself in the past, where he tried to reset his and the others’ lives and prevent the crash of Oceanic 815.
The attempt failed, sending Jack to a new low. But after discovering he was a candidate to replace Jacob as Protector of the island, he gained confidence and decided to stay on the island. He also ceded decision-making to Sawyer, overcoming his control issues. He chose to become the Island’s new protector and was almost killed by the Man in Black, but with Kate’s help, he killed him before he could leave. He then sacrificed himself to relight the Heart, saving the Island from destruction. Post-death, he imagined a son and an ex-wife to come to terms with his bad relationships. His personality mixed science and faith, but he again felt the compulsion to fix others. His stubbornness returned, and unlike his friends, he resisted remembering his life, even after experiencing flashes. Eventually though, he remembered everything and after seeing his father again, he was able to “let go”, reuniting with Kate and his friends, to finally move on in the church.
1×05 – White Rabbit
Jack Shephard was born July 14th, 1966 to Dr. Christian and Margo Shephard. He was also, through his father, the half-brother of fellow Oceanic Flight 815 survivor Claire Littleton, thus making him the half-uncle of Claire’s son, Aaron. As an adolescent, Jack was beaten by a teenage bully after attempting to rescue his friend Marc Silverman.
Hearing what happened, his father spoke over a glass of whiskey of his ability to accept the consequences of life and death decisions. He advised Jack to avoid being a hero because he didn’t have what it took to cope with failing. (“White Rabbit”)
1×01 – Pilot, Part 1
At some point, Jack began flying lessons, but chose not to continue because “it wasn’t for me.” (“Pilot, Part 1”)
3×01 – A Tale of Two Cities | 1×11 – All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues
Jack attended Columbia University and graduated a year early from UCLA medical school then began working with his father at St. Sebastian Hospital as a spinal surgeon. (“A Tale of Two Cities”) (“All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”)
5×17 – The Incident, Part 2
During his residency, he once met a crash victim who couldn’t speak but who could write. Another time, Jack accidentally nicked a patient’s dural sac and panicked. Christian told him to count to five and let the fear in, or else he would operate himself. Jack reluctantly listened, and he was able to fix his mistake and complete the surgery. Later, Jack told Christian that he resented being “put in a time-out” in front of his team. As he started to walk away, a man approached him and offered a trapped Apollo Candy Bar Jack had tried to order. He briefly touched Jack’s hand and said, “Maybe all it needed was a little push.” (“The Incident, Part 2”)
2×01 – Man of Science, Man of Faith
At 8:15 AM on an unknown date in 2001, two victims of a head-on collision came to Jack’s hospital, and Jack operated on the woman, Sarah, at the older man’s expense. Sarah’s spine was severely crushed, and Jack told her she would never walk again. This bluntness bothered Christian. Sarah’s fiance responded superficially upon hearing her condition, and Jack overstepped his professional relationship with Sarah, promising to fix her.
He initially believed he failed, but a man he met at a stadium suggested he may not have. Jack tearfully informed Sarah of his failure. She then wiggled her toes, and Jack realized he’d fixed her. (“Man of Science, Man of Faith”)
Marriage & Divorce
1×20 – Do No Harm
Sarah and Jack fell in love. Sarah toasted Jack as a hero at their wedding rehearsal, but Jack had trouble writing his vows. Christian comforted him, saying he chose his wife correctly, and handing Jack an heirloom watch. Jack ended up improvising his vows, telling Sarah that he didn’t fix her – she fixed him. (“Do No Harm”) (“The Watch”)
2×11 – The Hunting Party
Jack’s career and his obsessive compulsion to fix things later took a toll on the marriage. In December of 2003, Jack kissed a patient’s daughter while consoling her after he died on the operating table.
He returned home to Sarah and confessed the kiss to his wife, promising he would change. Sarah told him she had been seeing another man and had already made plans to leave her husband. (“The Hunting Party”)
3×01 – A Tale of Two Cities
In the months that followed, Jack became obsessed with finding his wife’s lover. He stalked her, offered him all their assets for the name and dialled all her cell phone contacts, shocked to find his father’s number. He followed Christian to an AA meeting, accused him of sleeping with Sarah and physically attacked him.
Christian started drinking after 50 days of sobriety, and Jack ended up in jail for the attack. Sarah was called to bail him out. (“A Tale of Two Cities”)
Sarah remained Jack’s hospital emergency contact for years, and had a baby with the other man. Jack never learned his identity. (“Through the Looking Glass, Part 2”)
3×09 – Stranger in a Strange Land
Following his marriage’s collapse, Jack visited Thailand and started a relationship with Achara, a mysterious tattoo artist. She said she saw him as a leader who, although strong, could also be unhappy. Jack insisted she tattoo him. The tattoo she designed translates to “He walks among us, but is not one of us.” (“Stranger in a Strange Land”)
2×17 – Lockdown
Jack learned poker during his time there. (“Lockdown”)
Betraying his Father
In July of 2004, a nurse observed an intoxicated Christian Shephard botch a surgery. She called in Jack, who failed to save the patient. Christian asked he sign a falsified death report absolving him of blame, and though Jack initially refused, he later agreed.
He then saw his father console the deceased woman’s husband, who was threatening legal action, and learned the woman was pregnant when she died. Jack revised his statement, blaming his father’s drinking for the patients’ death. This cost Christian his medical license. (“All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”)
1×05 – White Rabbit
The two never spoke again. In mid-September of 2004, when Christian went missing, Jack searched for him in Sydney at his frantic mother’s behest. He learned his father had died due to an alcohol-induced heart attack. (“White Rabbit”)
5×06 – 316
The undertakers were missing his shoes, and rather than buy some, Jack gave them an old pair he had handy. (“316”)
Oceanic Flight 815
1×05 – White Rabbit
Jack tried to take his father’s body on his return flight but had trouble loading the casket because he had not made the proper arrangements. Eventually, the ticket agent gave in to Jack’s pleas about his need for closure. (“White Rabbit”)
1×23 – Exodus, Part 1
Just before boarding, Jack met Ana Lucia Cortez in an airport bar. Jack mentioned his father’s death, as well as the fact that he had once been married. When Ana Lucia received a phone call, she left, but promised to have another drink with Jack on the plane. (“Exodus, Part 1”)
1×01 – Pilot, Part 1
Jack sat in seat 23B, and talked a flight attendant into handing him two airline bottles of vodka, one of which he consumed immediately. A short time after this, while rising from his seat, Jack was nearly knocked down by a man hurrying up the aisle.
This prompted a conversation with a nearby passenger – Rose Nadler, whose husband – Bernard Nadler – was in the bathroom. Jack attempted to allay her fears when the plane hit turbulence. Very soon, however, the plane began to shake more violently before making a sharp, uncontrolled descent. Due to the loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks fell from the ceiling of the plane. Despite putting his mask on, Jack blacked out before the plane’s tail separated from the mid-section. (“Pilot, Part 1”)
On the Island (Days 1-44)
1×01 – Pilot, Part 1
Jack woke up alone in a bamboo thicket near the site of the plane crash, Vincent soon after came across him than ran off.
He ran through the jungle toward the sound of screaming and began helping several crash victims – a man whose leg was being crushed, a pregnant woman, a woman receiving improper CPR. Jack eventually wandered away and examined his own wounds. He enlisted a woman’s help in stitching him, telling her a story to calm her.
The next day, he led a trip to the cockpit, where the pilot was found alive until something unseen killed him. (“Pilot, Part 1”)
1×02 – Pilot, Part 2
Jack returned to camp and broke up a fight between two survivors, then operated on a man with shrapnel in him. (“Pilot, Part 2”)
1×03 – Tabula Rasa
In the man’s pocket, Jack found a mugshot of Kate, and when he came to the tent later, he saw the man trying to strangle her. Kate tried to convince Jack to euthanize him. When Sawyer failed to end his life with their last bullet, Jack was forced to euthanize him by hand. (“Tabula Rasa”)
1×04 – Walkabout
Jack struggled with the leadership role that was thrust upon him. He also initially refused to talk to a woman who appeared to be in shock, but he later sat with her for hours.
When wild boars started raiding the fuselage’s dead bodies, Jack decided to burn it, but he declined to lead the memorial. (“Walkabout”)
1×05 – White Rabbit
He rescued a survivor from drowning but felt guilty that another drowned. Then Jack began seeing visions of his dead father – actually the Man in Black. He chased the vision and would have fallen off a cliff but for Locke’s help.
After continuing to chase it, Jack found caves with fresh water, but also found his father’s coffin, empty. He told the survivors about the caves, adding that “If we can’t live together, we’re going to die alone.” (“White Rabbit”)
1×06 – House of the Rising Sun
One trip to the caves awoke a swarm of bees, and Jack and Kate found two skeletons. (“House of the Rising Sun”)
1×07 – The Moth
Jack suggested moving to the caves and some survivors agreed, even though a cave-in dislocated Jack’s shoulder and almost killed him. (“The Moth”)
1×08 – Confidence Man
Believing Sawyer was withholding a survivor’s asthma inhaler, Jack approved Sayid’s torture of him. (“Confidence Man”)
1×09 – Solitary
Hurley lightened the mood by building a golf course, and Jack and Michael were the first to play on it. (“Solitary”)
1×10 – Raised by Another
Claire began having nightmares about someone attacking her unborn child, and Jack tried to allay her fears. A man posing as a passenger then kidnapped Claire and Charlie and attacked Jack when he went after them. (“Raised by Another”)
Jack and Kate then found Charlie hanging by his neck, and Jack resuscitated him. (“All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”)
1×12 – Whatever the Case May Be
Kate discovered the Marshal’s gun case and asked Jack’s help retrieving its key from its owner’s corpse. Kate tried to con Jack out of the key, and Jack had to threaten withholding Sawyer’s medication to get the case, but in the end, Jack owned the guns. (“Whatever the Case May Be”)
1×15 – Homecoming
He used them when Claire returned to camp and Jack used her as bait to lure her kidnapper again. Though Jack won their second fight, Charlie shot the man before they could interrogate him. (“Homecoming”)
1×20 – Do No Harm
Jack’s next challenge came on day 40, when Locke brought Boone to him, claiming he had fallen off a cliff. Jack wanted to amputate Boone’s leg, but Boone awoke and dissuaded him. (“Do No Harm”)
1×21 – The Greater Good
Jack held Locke responsible for Boone’s death and confronted him at the funeral. Even after Locke explained what had actually happened, his earlier lie and the fact the he was keeping the Hatch a secret caused Jack to distrust him. (“The Greater Good”)
1×23 – Exodus, Part 1
On day 44, Jack set out along with Kate, Rousseau, Locke, Hurley, and Arzt to get dynamite from the Black Rock to blow open the Hatch. (“Exodus, Part 1”)
1×24 – Exodus, Part 2
On the way back, Jack and Kate kept Locke from being pulled down into a hole by the Monster. (“Exodus, Part 2”)
1×25 – Exodus, Part 3
Jack, Kate, Locke and Hurley arrived at the Hatch later that night and blew it open. Jack and Locke stared down into the pit before them, having no idea of what might be at the bottom. (“Exodus, Part 3”)
Associated LOST Themes
Associated DHARMA Stations
Decoded Family Members & Lovers
Decoded Season 1 Characters
Decoded Season 2 Characters
Decoded Season 3 Characters
Decoded Season 4 Characters
Decoded Season 5 Characters
Decoded Season 6 Characters
Key Episode(s) to Decoding the Character
Anubis is the preeminent God of cemeteries and embalming, and hence the preeminent agent of resurrection. Anubis is depicted in the form of a black canine of uncertain species with a collar and sash around his neck, or as a man with the head of such a canine. The canine in question is generally thought of as a jackal, but could be a jackal/dog hybrid or desert hound of some kind. Greeks regarded Anubis as a dog, and thus his cult center acquired the Greek name of Cynopolis, ‘Dog City’, which is to be compared with the name given by Greeks to the cult center of the God Wepwawet, namely Lycopolis, ‘Wolf City’. There is also a demotic spell (PDM xiv. 422) which refers to Anubis as “son of a wolf and a dog”. When in fully zoomorphic form, Anubis is most commonly depicted on his belly atop a chest representing the place of embalming or of interment. Anubis is also closely associated with the imy-wt totem (sometimes referred to, by analogy with the Hellenic cult of Dionysus, as a nebris), a headless animal skin (possibly bovine or panther) hanging from a pole which may be the forerunner of the ‘white crown’ of Upper Egypt. The imy-wt or nebris was sometimes thought of as a skin into which the disarticulated limbs of Osiris were placed by Anubis and came together again in a kind of rebirth, the cow being a typical maternal symbol in Egyptian thought.
Anubis is initially independent in his responsibility for the care of the corpse and the transition of the deceased to a new life in the other world, only gradually being incorporated in the Osirian mythos. In the Coffin Texts, for example, Anubis is said to have been “caused to descend from the sky to put Osiris in order, because he [Osiris] was so highly regarded by Re and the Gods,” (spell 908). The Greek author Plutarch (45-120 CE) integrates Anubis into the Osirian mythos as the son of Osiris and Nephthys (On Isis and Osiris 356 F). Plutarch’s narrative is well-known, but reflects no consensus in authentically Egyptian texts, in which Nephthys is only once attested as mother of Anubis, and then by Re, not by Osiris. The ‘Book of Caverns’ (section four) refers to Anubis and Horus alike as sons of Osiris, and the Jumilhac Papyrus frequently characterizes Anubis as the son of Osiris and of Isis, but this may be because he is frequently identified with Horus in this text. Few, if any, of the familial relationships between Gods in Egyptian religion are stable and invariant; instead, they follow from the functions accorded to a deity in a given context. Anubis assumes the role of ‘son of Osiris’, therefore, insofar as he takes on the role of the son, namely responsibility for the proper embalming and entombment of the deceased, and insofar as he protects the vulnerable Osiris from his enemies with genuine filial devotion. Anubis is at times affirmed to be the son of Re, and has for mother sometimes Hesat or Bast, the former because of her connection with the nebris, the latter perhaps because of her association with certain unguents utilized in the embalming process. [In regard to Hesat, note also that Anubis is ‘chief of the sacrificial bulls in Thebes’ in the Jumilhac Papyrus (VII), and ‘the good oxherd’ in the Demotic Magical Papyri].
Anubis plays a dominant role in the resurrection in the earliest Egyptian afterlife literature, the Pyramid Texts. It is at the voice of Anubis in utterance 437 that the king comes forth, and it is Anubis, along with the present king, who grants the deceased king abundant sustenance of diverse kinds (utterance 667; see later spell 185D of the Book of the Dead). Anubis greets the king at his death (utterance 512, 603, 675) and in general seems adequate to everything pertaining to the corporeality of the deceased and the transition to the afterlife, not just through the operations he performs upon the deceased, but also through the deceased king’s identification with him. Thus the king has “gone down [into the tomb] as a jackal of Upper Egypt, as Anubis who is on his belly,” (utterance 412; cf. utterance 677, “your shape is hidden like that of Anubis on his belly”), and is said to “arise as Anubis who is on the min.w shrine,” (utterance 437). [See also utterance 556, “Anubis of the min.w raises him,” i.e. Osiris the King, and utterance 419, “Isis has grasped your hand and she inducts you into the min.w.” The min.w (sometimes translated as ‘baldachin’ or ceremonial canopy) is perhaps a forerunner of the shrine upon which Anubis is depicted crouching in fully canine form from the New Kingdom period on, representing the secure resting place of the body as a pivot, so to speak, for the process of resurrection; cf. utterance 311: “I know the Hall of the Baldachin … from which you (Re) go forth when you go aboard the Night-bark.”]. The king’s feet and arms are those of a jackal in utterance 556, and he stands and sits as Anubis in utterance 581. The king “spiritualizes” (sakh) himself “as Thoth and as Anubis, magistrate of the Tribunal,” in utterance 610. The king is said to cut out the hearts of the followers of Seth “in this your name of Anubis claimer of hearts” (utterance 535). The reference to the heart – for which see also utterance 217, where the king, in identification with Anubis, “claims hearts, he has power over hearts” – anticipates the role Anubis will later play in the famous ‘Weighing of the Heart’, on which see below. The most important identification with Anubis comes, however, in relation to the face and head of the deceased. In utterance 213 of the Pyramid Texts, the body of the deceased king is identified wholly with Atum with the exception of his face, which is said to be that of Anubis, and the king is repeatedly said to have the face of a jackal in this text (utterances 355, 468, 677, 721; the face of the deceased is that of Anubis in spell 181 of the Book of the Dead as well). Masks of Anubis were apparently worn at certain times during the embalming process and during the burial rites, but the association of Anubis with the face seems to be but one aspect of his overall function of maintaining the integrity of the deceased’s persona, another aspect of which is symbolized by the concern to keep the head united with the body. Utterance 355, for instance, which says to the king that “your face is that of a jackal,” affirms further on that “your head is knit to your bones for you, and your bones are knit to your head for you.” In the later afterlife literature known collectively as the Book of the Dead, Anubis features prominently in spell 151, “Spell for a Secret Head”, in which he delivers a speech divinizing each part of the deceased’s head. In a demotic spell for sending a dream in order to persuade someone to do something, the operator asks of Anubis to retrieve for Osiris his head. Akin to this seems to be the association between Anubis and the neck or throat. Thus in utterance 217 of the Pyramid Texts Thoth says that the king comes “adorned with Anubis on the neck,” while in spell 172 of the Book of the Dead, another spell divinizing the various members of the body, the throat and gullet of the deceased are said to be those of Anubis. The neck or throat in such passages either is seen as fastening the head, or in connection with the ritual of the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ (on which see below), or as a passageway analogous to the passage to the tomb or to the netherworld. Less explicitly corporeal forms of identification with Anubis occur at times in the later afterlife literature. Hence among the ‘transformation’ spells of the Coffin Texts is a brief spell “To Become Anubis” (546), and in spell 179 of the Book of the Dead, “for going yesterday and returning today, when one asks it of his limbs,” the deceased affirms “I take the Form of Anubis”.
The most crucial role played by Anubis, aside from the embalming, is in the ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth, in which an officiant representing Anubis touches the mouth of a statue of the deceased with an iron adze to render it a suitable habitation for the ka, or spirit, of the deceased. This is represented as restoring to the deceased the power to breathe, eat and speak. The ka statue thus empowered provides a focal point for interaction with the living and in general acts as an idealized stand-in for the deceased. The ceremony, which is similar to those which rendered the cult statues of the Gods suitable for use by them, is the key moment of the resurrection as such, for it makes a new life possible in the other world, and it may underlie the identification of the deceased’s lips with Anubis in spell 42 of the Book of the Dead, as well as the other corporeal identifications previously mentioned. The ritual of the Opening of the Mouth is present already in the Pyramid Texts (utterances 20-22) and remains constant, albeit growing more elaborate, for the rest of Egyptian history. The instrument used in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony is referred to in spell 816 of the Coffin Texts as having been broken loose from the sky by Anubis, possibly a reference to the meteoritic origin of much Egyptian iron. [Anubis is initially thought of as a sky dweller. In utterance 577 it is said that “Anubis who claims hearts … claims Osiris the king from the Gods who are on earth for the Gods who are in the sky.” In utterance 699, the king’s ascension takes place by Anubis taking his arm, and in spell 908 of the Coffin Texts Anubis is said to dwell “in the middle sky”, descending from there to assist Osiris.]
Anubis plays an important role in the judgment scene or weighing of the heart of spell 125 in the Book of the Dead, the heart representing for Egyptians the seat of thought and of the conscience. In depictions of this scene Anubis frequently escorts the deceased, introducing him/her to the assembled Gods and acting as an intermediary, questioning the deceased on their behalf. In the actual weighing of the heart Anubis is said to announce the finding and Thoth to record it (Lichtheim vol. 3 p. 140). In one version of the spell Anubis says, “A man come from Egypt [the deceased] declares he knows our road and our city, and I agree. I smell his odor as that of one of you [i.e. the Gods],” playing on the canine power of scent. Anubis is frequently thought of as having searched out the parts of the dismembered Osiris, probably through this power, which perhaps also enables Anubis (in the Jumilhac Papyrus) to penetrate all of the deceptive forms assumed by Seth in his attempt to steal aspects of Osiris’ essence. Another canine quality attributed to Anubis is wakefulness or vigilance, a function which is sometimes delegated by Anubis to members of his retinue, such as the seven akhu, or ‘blessed ones’, who are stationed by Anubis to stand vigil around the coffin of Osiris in spell 17 of the Book of the Dead. In other texts these spirits under the command of Anubis are increased in number so that they can take turns hourly watching over Osiris.
In the magical literature of the late period Anubis is frequently invoked in spells for divination by lamp or vessel gazing (a good example being PDM xiv. 528-53). Here Anubis is the bringer of light, with the wick of the lamp being identified with the bandages Anubis uses to wrap Osiris (PDM xiv. 160-2; 540). The sequence of divinatory visions begins in these spells with the vision of Anubis, who pierces the initial darkness and then acts as an intermediary between the person seeking the divination and other deities from whom the desired information is to be procured. Such spells probably developed from the intermediary role Anubis plays in the judgment scene from the Book of the Dead.
The longstanding popularity of Anubis meant that certain novel elements were integrated into his iconography over time. Thus depictions of Anubis in the garb of a Roman soldier or in the pose of a victorious Imperator appear during the Roman period to update his image as protector of Osiris or of champion over the forces of entropy, and Anubis becomes ‘key-bearer’ when keys come into use, updating his basic function as psychopomp to take into account new technology associated with the granting of entry or the releasing of secrets (Grenier, pp. 34-40). Anubis has a consort, Input (Anubet), and a daughter, Kebehwet, mentioned several times in the Pyramid Texts.
Patron of: mummification, and the dead on their path through the underworld.
Appearance: A man with the head of a jackal-like animal. Unlike a real jackal, Anubis’ head is black, representing his position as a god of the dead. He is rarely shown fully-human, but he is depicted so in the Temple of Abydos of Rameses II. There is a beautiful statue of him as a full jackal in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Description: Anubis is an incredibly ancient god, and was the original god of the dead before Osiris “took over” the position. After that point, Anubis was changed to be one of the many sons of Osiris and the psychopomp (conductor of souls) of the underworld. His totem of the jackal is probably due to the fact that jackals would hunt at the edges of the desert, near the necropolis and cemeteries throughout Egypt.
Prayers to Anubis are found carved on the most ancient tombs in Egypt, and his duties apparently are many. He watches over the mummification process to ensure that all is done properly. He conducts the souls through the underworld, testing their knowledge of the gods and their faith. He places their heart on the Scales of Justice during the Judging of the Heart, and he feeds the souls of wicked people to Ammit.
In some stories, Anubis is the son of Ra and Nephthys, or Set and Nephthys (probably due to Set and Anubis having the same totem animal). Some have Heset as his mother, and still others say Bast. This apparent confusion is still another sign of Anubis’ origins in the most ancient of times. He also has a daughter, Kabechet, who helps him in the mummification.
Worship: Worshipped widely throughout all of Egypt, his cult center was Cynopolis.
A combination of the Greek god Hermes and Anubis. As their functions as psychopomps were similar, they were combined by the Greeks into a single form. Hermanubis also appears in alchemical and hermetical literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Anubis is the Greek name for a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. In the ancient Egyptian language, Anubis is known as Inpu, (variously spelled Anupu, Ienpw etc.). The oldest known mention of Anubis is in the Old Kingdom pyramid texts, where he is associated with the burial of the Pharaoh. At this time, Anubis was the most important god of the Dead but he was replaced during the Middle Kingdom by Osiris.
He takes names in connection with his funerary role, such as He who is upon his mountain, which underscores his importance as a protector of the deceased and their tombs, and the title He who is in the place of embalming, associating him with the process of mummification. Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumes different roles in various contexts, and no public procession in Egypt would be conducted without an Anubis to march at the head.
Anubis was associated with the mummification and protection of the dead for their journey into the afterlife. He was usually portrayed as a half human, half jackal, or in full jackal form wearing a ribbon and holding a flail in the crook of its arm. The jackal was strongly associated with cemeteries in ancient Egypt, since it was a scavenger which threatened to uncover human bodies and eat their flesh. The distinctive black color of Anubis “did not have to do with the jackal [per se] but with the color of rotting flesh and with the black soil of the Nile valley, symbolizing rebirth.”
Anubis is depicted in funerary contexts where he is shown attending to the mummies of the deceased or sitting atop a tomb protecting it. In fact, during embalming, the “head embalmer” wore an Anubis costume. The critical weighing of the heart scene in Book of the Dead also show Anubis performing the measurement that determined the worthiness of the deceased to enter the realm of the dead (the underworld). New Kingdom tomb-seals also depict Anubis sitting atop the nine bows that symbolize his domination over the foes of Egypt.
However, Anubis is the “Keeper of Divine Justice”, and was given by the gods the role of sovereignty of souls. Deciding the weight of “truth” by weighing the Heart against Ma’at, who was often depicted as an ostrich feather, Anubis dictated the fate of souls. In this manner, he was a Lord of the Underworld, only usurped by Osiris.
Anubis is a son of Ra in early myths, but later he became known as son of Osiris and Nephthys, and in this role he helped Isis mummify his dead father. Indeed, when the Myth of Osiris and Isis emerged, it was said that when Osiris had died, Osiris’ organs were given to Anubis as a gift. With this connection, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers: during the funerary rites of mummification, illustrations from the Book of the Dead often show a priest wearing the jackal mask supporting the upright mummy. Anubis’ half-brother is Horus the Younger, son of Osiris and Isis.
Perceptions outside Egypt
In later times, during the Ptolemaic period, Anubis was merged with the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis. The centre of this cult was in uten-ha/Sa-ka/ Cynopolis, a place whose Greek name simply means “city of dogs”. In Book XI of “The Golden Ass” by Apuleius, we find evidence that the worship of this god was maintained in Rome at least up to the 2nd century. Indeed, Hermanubis also appears in the alchemical and hermetical literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Although the Greeks and Romans typically scorned Egypt’s animal-headed gods as bizarre and primitive (Anubis was known to be mockingly called “Barker” by the Greeks), Anubis was sometimes associated with Sirius in the heavens, and Cerberus in Hades. In his dialogues (e.g. Republic 399e, 592a), Plato has Socrates utter, “by the dog” (kai me ton kuna), “by the dog of Egypt”,”by the dog, the god of the Egyptians” (Gorgias, 482b), for emphasis.