Differences between Anubis and Osiris
Anubis and Osiris are both major deities in ancient Egyptian mythology, particularly in the context of the afterlife and funerary practices. However, they have distinct roles, representations, and histories.
Below, we take a critical look at the primary differences between them:
The birth of Anubis
For starters, Anubis – the jackal-headed god – was often times viewed as the son of Osiris and Nephthys. Some accounts put him as the product of an illegitimate affair between Osiris and Nephthys, with the latter being the wife of Osiris’s very jealous brother, Seth.
Although the parentage of Anubis varies across different myths and periods, the most common version holds that Nephthys, the sister of Osiris, disguised herself as Isis (Osiris’s wife) to seduce him, leading to Anubis’s birth. Fearing her husband Set’s wrath, Nephthys abandoned the infant Anubis, who was then found and raised by Isis.
However, in some later periods and regional variations, Anubis is described as the son of Ra or the son of Bastet.
The evolution of Egyptian myths and deities was complex, influenced by regional differences, shifts in political power, and the merging of local religious practices over thousands of years.
Fast Facts: Anubis
God of: embalming and funerals
Parents: Nephthys and Osiris
Siblings: Horus and Bata
Children: Qebhet (Kabechet
Symbols: the ankh
Epithets: “Lord of the Sacred Land”, “Master of Secrets”
Egyptian name: Anpu (Inpu)
Origins and Early Worship:
- Anubis: Anubis is one of the oldest gods of ancient Egypt and was originally the primary god of the dead before Osiris gained prominence.
- Osiris: Osiris became a principal deity somewhat later but eventually became one of the most widely worshipped deities in Egypt. He is associated with the resurrection and the cyclical nature of death and rebirth.
- Anubis: Anubis is the god of mummification and the afterlife. He oversees the process of embalming and protects the dead on their journey through the underworld. Thus, he was a psychopomp.
- Osiris: Osiris is the god of the dead, resurrection, and the fertile flooding of the Nile. He is more directly linked with the promise of eternal life and resurrection for the souls deemed worthy.
- Anubis: He is typically depicted as a black jackal or as a man with the head of a jackal. Black was chosen for its association with rebirth and the fertile soil of the Nile.
- Osiris: Osiris is often shown as a mummified pharaoh, wearing a white feathered crown and holding the crook and flail, symbols of kingship and power.
- Anubis: His primary mythological role is in the embalming of Osiris after he is killed by Set (Seth). Anubis protects the body of Osiris and helps in his resurrection.
- Osiris: Osiris is central to one of the most famous myths of ancient Egypt. He is killed by his brother Set, then resurrected by his wife, Isis, and posthumously becomes the father of Horus. After his resurrection, he becomes the ruler of the underworld.
READ MORE: The Myth of the Death of Osiris
- Osiris: He was a widely worshipped deity, with his death and resurrection forming the basis for rituals and festivals, one of the most notable being the annual Osirian festival.
- Anubis: The Feast of Anubis (Khent-Sehet) was a festival dedicated to Anubis. Though not much detailed information remains about this festival, it’s reasonable to assume that rites conducted during this event revolved around death, protection, and the journey to the afterlife.
Association with the Judgment of the Dead:
- Anubis: He is involved in the weighing of the heart ceremony. It is Anubis who places the heart of the deceased on the scale against the feather of Ma’at to determine the soul’s worthiness.
- Osiris: As the ruler of the underworld, Osiris oversees the final judgment of the deceased after the weighing of the heart and determines if the soul will move on to eternal life or face annihilation.
In summary, while both Anubis and Osiris play critical roles in the ancient Egyptian understanding of death and the afterlife, they occupy different spaces within that narrative. Anubis focuses on protection, guidance, and the process of death, while Osiris embodies resurrection, rebirth, and the final judgment.
Frequently asked questions
Why was the jackal associated with Anubis?
The animal most sacred to Anubis is the jackal. This explains why Anubis is often depicted as a man with the head of a jackal or as a full jackal.
Jackals were commonly seen in the cemeteries around ancient Egyptian settlements, scavenging the graves. To protect the deceased from desecration, Anubis was invoked as the guardian of the dead, with the hope that in his jackal form, he would guard the tombs and drive away other scavengers.
This protective role made the jackal a symbol of Anubis, emphasizing his association with mummification, the afterlife, and the protection of the deceased.
Was Anubis the only jackal-headed god in ancient Egypt?
No. Qebehseneuf, one of the Four Sons of Horus, was depicted by the ancient Egyptians with the features of a jackal. It was believed that Qebehseneuf protected the internal organs, usually the intestines, of the dead person.