The ancient Egyptians did mummify their bodies!! Everybody believes they know what mummification is, but have you ever asked yourself why the ancient Egyptians mummified themselves?... And how did they envision life after death?... And why is Anubis (the jackal) considered to be the embalming god according to the ancient Egyptians?... Ancient Egypt was the very first human civilization, originating from a culture that started almost 7 thousand years ago.
The civilization itself started in the year 3100 BC when the two lands of Egypt (Upper and Lower) were united by the ruler of the southern part (Upper Egypt). This ruler is known as King Menes/Narmer. He was the unifier of the two lands and the very first king of Egypt.
He established the country’s organizational system and was responsible for settling the oldest political and diplomatic issues in the world.
However, religious construction existed in Egypt long before the king, or more correctly before the civilization of ancient Egypt itself. Ancient Egyptians already had several gods they worshipped prior to the unification.
One of the oldest gods was Horus, the falcon god of light and the sky. He is represented on Narmers’s palette shown in Cairo museum, with scenes commemorating the king’s victory over the people of the north, and uniting the two lands of Egypt - north, and south.
The Holy Nine:
It is very important to know about the holy nine, the very first nine gods before you start your study about ancient Egyptian beliefs and cults. Egyptians believed that the very first god created himself and is called Atum. Then he created the other gods, starting with the air (Shu) and the moisture (Tefnu). When the air and the moisture mixed together (marriage), they produced the god of earth (Geb), and the goddess of the sky (Nut). Four gods were produced by the sky and the earth: Osirus, Isis, Seth, and Nyphtes.
On one hand, the Holy Nine gods are very important, as they are the primary and oldest gods. However, the supreme god of ancient Egypt throughout ancient Egyptian history was the sun god. He is known by many different names, such as Ra, Amun, Amun Ra, or sometimes Aton (at the time of king Akhnaton).
The Holy Three:
For every important city of ancient Egypt, there was a holy triad (a family of gods), consisting of a father, mother, and a son or daughter. For example, in the ancient, first capital city of Memphis, there was the god Ptah, his wife Sekhmet, and their son Nefertum, while in Luxor the holy triad was made up by the god Amun, his wife Mut, and their son Khonso.
Overall, there were more than 700 gods of ancient Egypt. Some of them were good, while others were evil. It is interesting that the ancient Egyptians viewed these contradictions with acceptance, equanimity and a degree of coolness.
Anubis (the jackal) and Mummification: Why did ancient Egyptians mummify themselves?... How did they believe in life after death?... And why is Anubis (the jackal) believed to be the embalming god by the ancient Egyptians?...
Before the complete development of this ancient culture, Egyptians buried the bodies of their deceased in the desert far away from the villages and houses to prevent foul smells of rotting corpses. They felt the ideal place for this was the desert.
To make it more convenient, they chose an area that was in close proximity that had soft sand. They would often try to find ready holes in which to place the body and cover it with sand.
An Interesting Story: On one occasion, they were carrying a deceased to the desert to bury him, when they found a ready-made hole, which as mentioned, made it easier for them to quickly bury a body. But when they started to prepare the hole, they found another body lying inside, and it was surprisingly in good (fresh) condition!!!
A question arose, “Why is this body still in good condition?”... Moreover, “HOW could this possibly happen?”
They agreed to wait and see what happens, so they placed the freshly dead body inside the hole and stood to watch at the gravesite...A few days passed, but nothing happened, nothing changed. They said, “We will keep watching.”
After a week or so, they saw some animals attacking the grave and digging in the hole in search of food. These carnivorous animals were a group of jackals who ate the deceased and abandoned the gravesite after they finished.
The ancient people had the patience to wait until the animals finished their delicious meal, and then approached the grave again to see what was remained of the body. The jackals did not eat the flesh entirely, but ate only the inner organs, the viscera, and sucked the blood from the corpse.
While lying in the desert for several days, the body was exposed to the powerful energy and scorching heat of the sun. This dehydrated the corpse to produce a mummy, and this was how the natural mummification process started. It was done by an animal before people had any idea about it. The ancient Egyptians saw this animal as a messenger that was sent to teach them the process, yet they didn’t know why. The answer was very simple: He (the jackal) was sent to tell the people that they needed to bury their bodies in preparation for another life.
They believed in the afterlife because of mummification, not in mummification because of the afterlife. From this point forward, Anubis was worshiped as the god of mummification. At that time, they announced him a god and presented him with offerings so he would not continue to dig the graves. They knew how to mummify thanks to him, and that is how the jackal (Anubis) ironically became the guard of the graves!