In the natural and spiritual realms of Ancient Egypt, jackals held a significant place. These animals, frequent visitors of the desert and the cemeteries, became deeply associated with death and the afterlife. This connection elevated the jackal to a sacred status, symbolizing protection and divine watchfulness in the ancient Egyptian belief system.
The Jackal in Ancient Egyptian Mythology
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the most prominent representation of the jackal is Anubis, the god of embalming and the afterlife. Often depicted as a man with a jackal’s head or a full-bodied jackal, Anubis served as a guide for souls in the afterlife and was responsible for the weighing of hearts, a ritual that determined the worthiness of a soul to enter the afterlife.
Anubis: The Jackal God
As the god of mummification, Anubis was a protector of the dead. He was believed to have embalmed the body of Osiris, making him the first mummy. Hence, priests often wore a mask of Anubis during mummification process. He was also the guardian of cemeteries and watched over burial rituals to ensure that they were performed correctly.
Jackals and Funeral Practices
The physical presence of jackals in desert graveyards influenced the association of these animals with the afterlife. Jackals, being scavengers, were often seen around gravesites, leading to a belief that they were protectors of the dead. Images of jackals were common in funerary art, and jackal-shaped amulets were placed with the deceased for protection.
Wepwawet: The Opener of the Ways
Another jackal deity in the Egyptian pantheon was Wepwawet, whose name means “Opener of the Ways.” Wepwawet was often depicted as a jackal or a man with a jackal’s head, carrying a flagellum, a symbol of authority. He was thought to guide and protect the pharaoh during war and also in the journey through the underworld.
The jackal, as a potent symbol of death, protection, and divine guidance, held a unique role in ancient Egyptian mythology and religion. Through the deities Anubis and Wepwawet, the jackal became a bridge between the earthly realm and the underworld, embodying the ancient Egyptians’ complex beliefs about death, the afterlife, and spiritual regeneration. The jackal thus serves as a window into understanding the intricate and profound world of ancient Egyptian religious thought.
Wikipedia: Ancient Egypt
History Channel: Ancient Egypt
Live Science: Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt for Kids
British Museum: Ancient Egypt