What an auspicious and delicious Friday the 13th this has been, and I haven’t even left the office yet to begin my lovely and leisurely three-day Valentine’s Day/Presidents’ Day holiday weekend! (Io, Aphrodite!) I’m just giddy that this is the first easy-going Friday I’ve had at my job in months. And while much of my focus, die-hard romantic gal that I am, is centered on the joie-de-vivre that my bodacious beau Daniel and I are sure to experience tomorrow at the Lyric Opera production of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” (let’s get medieval!), February 14 is also a very special day for me because in the old Cairo calendar, it’s the Feast of Anubis, the jackal-headed son of my Patron Goddess, Nephthys. The Egyptian god Anpu or Yinepu–Anubis to the Greeks–has been making His presence known in my life in major ways in the past couple of weeks, particularly by offering His services as a spiritual guide and protector, so I’ve decided to set up an additional shrine to Him here at my office desk just now! (Crazy colleagues and clients, be gone!)
A couple of weeks ago, Dan and I visited the Oriental Institute of Chicago and marveled at Mesopotamian and Egyptian antiquities, and at the suq, or Arabic market, there (it’s the clever way they market their gift shop), I purchased a wee silver-plated, one-and-a-half-inch tall statue of Anpu. I knew intuitively that I would come to be in great need of having a small and portable image of this wondrous god, Whom I adore dearly, with me at all times, and that its use would be to translate His awesome apotropaic sekhem. But it wasn’t until my lunch break a couple of hours ago, as I sojourned to Precious Possessions, my favorite crystal shop located directly across from Millennium Park’s world-famous “Cloud Gate” sculpture, that I knew I was going to create a permanent shrine to Anpu at my desk thanks to the energetically potent giant black tourmaline crystal that literally tumbled into my hands in the shop. Once my initial sense of shock wore off upon luckily catching the chunk of raw black tourmaline when another shopper’s purse knocked it off a shelf, I immediately went into a trance state and blurted out the words “fortress,” “fortification.” That’s how I immediately perceived the energies of the stone. And, lo! As I examined the stone closer, it really did resemble a castle jutting out of a cliff face to me. As is the case when I come across objects destined to serve a ritual purpose for me, I would pay whatever the price tag read–no questioning, no whining. To my delight, though, Helen, the shop’s delightfully charming and metaphysically astute co-owner (bonus points that she’s Greek!), informed me that she would knock $30 off the price–clearly, the Gods wanted me to have that piece of black tourmaline! And so immediately upon returning to my office, I assembled my mini shrine to Anpu and began to pray in Egyptian, which I’ve translated here:
Tu a Anpu You are Anpu
Suten heh Lord of Eternity
Ta-k-na uat seś-a em-hetep Grant to me a way that I may pass in peace
Ȧn-na kert ᾱb-kua I am silent, I am pure
Ma a-ᾴ paut neteru May I look upon the company of the Gods.
Nuk ut’a tep ta ҳer Rᾱ mena-a nefer I am strong upon the earth before Ra,
Ẋer Ausȧr May my arrival be happy before Osiris.
Reҳ hᾱᾱiu I rejoice,
Reҳ hᾱᾱiu I rejoice.
I then began to visualize myself standing in a desert somewhere on the outskirts of Cairo, feeling a gentle breeze waft across my skin as the stars pierce the indigo-hued sky–Nut’s body–at the onset of evening. A shuffling sound in the sand alerts me to a presence–loping, canine–heading towards me. It is Anpu, wending His way like a silky patch of midnight across the sands. Alert. Vigilant. Strong. Pure. Loving. He stops a few feet before me and his full-jackal body morphs into a jackal-headed man, kilted, bearing the was sceptre. I drop to my knees and shield my eyes–I don’t dare look Him directly in the face.
I tell him how grateful I am for His guidance and protection, and that I will willingly follow where He leads me. To honor Him on His feast day tomorrow, I tell Him, I will offer Him at my home temple shrine to Him and His Mother, Nebet-Het, spicy meat, strong ale, cool water, kyphi incense, and myrrh oil to anoint the snout and forehead of His image.
The god nods in assent and then extends His right hand to me, saying that He, Khenty-she-netjer, the God Upon His Hill, has set me in order, and that He will fasten for me my winding sheet, and that my throat will become His, my face will become His, I will be strong before Ausar (Osiris) and True of Voice.
I clasp His hand and feel an ease of sinking, a slow collapse through and beneath the earth. The voices of the dead clamor around me.
The restless dead have been very active in my condo building as of late, including spectral activity that manifested last night after I gave my bodacious beau a pre-bedtime massage and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water: I’d seen and felt an opaque, misty wall infested with spirits form outside the master bedroom’s entrance, and when I plowed my way through and walked down the hallway into the kitchen, I turned to my left, towards the living room, and saw three humanoid entities comprised of that same opaque mist clearly standing by my east-facing sliding glass doors of the balcony. Amazed, I kept staring at them as I filled my glass of water. My cats, normally very sprightly when Dan and I head off to bed, were nowhere to be seen. The misty presences faded when I yelled for Dan to come into the kitchen. I was startled but not scared, and felt that the three beings harbored no ill intent, not unlike the three beings I encountered the sunny day in late May of 2013 when I had my home inspection and spirits were congregating in that same hallway before the master bedroom’s entrance. They blew the fuse box during the inspection and all power was lost, just when my realtor and the seller’s agent were showcasing the nifty new ceiling fan/light fixture in the kitchen.
I happened to be texting my gay best friend at the time, and as soon as the power inexplicably failed, I immediately wrote him, “There are ghosts here.”
It didn’t take my senses long to attune to the spectral congregation in the hallway at all.
“Hello there!” I reached out to the spirits. The largest shape stood in the center, so I addressed it primarily. “I’m really taken with this place and I’d like to make an offer on it. If I move in here, am I going to have a problem with you?”
“Oh no, Ana,” the chief shade replied. “We’re just passing through. You’ll be fine.”
This was long before I’d heard anything about the neighborhood’s nefarious history and the mass pauper’s grave lying beneath not just the condo building but the entire subdivision, including Wright College’s campus. Well, I have since experienced my home to be a high-traffic area for spirits, but as a Priestess of both Nephthys and Hekate Khthonia, and a devotee of the Norse goddess Hel, working with the dead and propitiating them are central to my cultic practices. (Those cultic practices are probably what led me to subconsciously choose that condo building as a first-time home buyer!) As the majority of Dunning’s dead are nameless, John-and-Jane Doe types, they’re prime candidates for restless spirits. Hence the primary magical focus I have of erecting and maintaining various wards for spiritual protection: beneficent spirits passing through, like the ones encountered during my home inspection, are always welcome (Dan and I know they LOVE the energies in our temple room), but spirits of a dubious character are not welcome and should they pass the wards Dan and I establish, well, he and I have no qualms over escorting the ickies out. (Though, admittedly, I’m more polite about it than Dan is–I’m SUCH a Virgo!)
Hence it should come as no surprise that a major ritual activity I’ll partake of tomorrow in honor of the Feast of Anubis will involve my Offerings to the Dead. Here is how I modified this ritual at last October’s 21st annual Goddess Festival gathering sponsored by the Chicago Lyceums of the Fellowship of Isis.
Invocation of Anpu and Presentation of His Offerings
Anet hra-k, Anpu!
Come to us, O High One, O Mighty One,
O Master of Secrets for those in the Underworld,
O Pharoah of those in Amenti,
O Chief Physician,
O good son of Ausar,
He whose face is strong among the gods,
You should appear in the Underworld before the hand of Ausar.
You should serve the souls of Abydos in order that they all live through You,
These souls, the ones of the Sacred Underworld.
Come to the earth!
With pleasing eyes, accept our offerings of _____, _______, and ________.
Reveal Yourself to us today,
Opener of the Ways!
MAIN RITUAL ACTIVITY: Offerings to the Dead
Nebet-Het and Anpu mark well our words and are here to lend their energies to the workings we are about to commence.
As Nebet-Het’s chief function is to guard our beloved and blessed dead and Anpu to guide them, it is to our ancestors that we now turn.
Children of Heru! Hapi, Qebhśennuf, Tuamᾱutef, Imseti,
As You spread Your protection over Your father, Ausar, Foremost of the Westerners,
So spread Your protection over us, and over the living bas of our beloved and blessed dead.
[DISTRIBUTE TEA LIGHTS]
What is remembered, lives. Light a candle and speak the name of the Mighty Dead you wish to honor today.
Hail to our beloved and blessed ancestors, blood of our blood, bones of our bones,
The sky is yours, the earth is yours, the cemetery roads are yours,
Praise to you in peace!
You will not be separated from the Lord of the West.
Nebet-Het spreads Her arms over you,
She grants you peaceful rest forever.
O Gods, grant that the names of those we honor today be true of voice
And among You in the House of Beauty!
Here is your cold water, blessed ones! Refresh yourselves with it!
[POUR SOME ON FLOOR; SPRINKLE PEOPLE WITH BRANCHES OF WORMWOOD AND BASIL]
[ADDRESSING THE AUDIENCE NOW BY OFFERING PITCHER/GOBLET, SAY:]
Drink, and may Memory Eternal be with those you carry in your heart always!
[PASS PITCHER/GOBLET FOR ALL TO TAKE A SIP FROM]
[ONCE RETURNED, PLACE VESSEL OF WATER ON GROUND AND HOLD ALOFT BREAD, SAYING:]
Ancestors, take this bread which we give as your loaf,
Which Heru, great in Upper Kemet, gives you;
Be filled with what we bring.
It is the Eye of Heru.
[TEAR OFF PIECE AND OFFER THE REST; SHARE ANOTHER WHOLE BREAD WITH CROWD]
As our ancestors, shining in Amenti, enjoy peace and freedom from fear,
So too may we live our lives in peace, growing in health, abundance, and wisdom,
Protected from evil in all of our undertakings.
ALL: Nedjen ma sebet! Nedjen ma fa-u! Protect us from evil!
Silent Meditation (Optional)
And now, let us sit for a few moments in silent meditation, honoring Nebet-Het in our hearts and inviting Her to impart any messages to us.
[PAUSE FOR 3 OR 4 MINUTES]
Thanksgiving to Anpu
Neb-ta-djeser, Lord of the Sacred Land!
Wise herald and guide, lead us in the ancient ways.
Be with us in our journeys.
And when our time comes to be led into the Hall of the Double Truth,
Be our unfailing wayfinder, illuminating the darkness,
And our steadfast companion, Gentle Weigher of the Heart.
Son of Nebet-Het and Ausar, protect and guide us.
May our arrival be happy in Amenti.
Historically, the worship of Anpu is very ancient–predynastic, actually. As both the embalmer and the caretaker of the deceased, Anpu has many epithets, according to the venerable Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge. From the early Pyramid Texts to the several versions, based on the city of their inscription and the pharaoh in whose memory they were dedicated, of the Book of the Dead/Book of Going Forth by Day, some of Anpu’s bynames include Am Ut, “Dweller in the chamber of embalment”; Tep-Tu-F, “He who is upon his hill [i.e., the necropolis situated on the west bank of the Nile]”; and Ap-Uat, “Opener of the Ways.”
The god’s trademark black color has nothing to do with actual desert jackals, whose fur is reddish-brown. Instead, it connotes both rotting flesh and the black soil of the Nile valley, which symbolized rebirth to the Egyptians (this is why Osiris in many tomb and sarcophagi paintings is depicted with either black or green skin). According to contemporary Egyptologist and Kemetic Orthodox monastic community founder Tamara L. Siuda, Anpu’s priests, known as setem, were (along with the priests of Sekhmet) highly skilled surgeons and they wore the god’s jackal mask in the critical work of preserving the pharaoh’s body from decomposition, an arduous process, infused with religious ritual every step of the way, that took 70 days to complete. Remarkably, many of those masks have been preserved well over the millennia.
Anpu’s role as a god of death and justice became increasingly attributed to Ausar, causing Anpu to be written into new myths by the time of the Roman writer Plutarch (2nd century CE) as Ausar’s son by Nebet-Het. By the Hellenic Era, of course, Anpu was conflated with the Greek god Hermes as a psychopompos. Happily, not even the emergence of Coptic Orthodox Christianity in Egypt posed a threat to Anpu’s existence, visage, and function–they just got grafted onto that of St. Christopher, who, even though the Roman Catholic Church stripped him of his Saintly status, sports the head of a dog in much Eastern Orthodox/Byzantine art, as this medieval Bulgarian Orthodox icon attests:
Personally, I like the idea of St. Christopher with a werewolf’s head way better! Baby Jesus couldn’t ask for a more awesome ferryman to help Him cross turbulent rivers! Rawr!
For Kemetic Reconstructionist Pagans, Anpu is generally invoked, not unlike the great Greek Titaness Hekate, when one is undergoing a time of transition. Are you going through a personal crossroads and you don’t know which way to turn? Has a loved one passed away and you want to ensure (s)he is escorted peaceably to the Great Beyond? Are you looking to jump-start a process of renewal after a period of stagnation? Anpu is a great god to call upon.
May He open your ways for you favorably!
Budge, Wallis E.A. The Gods of the Egyptians: Vol. II. (1904) New York: Dover Publications, 1969.
Siuda, Tamara L. The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook. New Lenox, IL: Stargazer, 2009.