Anubis on a Bike in the Rain
I’ve recently been reading a lot about the resurrectionists/grave robbers of the 18th and early 19th century, as well as all things gothic. This morning during our daily dog walk and an unrelated conversation, Laura mentioned an illustration depicting the deity, Anubis, pushing a bike. I love the juxtaposition of this most ancient mythological figure pushing a manmade contraption across an urban landscape. He cuts a lonely figure in the foreground, moving through the rainy streets, remaining in the shadow, far removed from the human figures in the well-lit background, who are still very much alive. He seems to be quietly observing them from afar. Perhaps he is already starting to weigh them up.
In Egyptian mythology, Anubis is the god of death, Lord of the Underworld and the afterlife, before Osiris took over his role of ruling the underworld. He is also associated with embalming and mummification as well as being linked to cemeteries and the protector of graves.
He was linked to embalming after he helped Isis perform this task on Osiris after he was killed by Set. The story had Anubis protect the body of Osiris from the villianous Set who transformed into a leopard. Anubis managed to subdue Set, branding his leopard skin body with a hot iron rod, consequently used to explain how the leopard got its spots. Anubis then flayed Set and wore his leopard skin as a warning against those who would descrecrate the graves of the dead — enter the 19th century resurrectionists I’d been reading about. To commerate Anubis’ victory over Set, priests attending the dead continued to wear a leopard skin.
The canine-headed Anubis, ears like horns and all dressed in black, also had the role of guiding souls across the threshold from the living to the afterlife. Part of such duties was to determine who was worthy of a continued existence. Anubis’s task involved weighing the heart/soul of the deceased person against Ma’at (truth), often represented by an ostrich feather. Souls heavier than a feather would be devoured by Ammit — a demon with the head of a crocodile, the forequarters of a lion and hindquarters of a hippopotamus. Souls lighter than a feather would receive a pass into the heavenly realms.