Ancient Egyptians and natural symbols expressing abstract ideas: The Neter Anpu (Anubis)
Ancient Egyptians used symbols from nature to express abstract concepts. The ancient Egyptian Neter Anubis (Greek) or Anpu (Egyptian) is known as the guardian of the dead. Anpu is as a neter that goes back into pre-historic times. In ancient inner Africa this neter was first represented by the jackal before the domestication of the dog.
Most people will pass along the idea that Anpu and other neters were deities worshiped by the ancient Egyptians. This is not true. We have a tendency or bias in seeing ancient civilizations as primitive, and primitive being synonymous with ignorant and superstitious compared to our modern civilization.
We also assume that every civilization in the past thought about the world and life as we do today. Both these assumptions will lead you to erroneous conclusion about what the ancient Egyptians believed about the neters they represented in their art and myths.
Anpu as the dog-headed neter represented abstract ideas. The symbols and signs that became part of the Egyptian lexicon and ideographs are very ancient in their development. In order to understand the symbol of Anpu, one must understand the function and abilities that a dog had in the lives of the ancient people of the African civilizations.
Dogs had the keen ability to track its prey with smell and keen eyesight. The dog was forever watchful and on guard to protect its loved ones. Animals and their abilities were always the first teachers of ancient man and the first to be seen as having certain abilities superior to man.
It was the functional representation of the abilities of the dog as a guide that later became the Neter Anpu.
Anpu represented the metaphysical idea of a Guide in the afterlife. Not the worshiping of the Dog. The traits of the dog and jackal before it gives you an idea of how the guide function in its abstract setting. Anpu, as with all Neters are representative of principles and/or Universal laws.
If you try only to interpret the symbols you will miss the deeper meanings that they carry. The symbol had all of the qualities of the animal attached to them. Interpretation implies one specific fixed meaning.
The ancient Egyptians were very clever in the use of symbol to evoke insight from within its initiates and not to tell them what to think. In the case of a dog as the symbol, the more you know about dogs the more insight you could gain from the symbol and how it was used.
What do you know about dogs and their abilities? The ancient Egyptians are expressing the metaphysical and abstract idea that you have guides in the afterlife. You are not alone.
The more you know about the functions and abilities of dogs and before that jackals the more you can understand about the Egyptian neter Anpu and how it functions in the afterlife.
Let’s look a little deeper into what the ancients left us.
Don’t make the erroneous assumption that they saw the world and experience it as we do today.
Consider how ideas may have been expressed before language and you can get a deeper understanding of the development and meaning of the ancient symbolic expression.
Don’t make the modern biased assumption that there is nothing the ancients knew that we don’t know today.