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Old July 10th, 2006, 10:41 AM   #1

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Egyptian Gods with dog heads


Why did the Egyptians depict their Gods as having the head of a dog? They often has spears in their hands too. What is the history behind this?

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Old July 11th, 2006, 09:09 AM   #2

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Interesting question. I'm going to research this and get back to ya.
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Old July 15th, 2006, 12:20 PM   #3
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Anubis

Appearance:
* Man with a jackal head
* A jackal

Anubis was the god of embalming and the dead.

Since jackals were often seen in cemeteries, the ancient Egyptians believed that Anubis watched over the dead.

Anubis was the god who helped to embalm Osiris after he was killed by Seth. Thus, Anubis was the god who watched over the process of mummifying people when they died.

Priests often wore a mask of Anubis during mummification ceremonies.

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Old May 9th, 2009, 03:06 PM   #4

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Re: Egyptian Gods with dog heads


Anúbis was also the god presiding to the underworld court, where the heart of the dead would be put on a balance against the weight of a feather to judge his actions during life.

Anúbis would guide the soul through the other world (after death)

Not all gods were depicted with dog/jackal heads. There were many animal heads in human bodies as representations of the gods. The origins of this vision from the ancient egyptians might be lost nowadys, as why certain animals would be given such supranatural powers, symbolized as gods half man half falcon, or jackal, or crocodile, or cat, etc..

But still the main god was connected to the sun -Amon Ra, during most of the ancient dynasties. Something not an animal though.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 12:41 AM   #5
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Re: Egyptian Gods with dog heads


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kronos View Post
There were many animal heads in human bodies as representations of the gods. The origins of this vision from the ancient egyptians might be lost nowadys, as why certain animals would be given such supranatural powers, symbolized as gods half man half falcon, or jackal, or crocodile, or cat, etc..
In order for something to exist Egyptians had to represent it. Here come the problem to represent abstract concepts or caracteristics. In our languages we still use the name of an animal, bird, fish to describe someone or an entity : dove, hawk, shark, bear market, bull market, etc.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 12:56 AM   #6
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Re: Egyptian Gods with dog heads


It is wrong to say that the worship of animals is a survival from a primitive stratum of Egyptian religion. This view is often encountered and is supported by some plausible arguments. It is said that these cults are often of purely local significance; that they sometimes center on quite insignificant creatures like the centipede or the toad; and that we must therefore place the sacred animals on a par with certain sacred objects, like thecrossed arrows of the goddess Neith, and consider all these symbols as mere emblems of—and means of promoting—tribal unity. Some scholars have even interpreted them as totems. But the characteristic features of totemism, such as the claim of descent from the totem, its sacrifice for a ceremonial feast of the clan, and exogamy, can not be found in Egyptian sources. Moreover, any treatment of the sacred animals which stresses their local or political significance at the expense of their religious importance flies in the face of the evidence. It is undeniable that there is something altogether peculiar about the meaning which animals possessed for the Egyptians. Elsewhere, in Africa or North America, for example, it seems that either the terror of animal strength, or the strong bond, the mutual dependence of man and beast (in the case of cattle cults, for instance), explains animal worship. But in Egypt the animal as such, irrespective of its specific nature, seems to possess religious significance; and the significance was so great that even the mature speculation of later times rarely dispensed with animal forms in plastic or literary images referring to the gods.


FRANKFORT Henry Ancient Egyptian Religion : An Interpretation, Dover pages 8-9
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Old May 10th, 2009, 01:03 AM   #7
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Re: Egyptian Gods with dog heads


In early christian representations, apostles were with an animal at their feet and someone as Christopher with Anubis head http://www.cryptomundo.com/wp-content/christophery.jpg
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Old May 10th, 2009, 01:27 AM   #8
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Re: Egyptian Gods with dog heads


For those interested, I would recommand Richard H. Wilkinson 2003 The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson

IMHO there is no single good book about Egyptian thoughts (Egyptians did not have a word for religion). My recommanded writers are Jan Assmann and Erik Hornung.

You will find some ancient books which are worth reading on http://www.archive.org/index.php and http://www.etana.org/ look for name such as Breasted, Cerny, Erman, Le Page Renouf, Petrie, Sayce
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Old May 10th, 2009, 02:13 PM   #9

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Re: Egyptian Gods with dog heads


Thanx Gerard for the recomendations on the books and site

Maybe the ancient egyptians interpreted the animal world as part of the godly manifestations - something like a reflex of life in the other world, thus creating through observation of their habits and characterists a whole mythology in which the creatures to be fitting to that supranatural realm wouldn't be looking as they did on the observed reality, instead being made hybrids with human bodies. Which is understandable for the fact that as a human understanding of the divine, human traits would necessarily have to be added to what they could observe outside themselves.

Not to wonder that in several other ancient cultures animals had played a role of great importance, either as totemic, guardian spirits or, as in ancient mesopotamia the cult of certain imaginary breeds such as the griffon for example, shows that the animal world and what they could represent such as strengh, speed, capacity of flying, etc, was inspiring ancient imaginarium and religious interpretations of life to endow them as godly.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 02:40 PM   #10

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Re: Egyptian Gods with dog heads


Kahn, thanks for the explanation of why anubis has a dogs head! I would have never guessed that!

Yes, many egyptian gods have animals head but have you've seen Aten? He's an solar disk with little hands coming out of him! it really reminds me of some depictions of the abrahamic god, a shining ball with little rays of light coming out of it. Having the cult of Aten been the first (or at least i think so) monotheistic religion by the time Akhenaten was pharaoh, maybe the imagery of Aten influenced the future depictions of God?
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