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    Anubis: Man’s best friend forever

    Dogs have been given elevated spiritual status throughout history. Whether it’s the omen of the black dog, Argos, the hound of Odysseus, or Cabal, King Arthur’s prized companion, dogs have held an integral spot in human cultures for centuries.

    Perhaps the most obvious example of canines being elevated to the status of a god comes in the form of Anubis. An Ancient Egyptian deity, Anubis began his holy career as the guardian of the underworld. Anubis features in nearly every tomb, in hieroglyphs and in pictoral representations of the journey to the underworld. There’s probably something to the similarity between Anubis’s ubiquitous presence and the constant trailing black hound in European folklore. Death is always around. But, for the old world, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. And the jackal god was your companion to make sure you got there safely. You can find a quick rundown on Anubis here!

    Even today, it’s common knowledge than dogs have an uncanny awareness of death. A dog is extremely sensitive to environments which have recently witnessed violence, and they have an instinctive knowledge that something’s wrong.

    Now, a lot of things have changed since Ancient Egypt ruled a huge chunk of the world, but some things remain the same.

    We still prize our dogs, and consider then our official Best Friends. We still remain devotees, and most of us inevitably accept the fact that our homes will slowly but surely turn into shrines.

    We even do a lot of the same rituals. Just as the Ancients would sweep out the temple, refresh the offerings, and pay tribute to the gods, we keep our houses clean, make a little shrine with a dog bed and toys, and clean up the endless pet hair.

    A jackal isn’t technically the same thing as a dog, but… you get the point.

    So, why do we hold our dogs in such high esteem? Why are they so clearly our best friends? A dog is one of the most loyal animals in the kingdom, and it’s also one of the most emotionally available. Where cats are aloof, distant, and solitary, a dog provides constant companionship and emotional solace. So, while Anubis literally ushered people into the afterlife, our dogs help us cope with death, and guide us through the grieving process.

    I think that more than anything it’s the constancy of our canine friends that’s solidified their role in our lives. And you’ll see this in the representation as well. Whether the dog deity is good or bad, he stays constant. That’s not true of the shiftier species, like cats or snakes.

    So, to sum up, I think that all the devotion, the endless vacuuming, the long walks, the need for energy and attention all finds its payoff in the fact that your dog will ALWAYS be glad to see you, and can always count on them to be by your side.

    P.S. If your personal deity is getting to be a lot to handle, whether it's cleaning the carpet or picking up all those scattered kibble-based offerings, I’ve found my own favorite vacuum at

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  • 01-01-2012



    Cats are one of the most complexly represented animals in mythology and culture. Where dogs are nearly always loyal protector figures, cats have a much more interesting personality. They can be fickle, spiteful, and tricky to deal with, and often hold the role of the arbiter. Cats can be portentous, too.

    Bastet was the Ancient Egyptian god of protection, joy, family, dance and music. Early on, she was the god of the sun, before Ra became the dominant figure. Later, she became one of the fierce protector figures in the mythological world, fighting the evil snake, enemy of the sun.

    You can see quite a bit of the feline in the Bastet storylines. While the goddess is capable of great mirth and joy, she is also a fearsome enemy to be made, and it was unwise to risk her wrath.

    The unpredictable element of the feline nature is perhaps best represented by Bastet of all  the gods. She embodies the unknowable nature of a cat’s mind, the sudden shifts and swings, the rapid swipes and reversals our feline companions take.

    So, while a dog figure is fiercely loyal, a cat is unpredictable. If your cat doesn’t want to cooperate, or is particularly displeased with you, you’re sure to hear about it. Don’t plan on your cat caring if you’re home, unless it’s dinner time. You can count on a few casual glances, purrs, and then it vanishes, off on its own pursuits.

    Our cats have a lot to teach us about other faiths as well. Even Christians often talk about the unknowable nature of God, his unpredictable will, and all that. What better way to understand what is required of a believer than to be a cat owner? Definitely something for all believers to think about.

    Cats are also fascinating in Ancient Egypt because of the way they were treated after death. It was actually more common than not to have your cat mummified, and buried either with you or in the cult temple of Bastet. That's one aspect of cat worship that we haven't carried with us into the modern world, and I'm assuming nobody wishes otherwise. 

  • Anyway, I think it's fascinating to think about all our cat memes and videos, like Henri the Existential Cat, as part of a longer tradition of people trying to understand one of the most inscrutable but indispensable animals out there!