The Old Gods in American Gods have roots in the past and in mythology. While we might know the ins and outs of the New Gods, like Media and Technical Boy, there’s probably a lot we can still learn about their predecessors. For those of you hoping to get a better understanding of these characters before you continue on with American Gods, we have you covered. Get to know the history that inspires the characters in our American Gods History Primer series.
Anubis, a.k.a. Mr. Jacquel (in American Gods), a.k.a. Anpu or Inpu
In the Series
As another Old God trying to make an honest living, Anubis has carved out an existence as Mr. Jacquel. He runs a funeral home, Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor in Cairo, Illinois, with his partner Mr. Ibis. He’s found a practical, modern way to adapt his ancient responsibilities. Though he spends his days embalming and transporting bodies, he still makes time for his godly role. He accompanied both Mrs. Fadil and Laura Moon to an in-between worlds desert location to measure each woman’s worth.
Anubis used scales to see what kind of balance (or imbalance) he could find between the good and bad each of them did in life. He used the heart for this, removing it by hand and placing it on the scale to see if it was used well. The results determine whether a person is allowed to proceed to the afterlife.
We also saw him appear in dog/jackal form to Mr. Wednesday and Shadow Moon. Get it, Jacquel and jackal?
Of the Old Gods we’ve encountered so far, Anubis/Jacquel is the most calm and measured personality. I can imagine him approaching the impending battle with nothing but rational analysis.
Anubis (or a priest dressed like him) performing the Opening of the Mouth ritual, Book of the Dead of Hunefer
Simply put, the Egyptian god Anubis is the god of mummification and the afterlife–American Gods nods to both of these specialties. Anubis was also known as the guardian of the dead and a patron of lost souls. His resume was stacked, y’all. You’ve likely heard of Anubis, but when you think of the Egyptian god of death, Osiris might come to mind first. Anubis was known before Osiris, an OG god of the afterlife. He was often depicted as a human with the head of a black dog (that resembles a jackal). Egyptians associated the color black with decay, and that’s what the name “Anpu” means–to decay. Black also represents rebirth and fertility (because of the banks of the Nile), which is sort of what Anubis does as he leads souls into the afterlife.
When he served as guide to get freshly dead individuals out of the world of the living and into the afterlife, he weighed the hearts. He balanced them against Ma’at, the Egyptian concept of truth and order, which was represented as an ostrich feather. If the soul in question was heavier than a feather, it would be devoured by Ammit–who by the way, is a female demon soul eater with a body comprised of lion, hippopotamus, and crocodile parts. That sounds like nothing I ever want to run into. Ever. If the soul was lighter than the feather, the bearer was allowed to pass into the underworld, Duat.
Reading the scales isn’t a precise system. It’s not like Anubis’ gear had digital readouts to ensure accuracy. If the scale showed close results, Anubis was responsible for making the call. Checks and balances and second opinions weren’t a thing.
In Other Stories
Anubis is another god often referenced in pop culture. I want to share a couple of highlights. In Stargate SG-1, Anubis was a parasitic Goa’uld claiming to be a god. In Overwatch, one of the maps unfolds in the Temple of Anubis.
Images: Starz, Tumblr/Laura’s Puppy