He Who Announces the Way

I had a revelation at ten o’clock yesterday morning that did not leave me alone for twelve hours. A religious one, as they tend to be these days, and goes something like this:

I have been completely wrong about my devotional relationship with Anubis for the past nine years.

First, some context

For new readers, I am a polytheist and Pagan, and have been worshiping Anubis since I was a child. He is most well known as the Egyptian God of burials and funerals, depicted bent over the bandage-wrapped body of Osiris. Growing up, I focused on this particular domain of Anubis’, even when I reached adulthood and finally took my religious practice seriously. I studied what I could of Him and of Kemeticism, but despite deepening my well of knowledge, I still fixated on Him as the Embalmer.

When I stopped practicing Kemeticism, I did not stop worshiping Anubis. Instead, I did what I thought He wanted me to do: I studied death, dying, and death culture in the West. I even got involved in the death positive movement and became a certified death midwife in 2017. But no matter my intent, I could not put my training into practice like I wanted. I wanted to volunteer at the local hospice, but after a year of putting it off and putting it off, I gave up. Feeling guilty, I pivoted to focus on my burgeoning Heathen practice, which has completely transformed (and transformed me) these past few years.

But because my Heathen practice has flourished and exceeded all of my expectations, I am feeling a different kind of guilt now. Nine years ago, when I got my first tattoo, I devoted myself to Anubis. I admit it was premature, even though I had wanted that tattoo for years and knew I was getting it as a devotional act. What only dawned on me later is the truth about permanently marking your body with the name of a God: you make an oath to that God, becoming a devotee. Upon realizing what I had done, I was perfectly fine with it. After all, I love Anubis. I have always described Him as a father figure, and that still holds true even now.

But being oathed to Anubis means that He occupies an esteemed position in my practice. He receives the first offerings at all times, and I consult Him on changes to my personal religious landscape. This is a comfortable arrangement and I have never questioned it. But I also took the oath to mean that I have to do “His work,” which I interpreted at the time to be death work. That’s why I became so involved in death stuff for so many years. But it ultimately didn’t pan out, and I felt like I wasn’t holding up my end of the deal.

The shrine for Anubis in my apartment, after I moved it to a more accessible shelf.

The revelation

Lately, I have been talking with my friend Brooke about her studies with Kemetic Orthodoxy. Back in 2013, we both completed the Kemetic Orthodoxy beginner’s course and graduated as Remetj. At the time, I did not agree with everything pertaining to Kemetic Orthodoxy and did not believe it was the right fit for me. However, she retook the course last year and has decided to continue her studies with them. And of course, I am very happy for her.

At any rate, we were discussing syncretized and aspected Gods, and a thought snuck into my head: What if Anubis is not Anubis, but Yinepu*-Wepwawet? Back when I practiced Kemeticism, I gave offerings to Wepwawet, another jackal-headed God, for a while in an attempt to form a relationship with Him. That, unfortunately, did not pan out either. But the sudden thought that Anubis could be acting in a role similar to Wepwawet, famously called “Opener of the Way,” persisted until I casually brought it up with Brooke in conversation.

And then she said (paraphrased): “You know what? All this time, we made assumptions that Anubis wanted you to be a death worker, or do things related to death. But what if your oath was to Yinepu-Wepwawet? Then your oath is to Anubis in His role of initiator and guide, who ‘opens the way.’ And that could very much refer to opening the way for new Pagans, for new Heathens, for non-Pagans to understand Paganism. For being an educator, a leader, someone who brings people into Paganism.”

And guess what I have been doing — with great success — since 2017?

Twelve hours, some research (with thanks to our friend Setirdis for her vast amount of knowledge), an offering, and some divination later, and I confirmed my answer. And now all guilt is gone. Now I know why throwing myself into the death positive movement, something I still wholeheartedly support, was not successful. Death positivity is something I am passionate about, but teaching, guiding, and helping people grow is my nature. And it is the Work that Anubis has been wanting from me this entire time.

* Yinepu is Anubis’ Egyptian name as used by Kemetic Orthodoxy. It can also be written as Anpu.

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