Hi all. We’re just 13 days out from the release of my short story, Narmer and the God Beast, so I’m here with another Ancient Egypt themed post. I’ve been doing a series of posts about my influences for the story (to which this one will be added), so please check those out if you’re interested.
Now, what is Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt by T.G. Wilfong, and how has it influenced my writing so far?
Well, in some respects, the answer to that question is is somewhat misleading.
When writing Narmer and The God Beast, my knowledge of jackal-headed gods was quite limited. I had heard of the god Anubis before and was vaguely aware of him from movies like The Mummy Returns, or games like Age of Mythology. He seemed a fierce thing, more brutish warrior than anything else. Any contact he had with the living seemed a brutal punishment and a promise of suffering in the afterlife.
In my own story, Narmer must retrieve linen from the ‘House of Anubis’, and my research focused on the things he might find within an embalmer’s workshop. Things like natron salt, linen wrappings, ointments made from frankincense, myrrh and ox fat. I focused on the implements of mummification, such as chisels, knives, and spoons.
But eventually I found that there was so much more involved in the ritual and service provided for the dead, that my opinion of this god began to change. The embalmer’s workshop might also contain stone sarcophagi, faience ushabti (for a great story about shabti, I highly recommend Robert Sharp’s The Good Shabti), gilded silver masks with calcite, obsidian, and onyx eyes! I also read that the bones of the gods were made of silver and their flesh was made of gold . . .
There was much more here than I had ever imagined.
My search took me to Cynopolis next. A city from the Ptolemaic times dedicated to Anubis and his followers, the ‘cult of the dog’ (Cynopolis means ‘City of the Dog’). I go into further depth about this amazing city in my post Ancient Egyptian Doggos! (I even try to imagine what such a place would be like) but needless to say, I was awestruck a second time. Cynopolis ended up becoming one of the many locations my (unreleased) novel’s protagonists visit during their adventures.
But still, there was still more to learn: enter Death Dogs.
I genuinely feel, this book will be a fascinating read for anyone interested in ANY of the jackal-headed gods which Ancient Egyptians worshipped. Yes, MANY jackal-headed gods.
The book opens with the one we’ve already talked about, Anubis, but its understanding of this deity is much more nuanced than anything I’d yet come across.
It explains that sometimes Anubis is depicted as a man with a jackal’s head, but is more often shown as a sitting/laying jackal with jet-black fur and starkly pointed ears. He’s a mysterious figure, who’s name and visage invoke as many meanings as there are grains of sand in the Sahara. For some, he is a grim reaper like figure, coming to collect the dead and show them to the afterlife. For others, a protector of the dead, standing watch over their graves. Anubis alone knows the secrets of the embalmer’s hut and guards them with unbridled ferocity.
And of course there is still more!
For instance, who are the other jackal gods I mentioned earlier? What could their role be in this intricate and intriguing mythology. For instance, what role could the jackal-headed Wepwawet — The Opener of the Ways — play in the future adventures in this setting? Who was Duamutef? What does it mean to be the son of Horus the Elder . . . ?
I’m pretty much brimming with ideas for stories I could tell after reading this book.
Finally, the book also talks about how the jackal headed gods of Ancient Egypt were perceived throughout the ages and in the modern day. We’re pretty familiar with the imagery I described above, but it was interesting to learn that, until the Anubis Shrine was found inside the Tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in November of 1922, there were not many images of Anubis which had survived.
The idea of Anubis, and various myths and stories of Ancient Egyptians had morphed and changed through incorporation into Greek (see Hermanubis) and then Roman ideologies, falling victim to millennia-long games of telephone.
I could continue writing this post for seemingly forever, but I think it’s probably better just to recommend you read the book. I’m anxious to research deeper into the topics discussed within, and maybe visit the Kelsey Museum someday to see if I might glean anything new from seeing the artifacts shown in this book in person.
Anyway, that is all for now. What’s your favorite fact about jackal-headed gods? Your first exposure to Anubis? Let me know in the comments.
Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt (review). As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was a major influence on my own story, Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb a few weeks ago, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.
If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.
Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!