When ancient Egyptians died, they believed it was not the end, but the beginning of a perilous journey through the underworld to find eternal life. Just as in life, the Egyptians needed gods and goddesses to help them navigate this journey, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead is filled with deities who guide, challenge and threaten the deceased.
Anubis was a jackal-headed god who was the god of embalming and the dead. Some speculate he was associated with jackals because they occupied early Egyptian cemeteries. In myth, Anubis was the one who embalmed Osiris after he was killed by Set, and thus he became the god of embalming. Priests often wore jackal heads to represent Anubis while ritually mummifying the dead. In the afterlife, Anubis led the dead to Ma'at and watched over them as they traversed the underworld.
Ma'at was the daughter of Re, the Egyptian sun god, and her domain was truth, justice, balance and harmony. You can recognize her by the feather that crowns her head. In the underworld, Ma'at judged the heart of the deceased against her feather. If the heart was as light as the feather, they were granted eternal life. If their heart was heavier than the feather, they had not lived a balanced life, and as punishment were thrown into a lake of fire or fed to the crocodile-headed god, Ammit.
Thoth was one of the Egyptians' major creator gods. In the form of an ibis, it was believed he laid an egg from which Re was born. It was also believed he invented writing and thus he was the god of scribes and kept the library of the gods. In the underworld, Thoth recorded the results of every deceased person's test against Ma'at's feather and whether they were devoured by Ammit or granted eternal life.
Osiris is easily recognizable because he is wrapped like a mummy, appropriate because he was the god of the dead and the ruler of the underworld. Deceased Egyptians could expect to meet Osiris as they passed through the underworld on their way to eternity. He was also the god of fertility and resurrection, because with the help of his wife, Isis, he was able to come back to life after being killed by his brother, Set.
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