Choosing a tattoo is a very personal experience. People tend to choose a particular tattoo based on something they have experienced or someone they know and respect. Someone who chooses a piece of art with a particular meaning will normally feel a strong connection to the cultural symbolism it represents.
The symbol of Anubis carries significant meaning in Egyptian culture. An Anubis tattoo meaning is often very personal and heartfelt for the person wearing it.
If you’re considering an image of Anubis for a tattoo, but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, keep reading. We’ll explore the various meanings of an Anubis tattoo so that you can make an informed body art decision.
Who Was Anubis?
Anubis was an ancient deity worshiped in Egypt. With the body of a man and the head of a jackal, Anubis was the guardian of death or the final exit of life. To the Egyptians, life and death were equally important as they represented living a balanced life that would ensure being accepted into the afterlife.
Anubis was also the guardian of the underworld and presided over funerals and the various ceremonies that accompany them, including the embalming and preservation processes. He was known to guide individuals through the underworld and had the task of weighing a person’s heart to determine if they were pure enough to enter the afterlife — or be denied entrance and simply cease to exist.
Anubis Tattoo Meaning
People attribute different meanings to tattoos that depict Anubis.
Anubis is a popular among those who love Egyptian mythology and the cultural values it represents of living a balanced life of truth and honor (this concept is known as “ma’at“). Many choose Anubis to represent living a full, yet fair and compassionate life in which you devote yourself to being a productive and useful member of society. The flail and ankh symbols are often included with Anubis to express the principles of ma’at.
Tattoos of Anubis can also symbolize protection. Some choose to have the tattoo on their back, to convey that Anubis is watching over the person. Anubis can even represent “God” watching protectively over the tattoo wearer.
Others have tattoos of Anubis because of his association with the end of physical life and his guardianship of the underworld. The tattoo is to honor loved ones who have passed or to express spiritual beliefs about death. Tattoos of Anubis are even popular with those who work in jobs within the funeral service industry or other jobs that deal with death.
Variations of an Anubis Tattoo
The variations of Anubis tattoos range from very simple to very intricate and complex. Many choose to pair Anubis with the eye of Horus (the sky god and protector of royalty) for a double dose of protection, placing them both on the upper back, one on each shoulder.
Anubis is sometimes paired with Osiris, the god of the underworld, to emphasize Anubis’ role as the guardian of the underworld and judge of those seeking to enter the afterlife.
Anubis, when combined with other Egyptian images, can be used to tell a story or depict a series of events. The use of hieroglyphs and symbols can be used to create beautiful and unique artwork.
Tattoos of Anubis will often have variations on the jackal head, sometimes snarling or with the mouth shut. There are also variations of the body as well. In most cases, the head and shoulders are fairly similar to what is shown in the hieroglyphs, except much more detail is added.
The body from the chest down, however, is usually a personal preference. Some choose to leave it mostly bare with only a wrapping around the hips, while others choose to put Anubis in full war gear complete with weapons and a headdress.
Different Styles of Anubis Tattoos
Many people choose to have their tattoo of Anubis in greyscale or simple black and gray to highlight all of the intricate details. Black and gray is ideal for this type of tattoo because it accentuates the shadowing that makes some of the more prominent features stand out. For those with more old-school tastes, black and gray is commonly the most popular, no matter how intricate the overall design may be.
When color is chosen, either in traditional or watercolor styles, people will often choose the colors commonly found in ancient Egyptian artwork. Shading is still present and is sometimes quite heavy.
Traditional colors are often recommended if the person is trying to complete a large piece in the style of ancient Egyptian art. The choice of color is more of a personal choice, with some having very bright colors.
Anubis Tattoo Considerations
Just as with any type of tattoo, one of your first considerations should be the artwork. You can choose an image that comes straight from ancient Egyptian artwork or hieroglyphs or you can decide on a modern design. Many choose simple designs with little to no color and create an entire tattoo using only hieroglyphs and images of symbolic places, such as the Sphynx and the pyramids of Giza.
Anubis has also been modernized by some. Going beyond the ancient artwork, they add facial variations, weaponry, and different types of clothing and headwear. While Anubis is often drawn in a simplistic fashion, variations include fangs/teeth, a snarling mouth, and even piercing eyes that seem quite focused and intense. The eyes and mouth of Anubis are often quite detailed, which can make the piece unique and one of a kind.
The first decision to make is whether you choose to stick with the traditional artwork or opt for a more modern tattoo style. Once you have an image in mind, you want to select the tattoo artist whose style lines up with the artwork design you want for your Anubis tattoo. You’ll then need to discuss the details of the tattoo and the location where you want the tattoo to be on your body.
Common Placement Ideas for an Anubis Tattoo
When a tattoo of Anubis is meant to symbolize protection, many people choose to place it along the spine (if they use the full-length tattoo that includes the head and standing body).
If the Anubis tattoo is matched with the Eye of Horus, they are often placed symmetrically: one on each shoulder, forearm, upper arm, or calves.
If a bust image is preferred, Anubis can be placed almost anywhere on the body.
Examples of Images For Anubis Tattoos
Here are just a few examples of the different art styles that could be used for an Anubis tattoo.
This is a classic depiction of a full-length Anubis in the style of ancient Egyptian artwork.
Simple Tribal Black and White Bust
This is a simple tribal-style bust that can be tattooed in color or black and white.
Ornate Tribal Bust
This is another tribal bust that is more detailed.
Modern Simple Black and White Bust
This is a simplistic modern depiction of the bust of Anubis that can be done in black and white, but could also be done in color.
Modern Full Color
A modern representation of Anubis in full color.
Anubis With Snarling Expression
This is a more modernistic version of a bust of Anubis with a snarling face and exposed teeth.
Modern Detailed Color Bust
This is a very detailed and ornate modern color image of Anubis. The crossed scepters could represent Anubis’ role as the judge of the hearts of those seeking to enter the afterlife.
This picture depicts Anubis in a warrior or protector role.
Final Thoughts About Anubis Tattoos
Anubis represents different concepts to different people. Which one their tattoo expresses depends on the specific aspect of Anubis they most identify with.
For some, his connection to death and the underworld is what resonates with them, so Anubis may symbolize spiritual beliefs about the afterlife. Others use the image of Anubis as a way to honor loved ones who have passed away.
The principles of ma’at (living a fair and balanced life) can also be the meaning behind a tattoo of Anubis when combined with images that symbolize his role as the judge of the hearts of those seeking to enter the afterlife.
And for others, Anubis represents supernatural protection, especially when Anubis is shown with the eye of Horus symbol or when Anubis is depicted in warrior/battle dress.
Now that you’ve read about the different Anubis tattoo meanings, it’s up to you to decide if an image of Anubis is an appropriate tattoo choice for you. Just be sure to do your research in order to find the right tattoo artist for the job!
Want to know what other tattoos mean? Click here for more articles in our Tattoo Meanings series.