Saturday, June 19, 2010

Anubis in Denver

Anubis has come to Denver. As part of the traveling exhibit of the treasures of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun at the Denver Art Museum an enormous statue of the Egyptian god has been erected at the Denver International Airport.

While the statue is impressive, some controversy has erupted over whether or not the airport really needs a likeness of the god responsible for carrying souls into the afterlife, especially given that many people hate flying because they are afraid of the sort of air disasters that might require Anubis' involvement. Others are of the opinion that to have a god associated with death and funerals welcoming visitors to the city is simply in poor taste.

The Egyptian god Anubis was constructed earlier this month at the airport to welcome the new King Tut Exhibit, which opens June 29 at the Denver Art Museum.

In early Egyptian history, Anubis was a god of the dead and a god of funerals.

This has created controversy among some residents and has a few of them, like Millie Lieberman of Denver, asking why this would be the piece that welcomes people to the city.

"The black on it represents the decaying body. To me it's a very sick and poor representation of what we're all about here in Denver," Lieberman said.

My guess is that Anubis was selected when the exhibit was first put together because the treasures of the Pharaoh were intended to follow him into the afterlife, making the psychopomp Anubis a pretty good choice as herald of the exhibit in terms of Egyptian theology. Anubis did not cause people to die, but when they did his job was to conduct their souls into the next world. But modern people see "god of death" and fail to understand the nuances of the Egyptian pantheon - or just ignore it altogether.

The Denver Art Museum stands behind its piece and says that is not what it is supposed to represent.

"There's absolutely a literal interpretation of what that figure represented in ancient Egypt. It's definitely not what its intended representation is in 2010. It's just a piece of art to celebrate the King Tut Exhibit to the museum," said Andrea Folton, director of communication at the Denver Art Museum, said.

One wonders what Anubis thinks about being referred to as "just a piece of art." As a magician I know that spiritual beings have an existence above and beyond the aesthetics of any particular culture, and while the naysayers do not understand what Anubis really represents his supporters should be careful not to dismiss the thousands of years of tradition and belief surrounding the Egyptian faith.

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