Monday, 24 October 2016

Egyptian Book of the Dead

A heart being weighed on the scale of Maat against the feather of truth, by Anubis. The ibis-headed Thoth, scribe of the gods, records the result. If his heart equals exactly the weight of the feather, one is allowed to pass into the afterlife. If not, he is eaten by the waiting Ammit.The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BCE) to around 50 BC. The original Egyptian name for the text is translated as Book of Coming Forth by Day.

The loose collection of texts consist of a number of magic spells intended to assist a dead person's journey through the Duat, or underworld, and into the afterlife. It was written by many priests over a period of about 1000 years. The Book of the Dead first developed in Thebes towards the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period, around 1700 BCE and were exclusively for the use of the Pharaoh.
The Book of the Dead is made up of a number of individual texts and their accompanying illustrations. Some 192 spells are known, though no single manuscript contains them all. They served a range of purposes. Some are intended to give the deceased mystical knowledge in the afterlife, or perhaps to identify them with the gods. Others are incantations to ensure the different elements of the dead person's being were preserved and reunited, and to give the deceased control over the world around him.

Still others protect the deceased from hostile forces, or guide him through the underworld past obstacles. Two spells also deal with the judgement of the deceased in the Weighing of the Heart ritual.
The texts and images of the Book of the Dead were magical as well as religious.

Mummification served to preserve and transform the physical body into sah, an idealized form with divine aspects. The heart was regarded as the aspect of being which included intelligence and memory.

The ka, or life-force, remained in the tomb with the dead body, and required sustenance from offerings of food, water and incense.
The path to the afterlife as laid out in the Book of the Dead was difficult. The deceased was required to pass a series of gates, caverns and mounds guarded by supernatural creatures. These creatures had to be pacified by reciting the appropriate spells.

If all the obstacles of the Duat could be negotiated, the deceased would be judged in the "Weighing of the Heart" ritual.