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The Egyptian Book of the Dead Essay Sample

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The Egyptian Book of the Dead Essay Sample

            The earliest and oldest form of religious text was found were those found inside the burial chambers of the royal pyramids during the fifth and sixth dynasty. Said texts, referred to as pyramid texts were hieroglyphics found inscribed in the stone walls. These inscriptions were believed to have assisted the kings in their ascend to heaven. These hieroglyphics were later on transcribed and was called the Book of the dead.

            The Egyptian  Book of the Dead known to the Egyptians as eu nu pert em hru which  means The Chapters of coming forth by day (Deuer) is a book of ancient Egyptian funerary texts containing translations of  Egypt’s Funerary Papyri, a collection of spells, prayers and incantations. The earliest book of the dead was written mid-fifteenth century BC.  The book of the dead reflects their belief in the afterlife. It was called the book of the dead because the texts in the funeral papyri we’re divided into individual spells or chapters.  Funerary Papyri are sheets of papyrus scribed with texts and illustrations. Some of which were believed to have originated in the Egyptian texts carved on the hieroglyphs found on the walls of the burial chamber of the last ruler of the fifth dynasty, King Welis. The pictures with the text illustrate the trials the dead would have to undergo in order to be given entry to the underworld. These texts were initially carved to the sarcophagus and later on inscribed to sheets of papyrus also know today as scrolls, each scroll containing a selection of chapters. The sheets are then placed with the dead inside his coffin and were believed to help and guide the dead to a peaceful journey to the after life. (Faulkner and Andrews11-16)

            During the Middle Kingdom (about 2040-1786 bc)   the funeral beliefs and practices were limited to royalty and great noblemen. And then it became available to those who can afford.  If one is wealthy, he can hire an expert to scribe the text for him, with his own choice of chapter, and then an expert draughtsman would be commissioned to make the illustrative vignettes. Those who can’t afford on the other hand would have to make do with ready made texts. (Faulkner and Andrews 11)

Weighing of the Heart of Ani, From the Papyrus of Ani. (Crystal)

            Scene: Ani and his wife Tutu watch as his heart is weighed against an ostrich feather      representing Maat. Anubis checks the accuracy of the balance. Thot stands ready to   write the results and Ammit, the hybrid monster waits to gobble down any heart weighed down by sin. Ani’s human-headed soul, his destiny and birth-goddesses and his fate look on. Twelve gods and goddesses holding was-scepters are enthroned behind a heaped offering table as witnesses to the judgment. (Faulkner and Andrews     14)

            Spell 125:  The Declaration of Innocence

            Hail to you, great god, Lord of justice! I have come to you, my lord…I know the names of the forty-two gods…who live on those who cherish evil and who gulp down their blood on that day of reckoning of characters in the presence of [Osiris]…I have come to you. I have brought you the truth, I have expelled falsehood for you, and I have  not [the false of evils followed by–]. I am pure,pure,pure,pure!

            [then the second list of evils—described as the “negative confession” or the        “declaration of innocence”]. (qtd. in Stillwell 124)

A sample text relating to the weighing of the heart of Ani.

            The Prayer of Ani: My heart, my mother; my heart, my mother! My heart whereby I came into being! May nought stand up to oppose me at [my] judgment, may there be no opposition to me in the presence of the Chiefs (Tchatchau); may there be no parting of thee from me in the presence of him that keepeth the Balance! Thou art my KA, which dwelleth in my body; the god Khnemu who knitteth together and strengtheneth my limbs. Mayest thou come forth into the   place of happiness  whither we go. May the Sheniu officials, who make the conditions   of the lives of men, not cause my name to stink, and may no lies be spoken against me in the   presence of the God. [Let it be satisfactory unto us, and let the Listener god be favourable unto us, and let there be joy of heart (to us) at the weighing of words. Let     not that which is false be uttered against me before the Great God, the Lord of       Amentet. Verily, how great shalt thou be when thou risest in triumph.](Budge 371-  372)

Egypt’s religion focuses on the afterlife and they dedicated most of their time preparing for their journey to the next world. And because Egyptians practice Polytheism, a belief and worship of many deities the hymns in the book were addressed to various Gods and Goddesses. Awareness of such hymns, spells and incantations were found essential in achieving happiness after death.

            This book also describes ancient Egyptian religious beliefs.  Their belief in a life after death. The practice of Polytheism or the worship of gods and goddesses. And the belief that animals such as cat, bull and crocodile are sacred. Thus their gods and goddesses were believed to be half human half animal.

            And because one of the most important aspect of their religion is the after life, they believe that the physical body of the dead should be preserved for the spirit to have a place to reside after they die. And they perform mummification as a way of preserving the bodies. The mummified pharaohs were then built a pyramid to serve as their tombs.

            Egyptians worships hundreds of different gods including their pharaohs. Though they worship quite a number of gods, there were a few more popular than the others. The two chief goda, Amon-Ra and Osiris. And the goddess Isis. Amon-Ra, an all powerful Egyptian god, sun god and the lord of the universe, Osiris, probably the most popular god, god of vegetation, the god of the resurrection, the god of the Underworld and judge of the dead.  Then the most popular goddess, Isis, Goddess of fertility and motherhood. (Nosotro,para.1-5)

            The hymns in the book of dead were mostly addressed to these gods and goddesses:

An excerpt from Book of the Dead. The Papyrus of Ani Book 2: (Budge)

            The Chapters of Coming Forth By Day:  Here begin the chapters  of coming forth by     day, and the songs of praising and glorifying which are to be recited for the coming   forth and for entering to khert-neter, and the spells which are to be said in beautiful        amentet. They shall be recited on the            day of the funeral, entering in after coming            forth.

        Hail, O ye who make perfect souls to enter into the House of Osiris, make ye the well-   instructed soul of the Osiris the scribe Ani, whose word is true, to enter in and to be with you in the House of Osiris. Let him hear even as ye hear; let him have sight even    as ye have sight; let him stand up even as ye stand up; let him take his seat even as ye    take your seats.(Budge)

Some of the gods and goddesses involved in the book of the dead are:  Osiris, the supreme god, god of the underworld and king of the dead, son of Keb and Nut, and is represented by a bearded man wearing white mummy wrappings. Ra, Father of the gods, the sun god, represented by a hawk headed man. Isis, the goddess of fertility and motherhood,  sister and wife of Osiris, a woman wearing on her head the hieroglyphic symbol of her name, which represents a throne or seat. Horus, the Falcon god and brother of Osiris, son of Keb and Nut. Nut, goddess of sky, daughter of Shu and Tefnut. Keb, a vegetation god, brother and husband of nut. Nephthys, lady of the house, wife of Seth. Maat, the goddess of truth. Hathor, the leady of heaven, daughter of Nut and Ra, the woman with the head of a cow. Thot, the great measurer, a moon god, husband of Maat. Anubis, the jackal headed god, guardian of the Necropolis (cemetery), guide of the dead, patron of embalming, son of Nephthys and Osiris. Ammit, the devourer, the female demon, represented by a combination of the head of a crocodile, the body of a lioness and the hind quarters of a hippopotamus. (Deurer). Devour the souls of those whose hearts weighed down by sin. (Faulkner and Andrews 14).

            The Egyptian’s concept of death is that it is a transition from life to the next life, life after death. They believe that the life after death is only the beginning of a better life, an extension of life on earth, yet more peaceful wherein the dead can attain everlasting happiness, in the Egyptian heaven, the Field of Reeds.

            Each person is believed   have three souls, the “ka,” the “ba,” and the “akh.” The “ka” means the body, “Ba” which is the soul and the “akh” as the spirits.

            Although the Egyptians were the only civilization dated to have as much devotion to death, their concept on death doesn’t differ with what other civilizations or even with what most Christians have been handed down to. Their rituals were magnificent. From the sarcophagus, to the tombs and pyramids, the mummification and literature dedicated to after life, such as the ancient book of the dead, dated thousands and thousands of years ago.       There are significant similarities in the Egyptian concept of death and afterlife with the Christian beliefs and practices. Like the Christians, Egyptians believe in the concept of

afterlife. They believe in a life after death, as a continuation of one’s journey of his life. They

believe in judgment of the dead. The weighing of sins before one is given permission to enter heaven, a place of everlasting peace and happiness for the departed soul to dwell.

            Same belief is practiced in the Christian religion up until now. The families and friends of the departed offers prayers and lights candle to guide and light the path of the soul of the dead in his journey towards heaven. While in the Egyptian practice as expressed in the book of the dead, they too offer prayers mostly referred to as spells addressed to their gods asking them for guidance for the dead in their journey to the underworld.

            Both religions believe in the concept of god, although different in number and nature, they believe their god or gods as for the Egyptians would help the dead achieve a life everlasting. And like many other religions, their beliefs we’re believed to have began in the ancient times and was passed on generation to generation and such beliefs and practices have been a tradition still existing in the modern world up to this day.

            When it comes to burial practices, though different in rituals, the concept is the same. The Egyptians, mummify the bodies of their dead to preserve it and then put inside a sarcophagus where they also put the funeral papyri, wherein texts of spells were scribed to guide the dead. They believe that such mummification would help the dead have a place to dwell in the afterlife. The Christians on the other hand put their dead in a coffin, some are being cremated and then after days of mourning and prayers, are placed to rest in a tomb, or an urn for those who were cremated and finally laid down to rest in a cemetery. Masses and prayers are then offered to continue asking the lord for guidance, for forgiveness of all the sins committed on earth, to purify the soul, and allow entry to heaven, the house of God. Both religions I may say are similar in nature and beliefs but have different ritual practices.

Works cited:

 1. Faulkner, Raymond O., Andrews, Carol.  The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead,      translated by Raymond Faulkner, edited by Carol Andrews (University of Texas    Press,   Austin)1972.

 2. Nosotro, Rit. The Religion of Ancient Egypt             http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/cot/t1w03egyptgods.htm

  1. Budge,Wallis E.A. The Book of the Dead. The Hieroglyphic translation of the Papyrus of Ani. Kessinger Publishing 2003


  1. Crystal, Ellie. Ellie Crystal’s Metaphyical and Science Website, Ancient and Lost Civilizations, Ancient Egypt. Book of theDead.2008 http://www.crystalinks.com/egyptafterlife.html
  2. Deurer, Richard. Egypt Art. Ancient Egyptian Mythology Egyptian Book of the Dead 2008 http://www.egyptartsite.com/book.html
  3. Stilwell, Gary A. Afterlife: Post-Mortem Judgments in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. iUniverse  2005

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