“Make a way for me, my soul, my spirit and my shadow,
for I am equipped, I am a transfigured spirit.”
~ Spell 91, Book of the Dead
The ancient Egyptians prepared all their lives for the most important journey of their lives – the journey to the afterlife! Death, to them, was not the cessation of life but a means to live eternally in the “Sekhet Aaru” or ‘Fields of Rushes’ denoting paradise
The first step towards this goal was the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ or the mummification! The soul thus preserved, waited for the Celestial Barge of the Sun God Ra to take it on its journey through the netherworld! This journey, fraught with danger, was made easier by the spells from the ‘Book of the Dead‘ that had to be bought or commissioned from scribes!
At the end of the journey the heart of the deceased was weighed on the scale of Anubis (the jackal headed God) against Maat, the feather of truth. If the deceased had been good, his heart would weigh less than the feather and he would be welcomed into the afterlife by Osiris. The not so honest (and those not fortunate enough to have the means to buy their way in with the right spells!) were fed to a rather healthy looking monster – half dog, half crocodile – shown drooling near the scales!
Every tomb in the Luxor Valley has exquisite depictions of this journey, that sadly can’t be captured on camera. (Not least, because dumb and disrespectful tourists cannot be trusted to turn off their flash!) The best illustrations though are the papyrus scrolls found in the tomb of Hunefer, a royal scribe. These fragile treasures, now in the British museum, aren’t always on display. My image is from the tomb of a lesser scribe, that we found just as fascinating as the fancy ones in the Valley of the Kings!
Image credit: Judgement scene from the Tomb of Hunefer – Wikipedia