The Book of The Dead‎















The Book of the Dead (Egyptian: 𓂋𓏤𓈒 𓏌𓏤 𓉐𓂋 𓏏𓂻 𓅓 𓉔𓂋 𓅱 𓇳𓏤 rw nw prt m hrw; Arabic: كتاب الموتى‎ Kitab al-Mawtaa) is an ancient Egyptian funerary text generally written on papyrus and used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BCE) to around 50 BCE. The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw, is translated as Book of Coming Forth by Day or Book of Emerging Forth into the Light. "Book" is the closest term to describe the loose collection of texts consisting of a number of magic spells intended to assist a dead person's journey through the Duat, or underworld, and into the afterlife and written by many priests over a period of about 1,000 years.

The path to the afterlife as laid out in the Book of the Dead was a difficult one. The deceased was required to pass a series of gates, caverns and mounds guarded by supernatural creatures. These terrifying entities were armed with enormous knives and are illustrated in grotesque forms, typically as human figures with the heads of animals or combinations of different ferocious beasts. Their names—for instance, "He who lives on snakes" or "He who dances in blood"—are equally grotesque.

These creatures had to be pacified by reciting the appropriate spells included in the Book of the Dead; once pacified they posed no further threat, and could even extend their protection to the dead person. Another breed of supernatural creatures was 'slaughterers' who killed the unrighteous on behalf of Osiris; the Book of the Dead equipped its owner to escape their attentions. As well as these supernatural entities, there were also threats from natural or supernatural animals, including crocodiles, snakes, and beetles.

If all the obstacles of the Duat could be negotiated, the deceased would be judged in the "Weighing of the Heart" ritual, depicted in Spell 125. The deceased was led by the god Anubis into the presence of Osiris. There, the dead person swore that he had not committed any sin from a list of 42 sins, reciting a text known as the "Negative Confession".

Then the dead person's heart was weighed on a pair of scales, against the goddess Maat, who embodied truth and justice. Maat was often represented by an ostrich feather, the hieroglyphic sign for her name. At this point, there was a risk that the deceased's heart would bear witness, owning up to sins committed in life; Spell 30B guarded against this eventuality. If the scales balanced, this meant the deceased had led a good life.

Anubis would take them to Osiris and they would find their place in the afterlife, becoming maa-kheru, meaning "vindicated" or "true of voice". If the heart was out of balance with Maat, then another fearsome beast called Ammit, the Devourer, stood ready to eat it and put the dead person's afterlife to an early and unpleasant end.

This scene is remarkable not only for its vividness but as one of the few parts of the Book of the Dead with any explicit moral content. The judgment of the dead and the Negative Confession were a representation of the conventional moral code which governed Egyptian society. For every "I have not..." in the Negative Confession, it is possible to read an unexpressed "Thou shalt not".

While the Ten Commandments of Jewish and Christian ethics are rules of conduct laid down by a perceived divine revelation, the Negative Confession is more a divine enforcement of everyday morality. Views differ among Egyptologists about how far the Negative Confession represents a moral absolute, with ethical purity being necessary for progress to the Afterlife. John Taylor points out the wording of Spells 30B and 125 suggests a pragmatic approach to morality; by preventing the heart from contradicting him with any inconvenient truths, it seems that the deceased could enter the afterlife even if their life had not been entirely pure. Ogden Goelet says "without an exemplary and moral existence, there was no hope for a successful afterlife".

The separation processes from the world to the underworld requires a complete separation from the world of the immortal through the underworld, then judgement of the heart and then the passing through to the afterlife.