“The Book of the Dead” is a compilation of funerary texts used in Ancient Egypt. Containing spells, prayers and chants, this book was created for their people who already passed away. According to Egyptomology Online, these have been written on papyrus, amulets, linen or vellum. They were also written on walls and coffins, to guide their dead in the afterlife. These scrolls depict their belief that after their death, it would only take a night before they are again reborn. In the morning, they shall rise triumphant. This book was illustrated with drawings called as vignettes, which were previously used only on special occasions.
These vignettes are equated to symbols, and texts were written below them. However, not all vignettes have supporting texts in selected spells. As time went by, the reverse occurred: there were less spells that were not illustrated. The Book was divided into chapters and individual spells. According to the website Tour Egypt, the book has about two hundred spells and prayers, and everything cannot be written on one papyrus. Back in those days, when a person is wealthy, he can have someone to write his selected spells for him in his death.
Unfortunately, those coud not afford them will have to be satisfied with templates with their names and titles inserted. The texts contained in this book were derived from the Coffin Texts and Pyramid Texts. These were originally designed to plead that their deceased be granted the freedom to be in the afterlife. These were deemed to have magical influences on protecting their dead. Earlier found in mummy cloths and coffins, these texts were later written on walls of tombs during the reign of Mernaptah. According to the same website, the earliest Book of the Dead discovered was written on the during the middle of the fifteenth century BCE.
However, the original spells have been written on their walls by more than a thousand years ealier. The website also mentioned that these texts have been commonly used even before they were ever written on the walls. Before they were carved on wooden coffins, they have been written on the walls. Although one may think the these spells are one and the same, he must reconsider. In the pyramid texts, they considered the Sun God as the supreme authority in the afterlife. Although they still gave importance to this god, it was Osiris they called as the king of the udnerworld.
To this god they offered chants and spells that they may get his good favors for the journey of the soul of their dead. Osiris was the the judge who determined if the soul was worthy. The most important part of the deceased body is the heart. Some spells in the book will instruct to have the heart weighed in a balance against a feather that symbolized the goddess of truth and justice. It was believed that the heart was the center of his intellect and emotion. Its weight against the feather will determine how he truly lived, and if his heart was truly deserving to enter the Field of Reeds.
On the other hand, the most important spell in the book is the “Opening of the Mouth”. According to Egyptomology Online, this process is done so that the mummy would be restored of all its faculties. This was also considered as a means for the soul to maximize the afterlife. One of the featured scrolls of this book is the one for Nakht. He was a royal scribe who supervised an army as a general. His book of the dead was considered as a well illustrated example. It contained a spell which expected the deceased to exert extra effort as he embarks in the Field of Rushes. His book also showed his judgement scene.
In the next section, he was portrayed to be traveling on the Lake of Offerings. The next part showed how the Heron of Plenty was worshipped by Nakht by plowing and reaping in the fields. Osiris and three other deities were also illustrated in his book. Another featured scroll noted by Egyptomology Online, was the Book of the Dead of Ani. The vignettes illustrated him to be with Tutu, his wife. The titles written for him depicted that he was an important person in the administration under Osiris. A section of the Book showed how he and his wife were playing a game, a metaphor to show that they were on their travel to the next world.
In front of them was a white tomb with their souls’ counterpart standing together. Two lions in the book represent the horizon which are governed by the sun god, which was represented by a benu bird. His book, however, was not specifically designed for him. It was one of those templates mentioned ealier. Another example of a Book of the Dead is of Hunefer. In the book, the many titles listed for him implied that he was a very important person of the administration, and was deemed to be closely associated with the king. His status was also determined by the quality of his book.
The book was especially produced for him. Moreover, a Ptah-Sokar-Osiris was included among the papyrus of his book. Nebseny’s Book of the Dead is one of the earlier examples of this book. The vignettes that came along with it did not have color, in comparison to the previous books. He was a temple copyist. Egyptomology Online noted the possibility that he drew his own face before passing. In a section of the book, it is said that he and his wife were seated and gifts were being offered to them. This was considered as the responsibility of the eldest son, whose name was also written in his book.
Sources say that these spells and chants were created to suffice their belief that the journey of life does not end at death. Everything is continued in the afterlife, after their souls have been judged by Osiris. Furthermore, they believed in rebirth, making the deceased not completely lost to their loved one. The reason behind their mummification is to preserve the body. So that when the soul returns, his body would have remained intact for him to reclaim. According to the website Crystal Links, death is merely a temporary interruption.
This book showed that Ancient Egypt can be very traditional. This claim was also shared by the website History Link. One can notice that composing these books can be very time consuming and costly. But because they believe that they should be ready for the journey through the afterlife, they would have to wield the extra effort. In this case, it would not appear to be a very bad thing for them to continue to believe in these practices. It is possible that what they believe in are the actual events one may experience in the afterlife.
Since no one can really tell how it was like after his death, believing would seem like a gamble they would be willing to risk. In this regard, Ancient Egypt’s Book of the Dead is a reflection of their concept of the afterlife. The book, having spells and prayers, serve as a guide for the souls of their departed. As a very traditional approach to funeral rites, the Book of the Dead also implies that they do not wish their dead a fortunate journey because they fear their gods, but because of their strong belief that they will be joined by their loved ones again.
The book of the dead became an assurance of their souls’ safe journey back to life. Works Cited “Egyptian Afterlife – Coffins – Mummy Masks. ” Crystal Links. 15 February 2008 <http://www. crystalinks. com/egyptafterlife. html>. “Religion of Ancient Egypt. ” History Link. 15 February 2008 <http://historylink101. net/egypt_1/religion. htm>. “The Book of the Dead: An Introduction. ” Tour Egypt. 15 February 2008 <http://www. touregypt. net/boda. htm>. “The Book of the Dead. ” Egyptomology Online. 15 February 2008 <http://www. egyptologyonline. com/book_of_the_dead. htm>.