Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Afterlife and mummification in Ancient Egypt

Edited, June 09, 2012
Gods, like men, might be resolved into at least two elements, soul and body;[*] but in Egypt, the conception of the soul varied in different times and in different schools. It might be an insect—butterfly, bee, or praying mantis;[**] or a bird—the ordinary sparrow-hawk, the human-headed sparrow-hawk, a heron or a crane—bi, haï—whose wings enabled it to pass rapidly through space;[***] or the black shadow—khaîbît—that is attached to every body, but which death sets free, and which thenceforward leads an independent existence, so that it can move about at will, and go out into the open sunlight.

* In one of the Pyramid texts, Sâhû-Orion, the wild hunter, captures the gods, slaughters and disembowels them, cooks their joints, their haunches, their legs, in his burning cauldrons, and feeds on their souls as well as on their bodies. A god was not limited to a single body and a single soul; we know from several texts that Râ had seven souls and fourteen doubles.

** Mr. Lepage-Renouf supposes that the soul may have been considered as being a butterfly at times, as in Greece. M. Lefébure thinks that it must sometimes have been incarnate as a wasp—I should rather say a bee or a praying mantis.

*** The simple sparrow-hawk is chiefly used to denote the soul of a god; the human-headed sparrow-hawk, the heron, or the crane is used indifferently for human or divine souls. It is from Horapollo that we learn this symbolic significance of the sparrow-hawk and the pronunciation of the name of the soul as bai.

 Finally, it might be a kind of light shadow, like a reflection from the surface of calm water, or from a polished mirror, the living and colored projection of the human figure, a double—ka—reproducing in minutest detail the complete image of the object or the person to whom it belonged.

The soul, the shadow, the double of a god, was in no way essentially different from the soul, shadow, or double of a man; his body, indeed, was molded out of a more rarefied substance, and generally invisible, but endowed with the same qualities, and subject to the same imperfections as ours. The gods, therefore, on the whole, were more ethereal, stronger, more powerful, better fitted to command, to enjoy, and to suffer than ordinary men, but they were still men. They had bones,[**] muscles, flesh, blood; they were hungry and ate, they were thirsty and drank; our passions, griefs, joys, infirmities, were also theirs. The sa, a mysterious fluid, circulated throughout their members, and carried with it health, vigor, and life.

** For example, the text of the Destruction of Men, and other documents, teach us that the flesh of the aged sun had become gold, and his bones silver. The blood of Râ is mentioned in the Book of the Dead, as well as the blood of Isis and of other divinities.

None of the feudal gods had escaped this destiny; for them as for mankind the day came when they must leave the city and go forth to the tomb.

The idea of the inevitable death of the gods is expressed in other places as well as in a passage of the eighth chapter of the Booh of the Dead (Naville's edition), which has not to my knowledge hitherto been noticed: "I am that Osiris in the West, and Osiris knoweth his day in which he shall be no more;" that is to say, the day of his death when he will cease to exist. All the gods, Atûmû, Horus, Râ, Thot, Phtah, Khnûmû, are represented under the forms of mummies, and this implies that they are dead. Moreover, their tombs were pointed out in several places in Egypt.

An attempt was made by artificial means to reproduce the conservative action of the sand, and, without mutilating the body, to secure at will that incorruptibility without which the persistence of the soul was but a useless prolongation of the death-agony. It was the god Anubis—the jackal lord of sepulture—who was supposed to have made this discovery. He cleansed the body of the viscera, those parts which most rapidly decay, saturated it with salts and aromatic substances, protected it first of all with the hide of a beast, and over this laid thick layers of linen. The victory the god had thus gained over corruption was, however, far from being a complete one. The bath in which the dead man was immersed could not entirely preserve the softer parts of the body: the chief portion of them was dissolved, and what remained after the period of saturation was so desiccated that its bulk was seriously diminished.

Here the soul kept the distinctive character and appearance which pertained to it "upon the earth:" as it had been a "double" before death, so it remained a double after it, able to perform all functions of animal life after its own fashion. It moved, went, came, spoke, breathed, accepted pious homage, but without pleasure, and as it were mechanically, rather from an instinctive horror of annihilation than from any rational desire for immortality. Unceasing regret for the bright world which it had left disturbed its mournful and inert existence. "O my brother, withhold not thyself from drinking and from eating, from drunkenness, from love, from all enjoyment, from following thy desire by night and by day; put not sorrow within thy heart, for what are the years of a man upon earth?

  Soul of the deceased Ani hovers over his mummy as it lies on a bier.

By day the double remained concealed within the tomb. If it went forth by night, it was from no capricious or sentimental desire to revisit the spots where it had led a happier life. Its organs needed nourishment as formerly did those of its body, and of itself it possessed nothing "but hunger for food, thirst for drink."[*] Want and misery drove it from its retreat, and flung it back among the living.
The double did not allow its family to forget it, but used all the means at its disposal to remind them of its existence. It entered their houses and their bodies, terrified them waking and sleeping by its sudden apparitions, struck them down with disease or madness,[**] and would even suck their blood like the modern vampire.

** The incantations of which the Leyden Papyrus published by Pleyte is full are directed against dead men or dead women who entered into one of the living to give him the migraine, and violent headaches. Another Leyden Papyrus, briefly analyzed by Ohabas, and translated by Maspero, contains the complaint, or rather the formal act of requisition of a husband whom the luminous of his wife returned to torment in his home, without any just cause for such conduct.

Funerary sacrifices and the regular cultus of the dead originated in the need experienced for making provision for the sustenance of the manes after having secured their lasting existence by the mummification of their bodies.

 Stela of Antûf I., Prince of Thebes, drawn by Faucher- Gudin from a photograph taken by Emil Brugsch-Bey. Below, servants and relations are bringing the victims and cutting up the ox at the door of the tomb. In the middle is the dead man, seated under his pavilion and receiving the sacrifice: an attendant offers him drink, another brings him the haunch of an ox a third a basket and two jars; provisions fill the whole chamber. Behind Antûf stand two servants, the one fanning his master, and the second offering him his staff and sandals. The position of the door, which is in the lowest row of the scenes, indicates that what is represented above it takes place within the tomb.

The gods were spared none of the anguish and none of the perils which death so plentifully bestows upon men. Their bodies suffered change and gradually perished until nothing was left of them. Their souls, like human souls, were only the representatives of their bodies, and gradually became extinct if means of arresting the natural tendency to decay were not found in time. Thus, the same necessity that forced men to seek the kind of sepulture which gave the longest term of existence to their souls, compelled the gods to the same course.

Each nome possessed the mummy and the tomb of its dead god: at Thinis there was the mummy and the tomb of Anhuri, the mummy of Osiris at Mendes, the mummy of Tûmû at Heliopolis.[*] In some of the nomes the gods did not change their names in altering the mode of their existence: the deceased Osiris remained Osiris; Nit and Hâthor when dead were still Nît and Hâthor, at Saïs and at Denderah. But Phtah of Memphis became Sokaris by dying; Uapûaîtû, the jackal of Siût, was changed into Anubis;[**] and when his disk had disappeared at evening, Anhûri, the sunlit sky of Thinis, was Khontamentît, Lord of the West, until the following day.

* The sepulchres of Tûmû, Khopri, Râ, Osiris, and in each of them the heap of sand hiding the body, are represented in the tomb of Seti I., as also the four rams in which the souls of the god are incarnate. The tombs of the gods were known even in Roman times.

That bliss which we dream of enjoying in the world to come was not granted to the gods any more than to men. Their bodies were nothing but inert larvae, "with unmoving heart,"[*] weak and shrivelled limbs, unable to stand upright were it not that the bandages in which they were swathed stiffened them into one rigid block. Their hands and heads alone were free, and were of the green or black shades of putrid flesh.

* This is the characteristic epithet for the dead Osiris, Urdu Mt, he whose heart is unmoving, he whose heart no longer beats, and who has therefore ceased to live.

 Their doubles, like those of men, both dreaded and regretted the light. All sentiment was extinguished by the hunger from which they suffered, and gods who were noted for their compassionate kindness when alive, became pitiless and ferocious tyrants in the tomb. When once men were bidden to the presence of Sokaris, Khontamentîfc, or even of Osiris, "mortals come terrifying their hearts with fear of the god, and none dareth to look him in the face either among gods or men; for him the great are as the small.

Death made no change in the relative positions of the feudal god and his worshipers. The worshiper who called himself the amakhû of the god during life was the subject and vassal of his mummied god even in the tomb; and the god who, while living, reigned over the living, after his death continued to reign over the dead.

 Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a facsimile by Dévèria (E. de Rougé, Études sur le Rituel Funéraire, pl. iv. No. 4). Ignorant souls fished for by the cynocephali are here represented as fish; but the soul of Nofirûbnû, instructed in the protective formulas, preserves its human form.

Several of the gods were incarnate in rams: Osiris at Mendes, Harshafitû at Heracleopolis, Khnûmû at Elephantine. Living rams were kept in their temples, and allowed to gratify any fancy that came into their animal brains. Other gods entered into bulls: Râ at Heliopolis, and, subsequently, Phtah at Memphis, Minû at Thebes, and Montû at Hermonthis. They indicated beforehand by certain marks such beasts as they intended to animate by. their doubles, and he who had learned to recognize these signs was at no loss to find a living god when the time came for seeking one and presenting it to the adoration of worshipers in the temple.[***]

*** The bulls of Râ and of Phtah, the Mnevis and the Hapis, are known to us from classic writers. The bull of Minû at Thebes may be seen in the procession of the god as represented on monuments of Ramses II. and Ramses III. Bâkhû (called Bakis by the Greeks), the bull of Hermonthis, is somewhat rare, and mainly represented upon a few later stelæ in the Gîzeh Museum; it is chiefly known from the texts. The particular signs distinguishing each of these sacred animals have been determined both on the authority of ancient writers, and from examination of the figured monuments; the arrangement and outlines of some of the black markings of the Hapis are clearly shown in the illustration on p. 167.

 A sculptor's model from Tanis, now in the Gîzeh Museum, drawn by Faucher-Gudin from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey. The sacred marks, as given in the illustration, are copied from those of similar figures on stelæ of the Serapeum.

The ancients long refused to believe that death was natural and inevitable. They thought that life, once began, might go on indefinitely: if no accident stopped it short, why should it cease of itself? And so men did not die in Egypt; they were assassinated. The murderer often belonged to this world, and was easily recognized as another man, an animal, some inanimate object such as a stone loosened from the hillside, a tree which fell upon the passer-by and crushed him. But often too the murderer was of the unseen world, and so was hidden, his presence being betrayed in his malignant attacks only. He was a god, an evil spirit, a disembodied soul who slily insinuated itself into the living man, or fell upon him with irresistible violence—illness being a struggle between the one possessed and the power which possessed him. As soon as the former succumbed he was carried away from his own people, and his place knew him no more. But had all ended for him with the moment in which he had ceased to breathe? As to the body, no one was ignorant of its natural fate. It quickly fell to decay, and a few years sufficed to reduce it to a skeleton. And as for the skeleton, in the lapse of centuries that too was disintegrated and became a mere train of dust, to be blown away by the first breath of wind. The soul might have a longer career and fuller fortunes, but these were believed to be dependent upon those of the body, and commensurate with them. Every advance made in the process of decomposition robbed the soul of some part of itself; its consciousness gradually faded until nothing was left but a vague and hollow form that vanished altogether when the corpse had entirely disappeared. Erom an early date the Egyptians had endeavored to arrest this gradual destruction of the human organism, and their first effort to this end naturally was directed towards the preservation of the body, since without it the existence of the soul could not be ensured. It was imperative that during that last sleep, which for them was fraught with such terrors, the flesh should neither become decomposed nor turn to dust, that it should be free from offensive odour and secure from predatory worms.

A papyrus placed with the mummy in its coffin contained the needful topo-graphical directions and passwords, in order that he might neither stray nor perish by the way. The wiser Egyptians copied out the principal chapters for themselves, or learned them by heart while yet in life, in order to be prepared for the life beyond. Those who had not taken this precaution studied after death the copy with which they were provided; and since few Egyptians could read, a priest, or relative of the deceased, preferably his son, recited the prayers in the mummy's ear, that he might learn them before he was carried away to the cemetery. If the double obeyed the prescriptions of the "Book of the Dead" to the letter, he reached his goal without fail.

 The mystical Spell 17, from the Papyrus of Ani. The vignette at the top illustrates, from left to right, the god Heh as a representation of the Sea; a gateway to the realm of Osiris; the Eye of Horus; the celestial cow Mehet-Weret; and a human head rising from a coffin, guarded by the four Sons of Horus.

 Two 'gate spells'. On the top register, Ani and his wife face the 'seven gates of the House of Osiris'. Below, they encounter ten of the 21 'mysterious portals of the House of Osiris in the Field of Reeds'. All are guarded by unpleasant protectors.

 Section of the "Book of the Dead" of Nany, c. 1040-945 BCE

 Book of the Dead

 Book of the Dead spell 87 and 88 from the Papyrus of Ani

 Ignorant souls, or those ill prepared for the struggle, had no easy work before them when they imprudently entered upon it. Those who were not overcome by hunger and thirst at the outset were bitten by a urasus, or horned viper, hidden with evil intent below the sand, and perished in convulsions from the poison; or crocodiles seized as many of them as they could lay hold of at the fords of rivers; or cynocephali netted and devoured them indiscriminately along with the fish into which the partisans of Typhon were transformed. They came safe and sound out of one peril only to fall into another, and infallibly succumbed before they were half through their journey.
But, on the other hand, the double who was equipped and instructed, and armed with the true voice, confronted each foe with the phylactery and the incantation by which his enemy was held in check. As soon as he caught sight of one of them he recited the appropriate chapter from his book, he loudly proclaimed himself Râ, Tûmû, Horus, or Khopri—that god whose name and attributes were best fitted to repel the immediate danger—and flames withdrew at his voice, monsters fled or sank paralyzed, the most cruel of genii drew in their claws and lowered their arms before him. He compelled crocodiles to turn away their heads; he transfixed serpents with his lance; he supplied himself at pleasure with all the provisions that he needed, and gradually ascended the mountains which surround the world, sometimes alone, and fighting his way step by step, sometimes escorted by beneficent divinities. Halfway up the slope was the good cow Hâfchor, the lady of the West, in meadows of tall plants where every evening she received the sun at his setting. If the dead man knew how to ask it according to the prescribed rite, she would take him upon her shoulders and carry him across the accursed countries at full speed.

 When the double had established his right of passage by the correctness of his answers, the bark consented to receive him and to carry him to the further shore. There he was met by the gods and goddesses of the court of Osiris: by Anubis, by Hathor the lady of the cemetery, by Nît, by the two Màîts who preside over justice and truth, and by the four children of Horus stiff-sheathed in their mummy wrappings.

 Book of dead. Horus, Anubis, and Thoth

 Anubis and Thoth weighting the heart of the deceased on a scales of truth

 A triumphant Hunefer, having passed the weighing of the heart, is presented by falcon-headed Horus to the shrine of the green-skinned Osiris, god of the underworld and the dead, accompanied by Isis and Nephthys

 Hathor Temple
Behind Osiris  stood Isis and Nephthys watching over him with uplifted hands, bare bosoms, and bodies straitly cased in linen. Forty-two jurors who had died and been restored to life like their lord, and who had been chosen, one from each of those cities of Egypt which recognized his authority, squatted right and left, and motionless, clothed in the wrappings of the dead, silently waited until they were addressed. The soul first advanced to the foot of the throne, carrying on its outstretched hands the image of its heart or of its eyes, agents and accomplices of its sins and virtues. It humbly "smelt the earth," then arose, and with uplifted hands recited its profession of faith. "Hail unto you, ye lords of Truth! hail to thee, great god, lord of Truth and Justice! I have come before thee, my master; I have been brought to see thy beauties. For I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of thy forty-two gods who are with thee in the Hall of the Two Truths, living on the remains of sinners, gorging themselves with their blood, in that day when account is rendered before Onnophris, the true of voice. Thy name which is thine is 'the god whose two twins are the ladies of the two Truths;' and I, I know you, ye lords of the two Truths, I bring unto you Truth, I have destroyed sins for you. I have not committed iniquity against men! I have not oppressed the poor! I have not made defalcations in the necropolis! I have not laid labour upon any free man beyond that which he wrought for himself! I have not transgressed, I have not been weak, I have not defaulted, I have not committed that which is an abomination to the gods. I have not caused the slave to be ill-treated of his master! I have not starved any man, I have not made any to weep, I have not assassinated any man, I have not caused any man to be treacherously assassinated, and I have not committed treason against any! I have not in aught diminished the supplies of temples! I have not spoiled the shrewbread of the gods! I have not taken away the loaves and the wrappings of the dead! I have done no carnal act within the sacred enclosure of the temple! I have not blasphemed! I have in nought curtailed the sacred revenues! I have not pulled down the scale of the balance! I have not falsified the beam of the balance! I have not taken away the milk from the mouths of sucklings! I have not lassoed cattle on their pastures! I have not taken with nets the birds of the gods! I have not fished in their ponds! I have not turned back the water in its season! I have not cut off a water-channel in its course! I have not put out the fire in its time! I have not defrauded the Nine Gods of the choice part of victims! I have not ejected the oxen of the gods! I have not turned back the god at his coming forth! I am pure! I am pure! I am pure! I am pure! Pure as this Great Bonû of Heracleopolis is pure!... There is no crime against me in this land of the Double Truth! Since I know the names of the gods who are with thee in the Hall of the Double Truth, save thou me from them!"  
He then turned towards the jury and pleaded his cause before them. They had been severally appointed for the cognizance of particular sins, and the dead man took each of them by name to witness that he was innocent of the sin which that one recorded. His plea ended, he returned to the supreme judge, and repeated, under what is sometimes a highly mystic form, the ideas which he had already advanced in the first part of his address.
Truth squats upon one of the scales; Thot, ibis-headed, places the heart on the other, and always merciful, bears upon the side of Truth that judgment may be favorably inclined. He affirms that the heart is light of offense, inscribes the result of the proceeding upon a wooden tablet, and pronounces the verdict aloud. "Thus saith Thot, lord of divine discourse, scribe of the Great Ennead, to his father Osiris, lord of eternity, 'Behold the deceased in this Hall of the Double Truth, his heart hath been weighed in the balance in the presence of the great genii, the lords of Hades, and been found true. No trace of earthly impurity hath been found in his heart. Now that he leaveth the tribunal true of voice, his heart is restored to him, as well as his eyes and the material cover of his heart, to be put back in their places each in its own time, his soul in heaven, his heart in the other world, as is the custom of the "Followers of Horus." Henceforth let his body lie in the hands of Anubis, who presideth over the tombs; let him receive offerings at the cemetery in the presence of Onno-phris; let him be as one of those favourites who follow thee; let his soul abide where it will in the necropolis of his city, he whose voice is true before the Great Ennead.'"

 As soon as he was judged, the dead man entered into the possession of his rights as a pure soul.
The soul, after having left the place of its incarnation to which in the beginning it clung, after having ascended into heaven and there sought congenial asylum in vain, forsook all havens which it had found above, and unhesitatingly fell back upon earth, there to lead a peaceful, free, and happy life in the full light of day, and with the whole valley of Egypt for a paradise.
Death was not a definite end, but only a transition to another life in the underworld. Everyone wanted to get into the spirit world. Even though that world was no so great as the land of the gods where the dead pharaohs were moved, however, was better than life on earth. To hold this long journey, however, they   needed  their earthly body, if the body couldn’t survive in good shape, they would not be able to get to the next world.
The Egyptians believed that if the body is mummified the man will live on in the world of the dead. Preparations for permanent embalming depending on whether the deceased was poorer or richer, the longest embalming could take up to 70 days.
 Pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt.
The process began with the evisceration of the body. All internal organs were removed- except the heart. The heart had to remain in place, it would testify for the deceased person in the afterlife. Often a scarab or other amulet would be placed over the heart to protect it in its voyage through the netherworld.  

The brain was usually removed. A long, slightly hooked tool was introduced into the brain through the nose, swirled around to liquefy the brain. The head was then tipped forward and all contents of the skull poured out, again through the nose. It is not uncommon, as with our mummy, that the brain was left in place. It simply dried up and shrank during mummification.
The next step was to dessicate the body. The deceased was laid out under a mound of natron salts, salts native to the area, and not unlike today's baking powder. Over a period of days, the salt absorbed all the moisture, the flesh shrank, and the skin darkened.

Egyptians used resins, cassia, cedar oil, myrrh, cassia, and palm wine as drying or anti-microbal agents in the embalming of the mummy. These, like the natron salts, helped to protect the body from decay.

The lungs, stomach, intestines, and liver were dried out and each placed in a canopic jar. The jars came in sets of four, and each of the Four Sons of Horus were assigned the duy of protecting the contents of one of the vessels.

The proliferation of tomb raidings led many ancient Egyptians to be concerned about the preservation of their internal organs in death. Canopic jars came to serve a symbolic purpose in one's burial, while a person's own mummified organs were placed inside the body during mummification.
 In ancient Egyptian religion, Ammit (also spelled Ammut and Ahemait, meaning Devourer or Soul Eater) was a female demon with a body that was part lion, hippopotamus and crocodile— the three largest "man-eating" animals known to ancient Egyptians. A funerary deity, her titles included "Devourer of the Dead", "Eater of Hearts", and "Great of Death".

Ammit lived near the scales of justice in Duat, the Egyptian underworld.

It is believed that the Djed is a rendering of a human backbone. It represents stability and strength. It was originally associated with the creation god Ptah. Himself being called the "Noble Djed". As the Osiris cults took hold it became known as the backbone of Osiris . A djed column is often painted on the bottom of coffins, where the backbone of the deceased would lay, this identified the person with the king of the underworld, Osiris. It also acts as a sign of stability for the deceased' journey into the afterlife. 
  Glided and entrusted wooden pectoral; symbols of the god Osiris and goddess Isis; Ancient Egypt, about 1400 - 1100 BC.Louvre
   Osiris and Isis amulets

Djed, in Dendera is a symbol of Osiris. So, we have lotus, snake and symbol of Osiris.
 Dendera known as  light bulbs
G. Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Babylonia, and Assyria Vol. I