The Egyptian Book of the Dead

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A Short Description of the "Doors" or Chapters of the Book of the Dead.

All the great papyri of the Book of the Dead begin with a HYMN TO RĀ, who from the period of the IVth dynasty was the "King of the Gods" of Egypt. His cult was finally "established" under the Vth dynasty when the king of Egypt began to call himself in official documents and monuments "Son of the Sun," Sa Rā. This Hymn is supposed to be sung by the deceased, who says:— "Homage to thee, O Rā, at thy beauteous rising. Thou risest, thou risest; thou shinest, thou shinest at the dawn. Thou art King of the Gods, and the Maāti goddesses embrace thee. The Company of the Gods praise thee at sunrise and at sunset. Thou sailest over the heights of heaven and thy heart is glad. Thy Morning Boat meeteth thy Evening Boat with fair winds. Thy father is the Sky-god and thy mother is the Sky-goddess, and thou art Horus of the Eastern and Western skies. ... O thou Only One, O thou Perfect One, O thou who art eternal, who art never weak, whom no mighty one can abase; none hath dominion over the things which appertain to thee. Homage to thee in thy characters of Horus, Tem, and Khepera, thou Great Hawk, who makest man to rejoice by thy beautiful face. When thou risest men and women live. Thou renewest thy youth, and dost page 34set thyself in the place where thou wast yesterday. O Divine Youth, who art self-created, I cannot comprehend thee. Thou art the lord of heaven and earth, and didst create beings celestial and beings terrestrial. Thou art the God One, who camest into being in the beginning of time. Thou didst create the earth, and man, thou didst make the sky and the celestial river Hep; thou didst make the waters and didst give life unto all that therein is. Thou hast knit together the mountains, thou hast made mankind and the beasts of the field to come into being, and hast made the heavens and the earth. The fiend Nak is overthrown, his arms are cut off. O thou Divine Youth, thou heir of everlastingness, self-begotten and self-born, One, Might, of myriad forms and aspects, Prince of An (i.e., On), Lord of Eternity, Everlasting Ruler, the Company of the Gods rejoice in thee. As thou risest thou growest greater: thy rays are upon all faces. Thou art unknowable, and no tongue can describe thy similitude; thou existest alone. Millions of years have passed over the world, I cannot tell the number of those through which thou hast passed. Thou journeyest through spaces [requiring] millions of years [to pass over] in one little moment of time, and then thou settest and dost make an end of the hours."

The subject matter of the above extract is treated at greater length in Chapter XV, which contains a long Hymn to Rā at his rising, or Amen-Rā, or Rā united to other solar gods, e.g., Horus and Khepera, and a short Hymn to Rā at his setting. In the latter the welcome which Rā receives from the dwellers in Amentt (i.e., the Hidden Place, like the Greek "Hades") is emphasized thus:—

"All the beautified dead (Aakhu) in the Tuat receive him in the horizon of Amentt. They shout praises of him in his form of Tem (i.e., the setting sun). Thou didst rise and put on strength, and thou settest, a living being, and thy glories are in Amentt. The gods of Amentt rejoice in thy beauties (or beneficence). The hidden ones worship thee, the aged ones bring thee offerings and protect thee. The Souls of Amentt cry out, and when they meet thy Majesty (Life, Strength, Health be to thee!) they shout 'Hail! Hail!' The lords of the mansions of the Tuat stretch out their hands to thee from their abodes, and they cry to thee, and they follow in thy bright train, and the hearts of the lords of the Tuat rejoice when thou sendest thy light into Amentt. Their eyes follow thee, they press forward to see thee, and their hearts rejoice at the sight of thy face. Thou hearkenest to the petitions of those who are in their tombs, thou dispellest their helplessness and drivest away evil from them. Thou givest breath to their nostrils. Thou art greatly feared, thy form is majestic, and very greatly art thou beloved by those who dwell in the Other World." page 35 The Introductory HYMN TO RĀ is followed by a HYMN TO OSIRIS, in which the deceased says:—

"Glory be to thee, O Osiris Un-Nefer, thou great god in Abtu (Abydos), King of Eternity, Lord of Everlastingness, God whose existence is millions of years, eldest son of Nut, begotten by Geb, the Ancestor-Chief, Lord of the Crowns of the South and the North, Lord of the High White Crown. Thou art the Governor of gods and of men and hast received the sceptre, the whip, and the rank of thy Divine Fathers. Let thy heart in Amentt be content, for thy son Horus is seated upon thy throne. Thou art Lord of Tetu (Busiris) and Governor of Abtu (Abydos). Thou makest fertile the Two Lands (i.e., all Egypt) by [thy] true word before the Lord to the Uttermost Limit.... Thy power is widespread, and great is the terror of thy name 'Osiris.' Thou endurest for all eternity in thy name of 'Un-Nefer' (i.e., Beneficent Being). Homage to thee, King of kings, Lord of lords, Governor of governors, who from the womb of the Sky-goddess hast ruled the World and the Under World. Thy limbs are as silver-gold, thy hand is blue like lapis-lazuli, and the space on either side of thee is of the colour of turquoise (or emerald). Thou god An of millions of years, thy body is all-pervading, O dweller in the Land of Holiness, thy face is beautiful ... The gods come before thee bowing low. They hold thee in fear. They withdraw and retreat when they see the awfulness of Rā upon thee; the [thought] of the conquests of thy Majesty is in their hearts. Life is with thee.

"Let me follow thy Majesty as when I was on earth, let my soul be summoned, and let it be found near the Lords of Truth. I have come to the City of God, the region that is eternally old, with my soul (ba), double (ka) and spirit-soul (aakhu), to be a dweller in this land. Its God is the Lord of Truth ... he giveth old age to him that worketh Truth, and honour to his followers, and at the last abundant equipment for the tomb, and burial in the Land of Holiness. I have come unto thee, my hands hold Truth, and there is no falsehood in my heart ... Thou hast set Truth before thee: I know on what thou livest. I have committed no sin in this land, and I have defrauded no man of his possessions." (Chapter CLXXXIII.)

Chapter I was recited by the priest who accompanied the mummy to the tomb and performed the burial ceremonies there. In it the priest (kher heb) assumed the character of Thoth and promised the deceased to do for him all that he had done for Osiris in days of old. Chapter IB gave the sāhu, or "spirit-body," power to enter the Tuat immediately after the burial of the material body, and delivered it from the Nine Worms that lived on the dead. Chapters II–IV are short spells written to give the deceased power to revisit the earth, to join the gods, and to travel about the sky. Chapters V and VI provided page 36for the performance of agricultural labours in the Other World. The text of Chapter VI was cut on figures made of stone, wood, etc. (ushabtiu), which were placed in the tomb, and when the deceased recited it these figures became alive and did everything he wished. The shabti figure, , took the place of the human funerary sacrifice which was common all over Egypt before the general adoption of the cult of Osiris under the XIIth dynasty. About 700 ushabtiu figures were found in the tomb of Seti I, and many of them are in the British Museum. Chapter VII is a spell to destroy the Great Serpent Āapep, , the Arch-enemy of Horus the Elder, Rā, Osiris, Horus son of Isis, and of every follower of Osiris. Chapters VIII and IX secured a passage for the deceased through the Tuat, and Chapters X and XI gave him power over the enemies he met there. Chapters XII and XIII gave him great freedom of movement in the Kingdom of Osiris. Chapter XIV is a prayer in which Osiris is entreated to put away any feeling of dissatisfaction that he may have for the deceased, who says, "Wash away my sins, Lord of Truth; destroy my transgressions, wickedness and iniquity, O God of Truth. May this god be at peace with me. Destroy the things that are obstacles between us. Give me peace, and remove all dissatisfaction from thy heart in respect of me."

The holy Ape-gods singing hymns of praise to Rā at sunrise.

The holy Ape-gods singing hymns of praise to Rā at sunrise.

The Jackal-gods and the Hawk-gods singing hymns of praise to Rā at sunset.

The Jackal-gods and the Hawk-gods singing hymns of praise to Rā at sunset.

The Sun-god Rā, in the form of the "Great Cat," sitting by the side of the Persea Tree of Anu, and cutting off the head of Āapep, the god of darkness and evil.

The Sun-god Rā, in the form of the "Great Cat," sitting by the side of the Persea Tree of Anu, and cutting off the head of Āapep, the god of darkness and evil.

Chapter XV has several forms, and each of them contains Hymns to Rā, which were sung daily in the morning and page 37evening; specimen paragraphs are given above (pp. 33, 34). Chapter XVI is only a vignette that illustrates Chapter XV, Chapter XVII is a very important chapter, for it contains statements of divine doctrine as understood by the priests of Heliopolis. The opening words are, "I am Tem in rising. I am the Only One. I came into being in Nu (the Sky). I am Rā, who rose in primeval time, ruler of what he had made." Following this comes the question, "Who is this?" and the answer is, "It is Rā who rose in the city of Hensu, in primeval time, crowned as king. He existed on the height of the Dweller in Khemenu (i.e., Thoth of Hermopolis) before the pillars that support the sky were made." Chapter XVIII contains the Addresses to Thoth, who is entreated to make the deceased to be declared innocent before the gods of Heliopolis, Busiris, Latopolis, Mendes, Abydos, etc. These addresses formed a very powerful spell which was used by Horus, and when he recited it four times all his enemies were overthrown and cut to pieces. Chapters XIX and XX are variant forms of Chapter XVIII. Chapters XXI–XXIII secured the help of Thoth in "opening the mouth" of the deceased, whereby he obtained the power to breathe and think and drink and eat. Thoth recited spells over the gods whilst Ptah untied the bandages and Shu forced open their mouths with an iron (?) knife. Chapter XXIV gave to the deceased a knowledge of the "words of power" (, hekau) which were used by the great god Tem-Khepera, and Chapter XXV restored to him his memory. Five chapters, XXVI–XXX, contain prayers and spells whereby the deceased page 38obtained power over his heart and gained absolute possession of it. The most popular prayer is that of Chapter XXXB (see above, p. 4) which, according to its rubric, was "found," i.e., edited, by Herutataf, the son of the great Cheops, about 3600 B.C. This prayer was still in use in the early years of the Christian Era. In the Papyrus of Nu it is associated with Chapter LXIV, and the earliest form of it was probably in existence under the Ist dynasty.

Chapters XXXI–XLII were written to deliver the deceased from the Great Crocodile Sui, and the Serpents Rerek and Seksek, and the Lynx with its deadly claws, and the Beetle Āpshait, and the terrible Merti snake-goddesses, and a group of three particularly venomous serpents, and Āapep a personification of Set the god of evil, and the Eater of the Ass, and a series of beings who lived by slaughtering the souls of the dead. In Chapter XLII every member of the deceased is put under the protection of, or identified with, a god or goddess, e.g., the hair with Nu, the face with Aten (i.e., the solar disk), the eyes with Hathor, and the deceased exclaims triumphantly, "There is no member of my body which is not the member of a god." Chapter XLIII. A spell to prevent the decapitation of the deceased, who assumes in it the character of Osiris the Lord of Eternity. Chapter XLIV. An ancient and mighty spell, the recital of which prevented the deceased from dying a second time. Chapters XLV and XLVI preserved the mummy of the deceased from decay, and Chapter XLVII prevented the removal of his seat or throne. Chapter L enabled the deceased to avoid the block of execution of the god Shesmu. Chapters LI–LIII provided the deceased with pure food and clean water from the table of the gods; he lived upon what they lived upon, and so became one with them. Chapters LIV–LXII gave the deceased power to obtain cool water from the Celestial Nile and the springs of waters of heaven, and being identified with Shu, the god of light and air, he was enabled to pass over all the earth at will. His life was that of the Egg of the "Great Cackler," and the goddess Sesheta built a house for him in the Celestial Anu, or Heliopolis.

The soul visiting the mummified body in the tomb. The bird-goddess at the head is Isis, and that at the feet is Nephthys.

The soul visiting the mummified body in the tomb. The bird-goddess at the head is Isis, and that at the feet is Nephthys.

The recital of Chapter LXIII enabled the deceased to avoid drinking boiling water in the Tuat. The water in some of its pools was cool and refreshing to those who were speakers of the page 39truth, but it turned into boiling water and scalded the wicked when they tried to drink of it. Chapter LXIV is an epitome of the whole Book of the Dead, and it formed a "great and divine protection" for the deceased. The text is of a mystical character and suggests that the deceased could, through its recital, either absorb the gods into his being, or become himself absorbed by them. Its rubric orders abstention from meats, fish and women on the part of those who were to recite it. Chapter LXV gave the deceased victory over all his enemies, and Chapters LXVI and LXVII gave him access to the Boat of Rā. Chapters LXVIII–LXX procured him complete freedom of motion in heaven and on earth. Chapter LXXI is a series of addresses to the Seven Spirits who punished the wicked in the Kingdom of Osiris, and Chapter LXXII aided the deceased to be reborn in the Mesqet Chamber. The Mesqet was originally a bull's skin in which the deceased was wrapped. Chapter LXXIII is the same as Chapter IX. Chapters LXXIV and LXXV secured a passage for the deceased in the Henu Boat of Seker the Death-god, and Chapter LXXVI brought to his help the praying mantis which guided him through the "bush" to the House of Osiris. By the recital of Chapters LXXVII–LXXXVIII, i.e., the "Chapters of Transformations," the deceased was enabled to assume at will the forms of (1) the Golden Hawk, (2) the Divine Hawk, (3) the Great Self-created God, (4) the Light-god or the Robe of Nu, (5) the Pure Lily, (6) the Son of Ptah, (7) the Benu Bird, (8) the Heron, (9) the Soul of Rā, (10) the Swallow, (11) the Sata or Earth-serpent, (12) the Crocodile. Chapter LXXXIX brought the soul (ba) page 40of the deceased to his body in the Tuat, and Chapter XC preserved him from mutilation and attacks of the god who "cut off heads and slit foreheads." Chapters XCI and XCII prevented the soul of the deceased from being shut in the tomb. Chapter XCIII is a spell very difficult to understand. Chapters XCIV and XCV provided the deceased with the books of Thoth and the power of this god, and enabled him to take his place as the scribe of Osiris. Chapters XCVI and XCVII also placed him under the protection of Thoth. The recital of Chapter XCVIII provided the deceased with a boat in which to sail over the northern heavens, and a ladder by which to ascend to heaven. Chapters XCIX–CIII gave him the use of the magical boat, the mystic name of each part of which he was obliged to know, and helped him to enter the Boat of Rā and to be with Hathor. The Bebait, or mantis, led him to the great gods (Chapter CIV), and the Uatch amulet from the neck of Rā provided his double (ka) and his heart-soul (ba) with offerings (Chapters CV, CVI). Chapters CVII–CIX made him favourably known to the spirits of the East and West, and the gods of the Mountain of Sunrise. In this region lived the terrible Serpent-god Ami-hem-f; he was 30 cubits (50 feet) long. In the East the deceased saw the Morning Star, and the Two Sycamores, from between which the Sun-god appeared daily, and found the entrance to the Sekhet Aaru or Elysian Fields. Chapter CX and its vignette of the Elysian Fields have already been described (see p. 31). Chapters CXI and CXII describe how Horus lost the sight of his eye temporarily through looking at Set under the form of a black pig, and Chapter CXIII refers to the legend of the drowning of Horus and the recovery of his body by Sebek the Crocodile-god. Chapter CXIV enabled the deceased to absorb the wisdom of Thoth and his Eight gods. Chapters CXV–CXXII made him lord of the Tuats of Memphis and Heliopolis, and supplied him with food, and Chapter CXXIII enabled him to identify himself with Thoth. Chapters CXXIV and CXXV, which treat of the Judgment, have already been described. Chapter CXXVI contains a prayer to the Four Holy Apes, Chapter CXXVII a hymn to the gods of the "Circles" in the Tuat, and Chapter CXXVIII a hymn to Osiris. Chapters CXXX and CXXXI secured for the deceased the use of the Boats of Sunrise and Sunset, and Chapter CXXXII enabled him to return to earth page 41and visit the house he had lived in. Chapters CXXXIII (or CXXXIX)–CXXXVI resemble in contents Chapter CXXXI. Chapter CXXXVII describes a series of magical ceremonies that were to be performed for the deceased daily in order to make him to become a "living soul for ever." The formulae are said to have been composed under the IVth dynasty. Chapter CXXXVIII refers to the ceremony of reconstituting Osiris, and Chapters CXL–CXLII deal with the setting up of twelve altars, and the making of offerings to all the gods and to the various forms of Osiris. Chapter CXLIII consists of a series of vignettes, in three of which solar boats are represented.

Chapters CXLIV and CXLVII deal with the Seven Great Halls (Ārit) of the Kingdom of Osiris. The gate of each Hall was guarded by a porter, a watchman, and a messenger; the first kept the door, the second looked out for the arrival of visitors, and the third took their names to Osiris. No one could enter a Hall without repeating the name of it, of the porter, of the watchman, and of the messenger. According to a late tradition the Gates of the Kingdom of Osiris were twenty-one in number (Chapters CXLV and CXLVI), and each had a magical name, and each was guarded by one or two gods, whose names had to be repeated by the deceased before he could pass. Chapter CXLVIII supplied the deceased with the names of the Seven Cows and their Bull on which the "gods" were supposed to feed. Chapters CXLIX and CL give the names of the Fourteen Aats, or districts, of the Kingdom of Osiris. Chapter *CLI-A and *CLI-B give a picture of the mummy chamber and the magical texts that were necessary for the protection of both the chamber and the mummy in it. Chapter CLII provided a house for the deceased in the Celestial Anu, and Chapter *CLIII-A and *CLIII-B enabled his soul to avoid capture in the net of the snarer of souls. Chapter CLIV is an address to Osiris in which the deceased says, "I shall not decay, nor rot, nor putrefy, nor become worms, nor see corruption. I shall have my being, I shall live, I shall flourish, I shall rise up in peace." Chapters CLV–CLXVII are spells which were engraved on the amulets , , , , , , etc., giving the deceased the protection of Rā, Osiris, Isis, Horus, and other gods. The remaining Chapters (CLXVIII–CXC) are of a miscellaneous character, and page 42few of them are found in more than one or two papyri of the Book of the Dead. A few contain hymns that are not older than the XVIIIth dynasty, and one is an extract from the text on the Pyramid of Unas (lines 379–399). The most interesting is, perhaps, Chapter CLXXV, which describes the Tuat as airless, waterless, and lightless. In this chapter the deceased is assured of immortality in the words, "Thou shalt live for millions of millions of years, a life of millions of years."

E. A. Wallis Budge.

Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, British Museum.

April 15, 1920.

page 42


The Trustees of the British Museum have published:—

1. Coloured facsimile of the Papyrus of Hunefer, XIXth dynasty, with hieroglyphic transcript and translation. 11 plates, large folio.

2. Coloured facsimile of the Papyrus of Anhai, XXIst dynasty, with hieroglyphic transcript and translation. 8 plates, large folio.

3. Collotype reproduction of the Papyrus of Queen Netchemet, XXIst dynasty, with hieroglyphic transcript and translation. 12 plates, large folio.

4. Coloured reproduction of the hieratic text of the Book of Breathings, with hieroglyphic transcript and translation. With 2 collotypes of the vignettes, large folio.

5. Hieroglyphic transcript of the Papyrus of Nu, with one collotype plate.

Nos. 1–5 are bound in one volume, price £2 10s.

6. Collotype reproduction of the Papyrus of Queen Nesi-ta-nebt-ashru, with full descriptions of the vignettes, translations, and introduction, containing several illustrations, and 116 plates of hieratic text. Large 4to. Price £2 10s.

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images from the Egyptian Book of the Dead