The Book of the Dead was a fundamental work of ancient Egyptian culture. It was a very long text: some specimens preserved in papyrus scrolls reach forty meters.
It was also an expensive product, for which you could pay a silver debit, half of a farmer’s annual pay. But, for the Egyptians, the value of this text was incalculable, since its formulas allowed the deceased to reach the Hereafter.
Such formulas were inscribed on papyrus scrolls, on the linen bandages of the mummies, the walls of the tombs, the sarcophagus and the items of the funeral grave goods of the deceased.
Without them, the deceased person could suffer a second death that would mean his total annihilation.
It was the priest who recited the first formulas of the Book during the funeral ceremony, when the sarcophagus was transferred to the tomb.
Once there, rituals were practiced to revitalize the senses, which magically opened the eyes, ears, nose and mouth of the deceased, who, once recovered the senses, he began his journey through the Hereafter.
For the ancient Egyptians this was a moment of hope, as expressed in formula nine of the Book of the dead, which the Egyptians called the Book for the day’s departure:
“I have opened the ways that are in heaven and on earth, because I am the beloved of my father Osiris. I am noble, I am a spirit, I am well equipped. Oh, all the gods and all the spirits, prepare a way for me! “
The Egyptians believed that the deceased started an underground journey from west to east, like Ra, the sun, which after setting returns to his starting point.
During this journey, the deceased, riding in Ra‘s boat, would face dangerous beings who would try to prevent his departure from the east and his rebirth.
The worst of them was Apophis, a serpent trying to impede the advance of the solar boat in order to break the Maat, justice and the cosmic order.
Apophis, every day, threatened Ra during his underground journey. A formula from the Egyptian Book of the Dead refers to the encounter with the fearsome reptile:
“May you be submerged in the Lake of the priest, in the place established for your destruction. […] Go back! Your poison is destroyed!”.
The deceased could acquire the properties of various divinities and fight against enemies, as a section from formula 179 shows:
” I have been granted the great Red Crown and I go out against my enemy to capture him, because I have power over him. […]”
The Judgment of the Soul
Finally, the deceased reached a labyrinth, protected by a series of twenty-one doors, although another section in the Book says there are seven.
Before each of them, the deceased had to pronounce a certain text, mentioning the name of the door, the guardian and the town crier. On each occasion, the door told him: “Come in, because you are pure.”
Once the maze was over, the deceased arrived at the Truth Room so that a court made up of 42 judges and chaired by Osiris would evaluate his life.
Before the gods he made the “negative confession”, in which he cited all the bad actions that he had not committed, as stated in formula 125:
“I know you, Lords of Truth and Justice! I bring you the Just and I have put an end to evil. I have not harmed men. I have not oppressed my blood relatives. I have not been a liar instead of being truthful. I have not learned of treason. I have not been evil. As Head of Men, I have not made anyone work more every day than required. “
After the confession, the culminating moment of the trial came, the one in which the heart of the deceased was weighed.
On an weighing plate, held by Anubis, the jackal god of mummification, was placed an ostrich feather, Maat‘s feather, which symbolized justice; The heart was placed on the other plate, symbolizing the actions carried out by each person.
The deceased was saved when the feather and the heart were in balance.
So much importance was attributed to the weighing of the heart that the Egyptians made a specific amulet, the heart scarab, which, as its name indicates, was placed on the heart of the deceased during the mummification process.
On the back of the amulet, formula 30 of the Book was always inscribed so that, at the time of the final judgment, the heart would not betray the deceased.
“Oh, my heart of [my] mother! Oh, my heart for which I exist on earth! Don’t rise up against me as a witness! Don’t stand against me among the Judges! Don’t stand against me in front of the gods! Don’t be uncompromising against me in front of the great god Lord of the West! “
Finally, the gods proclaimed their verdict. Those whose hearts had weighed too much in the balance were considered impure and condemned to all kinds of punishments: they suffered perpetual hunger and thirst, were burned when crossing a lake or cooked in a cauldron, a wild beast devoured them …
The justified, in Instead, they had reason to congratulate themselves. “Although I lying on earth, I am not dead in the West because I am a glorified Spirit for all eternity,” says a formula from the Book of the Dead. Before them opened the paradise of the ancient Egyptians.
Work in the Hereafter
The afterlife world in which the virtuous deceased would live was known as Sekhet-Aaru.
The ancient Egyptians imagined it as a place very similar to Egypt, with rivers, mountains, roads, caves and very fertile fields, where barley grew up to five cubits in height.
The deceased, however, had to worry about obtaining his livelihood. Even being a “glorified”, according to a formula of the Book of the dead, he had to “plow and reap, eat and drink, and do all the things that are done on earth.”
That yes, for this he could count on the help of an army of servants, represented in characteristic statues, the ushabti s, always present in the funeral trousseau and that by power of magic they became servants.
Each figurine had its arms crossed and held farm implements in its hands.
At the bottom was inscribed a formula from the Book of the Dead: “Formula for ushabti s to do work in the Necropolis. Osiris [name of the deceased] justified has to say: Oh ushabti! Osiris [name of the deceased] justified to carry out any work to be carried out in the Necropolis … Say “I am here” when you are called “.
Enjoy Eternal life
One last concern of the deceased was to keep his body intact. The mummification allowed it to be preserved, but the help of magic was not superfluous.
That is why it was common for the bandages that wrapped the mummy to have the formula 154 of the Book inscribed to prevent decomposition:
“I come to embalm those organs of mine. This body of mine does not decompose. I am intact as my father Osiris-Khepri, the one whose body does not decompose. Come, take possession of [my] breath, lord of the breath, supreme among his Similar. Make me stable, form me, you, Lord of the sarcophagus. Grant that I can walk for eternity as you do when you are with your father Atum, whose body is never corrupted, he who knows no destruction. “