, pub-5063766797865882, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Mortuary Literature in Ancient Egypt ~ Ancient Egypt Facts

September 15, 2013

Mortuary Literature in Ancient Egypt

Mortuary Literature
In most of the royal tombs from the entrance doorway to the burial chamber, the walls from floor to ceiling were covered with sacred texts and representations from the mortuary literature known as the Book of the Dead. This had been accumulated over thousands of years and included hymns, prayers and magical utterances, as well as ascension texts and resurrection texts. The corridors represented the different stages of the journey of the deceased to the afterlife.
Literature in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians had a deeply rooted concept of life after death. They saw the physical body as a vehicle for certain immortal aspects of man that continued after his death. One of these was known as the ka (symbolised as a pair of upraised arms), which was a sort of guardian spirit that was born at the same time as man, and continued to live in the vicinity of his tomb after his death. Another immortal aspect was the ba or soul, symbolised as a bird with a human head which came into existence with the passing of the mortal body. All the mortuary literature in ancient Egypt listed provisions of food and offerings to nourish the ka and prayers for the release of the ba.

Literature in Ancient Egypt
The pharaoh was regarded as ‘Son of the Sun-god’. This led to the belief that at his death he would join, or be absorbed by, the sun when it set on the western horizon. He would travel through the twelve regions of the underworld (which correspond to the twelve hours of night) in the solar barge. Sometimes the vessel would be piloted by the wolf-jackal of Abydos, who steered it through the underworld, or along the horizon. Then, just as the sun would rise again in the eastern sky, so, too, would the pharaoh be reborn.

In the early corridors of the tomb there were selections from ‘The Praises of Ra’, often with the Sun-god depicted in many different forms. This was followed by the ‘Book of the Portals’, which was an hour-by-hour division of the underworld, each separated by a massive gate guarded by gigantic serpents. With the correct password, however, and the necessary protection from guardian deities and sacred charms, the deceased would successfully pass from one hour to another. The banks of the river would usually throng with spirits and demons of a friendly nature to ward off the many enemies of the Sun-god, whose purpose was to hinder the journey of the solar barge.

The mortuary texts known as ‘The sun’s journey in the Underworld’ revealed a land where ferocious, dragon-like creatures, serpents and crocodiles lurked. Among the deadly foes of the deceased, some would deprive him of his mortuary food and drink, dry up his breath, or cause him to breathe fire. They could rob him of his organs and, worse, his very name, which would (deprive him of his identity forever.

Literature in Ancient Egypt
In the deepest chambers of the tomb monsters and spirits can often be seen in rows. To each the deceased addressed an appropriate speech. The priests ingeniously devised a choice of Two Ways, so that if the deceased deviated from the correct path, there were charms to save him from the ‘Place of the Execution by the Gods’, to prevent him being overpowered by the forces of evil, to prevent him from becoming ‘The blazing Eye of Horus’, and to prevent him from walking with his head downwards! The list was endless. There were safeguards for every stage of the journey, even a special scarab over the heart, to quieten its beat in the awesome presence of Osiris, Lord of the Underworld.


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