The Realms of the Egyptian Dead

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The Ancient East

No.

I

THE REALMS OF THE EGYPTIAN DEAD BY A.

WIEDEMANN

THE REALMS OF THE EGYPTIAN DEAD ACCORDING TO THE BELIEF OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS

BY A.

WIEDEMANN,

Ph.D.

AUTHOR OF "^EGYPTISCHE GESCHICHTE," "HERODOT3 ZWEITES BUCH," "DIE RELIGION DER ALTEN jEGYPTER," ETC.

TRANSLATED BY

J.

HUTCHISON

LONDON: DAVID NUTT 57-59 LONG ACRE 1902

1

L

CONTENTS FACE

Introduction

.

.

Destruction of Mankind

Death

.

7

.

ii

.

13

Confusion of Religious Ideas.

Realms of the Dead

Under the Earth.

(b)

In the Sky

Journey of the Sun

the Under-World

On Earth

.

.... ....

Osirian Doctrines

,

.

17

:

(a)

(f)

.

.

in

18

28 33 35

Dismemberment of the Corpse

36

Embalming

40

Offerings to the Dead

43

Journey of the "Osiris"

The Fields

.

5i

of the Blessed

54

Immortal Parts of the Man

.

Summary

,

.

,

.

57 61

THE REALMS OF THE EGYPTIAN DEAD In any attempt to form some concept of the world and human life, the question which has most keenly exercised both the peoples of antiquity and those of to-day is always the same whence are the universe and its inhabitants, and whither does it :

all

tend ?

In the following pages

we

shall con-

sider the ideas developed in the Nile Valley respecting the issue of all things, and especially concerning the death of man, and that other world to

which It

after death

must, in the

he hoped or feared to go. be noted that in Egyp-

first place,

no indications of the existence of any final destruction of the world have hitherto been found. Whether no such myth existed and men in the Nile Valley were unable to imagine that this best of all worlds should one day no longer be, or whether the absence of such indications is the result of chance cannot now be tian texts

myth predicting the

decided.

The

idea that

men must

logically

have

INTRODUCTION

8

conceived an end of the world having accepted a beginning, a creation, does not apply to the Egyp-

who

speculations disdained the claims of logic, accuracy and similar exactions of But though they did not conceive later times. tians,

in

their

the destruction of the whole world, they possessed myths which tell of attempts on the part of the

gods

— never

entirely successful

tions of the earth, or rather



to destroy por-

mankind.

their contents are concerned, these

As

far as

myths belong

widespread cycle of Deluge legends. First to be noted in this connection is a passage

to the

in a

of about 1200

hymn

B.C.

addressed to the

It deity embracing and ruling the whole world. " in the flood words alludes to a deluge [the Thy god's] rises to the heavens, and the roaring water :

of thy mouth is in the clouds. Thy jackals are on the mountains." That is to say, the jackals, which, according to an idea prevailing especially

New Kingdom, drew the Sun-god in his " The retreated to the mountains. have boat, water of the god Horus covers the great spaces of all lands the flood of waters covers all quarThe lands would ters of the heaven and the sea. be [even now] the dominion of the flood were in the

;

The waters move now they not under thy sway. that thou the appointest ; they cannot way upon thou ordainest [the path] that pass over what thou openest before them."

THE NILE According

9

to the text, this deluge

the trees and drove the

Sun-god

which covered

to the

mountains

came up from beneath,

as the Egyptians supposed similar to be the case with the Nile flood.

A

was probably

at the source of the Platonic

story dialogue "Timaeus," in which Egyptian authoriThere it is used as an ties are often quoted. to the flooding of the world and deny argument

the destruction of as Egypt it

was by

its

inhabitants

— so

far, at least,

concerned.

For, according to Plato, similar floods in other lands that towns is

perished, and only the herdsmen were saved ; in Egypt, however, neither then nor at any other

down from above upon the came up from below, and hence it was Egypt were preserved the memorials of

time did water flow fields

;

that in

it

ancient times.

In the valley of the Nile the whole conception of a flood no doubt arose from the frequent occurrence of fossil shells in the strips of desert at the

edge of the cultivated land and on the Egyptian The Greeks also observed them, and it

hills.

was on the

of their presence that Herodotus based his theory of the origin of Egypt. He profact

nounced the land gradual deposit of

to

be

mud

alluvial,

in an-

formed by the

arm of

the

sea.

This opinion is substantially correct, although the Greek historian greatly underestimated the time in which the process could have been com-

INTRODUCTION

io

pleted, allowing only

from ten to twenty thousand

years.

The words immediately preceding sage

in

adduced

the pasPlato alluded to above have often been

prove that the tradition of a world-

to

conflagration had a place in Egyptian mythology. But the passage in question by no means proves this. priest of the city of Sais, in Lower Egypt,

A

there represented as saying that, in consequence of the divergence at long intervals of the heavenly bodies that encircle the earth, all that is on earth is

destroyed by fire, but that the Nile protects the Egyptians by pouring forth its waters in flood.

is

According to this text, the destruction wrought by such a conflagration is denied as respects the Nile Valley.

No more

is

to

be made of certain

Egyptian writings which have been claimed as indicating the same myth. In them we read of a fire which threatened the god Horus, passages in

the son of

Isis,

and which

Isis

succeeded in ex-

This has been supposed tinguishing with water. to be a general conflagration, for the quenching of

which the goddess caused water to rise. But in this passage there is no mention of a burning world ; only of the burning of the place where



Horus was at the time probably the hut in the Delta where Isis hid him when she was seeking the body of Osiris, and where he was exposed to many dangers. The primitive means whereby

DESTRUCTION OF MAN

n

procured the water for the extinction of a world in flames were at least somewhat peculiarly Isis

inadequate for the purpose

;

an early version of

ingenuous passage is found in the Ebers papyrus (about 1800 B.C.). this

Thus, regarding the destruction of the world whether by water or by fire, there is nothing in Egyptian texts to throw light on such ideas in

We

other countries.

are

much more

in-

fully

formed concerning a tradition which relates to a divine attempt to exterminate the sinful race of

mankind.

This myth has been preserved

versions

in

Rameses

III.,

in

two

graves of Kings Seti I. and and in these forms dates therefore

the

from about 1400 to 1200 b.c. Several other references to it exist, showing that from the second

millennium Egypt.

b.c.

it

Whether

sible to say,

must have been well known it

existed earlier

no certain proofs of

it

this

is

in

impos-

having yet

been discovered. Like most Egyptian myths, this also is connected with the Sun-god Ra-Harmakhis, the first divine king of Egypt, whom the legends repre-

human. He grows old and weak men, and we read of him often as an old man from whose failing hands the reins of sent as entirely

like other

government are gradually

men

slipping.

Gods and

venture to resist him, trying to cast him from his throne or to push him more and more into the

DESTRUCTION OF MAN

12

background. The myth now under consideration " Ra is the god who begins with these words He was the king of gods and created himself. :

men.

Men

took counsel

together

against

his

majesty and said, Lo the god Ra is grown old his bones have changed into silver, his limbs into '

!

gold,

and his hair into

;

lapis-lazuli.'"

The Sun-god

heard these words and called together the other gods to consider what ought to be done to those

men who owed

their existence to the Eye, that is

and who now were lord and creator. The

to say, to the tears of the god,

rebelling

against

their

gods advised him to send out his Eye against the rebels in the form of the goddess Hathor-Sekhet that is to say, an incarnation of the sun in his



burning and scorching might.

This was done.

The goddess set forth to slay mankind. Several nights she waded in human blood from HeracleoMagna, in Middle Egypt, to Heliopolis, the most sacred city of the Nile Valley, where the gods were wont to meet in council. But mankind was not entirely exterminated, for the god soon He sent messenrepented him of his command. to fruits to which an fetch gers to Elephantine In intoxicating and narcotic effect was ascribed. Heliopolis these were pressed, and at the same

polis

time corn was crushed

for beer then the two were mixed and seven thousand jugs of beer made. During the night this beer was poured out over ;

DEATH

13

the fields which were covered with the blood of

men killed by Sekhet. "And the goddess Sekhet came in the morning she found the fields flooded, she rejoiced, her heart was light, she the

;

went about drunken and no longer heeded men." Mankind was saved and in memory of this a feast was instituted at which much beer was drunk in honour of Sekhet, a feast that was celeBut the god Ra brated up to the Greek period. was no longer willing to rule over ungrateful men. ;

When men knew

this

they repented

they took

;

bows and arrows and killed all who had rebelled Then Ra spoke: "Your sin is against the god. forgiven ; the killing [you have done on my behalf] atones for the killing [my foes plotted against In spite of this forgiveness, men so far failed of their aim that the old god held to his

me]."

resolve

to

go away to a better world, newly To earth he left as a substi-

created by himself. tute for his

lord

own sun-power

a

new young sun

as

and king.

These are the only indications

found in an impending or once threatened destruction of the world and of mankind. Much fuller in every respect is the material that has been preserved relating to the to be

Egyptian texts of the conception of

Egyptian conception of the end of the individual,

DEATH

i4



not only of the human individual which must but also of that of each first be considered



god and animal as conceived on similar lines. to the peculiar character of the It is owing remains in the Nile Valley that we are so well informed on this point. These relics relate almost exclusively to death, and are the spoils of tombs and of funerary temples. Moreover, the thoughts of the Egyptians dwelt

much and

which had no particular terror than for modern Orientals.

gladly on death,

for

them any more

To them

death was

end, but only an interruption of their existence. It was a violent interruption certainly, for to the ancient Egyptian death was not a

no

final

natural result of the wearing out of the body. To him each death was a kind of murder. The

body of man throughout life was regarded as a battlefield where good and evil spirits fought for If the man remained in health, the the mastery. former had the upper hand ; did he fall sick, the

had succeeded in gaining ascendency hence he must do his best to help the good spirits. This he did by wearing amulets to drive away the

latter

;

evil ones,

Even

or by repeating spells against them. caused by evil spirits these were

in diseases

the orthodox remedies

;

the medicines adminis-

same time only served tered at symptoms and owed much of their the

spells

repeated

during their

to

reduce

virtue

preparation.

to

The

HOSTILE SPIRITS; SPELLS

15

cure was not due to the medicines, but to the

conquest by spells and powerful magic symbols demon who had entered into the man and

of the

caused his suffering. With the departure of the the sickness ended.

demon The

strife in

and about the human body lasted

a longer or a shorter time according to the power of the spirits at strife. But experience had taught men that in the end the evil spirits always One of the countless a species of victory. male and female sicknesses, male and female

won

deaths, as the Egyptians expressed it, succeeded last in destroying the man's mortal frame.

at

But

this

death of the body was only an incident in

the struggle which lasted beyond the grave, and the existence of the immortal parts of the man

might be threatened by many dangers even as mortal frame had been exposed to risks

his

Hostile spirits could prepare during his lifetime. for him a second death, and hence the Egyptian strove eagerly to find means which would be

beyond the grave to protect from foes himself and his forefathers. Both in this world efficacious

and indeed the only hopemeasure precautionary against any threatened was the knowledge of the appropriate danger,

and the next, the

best,

ful

Egyptian religious literature, therefore, spell. consists to a large extent of collections of such they were sculptured on the walls of the spells :

i

SPELLS

6

grave or on the sides of the sarcophagus, or written on papyrus rolls and placed with the

dead

in the

tomb.

Probably that

is

so comparatively

also the reason

little

to

why

there is

be learned from these

religious texts regarding the actual conditions of existence in the world to come. They tell us

exactly what name a man had to give when he arrived at one of the gates of eternity, exactly what the bench, helm, and sails of the death-ship

were called the exact forms of the many names and titles of Osiris, in what words the demons must be greeted who dwelt in the various areas but they give no of this mysterious kingdom ;

;

complete picture of the appearance of that world. certainly possible to translate the individual formulae but often impossible to understand them, as they refer to myths unknown to us, and this in It is

a manner so far from clear that the myths cannot be reconstructed from the formulae. Here, for example, is a spell against snakes of about 300OB.C. " The snake curls round the calf the snake curls ; :

round the calf, oh forth from the earth

!

forth from thee.

down, draw back. water, the snake

hippopotamus that earnest Thou devouredst what came

Snake, as thou descendest,

The god Henpesetet is

is in

lie

the

overthrown, thou seest the

god Ra." What is meant by the calf, the hippopotamus and the snake, and in connection with

INCOHERENT BELIEFS what incident they come together,

is

\)

not told.

The

sentences give us words, but the meaning evades us. It is the same with countless other formulae of a similar kind, and this

with the

many

clerical

fact, together blunders committed by the

early copyists in putting together their papyri, shows that even to them the spells were often

not entirely comprehensible. To the difficulty caused

by insufficiency of material in any restoration of the conception of a future life in the Nile Valley we must add a second

:

the entire absence of systematic thought

that characterised the Egyptians

and which per-

mitted them to write and to believe the most contradictory doctrines at one

and the same time.

They never made any attempt to put their

own

religion into systematic form, to reject what was contradictory to the main dogmas and to make

these consistent with one another.

On

the other

and, they faithfully retained all that their ancestors had once believed, together with all that later generations had added, untroubled by the various modes of thought that existed side by

side

and mingled together.

In this religious conall the various

glomerate the people received first local cults which, arising from a

had

common

basis,

and village temples gradually attained an independent and often very peculiar There remained also the ancient development. in different city

B

1

REALMS OF THE DEAD

8

faiths in their original

forms as once held

among

the various tribes from which the Egyptian people had sprung in primitive times, so that primitive Semitic, primitive Lybian and

ceptions

themselves

present

many side

other con-

by

side

in

Nor is this all. Within bewildering variety. historic times many systems of religious thought were borrowed from neighbouring nations and added without modification to the Egyptian stock, so that the Semitic Baal and Astarte, together with deities, found equally accredited native gods of Egypt. the places alongside It was long believed that this confusion of

their

companion

religious ideas

was

to

be found

in later texts only.

the pyramids of the Since the inscriptions Fifth and Sixth Dynasties have come to light we know that this chaos is as old as any literary in

Egyptian tradition. No doubt it must have come about gradually, but the period of its development lies beyond our knowledge of the Egyptian people.

Hence

it

seems useless

hypotheses regarding

its

to indulge in course which may be

by any stroke of a spade, any new In the present state of our of a text. discovery will confine himself student cautious knowledge a shattered

examining their changes during Egyptian history and inquiring The question of their origin into their meaning. and of their age is better left on one side.

to

stating the separate dogmas,

COURSE OF THE SUN-GOD

19

Among the various Egyptian conceptions of the other world one of the most important and most widely diffused is connected with the sun and its apparent course during the twenty-four hours. travelling of the star of day was accom-

The

plished, in the opinion of the Egyptian, in exactly the same way as his own when he undertook a

—namely, by boat.

journey through his native land But the Sun-god travelled on a

celestial

ocean or

a celestial Nile, flowing in a fairly straight course celestial land, as the earthly river On this river the sun-boat flows through Egypt. the floated with stream, so that it needed usually

through the

a rudder only

Only

;

oars and sails are seldom named.

in exceptional cases is there

any mention of

a towing of the sun-boat, and then it This recalls the done by jackals.

is

generally

manner

in

which boats were taken up stream in the Nile Valley, but the human force used here below

was replaced

in celestial regions by that of creaIn the partaking of the divine nature. middle of the sun-boat there is a shrine-like

tures

cabin, in which the Sun-god, represented by day as a hawk-headed man, stands or sits, and on the boat there is generally a helmsman, besides

various gods forming the court of the king of According to the most numerous and

heaven.

the most ancient representations, the god uses for his journey during the daytime two boats, one

REALMS OF THE DEAD

20 for the

changed

morning, another for the afternoon, and In later times the boats at noon.

journey was less simple. At the end of each hour the god disembarked and embarked again in another boat.

The journey was supposed

to

occupy twelve hours ; that is to say, the time from sunrise to sunset, divided into twelve equal parts.

From

this

it

may

be concluded that for

the Egyptian an hour was not a fixed space of Its length varied with the time as it is with us. season, being longest at midsummer, shortest at The length of the hours of the night midwinter.

The time from sunset to varied correspondingly. sunrise was divided into twelve equal parts, and the variation in their length was, of course, the reverse of the variation in the hours of the day. Each hour was in charge of a special goddess,

who throughout

its

duration

accompanied the Sun-god on

watch and

kept that

part

of

his

voyage.

The day journey ended

in the

west

:

then began

the night journey. The sun-boat floated back to sunrise in the east on a stream flowing through

kingdom of night. This journey of the Sungod seemed to the Egyptian symbolic of the life of man. The Sun-god is born in the morning, the

ages in the course of the day, sinks in the evening as an old man into darkness to rise in the morning once more to new life. According to the general

THE UNDER-WORLD

21

idea the birth and death of the

Sun-god took Elsewhere we have a second con-

place daily. ception, according to

which the process was comThe god awakes with the spring sun to new life, and he dies with Here the condition of death the sun of winter. involved in the course of twenty-four hours is absent, or is reduced to a very short space of pleted in the course of a year.

time. texts,

Judging from occasional allusions in the there seem also to have been other concep-

tions according to

was much five

which the

of the Sun-god hundred and sixty-

life

longer, lasting three

years or more, and which probably referred But such indications periods.

to chronological

are by no means clear, and it is certain that these ideas never attained any wide popularity.

An

exhaustive description of the night journey is first found in texts of the New

of the Sun-god

Kingdom,

i.e.,

after

in older inscriptions

1700 and

b.c.

;

yet

many

passages

pictorial representations,

specially on coffins of the Middle Kingdom, indicate that the doctrine existed much earlier,

though

it

until the

does not seem to have taken fixed form

second millennium.

Book of Am-Duat





" i.e.,

Of

We that

have which

it

in the

is in

the

Under-world" and in the Book of the Gates, each of which describes independently the topography of

These texts are found in papyri the under-world. and on sarcophagi, and more or less fully in the

REALMS OF THE DEAD

22

T