21 April 2018
The Beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians
There has always been curiosity about the Ancient Egyptians. This curiosity mainly surrounds the beliefs. From what the preparations of death were to the understanding of what would happen after. The Ancient Egyptian spent a large amount of time preparing for life after death. The life of the Egyptians was centered around religion and what would face them in the afterlife.
To sum up the beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians, it consisted of the belief that they would freely be able to walk the same earth and that the use of rituals from the book of the dead would help to do so. The Egyptians once believed in an afterlife of luxury, similar to their life alive, but that in death, it would be more ideal. (Kamrin 10) A large part of the religion focused on preparing for the afterlife. (Carnegie 37-67) The Egyptian leaders at the time were highly praised and considered as godly beings, serving as the earthly version of Horus, an Egyptian god; pictured as reigning over the land. Many Ancient Egyptians carry the belief that their life before death is the first step of death. They spend much of their life preparing for death. It is said that he eventually passed his legacy upon one of the Egyptians and over time, it has passed from person to person, the right to rule over the Egyptian people. (Kamrin 10) The gods were believed to be more centered around protecting humanity and had produced Egypt as a safe haven for the humans. (Carnagie 37-67) Typically, only the higher class was believed to have all of these precautions, because they had the money for it. Tombs would be filled with the personal items and possibly even their pets. (Johnson C31) They focused on making arrangements, in what they believed to be their short life, for an eternity in afterlife of what would be viewed as heaven. (Shaw 62) It is believed that the state of one’s afterlife will depend on what they did in life before death. (Robinson 632)
The beliefs consisted of three different types of souls. These three were the “ba”, “akh”, and “ka”. The ba was the soul that was said to exit the body and the akh would stay within the body. The ka would replicate the body, traveling to what they believed was hell to face a reckoning. While the souls are undergoing this process, the body must remain unharmed, or it could send the ka to face an everlasting doom. (Carnagie 37-67) It is believed that the ba, one of the three souls of the body, is best to travel in the day and go back to rest at night. The belief is that the soul leaves at night, from the tomb and “lives” beside the Nile in those hours of freedom. By this, I mean that the soul continues to enjoy whatever satisfactions were gained from the living world, things that they did in their previous life. (Robinson 632) Once the soul had reached the afterlife, it would have the ability to return to its tomb and use any of the objects that had been placed inside. (Kate R7) Once a soul has reached its final phase, the ability to live the luxurious afterlife desired during the life was finally given. (Taylor R7)
Many Egyptians feared the trials waiting for them in the afterlife. Books were written, instructing them on how to pass these trials. (Carnagie 37-67) Trials were believed to await the Egyptians once they entered the afterlife. The greatest of the trials, known as the “Judgement of the Dead” was started by the soul acknowledging its sins and asking for forgiveness. The god known as “Anubis” would take the soul to the “Hall of Maat”. In here, the heart of the soul is put on a scale, where it is “weighed on a scale against the feather of truth, a symbol of the goddess Maat.” If the heart passes the test, moving up on the scale, remaining lighter, rather than down, the soul has the ability to move on to the afterlife. If moving down on the scale, “the goddess Ammut, Devourer of the Dead” takes in the soul “destroying the soul forever.” (Carnagie 37-67) The Ancient Egyptians relied on a text known as “The Book of the Dead”, a book of rituals to help them move on through the afterlife. The book holds the knowledge of what they would face when they reach the other side. The afterlife was wissioned as a forever vacation. (Gardiner 56) An The ancient text “collected up to 200 spells” which were of the purpose of protecting the body.. These spells were “Inscribed on stone sarcophagi, wooden coffins, and stone amulets” as a means of protection. (Robinson 632) In the fact that each part of an Egyptians’s soul was important, rituals would be performed, in the belief that they would keep the soul safe as it journeyed on into the final stage of the afterlife, with danger at every turn. (Gardiner 56) The trip to the afterlife was dangerous, so the book, at least in the minds of the Ancient Egyptians, was seen as a necessity. Each book remained a bit different, original to each user, but was still seen as a big tool. (Gardiner 56)
The daunting process of mummification consisted of many specific practices in order to prepare the soul for its next life.
This process “started around 2,500 BC”, taking place for a long period of time. The process was made with the belief that the soul must be protected, or it does not have the ability to move on. The soul must reside in the original form or a form similar or it will perish. (Dumatt 7) “Mummy’s the word: “Mummy” comes from mumiya, a Persian word meaning “pitch,” a thick, black substance.” The material used in the process eventually turns to a dark color, giving the “Mummy” its name. (Dumatt 7) The process of mummification was a long-practiced process, perfected more and more over time. (Dumatt 7) The point of the process of mummification was to make sure the body would forever be preserved. All moisture was taken from the body, which would then be coated in a special fabric. The process of removing the moisture was one of the longest and the main factor that played a part in this was “removing most of the internal organs.” (Dumatt 7) They had the belief that if their body underwent the process of mummification, there soul would remain, living on even in death. The process of mummifying the bodies would kill any unwanted “bacteria” “so microorganisms could’t grow”. (Walters 8) When a ruler has passed on to the afterlife, the body would undergo the process. The process of preserving the body would remain successful as long as the tomb remained unharmed. It was a process that required a large sum of money and a large amount of time. (Taylor R7)
The body would be conserved by the process of mummification, protecting the ka during the time of the three souls leaving the body. Mummification, for a duration of time, was meant specifically for those of royal families, but eventually, it was opened to people who had the money to afford it. Mummification was quite a long process, lasting approximately two months. (Carnagie 37-67) Specific practices were taken while preserving the body, believing that they would help the body. These practices were important to take before and after the soul had begun its journey. If the mummified form that the soul stays in remains as it did while living, it in to the knowledge of the Egyptians, that the soul will easily be able to move on through the afterlife. (Dumatt 7) It has been discovered that the most precautions and care would be taken for the souls of the Ancient Egyptians of the higher classes. They would have the largest “tombs” with anything one could imagine/want placed inside.. The bodies of the higher classes would be the best preserved as well. (Dumatt 7)
The mummification process takes an extreme length of time. Removing moisture was the first step, including the removal of the organs, taking approximately over a month. Then it would be dried with a large sum of salt and finally it would be wrapped in cloth. (Dumatt 7) Mummification consisted of removing moisture from the body, in some cases, even organs may have been separated, and covering the body in cloth. In total, this took up to approximately two months. It was believed that while this process was taking place, in order to keep the soul of the leader safe, the Egyptians performing the process would also perform specific practices. After the process had been completed, the body is to be moved to the pyramid, where it will have an eternal rest. (Kamrin 10) The people to take on the process of mummifying bodies were to have a high religious status. The person in charge of the operation was the “priest, wearing a mask that symbolized Anubis, the god of embalming.” The people taking on the process would remove a “dead person’s lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines. They left the heart in place and threw away the brains.” (Dumatt 7)
Mummified bodies, if the process had been done correctly, were to be preserved for a long time. Along with humans, the Ancient Egyptians preserved the bodies of animals as well. (Walters 8) Animals would undergo the process of mummification as both pets and food for the soul of the human in the afterlife. It was also believed that the a part of the souls of certain gods were also a part of the animals, having them appear as holy beings. (Walters 8)
Tombs were the resting place of the Ancient Egyptians; a place where the souls had the ability to once again walk the same earth.
Pyramids, the resting place of specific individuals, contain a large amount of knowledge regarding the Egyptian beliefs of the afterlife. Egyptians, typically the higher class of people, worked a large amount of their life working to get ready for the afterlife. (Glynn 749) The process of creating the pyramid and choosing its features, from the tiniest to the biggest, starts immediately after the Egyptian had taken on their new spot as ruler. (Kamrin 10) The Egyptians spent much of their life preparing for death, including collecting objects that they believed would be available to the for use in the afterlife. These items ranger anywhere from food to personal valuables. Since the tomb was acting as their everlasting home, their coffin was built, replicating a bed. For the objects, people of higher classes would order craftsman to create the objects and store them in their shops. (Shaw 62)
“These graves were mastaba, or bench graves” – these tombs consisted of several rooms, where valuables would be placed. These rooms were placed above the room holding the body. The first room, a “chapel”, decorated with hieroglyphs and is a spot where a fraction of the valuables would be placed. (Taylor R7) The tomb then leads to an area consisting of three spaces. In here, objects reflecting the existence of the Ancient Egyptians and how they acted would be placed. These objects would be available to the use of the soul once they had passed over. (Taylor R7)
The tomb would then lead to the final destination, the resting place of the body. The parts of the body that had been extracted while preserving it would also be preserved and placed in the room separate from the body. (Taylor R7) After being mummified, the body would be placed into its final resting place, the “tomb”. These “tombs” could be found “underground” or “inside pyramids”. (Dumatt 7)
Within the pyramid “quantities of food, drink, furniture, clothes, and jewelry” are placed, waiting for the soul great leader to visit once they have reached the other side. The tomb is sealed shut in the hopes that nobody will again enter. There were passages made from the tomb, facing the northern stars and in the opposite direction, the constellation, known as Orion. (Kamrin 10) “Buried in the tombs with different mummies were jewelry, statues, furniture, toys, wigs, makeup, perfume, amulets, game boards, papyrus scrolls, weapons, hunting gear, medicine, and food such as roast duck, leg of lamb, bread, cake, fruit, and wine.” (Dumatt 7) Animals, most likely pets, were mummified and put alongside their owner. This was due to the belief that the would once again join each other in the afterlife. Other animals, besides pets, were mummified and placed inside the tomb as well, in the hopes that they would act as “offerings to gods or goddesses” in the afterlife. It was believed that part of a god’s spirit would exist as a part of the animal’s. (More on Mummies T3)
Death played a huge part in Ancient ´Egypt´s economy.¨ Businesses focused on producing any type of product. meant for the afterlife, most likely prospered. This was especially significant for the coffin industry. These ´beds´ ranged in many styles, attracting people from both the higher and lower classes. (Shaw 62) The coffin serves the purpose of a bed in the afterlife, but mainly as a place for the body to lay for eternity. The decorations added to a coffin continued to expand in variations, one being , ´spells, known as Coffin Texts¨ which, ´were painted inside and believed to help the deceased during his or her journey through the afterlife.´ Later on in time, the coffin was developed to fit the form of the body. This was related to the Egyptian god known as Osiris.” The developments of the coffins, over time, reflected on religion. (Shaw 62)
To conclude, while the civilization of the Ancient Egyptians is quite amazing, it is their beliefs that truly spark an interest. While the beliefs can easily be broken down, it is the journey of the soul that was the main worry. Due to this, that is why the Book of the Dead was used. The process of mummification was also a main factor in making this journey successful and preparing a place for the soul to return to. The soul would finally return, having access to the tomb and a life of luxury.