The Egyptian Book Of The Dead

"The Spells for Coming Forth by Day" is the official term for the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It is probably the most famous funerary text from Egypt, with over 200 spells (or chapters) to guide the dead through the underworld.

Egyptian Book of the Dead

The meaning of the official term symbolizes the belief that the dead took a whole night to travel through the underworld, and then emerge in the morning to be reborn in the afterlife.

The Egyptian afterlife was closely tied with the solar cycle of the Sun God Ra.

The Book of the Dead was produced during the beginning of the New Kingdom.

It is actually a compilation of spells from older funerary texts, the Coffin Texts and the Pyramid Texts, with some new additions.

The earlier funerary texts were mainly words, but this text was accompanied with illustrations known as vignettes.

The book actually evolved much over time with different versions appearing with additions, subtractions and updates. It remained in use until the Roman period.

Tomb Walls And Mummy Shrouds

Spells from the Egyptian Book of the Dead were inscribed in the resting place of the deceased. They would be carved or painted on:

  • Coffins.
  • Papyrus and leather rolls.
  • Bandages.
  • Mummy shrouds.
  • Walls of tombs.

Due to the fact that versions differed from tomb to tomb and from period to period, the book was not officially organized or standardized.

In fact, the book itself specified that different parts of it were to be written out in different areas or on different objects, and so it was never completely written out in one specific place.

However it was up to scribes and artists to produce these books in funerary workshops. The main medium for production of the books was papyrus (which was quite expensive).

And as with many other funerary practices, only people who could afford it could get the Book of the Dead as a tool for crossing into the afterlife.

Egyptian Magic Spells

Some of the spells had to be read aloud by priests and embalmers during the mummification process. Some spells were supposed to be read aloud by the deceased as well. These spells would be placed close to the mummy so that its Ka (life force) could read it as soon as it left the body.

Some spells had to be written out on different objects. There were spells to give the deceased servants to do all the work in the afterlife (Egyptians believed the afterlife to be a continuation of normal life), such as farming. These were written on the Shawabti figures which would turn into magical workers.

Some spells were written out on heart scarabs to be placed over the heart of the mummy. These spells would prevent the heart from confessing the bad deeds committed by the deceased to the God Osiris while waiting for judgment.

Whatever the case, all the spells in the Egyptian Book of the Dead had one intention: to help the deceased go through judgment and live an eternal afterlife in a beautiful place... the Egyptian Field of Reeds - Aaru.

I Highly recommend you read it, there are some excellent translations as well as some with full illustrations.

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