Friday, November 12, 2010

The Book of the Dead

If you have a couple of hours to spare and use the audio guide, The Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum is well worth a visit. A set of spells was used by Egyptians from around 2400BC right up until around 500BC to help them to navigate the journey after death, through the obstacles within the underworld until they could find eternal life in the Field of Reeds where a beautiful house, garden and soul mate awaited them in the land of the gods. When the body was mummified it was buried in the tomb with a papyrus setting out the spells. The eyes and mouth of the corpse were opened so that it would be able to read the instructions and chant the incantations (although how it could do this through the wrappings is unclear to me). The heart was removed before mummification and placed in a separate jar in the tomb.

Once the body had got past the monsters on the road and in the waters of the journey through the underworld it came at last to Anubis, the jackal-headed god. Anubis took the heart and balanced it on the scales against an ostrich feather. If the heart was good and light, the body could have eternal life. If not, the heart would be eaten by a horrible monster with the head of a crocodile and the body of a lion. The Egyptians were worried that their hearts may contradict the good account they wanted to give of themselves at the time of judgement and so there were also spells to keep their hearts quiet after they'd left the body.


Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

I read about this in the Sunday papers and know it would fascinate me. I would spend hours scrutinising all the diagrams in minute detail

7:45 pm  
Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, it sounds very interesting.

10:11 pm  

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