Essay, Research Paper: Egyptian Religions


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No other country- not even China or India had such a long history as Ancient
Egypt. For nearly, 3,000 years before the birth of Jesus, the Egyptians had
already a high developed civilization. The Egyptians lived in an orderly
government; they built great stone structures; most of important of all they
established an acquired religion. For the Egyptians there was no break between
their religious beliefs and their daily life. Even their culture would all lie
at the bottom compared to their religious beliefs. For an example, Egyptian art
was never reflected as a representation; however, it was a sense of symbolic
pictures that spoke of the life of the gods and the hope of eternity to come.
This desire for the renewal of life, and the creative urge to ensure it by
ritual and symbolism existed in Egypt from the earliest times of the Neolithic
Era. Archaeologist were able to uncover clay figurines of Osiris laced with
sprouting corn. As the corn grew the model would open, as an image of life-in-
death. Archaeologist were also able to find that their people also liked to keep
the dead close to them. The Egyptians soon came to believe deeply that the good
administration of the dead, just like the management of the Nile’s water could
lead to an everlasting life. Many think of the Ancient Egyptians as a morbid,
death-obsessed people. We think of this because all of what we have uncovered is
mummies, tombs, and graves. However, we know more about the Egyptians in death
than what we know about their lives. Since, the earliest times the Egyptians
were very passionately concerned with the continued existence of their loved
ones and their souls. The idea that Osiris had passes through death and risen
into a new life was deeply rooted in the Egyptian consciousness that Osiris had
to struggle against the forces of evil. So did the human soul now following him
to gain eternity. By 2,500 BCE, helpful instructions, known as the pyramid texts
were carved or painted on tomb walls to help the soul act in the various trials
of it journey in the Netherworld (also referred to as the Under World). A
thousand years later, in the New Kingdom, these instructions had been formalized
into The Coming into Day, or The Egyptian Book of the Dead. This magical text
for the underworld journey was a set of spells, incantations, and mummification
techniques designed to help the dead person resurrect into a glorious afterlife
in “heaven, “ or “The Hall of the Two Truths.” These mystical texts are
from the New Kingdom. The similar ones that were found in the pyramids from the
Old Kingdom, and the coffins were from the Middle Kingdom. One can imagine these
text by thinking about how church rituals are run. One goes to church, and the
rituals are holy texts that come from a book known as the bible or genesis. In
Ancient Egypt, these burial rituals are not read from a book. At first, they are
read directly off of the wall in inner chambers of a pyramid; later they were
read directly off sides of the coffins. The Coming into Day, which was from the
New Kingdom, was read off of papyrus sheets, much as religious rituals are today
as they are read out of books. The Book of the Dead was to be relatively cheap
to purchase. As an Egyptian that had more riches in the New Kingdom, one would
be able to buy a copy that would have blanks where the names go. A scribe would
be hired to insert the name in all those blank spots. In the text, the blank
spots were the name of the deceased. The letter “N” indicates it. If there
were no name to be put in it they would refer to the Dead person as “N”.
Wealthy Egyptians had a personalized version prepared before their death so many
versions have been discovered. One of the most famous one was created for Ani, a
Royal Scribe, who lived during the nineteenth dynasty, and died in 1250 BC. If
one were to die or a loved one dies, one would be buried with the papyrus
scroll. As a result, a few of these texts survived. In the book the body was
represented as the Ka. The Ka was the spiritual body that everyone had, which
was the mirror image of the physical body. When a person died it was the Ka,
which lived on in the underworld. The Ka was not trapped inside a material body
but lived symbiotically with it. This was why it was so vital to preserve the
bodies of those who were believed to be living in the future world. In many of
the great Egyptian tombs, spare heads and hearts were buried with the mummified
body in case the mummy should be damaged. Many of the spells in the book for the
dead are for protecting the physical body so that the Ka body could live free
and happy in the Underworld. One of the most well renowned parts in the book of
the dead is the Hall of Maat, which is first introduced in the book. The Hall of
Matt is where the judgement of the dead was preformed. The goddess Matt stands
for truth, justice, morality and balance. The symbol that was used to shows
one’s innocence was the “heart”. The Egyptians believed the heart was one
of the most sacred parts of the body. In the Book of the Dead, it was the heart
that was weighed against the feather of Maat to see if an individual was worthy
of joining Osiris in the afterlife. In the book Anubis, the Jackal god of
embalming leads “N” to the scales of Maat to be weighed. Anubis then weighs
the heart against the feather to see if it is worthy. As, Thoth, the god of
wisdom is right next to the scale recording the results. If passing this test
one will be brought by Horus to meet Osiris, the king of the dead. To claim the
purity and the principles of a sinless life is known as “The Declaration of
Innocence.” Here during the Declarations of Independence, “N” (the
deceased one) must claim his innocence. Much of this declaration was based on
causing human suffrage and about taking care of everything that surrounds them.
Many of these ethical laws pertain to the work social and personal goals
according to Truth. It was important for “N” to declare innocence because
nothing evil shall happen to go against “N” because “N” has proven
innocence. After the declaration of innocence it was vital for “N” to know
the name of the Gods. It was important for the deceased to know these names
because the Gods lived on Truth. “Hail to you, O you who are in the Hall of
Justice who have no lies in your bodies, who live on truth and gulp down truth
in the presence of Horus who is in his disc.” Since the Gods lived on Truth it
was up to the Gods to save and protect the soul of the deceased. That was the
start of the introductory hymns to the Gods, which took up the first few
chapters. One in particular is the Re, the Sun God. The ancient Egyptians
considered Re as the creator of people. That is conceivably why Re is the first
God mentioned in the Book of the Dead. Another God in the first few chapters is
Osiris. Osiris is the god of death and re-birth, underworld and earth. Primarily
in the first few chapters are hymns and praises to Gods. The beginning of the
book is a transition to what I feel is the most important part, the afterlife
rituals. Starting at chapter’s twenty-one and twenty-two, the giving to obtain
an afterlife begins. One that stuck out to me was chapter two. This chapter is
for out into the day and living after. “O you Sole One who shine in the moon,
O you Sole One who glow in the sun, may Ani go forth from among those multitudes
of yours who are outside, may those who in the sunshine release him…” This
section from the chapter means that the Sole One, you; is being freed into the
daylight. An additional chapter that was very interesting was chapter
seventy-four. This chapter talked about being swift-footed when going out from
the earth. Part of the chapter reads, “I shine in the sky, I ascend to the
sky.” This means to me that your passage to afterlife should be buoyant and
easy. Many of the chapters were alike to one another in the middle of the book;
however, each had a very distinct difference from one another. The book it seems
to refer to how to obtain an afterlife. That starts out with the process of
giving a mouth, magic, heart, or etc… for Ani begins. One part of the body
that is given is the mouth. The mouth would be open by Ptah, who was the human
god the creator of Memphis would open the mouth. This part was fairly important
in the book because “N” would be able to speak in the presence of the Gods.
By this it also protects “N”. “As for any magic spell of any words which
may be uttered against me, the gods will rise up against it, even the entire
Ennead.” Another section of the book that was fascination was the chapters
about transformation. These began and lasted from chapters seventy to eighty.
One of the main chapters in the section was the transformation from human to a
divine falcon. In the chapter it indeed depicts the actual transformation from
the entry to the passage out. In this chapter there was also a real dialogue
between character, which I found to be odd considering it was only the second
dialogue was used besides the beginning of the book. The falcon must be one of
the most important creatures in ancient Egypt because of its mention if the Book
of the Dead and it’s use in the Egyptian writing, hieroglyphics. Another
transformation is from human to crocodile. That is very interesting because
there is also a transformation into a swallow. The connection between both is
somewhat odd because a crocodile is supposed to evil and a swallow is a symbol
of innocence. Those transformations are quite the opposite. The chapters were
very interesting on the transformations because it was uncanny to see what the
Egyptians thought of some of the animals and birds. My favorite chapter of the
whole book was the Hall of the Two Truths. The Hall of Two Truths is where a
person’s would and actions from their life get weighed. If the balance is even
between good and evil, the soul is sent to an afterlife. If the evil side over
weighs the good side, then the person is sent to a bad place. The person must
actually ask, “Do you know the names of the upper and lower portions of the
doors?” This I think means have you weighed my good and evil. Then the person
says, “Lord of Truth, Master of his Two Legs’ is the name of the upper
portion; ‘Lord of Strength, the One who commands the Cattle is the name of the
Lower.’” These I think means did my good outweigh my evil. This chapter was
the most interesting to me because it really described what happens at the hall
of the Two Truths. The lives of the ancient Egyptians were based upon religious
gods and texts. The Egyptian Book of the Dead was perhaps the most important
written record of the importance. It was essentially a book of praises and hymns
to the Egyptian Gods. This book was one of the many ways to enter a complete
afterlife. The Egyptian society heavily believed and based their lives on the
Book of the Dead is on it phrases and hymns to the ancient Egyptian Gods and
afterlife passage. The rest of the book just ends with what it started out with,
which were eulogistic praises to the Gods. Reading the Book of the Dead made me
think more about how religious the Egyptians truly were. I think the Book of the
Dead was in fact the key of their whole culture. If they hadn’t believed so
strongly in something their purpose of living might have ceased to exist because
afterlife is what made them go on with their lives and essentially the Book of
the Dead was the passage to their blissful afterlife. The Egyptians probably had
one of the most influential civilizations in all of history and the Book of the
Dead was one of the key elements that made Egyptians have such a strong era.
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