"Book of the Dead" is the name that is now generally given to the large collection of "Chapters," or compositions, both short and long, which the ancient Egyptians cut upon the walls of the corridors and chambers in pyramids and rock-hewn tombs, and cut or painted upon the insides and outsides of coffins and sarcophagi, and wrote upon papyri, etc., which were buried with the dead in their tombs. The first modern scholar to study these Chapters was the eminent Frenchman, J. François Champollion; he rightly concluded that all of them were of a religious character, but he was wrong in calling the collection as a whole "Funerary Ritual." The name "Book of the Dead" is a translation of the title "Todtenbuch," given by Dr. R. Lepsius to his edition of a papyrus at Turin, containing a very long selection of the Chapters,[1] which he published in 1842. "Book of the Dead" is on the whole a very satisfactory general description of these Chapters, for they deal almost entirely with the dead, and they were written entirely for the dead. They have nothing to do with the worship of the gods by those who live on the earth, and such prayers and hymns as are incorporated with them were supposed to be said and sung by the dead for their own benefit. The author of the Chapters of the Book of the Dead was the god Thoth, whose greatness has already been described in Chapter I of this book. Thus they were considered to be of divine origin, and were held in the greatest reverence by the Egyptians at all periods of their long history. They do not all belong to the same period, for many of them allude to the dismemberment and [38]burning of the dead, customs that, though common enough in very primitive times, were abandoned soon after royal dynasties became established in Egypt.

[1] The actual number of Chapters in this papyrus is 165.

It is probable that in one form or another many of the Chapters were in existence in the predynastic period,[1] but no copies of such primitive versions, if they ever existed, have come down to us. One Egyptian tradition, which is at least as old as the early part of the eighteenth dynasty (1600 B.C.), states that Chapters XXXB and LXIV were "discovered" during the reign of Semti, a king of the first dynasty, and another tradition assigns their discovery to the reign of Menkaurā (the Mycerinus of classical writers), a king of the fourth dynasty. It is certain, however, that the Egyptians possessed a Book of the Dead which was used for kings and royal personages, at least, early under the first dynasty, and that, in a form more or less complete, it was in use down to the time of the coming of Christianity into Egypt. The tombs of the officials of the third and fourth dynasties prove that the Book of Opening the Mouth and the Liturgy of Funerary Offerings (see pp. 13-18) were in use when they were made, and this being so it follows as a matter of course that at this period the Egyptians believed in the resurrection of the dead and in their immortality, that the religion of Osiris was generally accepted, that the efficacy of funerary offerings was unquestioned by the religious, and that men died believing that those who were righteous on earth would be rewarded in heaven, and that the evil-doer would be punished. The Pyramid Texts also prove that a Book of the Dead divided into chapters was in existence when they were written, for they mention the "Chapter of those who come forth (i.e. appear in heaven)," and the "Chapter of those who rise up" (Pepi I, l. 463), and the "Chapter of the betu incense," and the "Chapter of the natron incense" (Pepi I, 469). Whether these Chapters formed parts of the Pyramid Texts, or whether both they and the Pyramid Texts belonged to the Book of the Dead cannot be said, but it seems clear that the four Chapters [39]mentioned above formed part of a work belonging to a Book of the Dead that was older than the Pyramid Texts. This Book of the Dead was no doubt based upon the beliefs of the followers of the religion of Osiris, which began in the Delta and spread southwards into Upper Egypt. Its doctrines must have differed in many important particulars from those of the worshippers of the Sun-god of Heliopolis, whose priests preached the existence of a heaven of a solar character, and taught their followers to believe in the Sun-god Rā, and not in Temu, the ancient native god of Heliopolis, and not in the divine man Osiris. The exposition of the Heliopolitan creed is found in the Pyramid Texts, which also contain the proofs that before the close of the sixth dynasty the cult of Osiris had vanquished the cult of Rā, and that the religion of Osiris had triumphed.

[1] i.e. before Menes became king of both Upper and Lower Egypt.

Certain of the Chapters of the Book of the Dead (e.g. XXXB and LXIV) were written in the city of Thoth, or Khemenu, others were written in Anu, or Heliopolis, and others in Busiris and other towns of the Delta. Of the Book of the Dead that was in use under the fifth and sixth dynasties we have no copies, but many Chapters of the Recension in use under the eleventh and twelfth dynasties are found written in cursive hieroglyphs upon wooden sarcophagi, many of which may be seen in the British Museum. With the beginning of the eighteenth dynasty the Book of the Dead enters a new phase of its existence, and it became the custom to write it on rolls of papyrus, which were laid with the dead in their coffins, instead of on the coffins themselves. As the greater number of such rolls have been found in the tombs of priests and others at Thebes, the Recension that was in use from the eighteenth to the twenty-first dynasty (1600-900 B.C.) is commonly called the Theban Recension. This Recension, in its earliest form, is usually written with black ink in vertical columns of hieroglyphs, which are separated by black lines; the titles of the Chapters, the opening words of each section, and the Rubrics are written with red ink. About the middle of the eighteenth dynasty pictures painted in bright colours, "vignettes," [40]were added to the Chapters; these are very valuable, because they sometimes explain or give a clue to the meaning of parts of the texts that are obscure. Under the twentieth and twenty-first dynasties the writing of copies of the Book of the Dead in hieroglyphs went out of fashion, and copies written in the hieratic, or cursive, character took their place. These were ornamented with vignettes drawn in outline with black ink, and although the scribes who made them wrote certain sections in hieroglyphs, it is clear that they did not possess the skill of the great scribes who flourished between 1600 and 1050 B.C. The last Recension of the Book of the Dead known to us in a complete form is the Saīte Recension, which came into existence about 600 B.C., and continued in use from that time to the Roman Period. In the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods the priests composed several small works such as the "Book of Breathings" and the "Book of Traversing Eternity," which were based upon the Book of the Dead, and were supposed to contain in a highly condensed form all the texts that were necessary for salvation. At a still later period even more abbreviated texts came into use, and the Book of the Dead ended its existence in the form of a series of almost illegible scrawls traced upon scraps of papyrus only a few inches square.

Rolls of papyrus containing the Book of the Dead were placed: (1) In a niche in the wall of the mummy chamber; (2) in the coffin by the side of the deceased, or laid between the thighs or just above the ankles; (3) in hollow wooden figures of the god Osiris, or Ptah-Seker-Osiris, or in the hollow pedestals on which such figures stood.

The Egyptians believed that the souls of the dead on leaving this world had to traverse a vast and difficult region called the Tuat, which was inhabited by gods, devils, fiends, demons, good spirits, bad spirits, and the souls of the wicked, to say nothing of snakes, serpents, savage animals, and monsters, before they could reach the Elysian Fields, and appear in the presence of Osiris. The Tuat was like the African "bush," and had no roads through it. In primitive times the Egyptians thought that only those souls that were [41]provided with spells, incantations, prayers, charms, words of power, and amulets could ever hope to reach the Kingdom of Osiris. The spells and incantations were needed for the bewitchment of hostile beings of every kind; the prayers, charms, and words of power were necessary for making other kinds of beings that possessed great powers to help the soul on its journey, and to deliver it from foes; and the amulets gave the soul that was equipped with them strength, power, will, and knowledge to employ successfully every means of assistance that presented itself.

The Object of the Book of the Dead was to provide the dead man with all these spells, prayers, amulets, &c., and to enable him to overcome all the dangers and difficulties of the Tuat, and to reach Sekhet Aaru and Sekhet Hetep (the Elysian Fields), and to take his place among the subjects of Osiris in the Land of Everlasting Life. As time went on the beliefs of the Egyptians changed considerably about many important matters, but they never attempted to alter the Chapters of the Book of the Dead so as to bring them, if we may use the expression, "up to date." The religion of the eighteenth dynasty was far higher in its spiritual character generally than that of the twelfth dynasty, but the Chapters that were used under the twelfth dynasty were used under the eighteenth, and even under the twenty-sixth dynasty. In religion the Egyptian forgot nothing and abandoned nothing; what was good enough for his ancestors was good enough for him, and he was content to go into the next world relying for his salvation on the texts which he thought had procured their salvation. Thus the Book of the Dead as a whole is a work that reflects all the religious beliefs of the Egyptians from the time when they were half savages to the period of the final downfall of their power.

Vignette and Part of the XCIInd Chapter of the Book of the Dead.

Vignette and Part of the XCIInd Chapter
of the Book of the Dead.

(Ani and his Soul are leaving the Tomb)
From the Papyrus of the Ani in the British Museum.

The Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead contains about one hundred and ninety Chapters, many of which have Rubrics stating what effects will be produced by their recital, and describing ceremonies that must be performed whilst they are being recited. It is impossible to describe the contents of all the Chapters in our limited space, but [42]in the following brief summary the most important are enumerated. Chap. 1 contains the formulas that were recited on the day of the funeral. Chap. 151 gives a picture of the arrangement of the mummy chamber, and the texts to be said in it. Chap. 137 describes certain magical ceremonies that were performed in the mummy chamber, and describes the objects of magical power that were placed in niches in the four walls. Chap. 125 gives a picture of the Judgment Hall of Osiris, and supplies the declarations of innocence that the deceased made before the Forty-two Judges. Chaps. 144-147, 149, and 150 describe the Halls, Pylons, and Divisions of the Kingdom of Osiris, and supply the name of the gods who guard them, and the formulas to be said by the deceased as he comes to each. Chap. 110 gives a picture of the Elysian Fields and a text describing all the towns and places in them. Chap. 5 is a spell by the use of which the deceased avoided doing work, and Chap. 6 is another, the recital of which made a figure to work for him. Chap. 15 contains hymns to the rising and to the setting sun, and a Litany of Osiris; and Chap. 183 is a hymn to Osiris. Chaps. 2, 3, 12, 13, and others enabled a man to move about freely in the Other World; Chap. 9 secured his free passage in and out of the tomb; and Chap. 11 overthrew his enemies. Chap. 17 deals with important beliefs as to the origin of God and the gods, and of the heavens and the earth, and states the different opinions which Egyptian theologians held about many divine and mythological beings. The reason for including it in the Book of the Dead is not quite clear, but that it was a most important Chapter is beyond all doubt. Chaps. 21 and 22 restored his mouth to the deceased, and Chap. 23 enabled him to open it. Chap. 24 supplied him with words of power, and Chap. 25 restored to him his memory. Chaps. 26-30B gave to the deceased his heart, and supplied the spells that prevented the stealers of hearts from carrying it off, or from injuring it in any way. Two of these Chapters (29 and 30B) were cut upon amulets made in the form of a human heart. Chaps. 31 and 32 are spells for driving away crocodiles, and Chaps. 33-38, and 40 [43]are spells against snakes and serpents. Chaps. 41 and 42 preserved a man from slaughter in the Other World, Chap. 43 enabled him to avoid decapitation, and Chap. 44 preserved him from the second death. Chaps. 45, 46, and 154 protected the body from rot or decay and worms in the tomb. Chap. 50 saved the deceased from the headsman in the Tuat, and Chap. 51 enabled him to avoid stumbling. Chaps. 38, 52-60, and 62 ensured for him a supply of air and water in the Tuat, and Chap. 63 protected him from drinking boiling water there. Chaps. 64-74 gave him the power to leave the tomb, to overthrow enemies, and to "come forth by day." Chaps. 76-89 enabled a man to transform himself into the Light-god, the primeval soul of God, the gods Ptah and Osiris, a golden hawk, a divine hawk, a lotus, a benu bird, a heron, a swallow, a serpent, a crocodile, and into any being or thing he pleased. Chap. 89 enabled the soul of the deceased to rejoin its body at pleasure, and Chaps. 91 and 92 secured the egress of his soul and spirit from the tomb. Chaps. 94-97 made the deceased an associate of Thoth, and Chaps. 98 and 99 secured for him the use of the magical boat, and the services of the celestial ferryman, who would ferry him across the river in the Tuat to the Island of Fire, in which Osiris lived. Chaps. 101 and 102 provided access for him to the Boat of Rā. Chaps. 108, 109, 112, and 116 enabled him to know the Souls (i.e. gods) of the East and West, and of the towns of Pe,[1] Nekhen,[2] Khemenu,[3] and Anu.[4] Chaps. 117-119 enabled him to find his way through Rastau, a part of the kingdom of Seker, the god of Death. Chap. 152 enabled him to build a house, and Chap. 132 gave him power to return to the earth and see it. Chap. 153 provided for his escape from the fiend who went about to take souls in a net. Chaps. 155-160, 166, and 167 formed the spells that were engraved on amulets, i.e. the Tet (male), the Tet (female), the Vulture, the Collar, the Sceptre, the Pillow, the Pectoral, &c., and gave to the deceased the power of Osiris and Isis and other gods, and restored to him [44]his heart, and lifted up his head. Chap. 162 kept heat in the body until the day of the resurrection. Chaps. 175 and 176 gave the deceased everlasting life and enabled him to escape the second death. Chap. 177 raised up the dead body, and Chap. 178 raised up the spirit-soul. The remaining Chapters perfected the spirit-soul, and gave it celestial powers, and enabled it to enjoy intercourse with the gods as an equal, and enabled it to participate in all their occupations and pleasures. We may now give a few extracts that will give an idea of the contents of some of the most important passages.

[1] i.e. Pe Tep, or Buto.

[2] Eileithyiaspolis.

[3] Hermopolis.

[4] Heliopolis.

Her-Heru, the first Priest-King, and Queen Netchemet reciting a Hymn to the Rising Sun

Her-Heru, the first Priest-King, and Queen Netchemet reciting a Hymn to the Rising Sun.
The Apes represent the Spirits of the Dawn.
From a papyrus (about 1050 B.C.) in the British Museum.

The following is the opening hymn to Osiris in the Papyrus of Ani:

"Glory be to Osiris Un-Nefer, the great god who dwelleth in Abydos, king of eternity, lord of everlastingness, whose existence endureth for millions of years. Eldest son of the womb of Nut,[1] begotten by Keb,[2] the Erpāt,[3] lord of the crowns of the South and North, lord of the lofty white crown, prince of gods and men: he hath received the sceptre, and the whip, and the rank of his divine fathers. Let thy heart in Semt-Ament[4] be content, for thy son Horus is established on thy throne. Thou art crowned lord of Tatu[5] and ruler in Abydos.[6] Through thee the world flourisheth in triumph before the power of Nebertcher.[7] He leadeth on that which is and that which is not yet, in his name of 'Taherstanef.' He toweth along the earth by Maāt[8] in his name of 'Seker'; he is exceedingly mighty and most terrible in his name of 'Osiris'; he endureth for ever and ever in his name of 'Un-Nefer.' Homage to thee, O King of kings, Lord of lords, Prince of princes, who from the womb of Nut hast ruled the world and Akert.[9] Thy body is [like] bright and shining metal, thy head is of azure blue, [45]and the brilliance of the turquoise encircleth thee. O thou god An of millions of years, whose body pervadeth all things, whose face is beautiful in Ta-Tchesert,[10] grant thou to the Ka of the Osiris the scribe Ani splendour in heaven, power upon earth, and triumph in the Other World. Grant that I may sail down to Tatu in the form of a living soul, and sail up to Abydos in the form of the Benu bird;[11] that I may go in and come out without being stopped at the pylons of the Lords of the Other World. May there be given unto me bread-cakes in the house of coolness, and offerings of food in Anu (Heliopolis), and a homestead for ever in Sekhet Aru,[12] with wheat and barley therefor."

[1] The Sky-goddess.

[2] The Earth-god.

[3] The hereditary chief of the gods.

[4] The other world.

[5] The town of Busiris on the Delta.

[6] Abydos in Upper Egypt.

[7] The Lord to the uttermost limit, i.e. Almighty God.

[8] The goddess of physical and moral law, and the personification of the conscience.

[9] A name of the Other World.

[10] The Holy Land, i.e. the Kingdom of Osiris.

[11] A bird which has been identified with the phœnix. The soul of Rā was incarnate in it.

[12] A name of the realm of Osiris, or the Elysian Fields.

In another Hymn to Osiris, which is found in the Papyrus of Hunefer, we have the following: "The gods come unto thee, bowing low before thee, and they hold thee in fear. They withdraw and depart when they see thee endued with the terror of Rā, and the victory of Thy Majesty is over their hearts. Life is with thee, and offerings of meat and drink follow thee, and that which is thy due is offered before thy face. I have come unto thee holding in my hands truth, and my heart hath in it no cunning (or deceit). I offer unto thee that which is thy due, and I know that whereon thou livest. I have not committed any kind of sin in the land; I have defrauded no man of what is his. I am Thoth, the perfect scribe, whose hands are pure. I am the lord of purity, the destroyer of evil, the scribe of truth; what I abominate is sin."

Here is an address, followed by a short Litany, which forms a kind of introduction to Chapter 15 in the Papyrus of Ani:

"Praise be unto thee, O Osiris, lord of eternity, Un-Nefer, Heru-Khuti, whose forms are manifold, whose attributes are majesty, [thou who art] Ptah-Seker-Tem in Heliopolis, lord of the Sheta shrine, creator of Het-ka-Ptah (Memphis) and [46]of the gods who dwell therein, thou Guide of the Other World, whom the gods praise when thou settest in the sky. Isis embraceth thee contentedly, and she driveth away the fiends from the mouth of thy paths. Thou turnest thy face towards Amentet,[1] and thou makest the earth to shine like refined copper. The dead rise up to look upon thee, they breathe the air, and they behold thy face when [thy] disk riseth on the horizon. Their hearts are at peace, inasmuch as they behold thee, O thou who art Eternity and Everlastingness.

[1] The "hidden" land, the West, the Other World.


"1. Homage to thee, O [Lord of] the Dekans[1] in Heliopolis and of the heavenly beings in Kherāha,[2] thou god Unti, who art the most glorious of the gods hidden in Heliopolis.

"Grant thou unto me a path whereon I may pass in peace, for I am just and true; I have not spoken lies wittingly, nor have I done aught with deceit.[3]

"2. Homage to thee, O An[4] in Antes, Heru-Khuti,[5] with long strides dost thou stride over heaven, O Heru-Khuti.

"3. Homage to thee, O Everlasting Soul, who dwellest in Tatu (Busiris), Un-Nefer,[6] son of Nut, who art the Lord of Akert.

"4. Homage to thee in thy rule over Tatu. The Urrt Crown is fixed upon thy head. Thou art One, thou createst thy protection, thou dwellest in peace in Tatu.

"5. Homage to thee, O Lord of the Acacia. The Seker Boat[7] is on its sledge; thou turnest back the Fiend, the worker of evil; thou makest the Eye of the Sun-god to rest upon its throne.

"6. Homage to thee, mighty one in thine hour, Prince [47]great and mighty, dweller in Anrutef,[8] lord of eternity, creator of everlastingness. Thou art the lord of Hensu.[9]

"7. Homage to thee, O thou who restest upon Truth. Thou art the Lord of Abydos; thy body is joined to Ta-Tchesert. Thou art he to whom fraud and deceit are abominable.

"8. Homage to thee, O dweller in thy boat. Thou leadest the Nile from his source, the light shineth upon thy body; thou art the dweller in Nekhen.[10]

"9. Homage to thee, O Creator of the gods, King of the South, King of the North, Osiris, Conqueror, Governor of the world in thy gracious seasons! Thou art the Lord of the heaven of Egypt (Atebui)."

[1] A group of thirty-six Star-gods.

[2] A town that stood on the site of Old Cairo.

[3] This response was to be repeated after each petition.

[4] A Light-god.

[5] Harmakhis of the Greeks.

[6] A form of Osiris.

[7] The Henu Boat of Seker was drawn round the sanctuary of Seker each morning.

[8] A district of Hensu.

[9] Herakleopolis in Upper Egypt.

[10] Eileithyiaspolis in Upper Egypt.

The following passage illustrates the general character of a funerary hymn to Rā: "Homage to thee, O thou who art in the form of Khepera, Khepera the creator of the gods. Thou risest, thou shinest, thou illuminest thy mother [the sky]. Thou art crowned King of the Gods. Mother Nut[1] welcometh thee with bowings. The Land of Sunset (Manu) receiveth thee with satisfaction, and the goddess Maāt[2] embraceth thee at morn and at eve. Hail, ye gods of the Temple of the Soul (i.e. heaven), who weigh heaven and earth in a balance, who provide celestial food! And hail, Tatunen,[3] One, Creator of man, Maker of the gods of the south and of the north, of the west and of the east! Come ye and acclaim Rā, the Lord of heaven, the Prince—life, health, strength be to him!—the Creator of the gods, and adore ye him in his beautiful form as he riseth in his Morning Boat (Āntchet).

"Those who dwell in the heights and those who dwell in the depths worship thee. Thoth and the goddess Maāt have laid down thy course for thee daily for ever. Thine Enemy the Serpent hath been cast into the fire, the fiend hath fallen down into it headlong. His arms have been bound in chains, and Rā hath hacked off his legs; the [48]Mesu Betshet[4] shall never more rise up. The Temple of the Aged God [in Anu] keepeth festival, and the sound of those who rejoice is in the Great House. The gods shout for joy when they see Rā rising, and when his beams are filling the world with light. The Majesty of the Holy God goeth forth and advanceth even unto the Land of Sunset (Manu). He maketh bright the earth at his birth daily, he journeyeth to the place where he was yesterday. O be thou at peace with me, and let me behold thy beauties! Let me appear on the earth. Let me smite [the Eater of] the Ass.[5] Let me crush the Serpent Seba.[6] Let me destroy Āapep[7] when he is most strong. Let me see the Abtu Fish in its season and the Ant Fish[8] in its lake. Let me see Horus steering thy boat, with Thoth and Maāt standing one on each side of him. Let me have hold of the bows of [thy] Evening Boat and the stern of thy Morning Boat.[9] Grant thou unto the Ka of me, the Osiris the scribe Ani, to behold the disk of the Sun, and to see the Moon-god regularly and daily. Let my soul come forth and walk hither and thither and whithersoever it pleaseth. Let my name be read from the list of those who are to receive offerings, and may offerings be set before me, even as they are set before the Followers of Horus. Let there be prepared for me a seat in the Boat of Rā on the day when the god goeth forth. Let me be received into the presence of Osiris, in the Land where Truth is spoken."

[1] The Sky-goddess.

[2] Goddess of Law.

[3] An ancient Earth-god.

[4] The associates of Set, the god of Evil.

[5] The Ass was a form of the Sun-god, and its eater was a mythological monster-serpent.

[6] Another mythological serpent.

[7] The serpent that tried to swallow the sun each morning, but the Sun-god cast a spell on it and rendered it powerless.

[8] The Abtu and the Ant were two fishes that swam before the boat of the sun to warn the god of danger.

[9] i.e., Ani wishes to be sure of a seat in both boats.

The prayers of the Book of the Dead consist usually of a string of petitions for sepulchral offerings to be offered in the tombs of the petitioners, and the fundamental idea underlying [49]them is that by their transmutation, which was effected by the words of the priests, the spirits of the offerings became available as the food of the dead. Many prayers contain requests for the things that tend to the comfort and general well-being of the dead, but here and there we find a prayer for forgiveness of sins committed in the body. The best example of such is the prayer that forms Chapter CXXVI. It reads: "Hail, ye four Ape-gods who sit in the bows of the Boat of Rā, who convey truth to Nebertchet, who sit in judgment on my weakness and on my strength, who make the gods to rest contented by means of the flame of your mouths, who offer holy offerings to the gods, and sepulchral meals to the spirit-souls, who live upon truth, who feed upon truth of heart, who are without deceit and fraud, and to whom wickedness is an abomination, do ye away with my evil deeds, and put ye away my sin, which deserved stripes upon earth, and destroy ye every evil thing whatsoever that clingeth to me, and let there be no bar whatsoever on my part towards you. Grant ye that I may make my way through the Amhet[1] chamber, let me enter into Rastau,[2] and let me pass through the secret places of Amentet. Grant that cakes, and ale, and sweetmeats may be given to me as they are given to the spirit-souls, and grant that I may enter in and come forth from Rastau." The four Ape-gods reply: "Come, for we have done away with thy wickedness, and we have put away thy sin, which deserved stripes, which thou didst commit upon earth, and we have destroyed all the evil that clung to thee. Enter, therefore, into Rastau, and pass in through the secret gates of Amentet, and cakes, and ale, and sweetmeats shall be given unto thee, and thou shalt go in and come out at thy desire, even as do those whose spirit-souls are praised [by the god], and [thy name] shall be proclaimed each day in the horizon."

[1] A chamber in the kingdom of Seker in which the dead were examined.

[2] The corridors in the kingdom of Seker.

Another prayer of special interest is that which forms Chapter XXXB. This is put into the mouth of the deceased [50]when he is standing in the Hall of Judgment watching the weighing of his heart in the Great Scales by Anubis and Thoth, in the presence of the Great Company of the gods and Osiris. He says: "My heart, my mother. My heart, my mother. My heart whereby I came into being. Let none stand up to oppose me at my judgment. May there be no opposition to me in the presence of the Tchatchau.[1] Mayest thou not be separated from me in the presence of the Keeper of the Balance. Thou art my Ka (i.e. Double, or vital power), that dwelleth in my body; the god Khnemu who knitteth together and strengthened my limbs. Mayest thou come forth into the place of happiness whither we go. May the Shenit officers who decide the destinies of the lives of men not cause my name to stink [before Osiris]. Let it (i.e. the weighing) be satisfactory unto us, and let there be joy of heart to us at the weighing of words (i.e. the Great Judgment). Let not that which is false be uttered against me before the Great God, the Lord of Amentet (i.e. Osiris). Verily thou shalt be great when thou risest up [having been declared] a speaker of the truth."

[1] The chief officers of Osiris, the divine Taskmasters.

In many papyri this prayer is followed by a Rubric, which orders that it is to be said over a green stone scarab set in a band of tchamu metal (i.e. silver-gold), which is to be hung by a ring from the neck of the deceased. Some Rubrics order it to be placed in the breast of a mummy, where it is to take the place of the heart, and say that it will "open the mouth" of the deceased. A tradition which is as old as the twelfth dynasty says that the Chapter was discovered in the town of Khemenu (Hermopolis Magna) by Herutataf, the son of Khufu, in the reign of Menkaurā, a king of the fourth dynasty. It was cut in hieroglyphs, inlaid with lapis-lazuli on a block of alabaster, which was set under the feet of Thoth, and was therefore believed to be a most powerful prayer. We know that this prayer was recited by the Egyptians in the Ptolemaic Period, and thus it is clear that it was in common use for a period of nearly four thousand years. It may well be the oldest prayer in the world. [51]Under the Middle and New Empires this prayer was cut upon hard green stone scarabs, but the versions of it found on scarabs are often incomplete and full of mistakes. It is quite clear that the prayer was turned into a spell, and that it was used merely as a "word of power," and that the hard stone scarabs were regarded merely as amulets. On many of them spaces are found that have been left blank to receive the names of those with whom they were to be buried; this proves that such scarabs once formed part of some undertaker's stock-in-trade, and that they were kept ready for those who were obliged to buy "heart scarabs" in a hurry.

Another remarkable composition in the Book of the Dead is the first part of Chapter CXXV, which well illustrates the lofty moral conceptions of the Egyptians of the eighteenth dynasty. The deceased is supposed to be standing in the "Usekht Maāti," or Hall of the Two Maāti goddesses, one for Upper Egypt and one for Lower Egypt, wherein Osiris and his Forty-two Judges judge the souls of the dead. Before judgment is given the deceased is allowed to make a declaration, which in form closely resembles that made in many parts of Africa at the present day by a man who is condemned to undergo the ordeal of drinking "red water," and in it he states that he has not committed offences against the moral and religious laws of his country. He says:

"Homage to thee, O Great God, thou Lord of Maāti. I have come to thee, O my Lord, and I have brought myself hither that I may behold thy beauties. I know thee. I know thy name. I know the names of the Forty-two[1] gods who live with thee in this Hall of Truth, who keep ward over sinners, and who feed upon their blood on the day when the lives of men are taken into account in the presence of Un-Nefer (i.e. the Good Being or Osiris).... Verily, I have come unto thee, I have brought truth unto thee. I have destroyed wickedness for thee. I have not done evil to men. [52]I have not oppressed (or wronged) my family. I have not done wrong instead of right. I have not been a friend of worthless men. I have not wrought evil. I have not tried to make myself over-righteous. I have not put forward my name for exalted positions. I have not entreated servants evilly. I have not defrauded the man who was in trouble. I have not done what is hateful (or taboo) to the gods. I have not caused a servant to be ill-treated by his master. I have not caused pain [to any man]. I have not permitted any man to go hungry. I have made none to weep. I have not committed murder. I have not ordered any man to commit murder for me. I have inflicted pain on no man. I have not robbed the temples of their offerings. I have not stolen the cakes of the gods. I have not carried off the cakes offered to the spirits. I have not committed fornication. I have not committed acts of impurity in the holy places of the god of my town. I have not diminished the bushel. I have not added to or filched away land. I have not encroached upon the fields [of my neighbours]. I have not added to the weights of the scales. I have not falsified the pointer of the scales. I have not taken milk from the mouths of children. I have not driven away the cattle that were upon their pastures. I have not snared the feathered fowl in the preserves of the gods. I have not caught fish [with bait made of] fish of their kind. I have not stopped water at the time [when it should flow]. I have not breached a canal of running water. I have not extinguished a fire when it should burn. I have not violated the times [of offering] chosen meat-offerings. I have not driven off the cattle from the property of the gods. I have not repulsed the god in his manifestations. I am pure. I am pure. I am pure. I am pure."

[1] The Forty-two gods represent the forty-two nomes, or counties, into which Egypt was divided.

Her-Heru and Queen Netchemet standing in the Hall of Osiris

Her-Heru and Queen Netchemet standing in the Hall of Osiris and praying to the God,
whilst the Heart of the Queen is being weighed in the Balance.

From a papyrus (about 1050 B.C.) in the British Museum.

In the second part of the Chapter the deceased repeats many of the above declarations of his innocence, but with each declaration the name of one of the Forty-two Judges is coupled. Thus we have:

1. "Hail, thou of the long strides, who comest forth from Heliopolis, I have not committed sin.

2. "Hail, thou who art embraced by flame, who comest[53] forth from Kherāha, I have not robbed with violence.

3. "Hail, Nose, who comest forth from Hermopolis, I have not done violence [to any man].

4. "Hail, Eater of shadows, who comest forth from the Qerti, I have not thieved.

5. "Hail, Stinking Face, who comest forth from Rastau, I have not slain man or woman.

9. "Hail, Crusher of bones, who comest forth from Hensu, I have not lied."

Nothing is known of the greater number of these Forty-two gods, but it is probable that they were local gods or spirits, each one representing a nome, whose names were added to the declarations with the view of making the Forty-two Judges represent all Egypt.

In the third part of the Chapter we find that the religious ideas expressed by the deceased have a far more personal character than those of the first and second parts. Thus, having declared his innocence of the forty-two sins or offences, "the heart which is righteous and sinless" says:

"Homage to you, O ye gods who dwell in your Hall of Maāti! I know you and I know your names. Let me not fall under your knives, and bring ye not before the god whom ye follow my wickedness, and let not evil come upon me through you. Declare ye me innocent in the presence of Nebertcher,[1] because I have done that which is right in Tamera (Egypt), neither blaspheming God, nor imputing evil (?) to the king in his day. Homage to you, O ye gods, who live in your Hall of Maāti, who have no taint of sin in you, who live upon truth, who feed upon truth before Horus, the dweller in his disk. Deliver me from Baba, who liveth upon the entrails of the mighty ones, on the day of the Great Judgment. Let me come to you, for I have not committed offences [against you]; I have not done evil, I have not borne false witness; therefore let nothing [evil] be done unto me. I live upon truth. I feed upon truth. I have performed the commandments of men, and the things which [54]make the gods contented. I have made the god to be at peace [with me by doing] that which is his will. I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man, and apparel to the naked man, and a ferry boat to him that had none. I have made offerings to the gods, and given funerary meals to the spirits. Therefore be ye my deliverers, be ye my protectors; make ye no accusations against me in the presence [of the Great God]. I am clean of mouth and clean of hands; therefore let be said unto me by those who shall see me: 'Come in peace, come in peace' (i.e. Welcome! Welcome!).... I have testified before Herfhaf,[2] and he hath approved me. I have seen the things over which the Persea tree spreadeth [its branches] in Rastau. I offer up my prayers to the gods, and I know their persons. I have come and have advanced to declare the truth and to set up the Balance[3] on its stand in Aukert."[4]

[1] The Lord to the uttermost limit, i.e. Almighty God.

[2] The celestial ferryman who ferried the souls of the righteous to the Island of Osiris. None but the righteous could enter his boat, and none but the righteous was allowed to land on the Island of Osiris.

[3] The balance in which the heart was weighed.

[4] A name of a part of the Other World near Heliopolis.

Then addressing the god Osiris the deceased says: "Hail, thou who art exalted upon thy standard, thou lord of the Atef crown, whose name is 'Lord of the Winds,' deliver me from thine envoys who inflict evils, who do harm, whose faces are uncovered, for I have done the right for the Lord of Truth. I have purified myself and my fore parts with holy water, and my hinder parts with the things that make clean, and my inward parts have been [immersed] in the Lake of Truth. There is not one member of mine wherein truth is lacking. I purified myself in the Pool of the South. I rested in the northern town in the Field of the Grasshoppers, wherein the sailors of Rā bathe at the second hour of the night and at the third hour of the day." One would think that the moral worth of the deceased was such that he might then pass without delay into the most holy part of the Hall of Truth where Osiris was enthroned. But this is not the case, for before he went further he was obliged [55]to repeat the magical names of various parts of the Hall of Truth; thus we find that the priest thrust his magic into the most sacred of texts. At length Thoth, the great Recorder of Egypt, being satisfied as to the good faith and veracity of the deceased, came to him and asked why he had come to the Hall of Truth, and the deceased replied that he had come in order to be "mentioned" to the god. Thoth then asked him, "Who is he whose heaven is fire, whose walls are serpents, and the floor of whose house is a stream of water?" The deceased replied, "Osiris"; and he was then bidden to advance so that he might be introduced to Osiris. As a reward for his righteous life sacred food, which proceeded from the Eye of Rā, was allotted to him, and, living on the food of the god, he became a counterpart of the god.

From first to last the Book of the Dead is filled with spells and prayers for the preservation of the mummy and for everlasting life. As instances of these the following passages are quoted from Chapters 154 and 175. "Homage to thee, O my divine father Osiris, thou livest with thy members. Thou didst not decay. Thou didst not turn into worms. Thou didst not waste away. Thou didst not suffer corruption. Thou didst not putrefy. I am the god Khepera, and my members shall have an everlasting existence. I shall not decay. I shall not rot. I shall not putrefy. I shall not turn into worms. I shall not see corruption before the eye of the god Shu. I shall have my being, I shall have my being. I shall live, I shall live. I shall flourish, I shall flourish. I shall wake up in peace. I shall not putrefy. My inward parts shall not perish. I shall not suffer injury. Mine eye shall not decay. The form of my visage shall not disappear. Mine ear shall not become deaf. My head shall not be separated from my neck. My tongue shall not be carried away. My hair shall not be cut off. Mine eyebrows shall not be shaved off. No baleful injury shall come upon me. My body shall be established, and it shall neither crumble away nor be destroyed on this earth." The passage that refers to everlasting life occurs in Chapter 175, wherein [56]the scribe Ani is made to converse with Thoth and Temu in the Tuat, or Other World. Ani, who is supposed to have recently arrived there, says: "What manner of country is this to which I have come? There is no water in it. There is no air. It is depth unfathomable, it is black as the blackest night, and men wander helplessly therein. In it a man may not live in quietness of heart; nor may the affections be gratified therein." After a short address to Osiris, the deceased asks the god, "How long shall I live?" And the god says, "It is decreed that thou shalt live for millions of millions of years, a life of millions of years."

As a specimen of a spell that was used in connection with an amulet may be quoted Chapter 156. The amulet was the tet, which represented a portion of the body of Isis. The spell reads: "The blood of Isis, the power of Isis, the words of power of Isis shall be strong to protect this mighty one (i.e. the mummy), and to guard him from him that would do unto him anything which he abominateth (or, is taboo to him)." The object of the spell is explained in the Rubric, which reads: "[This spell] shall be said over a tet made of carnelian, which hath been steeped in water of ankham flowers, and set in a frame of sycamore wood, and placed on the neck of the deceased on the day of the funeral. If these things be done for him the powers of Isis shall protect his body, and Horus, the son of Isis, shall rejoice in him when he seeth him. And there shall be no places hidden from him as he journeyeth. And one hand of his shall be towards heaven and the other towards earth, regularly and continually. Thou shalt not let any person who is with thee see it [a few words broken away]." Of the spells written in the Book of the Dead to make crocodiles, serpents, and other reptiles powerless, the following are specimens: "Away with thee! Retreat! Get back, O thou accursed Crocodile Sui. Thou shalt not come nigh me, for I have life through the words of power that are in me. If I utter thy name to the Great God he will make thee to come before the two divine messengers Betti and Herkemmaāt. Heaven ruleth [57]its seasons, and the spell hath power over what it mastereth, and my mouth ruleth the spell that is inside it. My teeth which bite are like flint knives, and my teeth which grind are like unto those of the Wolf-god. O thou who sittest spellbound with thine eyes fixed through my spell, thou shalt not carry off my spell, thou Crocodile that livest on spells" (Chap. XXXI).

"Get thee back, thou Crocodile of the West, that livest on the never-resting stars. That which is thy taboo is in me. I have eaten the brow (or, skull) of Osiris. I am set.

"Get thee back, thou Crocodile of the West. The serpent Nāu is inside me. I will set it on thee, thy flame shall not approach me.

"Get thee back, thou Crocodile of the East, that feedest upon the eaters of filth. That which is thy taboo is in me. I advance. I am Osiris.

"Get thee back, thou Crocodile of the East. The serpent Nāu is inside me. I will set it on thee; thy flame shall not approach me.

"Get thee back, thou Crocodile of the South, that feedest upon waste, garbage, and filth. That which is thy taboo is in me.... I am Sept.[1]

"Get thee back, thou Crocodile of the South. I will fetter thee. My charm is among the reeds (?). I will not yield unto thee.

"Get thee back, thou Crocodile of the North, that feedest upon what is left by the hours. That which is thy taboo is in me. The emissions shall [not] fall upon my head. I am Tem.[2]

"Get thee back, thou Crocodile of the North, for the Scorpion-goddess[3] is inside me, unborn (?). I am Uatch-Merti (?).[4]

[58]"Created things are in the hollow of my hand, and the things that are not yet made are inside me. I am clothed in and supplied with thy spells, O Rā, which are above me and beneath me.... I am Rā, the self-protected, no evil thing whatsoever shall overthrow me" (Chap. XXXII).

[1] A god of the Eastern Delta and a local form of the Sun-god early in the day.

[2] The primeval god, a form of Pautti, the oldest Egyptian god.

[3] She was called "Serqet."

[4] A green-eyed serpent-god, or goddess, equipped with great power to destroy.