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May is mummy month 3: The Books of the Dead

by trismegistic guest blogger Jolaine Incognito

Yes, plural. In the later Dynasties, a Book of the Dead was prepared for each mummification, and was customized around a common core. There was no single Book of the Dead – there were as many as there were mummies.

The customization may not be immediately apparent, since the main character in each Book of the Dead is always named Osiris. Just as each mummification ritual symbolizes Osiris’ rebirth, Osiris symbolizes each deceased in his or her journey through the Underworld. All perfectly logical, right?


Who is this?

“It is Osiris.” Others, however, say that it is the dead body of Osiris, and yet others say that it is the excrement of Osiris. The things which have been made, and the things which shall be made [refer to] the dead body of Osiris. Others again say that the things which have been made are Eternity, and the things which shall be made are Everlastingness, and that Eternity is the Day, and Everlastingness the Night. “I am the god Menu in his coming forth; may his two plumes be set on my head for me.”
– Book 3, The Papyrus of Ani

So let me get this straight: As time passes, the things which shall be made become the things which have been made. At that point,

Eternity = Everlastingness


Eternity = Day
Everlastingness = Night


Day = Night.


I have come to the conclusion that the ancient Egyptians had a high tolerance for contradictions, at least where Osiris was concerned. Recall that he was the god of three opposites: death, resurrection and fertility. A soul could soar in the heavens with Ra, while at the same being confined to a tomb, and toiling for Osiris in the Field of Reeds. While Osiris is the supplicant spirit waiting to be judged, he is also the one doing the judging.

Okay, I can see why people were willing to buy into that last one.

If [these] words be recited by the spirit when he shall come to the Seven Arits, and as he entereth the doors, he shall neither be turned back nor repulsed before Osiris, and he shall be made to have his being among the blessed spirits, and to have dominion among the ancestral followers of Osiris. If these things be done for any spirit he shall have his being in that place like a lord of eternity in one body with Osiris, and at no place shall any being contend against him.
– Book 3, The Papyrus of Ani

The ritual weighing of the heart from the Papyrus of Ani

[Note from T: Osiris judges the dead by putting their soul on one side of a scale and a feather on the other side. If the soul is lighter than the feather, game on. If not, it’s devoured by the crocodile-headed, lion-bodied, hippo-rumped goddess Ammut, aptly nicknamed “the devourer of souls.”]

Next time: Making mummies



About teresawilde

Author of Young Adult Paranormals, Paranormal Romance, Historical Paranormal Romance, tragical- comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, and poem unlimited.

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