An arbitrary title given to an Egyptian funerary work called pert em hru, the proper translation of which is : ” coming forth by day,” or ‘” manifested in the light.”
There are several versions or recensions of this work, namely those of Heliopolis, Thebes and Sais, these editions differing only in as much as they were edited by the colleges of priests founded at these centres.
Many papyri of the work have been discovered, and passages from it have been inscribed upon the walls of tombs and pyramids, and on sarcophagi and mummy-wrappings.
It is undoubtedly of extremely early date : how early it would indeed be difficult to say with any exactness, but in the course of centuries it was greatly added to and modified. In all about 200 chapters exist, but no papyrus has been found containing all these. The chapters are quite independent of one another, and were probably all composed at different times. The main subject of the whole is the beatification of the dead, who were supposed to recite the chapters in order that they might gain power and enjoy the privileges of the new life.
The work abounds in magical references, and it is its magical side alone which wo can consider here. The whole trend of the Book of the Dead is thaumatin magic, as its purpose is to guard the dead against the dangers which they have to face in reaching the other world. As in most mythologies, the dead Egyptian had to encounter malignant spirits, and was threatened by many dangers before reaching his haven of rest. He had also to undergo judgment by Ofiris, and to justify himself before being permitted to enter the realms of bliss. This he imagined he could in great part accomplish by the recitation of various magical formula?, and spells, which would ward off the evil influences opposed to him. To this end every Egyptian of means had buried with him a papyrus of the Book of the Dead, in which was contained at least all the chapters necessary to his encounter with such formidable adversaries as he would meet at the gates of Amenti (q.v.), the Egyptian Hades, and which would assist him in making replies during his ceremony of justification.
First amongstthese spells were the ” words of power ” .
The Egyptians believed that to discover the ” secret ” name of a god was to gain complete ascendancy over him. Sympathetic magic was in vogue in Egyptian burial practice, for we find in Egyptian tombs of the better sort, paintings of tables laden with viands of several descriptions, the inscriptions attached to which convey the idea of boundless liberality. Inscriptions like the following are extremely common ” To the Ka or soul of so-and-so, 5,000 loaves of bread, 500 geese, and 5.000 jugs of beer.” Those dedications cost the generous donors little, as they merely had the objects named painted upon the wall of the tomb, imagining that their kas ox astral counterparts would be uneatable and drinkable by the deceased. This of course is merely an extension of the Neolithic savage conception that articles buried with a man had their astral counterparts and would be of use to him in another world.
Pictorial representation played a considerable part in the magical ritual of the Book of the Dead.
One of the pleasures of the dead was to sail over Heaven in the boat of Ra, and to secure this for the deceased one must paint certain pictures and mutter over them words of power.
On this, Budge in his Egyptian Magic says: ” On a piece of clean papyrus a boat is to be drawn with ink made of green abut mixed with anti-water, and in it are to be figures of Isis, Thoth, Shu, and Khepera, and the deceased; when this had been done, the papyrus must be fastened to the breast of the deceased, care being taken that it does not actually touch his body. Then shall his spirit enter into the boat of Ra each day, and the god Thoth shall take heed to him, and he shall sail about with him into any place that he wisheth. Elsewhere it is ordered that the boat of Ra be painted ‘ in a pure place,’ and in the bows, is to be painted a figure of the deceased; but Ra was supposed to travel in one boat (called Atet) until noon, and another (called Sektet) until sunset and provision
had to be made for the deceased in both boats. How was this to be done? On one side of the picture of the boat a figure of the morning boat of Ra was to be drawn, and on the other a figure of the afternoon boat; thus, the one picture was capable of becoming two boats. And, provided the proper offerings were made for the deceased on the birthday of Osiris, his soul would live for ever, and he would not die a second time. According to the rubric to the chapter in which these directions are given, the text of it is as old, at least, as the time of Hesepti, the fifth king of the 1st. dynasty, who reigned about B.C. 4350, and the custom of painting the boat upon papyrus is probably contemporaneous.
“1. ‘ This chapter shall be recited over a boat four cubits in length, and made of greenporcelain (on which “have been painted) the divine sovereign chiefs of the cities; and a figure of heaven with its stars shall be made also, and this thou shalt have made ceremonially pure by means of natron and incense. And behold, thou shalt make an -image of Ra in yellow colour upon a new plaque and set it at the bows of the boat. And behold, thou shalt make an image of the spirit which thou dost wish to make perfect (and place it) in this boat, and thou shalt make it to travel about in the boat (which shall be made in the form of the boat) of Ra; and he shall see the form of the god Ra himself therein. Let not the eye of any man whatsoever look upon it, with the exception of thine own self, or thy father, or thy son, and guard (this) with great care.
Then shall the spirit be perfect in the heart of Ra, and it shall give unto him power with the company of the gods; and the gods shall look upon him as a divine being like unto themselves; and mankind and the dead shall fall down upon their faces, and he shall be seen in the underworld inthe form of the radiance of Ra.’
“2. ‘ This chapter shall be recited over a hawk standing and having the white crown upon his head, (and over figures of) the gods Tern, Shu, Tefnut, Seb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Suti, and Nephthys, painted in yellow colour upon a new plaque, which shall be placed in (a model of) the boat (of Ra), along with a figure of the spirit whom thou wouldst make perfect. These thou shalt anoint with cedar oil, and incense shall be offered up to them on the fire, and feathered fowl shall be roasted. It is an act of praise to Ra as he journeyeth, and it shall cause a man to have his being along with Ra day byday, whithersoever the god vayageth ; and it shall destroy the enemies of Ra in very truth regularly and continually.’ ”
It was understood that the words of power were not to be spoken until after death. They were ” a great mystery ” but ” the eye of no man whatsoever must see it, for it is a thing of abomination for every man to know it. Hide it, therefore; the Book of the Lady of the Hidden Temple is its name.” This would seem to refer to some spell uttered by Isis-Hathor which delivered the god Ra or Horus from trouble, or was of benefit to him, and it is concluded that it may be equally efficacious in the case of the deceased.
Many spells were included in the Book of the Dead for the purpose of preserving the mummy against mouldering, for assisting the owner of the papyrus to become as a god and to be able to transform himself into an)’ shape he desired. Painted offerings were also provided for him in order that he might give gifts to the gods. Thus, we see that the Book of the Dead was undoubtedly magical in its character, consisting as it did of a series of spells or words of power, which enabled the speaker to have perfect control over all the powers of Amenti. The only moment in which the dead man is not master of his fate is when his heart is weighed by Thoth before Osiris. If it does not conform to the standard required for justification, he is cast out; but this excepted, an absolute knowledge of the Book of the Dead safeguarded the deceased in every way from the danger of damnation. So, numerous are the spells and charms for the use of the- deceased, that to merely enumerate them would be to take up a good deal of space. A number of the chapters consist of prayers and hymns to the gods, but the directions as to the magical uses of the book are equally numerous, and the conception of supplication is mingled with the idea of circumvention by sorcery in the most extraordinary manner.
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