Egyptian Ideas of the Future Life
E. A. Wallis Budge
Part 3 out of 3
Travaux_, tom. v. p. 167 (l. 65).] and in a papyrus written nearly two
thousand years later the deceased himself says, "My soul is God, my soul
is eternity," [Footnote: Papyrus of Ani, Plate 28, l. 15 (Chapter
lxxxiv.).] a clear proof that the ideas of the existence of God and of
eternity were identical. Yet one other example is worth quoting, if only
to show the care that the writers of religious texts took to impress the
immortality of the soul upon their readers. According to Chapter CLXXV.
of the Book of the Dead the deceased finds himself in a place where
there is neither water nor air, and where "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 longings of love
be satisfied therein. But," says the deceased to the god Thoth, "let the
state of the spirits be given unto me instead of water, and air, and the
satisfying of the longings of love, and let quietness of heart be given
unto me instead of cakes and ale. The god Temu hath decreed that I shall
see thy face, and that I shall not suffer from the things which pained
thee; may every god transmit unto thee [O Osiris] his throne for
millions of years! Thy throne hath descended unto thy son Horus, and the
god Temu hath decreed that his course shall be among the holy princes.
Verily he shall rule over thy throne, and he shall be heir of the throne
of the Dweller in the Lake of the Two Fires. Verily it hath been decreed
that in me he shall see his likeness, [Footnote: _i.e._, I shall be like
Horus, the son of Osiris.] and that my face shall look upon the face of
the lord Tem." After reciting these words, the deceased asks Thoth, "How
long have I to live?" and the god replies, "It is decreed that thou
shalt live for millions of millions of years, a life of millions of
years." To give emphasis and additional effect to his words the god is
made to speak tautologically so that the most unlettered man may not
miss their meaning. A little later in the Chapter the deceased says, "O
my father Osiris, thou hast done for me that which thy father R[=a] did
for thee. So shall I abide on the earth lastingly, I shall keep
possession of my seat; my heir shall be strong; my tomb and my friends
who are upon earth shall flourish; my enemies shall be given over to
destruction and to the shackles of the goddess Serq. I am thy son, and
R[=a] is my father; for me likewise thou shalt make life, and strength,
and health!" It is interesting to note that the deceased first
identifies Osiris with R[=a], and then he identifies himself with
Osiris; thus he identifies himself with R[=a].
With the subjects of resurrection and immortality must be mentioned the
frequent references in the religious texts of all periods to the meat
and drink on which lived the beings who were believed to exist in the
world beyond the grave. In prehistoric days if was natural enough for
the dead man's friends to place food in his grave, because they thought
that he would require it on his journey to the next world; this custom
also presupposed that the deceased would have a body like unto that
which he had left behind him in this world, and that it would need food
and drink. In the Vth dynasty the Egyptians believed that the blessed
dead lived upon celestial food, and that they suffered neither hunger
nor thirst; they ate what the gods ate, they drank what they drank, they
were what they were, and became in such matters as these the
counterparts of the gods. In another passage we read that they are
apparelled in white linen, that they wear white sandals, and that they
go to the great lake which is in the midst of the Field of Peace whereon
the great gods sit, and that the gods give them to eat of the food (_or_
tree) of life of which they themselves eat that they also may live. It
is certain, however, that other views than these were held concerning
the food of the dead, for already in the Vth dynasty the existence of a
region called Sekhet-Aaru, or Sekhet-Aanru had been formulated, and to
this place the soul, or at least some part, of the pious Egyptian hoped
to make its way. Where Sekhet-Aaru was situated we have no means of
saying, and the texts afford us no clue as to its whereabouts; some
scholars think that it lay away to the east of Egypt, but it is far more
likely to represent some district of the Delta either in its northern or
north-eastern portion. Fortunately we have a picture of it in the
Papyrus of Nebseni, [Footnote: Brit. Mus., No. 9900; this document
belongs to the XVIIIth dynasty.] the oldest probably on papyrus, and
from this we may see that Sekhet-Aaru, _i.e._, the "Field of Reeds,"
typified some very fertile region where farming operations could be
carried on with ease and success. Canals and watercourses abound, and in
one section, we are told, the spirits of the blessed dwelt; the picture
probably represents a traditional "Paradise" or "Elysian Fields," and
the general characteristics of this happy land are those of a large,
well-kept, and well-stocked homestead, situated at no great distance
from the Nile or one of its main branches. In the Papyrus of Nebseni the
divisions of the Sekhet-Auru contain the following:--
[Illustration: The Elysian Fields of the Egyptians according to the
Papyrus of Nebseni (XVIIIth dynasty).]
1. Nebseni, the scribe and artist of the Temple of Ptah, with his arms
hanging by his sides, entering the Elysian Fields.
2. Nebseni making an offering of incense to the "great company of the
3. Nebseni seated in a boat paddling; above the boat are three symbols
4. Nebseni addressing a bearded mummied figure.
5. Three Pools or Lakes called Urti, Hetep, and Qetqet.
6. Nebseni reaping in Sekhet-hetepet.
7. Nebseni grasping the Bennu bird, which is perched upon a stand; in
front are three KAU and three KHU.
8. Nebseni seated and smelling a flower; the text reads: "Thousands of
all good and pure things to the KA of Nebseni."
9. A table of offerings.
10. Four Pools or Lakes called Nebt-tani, Uakha, Kha(?), and Hetep.
11. Nebseni ploughing with oxen by the side of a stream which is one
thousand [measures] in length, and the width of which cannot be said;
in it there are neither fish nor worms.
12. Nebseni ploughing with oxen on an island "the length of which is
the length of heaven."
13. A division shaped like a bowl, in which is inscribed: "The
birthplace(?) of the god of the city Qenqentet Nebt."
14. An island whereon are four gods and a flight of steps; the legend
reads: "The great company of the gods who are in Sekhet-hetep."
15. The boat Tchetetfet, with eight oars, four at the bows, and four
at the stern, floating at the end of a canal; in it is a flight of
steps. The place where it lies is called the "Domain of Neth."
16. Two Pools, the names of which are illegible. The scene as given in
the Papyrus of Ani [Footnote: Brit. Mus., No. 10,470, Plate 35] gives
some interesting variants and may be described thus:--
1. Ani making an offering before a hare-headed god, a snake-headed
god, and a bull-headed god; behind him stand his wife Thuthu and
Thoth holding his reed and palette. Ani paddling a boat. Ani
addressing a hawk, before which are a table of offerings, a statue,
three ovals, and the legend, "Being at peace in the Field, and
having air for the nostrils."
2. Ani reaping corn, Ani driving the oxen which tread out the corn;
Ani addressing (_or_ adoring) a Bennu bird perched on a stand; Ani
seated holding the _kherp_ sceptre; a heap of red and a heap of
white corn; three KAU and three KHU, which are perhaps to be read,
"the food of the spirits;" and three Pools.
3. Ani ploughing a field near a stream which contains [Illustration:
The Elysian Fields of the Egyptians according to the Papyrus of Ani
(XVIIIth dynasty).] neither fish, nor serpents, nor worms of any
4. The birthplace of the "god of the city;" an island on which is a
flight of steps; a region called the "place of the spirits" who are
seven cubits high, where the wheat is three cubits high, and where
the S[=A]HU, or spiritual bodies, reap it; the region Ashet, the god
who dwelleth therein being Un-nefer (_i.e._, a form of Osiris); a
boat with eight oars lying at the end of a canal; and a boat
floating on a canal. The name of the first boat is Behutu-tcheser,
and that of the second Tohefau.
So far we have seen that in heaven and in the world beyond the grave the
deceased has found only divine beings, and the doubles, and the souls,
and the spirits, and the spiritual bodies of the blessed; but no
reference has been made to the possibility of the dead recognizing each
other, or being able to continue the friendships or relationships which
they had when upon earth. In the Sekhet-Aaru the case is, however,
different, for there we have reason to believe relationships were
recognized and rejoiced in. Thus in Chapter LII. of the Book of the
Dead, which was composed with the idea of the deceased, from lack of
proper food in the underworld, being obliged to eat filth, [Footnote:
This idea is a survival of prehistoric times, when it was thought that
if the proper sepulchral meals were not deposited at regular intervals
where the KA, or "double," of the deceased could get at them it would be
obliged to wander about and pick up whatever it might find to eat upon
its road.] and with the object of preventing such an awful thing, the
deceased says: "That which is an abomination unto me, that which is an
abomination unto me, let me not eat. That which is an abomination unto
me, that which is an abomination unto me, is filth; let me not be
obliged to eat thereof in the place of the sepulchral cakes which are
offered unto the KAU (_i.e._, "doubles"). Let it not touch my body, let
me not be obliged to hold it in my hands; and let me not be compelled to
tread thereon in my sandals."
Some being or beings, probably the gods, then ask him, "What, now, wilt
thou live upon in the presence of the gods?" And he replies, "Let food
come to me from the place of food, and let me live upon the seven loaves
of bread which shall be brought as food before Horus, and upon the bread
which is brought before Thoth. And when the gods shall say unto me,
'What manner of food wouldst thou have given unto thee?' I will reply,
'Let me eat my food under the sycamore tree of my lady, the goddess
Hathor, and let my times be among the divine beings who have alighted
thereon. Let me have the power to order my own fields in Tattu
(Busiris), and my own growing crops in Annu. Let me live upon bread made
of white grain, and let my beer be made from red grain, and may the
persons of my father and mother be given unto me as guardians of my
door, and for the ordering of my homestead. Let me be sound and strong,
and let me have much room wherein to move, and let me be able to sit
wheresoever I please."
This Chapter is most important as showing that the deceased wished to
have his homestead and its fields situated in Tattu, that is to say,
near the capital of the Busirite or IXth nome of Lower Egypt, a district
not far from the city of Semennud (_i.e._, Sebennytus) and lying a
little to the south of the thirty-first parallel of latitude. It was
here that the reconstitution of the dismembered body of Osiris took
place, and it was here that the solemn ceremony of setting up the
backbone of Osiris was performed each year. The original Sekhet-Aaru was
evidently placed here, and we are therefore right in assuming that the
fertile fields of this part of the Delta formed the prototype of the
Elysian Fields of the Egyptian. At the same time he also wished to reap
crops on the fields round about Heliopolis, the seat of the greatest and
most ancient shrine of the Sun-god. The white grain of which he would
have his bread made is the ordinary _dhura_, and the red grain is the
red species of the same plant, which is not so common as the white. As
keepers of the door of his estate the deceased asks for the "forms (_or_
persons) of his father and his mother," and thus we see a desire on the
part of the Egyptian to continue the family life which he began upon
earth; it goes almost without saying that he would not ask this thing if
he thought there would be no prospect of knowing his parents in the next
world. An interesting proof of this is afforded by the picture of the
Sekhet-Aaru, or Elysian Fields, which is given in the Papyrus of Anhai,
[Footnote: Brit. Mus., No. 10,472.] [Illustration: Anhai bowing before
her father and mother. The Elysian Fields. From the Papyrus of Anhai
(XXIInd dynasty).] a priestess of Amen who lived probably about B.C.
1000. Here we see the deceased entering into the topmost section of the
district and addressing two divine persons; above one of these are
written the words "her mother," followed by the name Neferitu. The form
which comes next is probably that of her father, and thus we are sure
that the Egyptians believed they would meet their relatives in the next
world and know and be known by them.
Accompanying the picture of the Elysian Fields is a long text which
forms Chapter CX. of the Book of the Dead. As it supplies a great deal
of information concerning the views held in early times about that
region, and throws so much light upon the semi-material life which the
pious Egyptians, at one period of their history, hoped to lead, a
rendering of it is here given. It is entitled, "The Chapters of
Sekhet-Hetepet, and the Chapters of Coming Forth by Day; of going into
and of coming forth from the underworld; of coming to Sekhet-Aaru; of
being in Sekhet-Hetepet, the mighty land, the lady of winds; of having
power there; of becoming a spirit (KHU) there; of reaping there; of
eating there; of drinking there; of making love there; and of doing
everything even as a man doeth upon the earth." The deceased says:--
"Set hath seized Horus, who looked with the two eyes [Footnote:
_i.e._, the Eye of R[=a] and the Eye of Horus.] upon the building (?)
round Sekhet-hetep, but I have released Horus [and taken him from]
Set, and Set hath opened the path of the two eyes [which are] in
heaven. Set hath cast (?) his moisture to the winds upon the soul that
hath his day, and that dwelleth in the city of Mert, and he hath
delivered the interior of the body of Horus from the gods of Akert.
"Behold me now, for I make this mighty boat to travel over the Lake of
Hetep, and I brought it away with might from the palace of Shu; the
domain of his stars groweth young and reneweth the strength which it
had of old. I have brought the boat into the lakes thereof, so that I
may come forth into the cities thereof, and I have sailed into their
divine city Hetep. And behold, it is because I, even I, am at peace
with his seasons, and with his direction, and with his territory, and
with the company of the gods who are his firstborn. He maketh Horus
and Set to be at peace with those who watch over the living ones whom
he hath created in fair form, and he bringeth peace; he maketh Horus
and Set to be at peace with those who watch over them. He cutteth off
the hair from Horus and Set, he driveth away storm from the helpless,
and he keepeth away harm from the spirits (KHU). Let me have dominion
within that field, for I know it, and I have sailed among its lakes so
that I might come into its cities. My mouth is firm, [Footnote:
_i.e._, I know how to utter the words of power which I possess with
vigour.] and I am equipped to resist the spirits (KHU), therefore they
shall not have dominion over me. Let me be rewarded with thy fields, O
thou god Hetep; but that which is thy wish do, O thou lord of the
winds. May I become a spirit therein, may I eat therein, may I drink
therein, may I plough therein, may I reap therein, may I fight
therein, may I make love therein, may my words be mighty therein; may
I never be in a state of servitude therein; but may I be in authority
therein. Thou hast made strong the mouth (_or_ door) and the throat
(_?_) of Hetep; Qetet-bu is his name. He is stablished upon the
pillars [Footnote: _i.e._, the four pillars, one placed at each
cardinal point, which support the sky.] of Shu, and is linked unto the
pleasant things of R[=a]. He is the divider of years, he is hidden of
mouth, his mouth is silent, that which he uttereth is secret, he
fulfilleth eternity and hath possession of everlasting existence as
Hetep, the lord Hetep.
"The god Horus maketh himself to be strong like unto the Hawk which is
one thousand cubits in length, and two thousand [cubits in width] in
life; he hath equipments with him, and he journeyeth on and cometh
where his heart's throne wisheth to be in the Pools [of Hetep] and in
the cities thereof. He was begotten in the birth-chamber of the god of
the city, offerings of the god of the city are made unto him, he
performeth that which it is meet to do therein, and causeth the union
thereof, and doeth everything which appertaineth to the birth-chamber
of the divine city. When he setteth in life, like crystal, he
performeth everything therein, and the things which he doeth are like
unto the things which are done in the Lake of Twofold Fire, wherein
there is none that rejoiceth, and wherein are all manner of evil
things. The god Hetep goeth in, and cometh out, and goeth backwards
[in] that Field which gathereth together all manner of things for the
birth-chamber of the god of the city. When he setteth in life, like
crystal, he performeth all manner of things therein which are like
unto the things which are done in the Lake of Twofold Fire, wherein
there is none that rejoiceth, and wherein are all manner of evil
"Let me live with the god Hetep, clothed and not plundered by the
lords of the north, and let the lord of divine things bring food unto
me. Let him make me to go forward, and let me come out, and let him
bring my power unto me there; let me receive it, and let my equipment
be from the god Hetep. Let me gain the mastery over the great and
mighty word which is in my body in this place wherein I am, for by
means of it I will remember and I will forget. Let me go forward on my
way and let me plough. I am at peace with the god of the city, and I
know the waters, and the cities, and the nomes, and the lakes which
are in Sekhet-Hetep. I exist therein, I am strong therein, I have
become a spirit (KHU) therein, I eat therein, I sow seed therein, I
reap the harvest therein, I plough therein, I make love therein, and I
am at peace with the god Hetep therein. Behold I scatter seed therein,
I sail about among its lakes, and I advance to the cities thereof, O
divine Hetep. Behold, my mouth is provided with my [teeth which are
like] horns; grant me therefore an overflowing supply of the food
whereon, the 'Doubles' (KAU) and the Spirits (KHU) do live. I have
passed the judgment which Shu passeth upon him that knoweth him,
therefore let me go forth to the cities of [Hetep], and let me sail
about among its lakes, and let me walk about in Sekhet-Hetep. Behold
R[=a] is in heaven, and behold the god Hetep is the twofold offering
thereof. I have come forward to the land [of Hetep], I have girded up
my loins and come forth so that the gifts which are about to be given
unto me may be given, and I am glad, and I have laid hold upon my
strength which the god Hetep hath greatly increased for me." "O
Unen-em-hetep, [Footnote: The name of the first large section of
Sekhet-Aaru.] I have entered into thee, and my soul followeth after
me, and my divine food is upon my hands. O Lady of the two lands,
[Footnote: A lake in the second section of Sekhet-Aaru.] who
stablishest my word whereby I remember and forget, let me live
uninjured, and without any injury [being done] unto me. O grant to me,
O do thou grant to me, joy of heart; make thou me to be at peace, bind
thou up my sinews and muscles, and make me to receive the air."
"O Unen-em-hetep, O Lady of the winds, I have entered into thee, and I
have shewn [Footnote: Literally, "opened."] my head [therein]. R[=a]
sleepeth, but I am awake, and there is the goddess Hast at the gate of
heaven by night. Obstacles have been set before me, but I have
gathered together what R[=a] hath emitted. I am in my city."
"O Nut-urt, [Footnote: The name of a lake in the first section of
Sekhet-Aaru.] I have entered into thee and I have reckoned up my
harvest, and I go forward to Uakh. [Footnote: The name of a lake in
the second section of Sekhet-Aaru.] I am the Bull enveloped in
turquoise, the lord of the Field of the Bull, the lord of the divine
speech of the goddess Septet (Sothis) at her hours. O Uakh, I have
entered into thee, I have eaten my bread, I have gotten the mastery
over choice pieces of the flesh of oxen and of feathered fowl, and the
birds of Shu have been given unto me; I follow after the gods, and the
divine 'Doubles' (KAU)."
"O Tohefet, [Footnote: The name of a district in the third section of
Sekhet-Aaru.] I have entered into thee, I array myself in apparel, and
I have guarded myself with the _Sa_ garment of R[=a]; now behold, he
is in heaven, and those who dwell therein follow him, and I also
follow R[=a] in heaven, O Unen-em-hetep, lord of the two lands, I have
entered into thee, and I have plunged into the lakes of Tohesert;
behold me now, for all uncleanness hath departed from me. The Great
God groweth therein, and behold, I have found [food therein]; I have
snared feathered fowl and I feed upon, the finest of them."
"O Qenqentet, [Footnote: The name of a lake in the first section, of
Sekhet-Aaru.] I have entered into thee, and I have seen, the Osiris
[my father], and I have gazed upon my mother, and I have made love. I
have captured the worms and serpents [which are there] and have
delivered myself. I know the name of the god who is opposite to the
goddess Tohesert, who hath straight hair and is provided with horns;
he reapeth, but I both plough and reap."
"O Hast, [Footnote: The name of a lake in the third section of
Sekhet-Aaru.] I have entered into thee, and I have driven back those
who would come to the turquoise [sky]; and I have followed the winds
of the company of the gods. The Great God hath given my head unto me,
and he who hath bound on me my head is the Mighty One with the eyes of
turquoise, that is to say, Ari-en-ab-f (_i.e._, He who doeth as he
"O Usert, [Footnote: The name of a lake in the third section of
Sekhet-Aaru.] I have come unto thee at the house where the divine food
is brought unto me."
"O Smam, [Footnote: The name of a lake in the third section of
Sekhet-Aaru.] I have come unto thee. My heart watcheth, and I am
provided with the white crown. I am led into celestial regions, and I
make the things of earth to flourish; and there is joy of heart for
the Bull, and for celestial beings, and for the company of the gods. I
am the god who is the Bull, the lord of the gods as he goeth forth
from the turquoise [sky]."
"O divine nome of wheat and barley, I have come unto thee, I have come
forward to thee, and I have taken up that which followeth me, namely,
the best of the libations of the company of the gods. I have tied my
boat in the celestial lakes, I have lifted up the post at which to
anchor, I have recited the prescribed words with my voice, and I have
ascribed praises unto the gods who dwell in Sekhet-hetep."
Other joys, however, than those described above, await the man who has
passed satisfactorily through the judgment and has made his way into the
realm of the gods. For, in answer to a long petition in the Papyrus of
Ani, which has been given above (see p. 33 f.), the god R[=a] promises
to the deceased the following: "Thou shalt come forth into heaven, thou
shalt pass over the sky, thou shalt be joined unto the starry deities.
Praises shall be offered unto thee in thy boat, thou shalt be hymned in
the [=A]tet boat, thou shalt behold R[=a] within his shrine, thou shalt
set together with his Disk day by day, thou shalt see the ANT [Footnote
1: The name of a mythological fish which swam at the bow of the boat of
R[=a].] fish when it springeth into being in the waters of turquoise,
and thou shalt see the ABTU [Footnote: The name of a mythological fish
which swam at the bow of the boat of R[=a].] fish in his hour. It shall
come to pass that the Evil One shall fall when he layeth a snare to
destroy thee, and the joints of his neck and of his back shall be hacked
asunder. R[=a] [saileth] with a fair wind, and the Sektet boat draweth
on and cometh into port. The mariners of R[=a] rejoice, and the heart
of Nebt-[=a]nkh (_i.e._, Isis) is glad, for the enemy of R[=a] hath
fallen to the ground. Thou shalt behold Horus on the standing-place of
the pilot of the boat, and Thoth and Ma[=a]t shall stand one upon each
side of him. All the gods shall rejoice when they behold R[=a] coming
in peace to make the hearts of the shining ones to live, and Osiris Ani,
triumphant, the scribe of the divine offspring of the lords of Thebes,
shall be along with them."
But, not content with sailing in the boat of R[=a] daily as one of many
beatified beings, the deceased hoped to transform each of his limbs into
a god, and when this was effected to become R[=a] himself. Thus in
Chapter XLII. of the Book of the Dead [Footnote: See _The Chapters of
Coming Forth by Day_, p. 93.] the deceased says--
"My hair is the hair of Nu.
"My face is the face of the Disk.
"My eyes are the eyes of Hathor.
"My ears are the ears of Ap-uat.
"My nose is the nose of Khenti-Khas.
"My lips are the lips of Anpu.
"My teeth are the teeth of Serqet.
"My neck is the neck of the divine goddess Isis.
"My hands are the hands of Ba-neb-Tattu.
"My fore-arms are the fore-arms of Neith, the Lady of Sais.
"My backbone is the backbone of Suti.
"My phallus is the phallus of Osiris.
"My reins are the reins of the Lords of Kher-[=a]ba.
"My chest is the chest of the Mighty one of terror.
"My belly and back are the belly and back of Sekhet.
"My buttocks are the buttocks of the Eye of Horus.
"My hips and legs are the hips and legs of Nut.
"My feet are the feet of Ptah.
"My fingers and my leg-bones are the fingers and leg-bones of the
Living Gods." [Footnote: The idea of the deification of the human
members was current already in the VIth dynasty. See _Recueil de
Travaux_, tom. viii, pp. 87, 88.]
And immediately after this the deceased says:
"There is no member of my body which is not the member of a god. The
god Thoth shieldeth my body altogether, and I am R[=a] day by day."
Thus we see by what means the Egyptians believed that mortal man could
be raised from the dead, and attain unto life everlasting. The
resurrection was the object with which every prayer was said and every
ceremony performed, and every text, and every amulet, and every formula,
of each and every period, was intended to enable the mortal to put on
immortality and to live eternally in a transformed glorified body. If
this fact be borne in mind many apparent difficulties will disappear
before the readers in this perusal of Egyptian texts, and the religion
of the Egyptians will be seen to possess a consistence of aim and a
steadiness of principle which, to some, it at first appears to lack.
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