Glimpses of the Egyptian Tuat Repeated in the Coptic Representation of Hell.
This is the testimony of Bishop Pisentios, as rendered by E. A. Wallis Budge, in The Egyptian Book of the Dead.
“The bishop having taken up his abode in a tomb filled with mummies, causes one of them to tell his history. After saying that his parents were Greeks who worshipped Poseidon, he states that when he was dying already the avenging angels came about him with iron knives and goads as sharp as spears, which they thrust into his side, while they gnashed their teeth at him; when he opened his eyes, he saw death in all its manifold forms round about him; and at that moment angels without mercy came and dragged his wretched soul from his body, and tying it to the form of a black horse they bore it away to Amenta.”
“Next, he was delivered over to merciless tormentors, who tortured him in a place where there were multitudes of savage beasts; and, when he had been cast into the place of outer darkness, he saw a ditch more than two hundred feet deep filled with reptiles, each of which had seven heads, and all their bodies were covered as it were with scorpions.”
“Here also were serpents, the very sight of which terrified the beholder, and to one of them which had teeth like iron stakes was the wretched man given to be devoured; for five days in each week the serpent crushed him with his teeth, but on the Saturday and the Sunday there was respite.”
“Another picture of the torments of Hades is given in the Martyrdom of Macarius of Antioch, wherein the saint, having restored to life a man who had been dead six hours, learned that when he was about to die he was surrounded by fiends, some of whom had the faces of dragons, others of lions, others of crocodiles, and others of bears.”
“They tore his soul from his body with great violence, and they fled with it over a mighty river of fire, in which they plunged it to a depth of four hundred cubits; then they took it out and set it before the judge of Truth. After hearing the sentence of the judge the fiends took it to a place of outer darkness where no light came, and they cast it into the cold where there was gnashing of teeth.”
“There it beheld a snake which never slept, with a head like that of a crocodile, and which was surrounded by reptiles which cast souls before it to be devoured, when the snake’s mouth was full it allowed the other reptiles to eat, and though they rent the soul in pieces it did not die.”
“After this the soul was carried into Amenta for ever.”
Budge concludes, “The martyr Macarius suffered in the reign of Diocletian, and the MS from which the above extract is taken was copied in the year of the Martyrs 634 = AD 918.”
“Thus, the old heathen ideas of the Egyptian Tuat were applied to the construction of the Coptic Hell.”
—E.A.Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, 1904, p. cxxxii.
—Hyvernat, les Actes des Martyrs de Egypt, Paris, 1886, pp. 56-7.