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The Ka, the Ghost of the Egyptians

The peculiar ideas which the Egyptians held about the composition of man greatly favoured the belief in apparitions and ghosts. According to them a man consisted of a physical body, a shadow, a double, a soul, a heart, a spirit called the khu, a power, a name, and a spiritual body.

When the body died the shadow departed from it, and could only be brought back to it by the performance of a mystical ceremony; the double lived in the tomb with the body, and was there visited by the soul whose habitation was in heaven.

The soul was, from one aspect, a material thing, and like the ka, or double, was believed to partake of the funeral offerings which were brought to the tomb; one of the chief objects of sepulchral offerings of meat and drink was to keep the double in the tomb and to do away with the necessity of its wandering about outside the tomb in search of food.

It is clear from many texts that, unless the double was supplied with sufficient food, it would wander forth from the tomb and eat any kind of offal and drink any kind of dirty water which it might find in its path.

But besides the shadow, and the double, and the soul, the spirit of the deceased, which usually had its abode in heaven, was sometimes to be found in the tomb.

There is, however, good reason for stating that the immortal part of man which lived in the tomb and had its special abode in the statue of the deceased was the “double.”

This is proved by the fact that a special part of the tomb was reserved for the ka, or double, which was called the “house of the ka,” and that a priest, called the “priest of the ka,” was specially appointed to minister therein.

The double enjoyed the smell of the incense which was offered at certain times each year in the tomb, as well as the flowers, and herbs, and meat, and drink; and the statue of the deceased in which the double dwelt took pleasure in all the various scenes which were painted or sculptured on the walls of the various chambers of the tomb, and enjoyed again all the delights which his body had enjoyed upon earth.

The ka, or double, then, in very early times was, to all intents and purposes, the ghost of the Egyptians.

In later times the khu, or “spirit,” seems to have been identified with it, and there are frequent allusions in the texts to the sanctity of the offerings made to the khu, and to their territories, i.e., the districts in which their mummified bodies lie.

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 217-8.

Excerpt from the Papyrus of Hunefer, BC 1350

“But it must be remembered that hitherto only the “bull of the south” has been sacrificed, and that the “bull of the north” has yet to be offered up; and all the ceremonies which have been already performed must be repeated if the deceased would have the power to go forth at will over the whole earth.

From the earliest times the South and the North were the two great sections into which the world was divided, and each section possessed its own special gods, all of whom had to be propitiated by the deceased; hence most religious ceremonies were ordered to be performed in duplicate.

In later days each section was divided into two parts, and the four divisions thus made were apportioned to the four children of Horus; hence prayers and formulæ were usually said four times, once in honour of each god, and the rubrical directions on this point are definite.

The ceremony of "opening the mouth" being performed on the mummy of Hunefer, about B.C. 1350 (From the Papyrus of Hunefer, sheet 5)

The ceremony of “opening the mouth” being performed on the mummy of Hunefer, about B.C. 1350 (From the Papyrus of Hunefer, sheet 5)

In the limited space of this book it is not possible to reproduce all the scenes of the ceremony of opening the mouth and the eyes which are depicted in the tombs and elsewhere, but on page 199 is a general view of the ceremony as it is often given in the papyri of the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties.

On the right we see the pyramidal tomb in the Theban hill with its open door, and by the side of it is the funeral stele with a rounded top inscribed with a figure of the deceased standing in adoration before Osiris, and with a prayer to the god for sepulchral offerings.

Anubis, the god of the dead, embraces the mummy, thus indicating his readiness to take the deceased under his protection.

Nasha, the wife of the deceased, stands weeping before the mummy, and at his feet kneels another weeping woman, probably his daughter.

Anubis and the mummy stand upon a layer of sand which has been placed there with the object of sanctifying the ground.

A priest clad in a panther’s skin holds a censer containing burning incense in one hand, and a vase, from which he sprinkles water, in the other.

One ministrant holds the two instruments “Tun-tet” and “Seb-ur” in the right hand, and the “Ur hekau” instrument in the left; and another offers four vases of unguent.

In the lower register are a cow and her calf, and two men are carrying along to the mummy the haunch which we must assume to have been recently cut from the slaughtered bull, and the heart which has just been taken out of him.

On a table we see lying a number of objects, the “Meskhet,” and Pesh-en-kef,” and other instruments, two sets of four vases for holding unguents and oil, the bags of colour, the iron of the south and north, etc.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. P. 198-202.

Opening of the Mouth

“The sprinkling of water was followed by a purification by means of incense, also contained in four vases, one for each of the four quarters of the earth.

The burning of this sweet-smelling substance assisted in opening the mouth of the deceased and in strengthening his heart.

At this stage the Sem priest dressed himself in the skin of a cow, and lying down upon a kind of couch pretended to be asleep; but he was roused up by the Am-asi priest in the presence of the Kher-heb and the Am-khent priest, and when the Sem priest had seated himself upon a seat, the four men together represented the four children of Horus, (i.e., Mestha, Hâpi, Tuamutef and Qebhsennuf) or the gods with the heads of a hawk, an ape, a jackal, and a man respectively.

The Sem priest then said, “I have seen my father in all his forms,” which the other men in turn repeat.

The meaning of this portion of the ceremony is hard to explain, but M. Maspero (op. cit., p. 168) thinks that it was intended to bring back to the body of the deceased its shadow (khaibit), which had departed from it when it died.

The preliminary purifications being ended, and the shadow having been joined to the body once more, the statue or mummy is approached by the men who represent the armed guard of Horus; and one of their number, having taken upon himself the character of Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, touches its mouth with his finger.

The Kher-heb next made ready to perform the sacrifice which was intended to commemorate the slaughter, at some very early period, of the fiends who were the friends of Set.

It seems that, the soul of Horus dwelt in an eye, and that Set nearly succeeded in devouring it; but Horus vanquished Set and saved his eye.

Set’s associates then changed themselves into the forms of animals, and birds, and fish, but they were caught, and their heads were cut off; Set, however, who was concealed in the form of a pig, contrived to escape.

The sacrifice consisted of a bull (or cow) or two, two gazelles or antelopes, and ducks.

When the bull had been slain, one of the forelegs was cut off, and the heart taken out, and offered to the statue or mummy; the Sem priest then took the bleeding leg and touched, or pretended to touch, the mouth and eyes with it four times.

The slaughtered gazelles or antelopes and ducks were simply offered before the statue. The Sem priest next said to the statue, “I have come to embrace thee, I am thy son Horus, I have pressed thy mouth; I am thy son, I love thee. . . . Thy mouth was closed, but I have set in order for thee thy mouth and thy teeth.”

The "Seb-ur" and "Tuntet" Instruments for Opening the Mouth.

The “Seb-ur” and “Tuntet” Instruments for Opening the Mouth.

He then brought two instruments, called “Seb-ur” and “Tuntet” respectively, and touched the mouth of the statue or mummy with them, whilst the Kher-heb said, “Thy mouth was closed, but I have set in order for thee thy mouth and thy teeth. I open for thee thy mouth, I open for thee thy two eyes. I have opened for thee thy mouth with the instrument of Anubis. I have opened thy mouth with the instrument of Anubis, with the iron implement with which the mouths of the gods were opened.”

“Horus, open the mouth! Horus, open the mouth! Horus hath opened the mouth of the dead, as he in times of old opened the mouth of Osiris, with the iron which came forth from Set, with the iron instrument with which he opened the mouths of the gods.”

“He hath opened thy mouth with it. The deceased shall walk and shall speak, and his body shall be with the great company of the gods in the Great House of the Aged One in Annu, and he shall receive there the ureret crown from Horus, the lord of mankind.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. P. 193-6.

Men Attaining the Form of the Radiance of Ra

“Elsewhere it is ordered that the boat of Râ be painted “in a pure place,” and in the bows is to be painted a figure of the deceased; but Râ was supposed to travel in one boat (called “Âtet “) 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 Râ 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 be would not die a second time. (Ibid., p. 212).

According to the rubric to the chapter (i.e., CXXX) 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 Ist dynasty, who reigned about B.C. 4350, and the custom of painting the boat upon papyrus is probably contemporaneous.

The two following rubrics from Chapters CXXXIII. and CXXXIV., respectively, will explain still further the importance of such pictures:–

1. “This chapter shall be recited over a boat four cubits in length, and made of green porcelain [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 Râ 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 Râ; and he shall see the form of the god Râ 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 Râ, 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 in the form of the radiance of Râ.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 111-2.

Fear of Oblivion

“On the insides of the wooden coffins of the XIIth dynasty, about B.C. 2500, are painted whole series of objects which, in still earlier times, were actually placed in the tombs with the mummy; but little by little men ceased to provide the numerous articles connected with the sepulture of the dead which the old ritual prescribed, and they trusted to the texts and formulæ which they painted on the coffin to turn pictures into substances, and besides the pillow they placed little else in the tomb.

About a thousand years later, when the religious texts which formed the Book of the Dead were written upon papyri instead of coffins, a large number of illustrations or vignettes were added to them; to many of these special importance was attached, and the following are worthy of note.

It will be remembered that the CXXVth Chapter of the Book of the Dead contains the so-called “Negative Confession” which is recited in the Hall of Maâti, and a number of names of gods and beings, the knowledge of which is most important for the welfare of the deceased.

At the end of the Chapter we find the following statement:—

“This chapter shall be said by the deceased after he hath been cleansed and purified, and when he is arrayed in apparel, and is shod with white leather sandals, and his eyes have been painted with antimony, and his body hath been anointed with ânti unguent, and when he hath made offerings of oxen, and birds, and incense, and cakes, and ale, and garden herbs.

And behold, thou shalt paint a picture of what shall happen in the Hall of Maâti upon a new tile moulded from earth, upon which neither a pig nor any other animal hath trodden. And if thou writest upon it this chapter the deceased shall flourish; and his children shall flourish; and his name shall never fall into oblivion; and bread, and cakes, and sweetmeats, and wine, and meat shall be given unto him at the altar of the great god; and he shall not be turned back at any door in the underworld; and he shall be brought in along with the Kings of the North and South; and he shall be in the following of Osiris always and for ever.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 108-9.

Thoth, Scribe of Truth

Ra next sent for the god Thoth, and when he came into the presence of Ra, he invited him to go with him to a distance, to a place called “Tuat,” i.e., hell, or the Other World, in which region he had determined to make his light to shine.

When they arrived there he told Thoth, the Scribe of Truth, to write down on his tablets the names of all who were therein, and to punish those among them who had sinned against him, and he deputed to Thoth the power to deal absolutely as he pleased with all the beings in the Tuat.

Ra loathed the wicked, and wished them to be kept at a distance from him. Thoth was to be his vicar, to fill his place, and “Place of Ra,” was to be his name. He gave him power to send out a messenger (hab), so the Ibis (habi) came into being.

All that Thoth would do would be good (khen), therefore the Tekni bird of Thoth came into being. He gave Thoth power to embrace (anh) the heavens, therefore the Moon-god (Aah) came into being.

He gave Thoth power to turn back (anan) the Northern peoples, therefore the dog-headed ape of Thoth came into being. Finally Ra told Thoth that he would take his place in the sight of all those who were wont to worship Ra, and that all should praise him as God. Thus the abdication of Ra was complete.

In the fragmentary texts which follow we are told how a man may benefit by the recital of this legend. He must proclaim that the soul which animated Ra was the soul of the Aged One, and that of Shu, Khnemu (?), Heh, &c., and then he must proclaim that he is Ra himself, and his word of power Heka.

If he recites the Chapter correctly he shall have life in the Other World, and he will be held in greater fear there than here. A rubric adds that he must be dressed in new linen garments, and be well washed with Nile water; he must wear white sandals, and his body must be anointed with holy oil.

He must burn incense in a censer, and a figure of Maat (Truth) must be painted on his tongue with green paint. These regulations applied to the laity as well as to the clergy.

E.A. Wallis Budge, Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations, London, 1912. (No page numbers are given in my edition).

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