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- The Book of the Dead - 1/6 -

Produced by Jeroen Hellingman


by E. A. Wallis Budge.


The Title.

"Book of the Dead" is the title now commonly given to the great collection of funerary texts which the ancient Egyptian scribes composed for the benefit of the dead. These consist of spells and incantations, hymns and litanies, magical formulae and names, words of power and prayers, and they are found cut or painted on walls of pyramids and tombs, and painted on coffins and sarcophagi and rolls of papyri. The title "Book of the Dead" is somewhat unsatisfactory and misleading, for the texts neither form a connected work nor belong to one period; they are miscellaneous in character, and tell us nothing about the lives and works of the dead with whom they were buried. Moreover, the Egyptians possessed many funerary works that might rightly be called "Books of the Dead," but none of them bore a name that could be translated by the title "Book of the Dead." This title was given to the great collection of funerary texts in the first quarter of the nineteenth century by the pioneer Egyptologists, who possessed no exact knowledge of their contents. They were familiar with the rolls of papyrus inscribed in the hieroglyphic and the hieratic character, for copies of several had been published, [1] but the texts in them were short and fragmentary. The publication of the Facsimile [2] of the Papyrus of Peta-Amen-neb-nest-taui [3] by M. Cadet in 1805 made a long hieroglyphic text and numerous coloured vignettes available for study, and the French Egyptologists described it as a copy of the "Rituel Funéraire" of the ancient Egyptians. Among these was Champollion le Jeune, but later, on his return from Egypt, he and others called it "Le Livre des Morts," "The Book of the Dead," "Das Todtenbuch," etc. These titles are merely translations of the name given by the Egyptian tomb-robbers to every roll of inscribed papyrus which they found with mummies, namely, "Kitāb-al-Mayyit," "Book of the dead man," or "Kitāb al-Mayyitun," "Book of the dead" (plur.). These men knew nothing of the contents of such a roll, and all they meant to say was that it was "a dead man's book," and that it was found in his coffin with him.


The Preservation of the Mummified Body in the Tomb by Thoth.

The objects found in the graves of the predynastic Egyptians, i.e., vessels of food, flint knives and other weapons, etc., prove that these early dwellers in the Nile Valley believed in some kind of a future existence. But as the art of writing was, unknown to them their graves contain no inscriptions, and we can only infer from texts of the dynastic period what their ideas about the Other World were. It is clear that they did not consider it of great importance to preserve the dead body in as complete and perfect state as possible, for in many of their graves the heads, hands and feet have been found severed from the trunks and lying at some distance from them. On the other hand, the dynastic Egyptians, either as the result of a difference in religious belief, or under the influence of invaders who had settled in their country, attached supreme importance to the preservation and integrity of the dead body, and they adopted every means known to them to prevent its dismemberment and decay. They cleansed it and embalmed it with drugs, spices and balsams; they anointed it with aromatic oils and preservative fluids; they swathed it in hundreds of yards of linen bandages; and then they sealed it up in a coffin or sarcophagus, which they laid in a chamber hewn in the bowels of the mountain. All these things were done to protect the physical body against damp, dry rot and decay, and against the attacks of moth, beetles, worms and wild animals. But these were not the only enemies of the dead against which precautions had to be taken, for both the mummified body and the spiritual elements which had inhabited it upon earth had to be protected from a multitude of devils and fiends, and from the powers of darkness generally. These powers of evil had hideous and terrifying shapes and forms, and their haunts were well known, for they infested the region through which the road of the dead lay when passing from this world to the Kingdom of Osiris. The "great gods" were afraid of them, and were obliged to protect themselves by the use of spells and magical names, and words of power, which were composed and written down by Thoth. In fact it was believed in very early times in Egypt that Ra the Sun-god owed his continued existence to the possession of a secret name with which Thoth had provided him. And each morning the rising sun was menaced by a fearful monster called Aapep, which lay hidden under the place of sunrise waiting to swallow up the solar disk. It was impossible, even for the Sun-god, to destroy this "Great Devil," but by reciting each morning the powerful spell with which Thoth had provided him he was able to paralyse all Aapep's limbs and to rise upon this world. Since then the "great gods," even though benevolently disposed towards them, were not able to deliver the dead from the devils that lived upon the "bodies, souls, spirits, shadows and hearts of the dead," the Egyptians decided to invoke the aid of Thoth on behalf of their dead and to place them under the protection of his almighty spells. Inspired by Thoth the theologians of ancient Egypt composed a large number of funerary texts which were certainly in general use under the IVth dynasty (about 3700 B.C.), and were probably well known under the Ist dynasty, and throughout the whole period of dynastic history Thoth was regarded as the author of the "Book of the Dead."


The Book Per-t em hru, or [The Chapters of] Coming forth by (or, into) the Day, commonly called the "Book of the Dead."

The spells and other texts which were written by Thoth for the benefit of the dead, and are directly connected with him, were called, according to documents written under the XIth and XVIIIth dynasties, "Chapters of the Coming Forth by (or, into) the Day." One rubric in the Papyrus of Nu (Brit. Mus. No. 10477) states that the text of the work called "PER-T EM HRU," i.e., "Coming Forth (or, into) the Day," was discovered by a high official in the foundations of a shrine of the god Hennu during the reign of Semti, or Hesepti, a king of the Ist dynasty. Another rubric in the same papyrus says that the text was cut upon the alabaster plinth of a statue of Menkaura (Mycerinus), a king of the IVth dynasty, and that the letters were inlaid with lapis lazuli. The plinth was found by Prince Herutataf, a son of King Khufu (Cheops), who carried it off to his king and exhibited it as a "most wonderful" thing. This composition was greatly reverenced, for it "would make a man victorious upon earth and in the Other World; it would ensure him a safe and free passage through the Tuat (Under World); it would allow him to go in and to go out, and to take at any time any form he pleased; it would make his soul to flourish, and would prevent him from dying the [second] death." For the deceased to receive the full benefit of this text it had to be recited by a man "who was ceremonially pure, and who had not eaten fish or meat, and had not consorted with women." On coffins of the XIth dynasty and on papyri of the XVIIIth dynasty we find two versions of the PER-T EM HRU, one long and one short. As the title of the shorter version states that it is the "Chapters of the PER-T EM HRU in a single chapter," it is clear that this work, even under the IVth dynasty, contained many "Chapters," and that a much abbreviated form of the work was also current at the same period. The rubric that attributes the "finding" of the Chapter to Herutataf associates it with Khemenu, i.e., Hermopolis, and indicates that Thoth, the god of this city, was its author.

The work PER-T EM HRU received many additions in the course of centuries, and at length, under the XVIIIth dynasty, it contained about 190 distinct compositions, or "Chapters." The original forms of many of these are to be found in the "Pyramid Texts" (i.e., the funerary compositions cut on the walls of the chambers and corridors of the pyramids of Kings Unas, Teta, Pepi I Meri-Ra, Merenra and Pepi II at Sakkārah), which were written under the Vth and VIth dynasties. The forms which many other chapters had under the XIth and XIIth dynasties are well represented by the texts painted on the coffins of Amamu, Sen, and Guatep in the British Museum (Nos. 6654, 30839, 30841), but it is possible that both these and the so-called "Pyramid Texts" all belonged to the work PER-T EM HRU, and are extracts from it. The "Pyramid Texts" have no illustrations, but a few of the texts on the coffins of the XIth and XIIth dynasties have coloured vignettes, e.g., those which refer to the region to be traversed by the deceased on his way to the Other World, and the Islands of the Blessed or the Elysian Fields. On the upper margins of the insides of such coffins there are frequently given two or more rows of coloured drawings of the offerings which under the Vth dynasty were presented to the deceased or his statue during the celebration of the service of "Opening the Mouth" and the performance of the ceremonies of "The Liturgy of Funerary Offerings." Under the XVIIIth dynasty, when the use of large rectangular coffins and sarcophagi fell somewhat into disuse, the scribes began to write collections of Chapters from the PER-T EM HRU on rolls of papyri instead of on coffins. At first the texts were written in hieroglyphs, the greater number of them being in black ink, and an attempt was made to illustrate each text by a vignette drawn in black outline. The finest known example of such a codex is the Papyrus of Nebseni (Brit. Mus. No. 9900), which is 77 feet 7 1/2 inches in length and I foot I1/2 inches in breadth. Early in the XVIIIth dynasty scribes began to write the titles of the Chapters, the rubrics, and the catchwords in red ink and the text in black, and it became customary to decorate the vignettes with colours, and to increase their size and number. The oldest codex of this class is the Papyrus of Nu (Brit. Mus. No. 10477) which is 65 feet 3 1/2 inches in length, and 1 foot 1 1/2 inches in breadth. This and many other rolls were written by their owners for their own tombs, and in each roll both text and vignettes were usually, the work of the same hand. Later, however, the scribe wrote the text only, and a skilled artist was employed to add the coloured vignettes, for which spaces were marked out and left blank by the scribe. The finest example of this class of roll is the Papyrus of Ani (Brit. Mus., No. 10470). which is 78 feet in length and 1 foot 3 inches in breadth. In all papyri of this class the text is written in hieroglyphs, but under the XIXth and following dynasties many papyri are written throughout in the hieratic character; these usually lack vignettes, but have coloured frontispieces.

Under the rule of the High Priests of Amen many changes were introduced into the contents of the papyri, and the arrangement cf the texts and vignettes of the PER-T EM HRU was altered. The great confraternity

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