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- The Book of the Dead - 2/6 -

of Amen-Ra, the "King of the Gods," felt it to be necessary to emphasize the supremacy of their god, even in the Kingdom of Osiris, and they added many prayers, litanies and hymns to the Sun-god to every selection of the texts from the PER-T EM HRU that was copied on a roll of papyrus for funerary purposes. The greater number of the rolls of this period are short and contain only a few Chapters, e.g., the Papyrus of the Royal Mother Netchemet (Brit. Mus. No. 10541) and the Papyrus of Queen Netchemet (Brit. Mus. No. 10478). In some the text is very defective and carelessly written, but the coloured vignettes are remarkable for their size and beauty; of this class of roll the finest example is the Papyrus of Anhai (Brit. Mus. No. 10472). The most interesting of all the rolls that were written during the rule of the Priest-Kings over Upper Egypt is the Papyrus of Princess Nesitanebtashru (Brit. Mus. No. 10554), now commonly known as the "Greenfield Papyrus." It is the longest and widest funerary papyrus [4] known, for it measures 123 feet by 1 foot 6 1/2 inches, and it contains more Chapters, Hymns, Litanies, Adorations and Homages to the gods than any other roll. The 87 Chapters from the PER-T EM HRU which it contains prove the princess's devotion to the cult of Osiris, and the Hymns to Amen-Ra show that she was able to regard this god and Osiris not as rivals but as two aspects of the same god. She believed that the "hidden" creative power which was materialized in Amen was only another form of the power of procreation, renewed birth and resurrection which was typified by Osiris. The oldest copies of the PER-T EM HRU which we have on papyrus contain a few extracts from other ancient funerary works, such as the "Book of Opening the Mouth," the "Liturgy of Funerary Offerings," and the "Book of the Two Ways." But under the rule of the Priest-Kings the scribes incorporated with the Chapters of the PER-T EM HRU extracts from the "Book of Ami-Tuat" and the "Book of Gates," and several of the vignettes and texts that are found on the walls of the royal tombs of Thebes.

One of the most remarkable texts written at this period is found in the Papyrus of Nesi-Khensu, which is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This is really the copy of a contract which is declared to have been made between Nesi-Khensu and Amen-Ra, "the holy god, the lord of all the gods." As a reward for the great piety of the queen, and her devotion to the interests of Amen-Ra upon earth, the god undertakes to make her a goddess in his kingdom, to provide her with an estate there in perpetuity and a never-failing supply of offerings, and happiness of heart, soul and body, and the [daily] recital upon earth of the "Seventy Songs of Ra" for the benefit of her soul in the Khert-Neter, or Under World. The contract was drawn up in a series of paragraphs in legal phraseology by the priests of Amen, who believed they had the power of making their god do as they pleased when they pleased.

Little is known of the history of the PER-T EM HRU after the downfall of the priests of Amen, and during the period of the rule of the Nubians, but under the kings of the XXVIth dynasty the Book enjoyed a great vogue. Many funerary rolls were written both in hieroglyphs and hieratic, and were decorated with vignettes drawn in black outline; and about this time the scribes began to write funerary texts in the demotic character. But men no longer copied long selections from the PER-T EM HRU as they had done under the XVIIIth, XIXth and XXth dynasties, partly because the religious views of the Egyptians had undergone a great change, and partly because a number of Books of the Dead of a more popular character had appeared. The cult of Osiris was triumphant everywhere, and men preferred the hymns and litanies which dealt with his sufferings, death and resurrection to the compositions in which the absolute supremacy of Ra and his solar cycle of gods and goddesses was assumed or proclaimed. Thus, in the "Lamentations of Isis" and the "Festival Songs of Isis and Nephthys," and the "Litanies of Seker," and the "Book of Honouring Osiris," etc., the central figure is Osiris, and he alone is regarded as the giver of everlasting life. The dead were no longer buried with large rolls of papyrus filled with Chapters of the PER-T EM HRU laid in their coffins, but with small sheets or strips of papyrus, on which were inscribed the above compositions, or the shorter texts of the "Book of Breathings," or the "Book of Traversing Eternity," or the "Book of May my name flourish," or a part of the "Chapter of the Last Judgment."

Ancient Egyptian tradition asserts that the Book PER-T EM HRU was used early in the Ist dynasty, and the papyri and coffins of the Roman Period afford evidence that the native Egyptians still accepted all the essential beliefs and doctrines contained in it. During the four thousand years of its existence many additions were made to it, but nothing of importance seems to have been taken away from it. In the space here available it is impossible to describe in detail the various Recensions of this work, viz., (1) the Heliopolitan, (2) the Theban and its various forms, and (3) the Sa´te; but it is proposed to sketch briefly the main facts of the Egyptian Religion which may be deduced from them generally, and especially from the Theban Recension, and to indicate the contents of the principal Chapters. No one papyrus can be cited as a final authority, for no payprus contains all the Chapters, 190 in number, of the Theban Recension, and in no two papyri are the selection and sequence of the Chapters identical, or is the treatment of the vignettes the same.


Thoth, the Author of the Book of the Dead.

Thoth, in Egyptian Tchehuti or Tehuti, who has already been mentioned as the author of the texts that form the PER-T EM HRU, or Book of the Dead, was believed by the Egyptians to have been the heart and mind of the Creator, who was in very early times in Egypt called by the natives "Pautti," and by foreigners "Ra." Thoth was also the "tongue" of the Creator, and he at all times voiced the will of the great god, and spoke the words which commanded every being and thing in heaven and in earth to come into existence. His words were almighty and once uttered never remained without effect. He framed the laws by which heaven, earth and all the heavenly bodies are maintained; he ordered the courses of the sun, moon, and stars; he invented drawing and design and the arts, the letters of the alphabet and the art of writing, and the science of mathematics. At a very early period he was called the "scribe (or secretary) of the Great Company of the Gods," and as he kept the celestial register of the words and deeds of men, he was regarded by many generations of Egyptians as the "Recording Angel." He was the inventor of physical and moral Law and became the personification of JUSTICE; and as the Companies of the Gods of Heaven, and Earth, and the Other World appointed him to "weigh the words and deeds" of men, and his verdicts were unalterable, he became more powerful in the Other World than Osiris himself. Osiris owed his triumph over Set in the Great Judgment Hall of the Gods entirely to the skill of Thoth of the "wise mouth" as an Advocate, and to his influence with the gods in heaven. And every follower of Osiris relied upon the advocacy of Thoth to secure his acquittal on the Day of Judgment, and to procure for him an everlasting habitation in the Kingdom of Osiris.


Thoth and Osiris.

The Egyptians were not satisfied with the mere possession of the texts of Thoth, when their souls were being weighed in the Great Scales in the Judgment Hall of Osiris, but they also wished Thoth to act as their Advocate on this dread occasion and to prove their innocence as he had proved that of Osiris before the great gods in prehistoric times. According to a very ancient Egyptian tradition, the god Osiris, who was originally the god of the principle of the fertility of the Nile, became incarnate on earth as the son of Geb, the Earth-god, and Nut, the Sky-goddess. He had two sisters, Isis and Nephthys, and one brother, Set; he married Isis and Set married Nephthys. Geb set Osiris on the throne of Egypt, and his rule was beneficent and the nation was happy and prosperous. Set marked this and became very jealous of his brother, and wished to slay him so that he might seize his throne and take possession of Isis, whose reputation as a devoted and loving wife and able manager filled the country. By some means or other Set did contrive to kill Osiris: according to one story he killed him by the side of a canal at Netat, near Abydos, and according to another he caused him to be drowned. Isis, accompanied by her sister Nephthys, went to Netat and rescued the body of her lord, and the two sisters, with the help of Anpu, a son of Ra the Sun-god, embalmed it. They then laid the body in a tomb, and a sycamore tree grew round it and flourished over the grave. A tradition which is found in the Pyramid Texts states that before Osiris was laid in his tomb, his wife Isis, by means of her magical powers, succeeded in restoring him to life temporarily, and made him beget of her an heir, who was called Horus. After the burial of Osiris, Isis retreated to the marshes in the Delta, and there she brought forth Horus. In order to avoid the persecution of Set, who on one occasion succeeded in killing Horus by the sting of a scorpion, she fled from place to place in the Delta, and lived a very unhappy life for some years. But Thoth helped her in all her difficulties and provided her with the words of power which restored Horus to life, and enabled her to pass unharmed among the crocodiles and other evil beasts that infested the waters of the Delta at that time.

When Horus arrived at years of maturity, he set out to find Set and to wage war against his father's murderer. At length they met and a fierce fight ensued, and though Set was defeated before he was finally hurled to the ground, he succeeded in tearing out the right eye of Horus and keeping it. Even after this fight Set was able to persecute Isis, and Horus was powerless to prevent it until Thoth made Set give him the right eye of Horus which he had carried off. Thoth then brought the eye to Horus, and replaced it in his face, and restored sight to it by spitting upon it. Horus then sought out the body of Osiris in order to raise it up to life, and when he found it he untied the bandages so that Osiris might move his limbs, and rise up. Under the direction of Thoth Horus recited a series of formulas as he presented offerings to Osiris, and he and his sons and Anubis performed the ceremonies which opened the mouth, and nostrils, and the eyes and the ears of Osiris. He embraced Osiris and so transferred to him his ka, i.e., his own living personality and virility, and gave him his eye which Thoth had rescued from Set and had replaced in his face. As soon as Osiris had eaten the eye of Horus he became endowed with a soul and vital power, and recovered thereby the complete use of all his mental faculties, which death had suspended. Straightway he rose up from his bier and became the Lord of the Dead and King of the Under World. Osiris became the type and symbol of resurrection among the Egyptians of all periods, because he was a god who had been originally a mortal and had risen from the dead.

But before Osiris became King of the Under World he suffered further persecution from Set. Piecing together a number of disconnected hints and brief statements in the texts, it seems pretty clear either that Osiris appealed to the "Great Gods" to take notice that Set had murdered him, or that Set brought a series of charges against Osiris. At all events the "Great Gods" determined to investigate the matter. The Greater and the Lesser Companies of the Gods assembled in the celestial Anu, or Heliopolis, and ordered Osiris to stand up and defend himself against the charges brought against him by Set. Isis and Nephthys brought him before the gods, and Horus, "the avenger of his father," came to watch the case on behalf of his father, Osiris. Thoth appeared in the Hall of Judgment in his official capacity as "scribe," i.e., secretary to the gods, and the hearing of the evidence began. Set seems to have pleaded his own cause, and to have repeated the charges which he had made against Osiris. The defence of Osiris was undertaken

The Book of the Dead - 2/6

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