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The Book of the Dead





[All Rights Reserved.]


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 collec-
tion 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,^ but the
texts in them were short and fragmentary. The publication of
Ihe Facsimile 2 of the Papyrus of Peta-Amen-neb-nest-taui^ by

' See Journal de Trivoux, June, 1704 ; Caylus, Antiq. Egypt.,
torn. I, plate 21 ; Denon, Travels, plates 136 and 137 ; and Description
de I'Egypte, torn. II, plate 64 ff.

« Copie Figur/e d'un Rouleau de Papyrus trouv^ i\ Th^es dans un
iomheau des Rois. Paris, XIII-1805. This papyrus is nearly 30 feet
in length and was brought to Strassburg by a paymaster in Napoleon's
Army in Egypt called Poussielgue, who sold it to M. Cadet.




M. Cadet in 1805 made a long hieroglyphic text and numerous^,
coloured vignettes available for study, and the French Egypto-
logists described it as a copy of the " Rituel Funeraire " 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 Todten-
buch," 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, " Kitab
al-Mayyit," " Book of the dead man," or " Kitab 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 Tomf

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 \\ rit tcndownby 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 provid('d him. And each
morning the rising sun was menaced
by a fearful monster called Aapep,

P ^^ » 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 1st dynasty, and through-
out the whole period of dynastic history Thoth was regarded
as the author of the '* Book of the Dead."

The Spearing of Aapep.
{From the Pa^rus of NcklUu-Amcn.)



The Book Per-t em hru, or [The Chapters of] Coming


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 Xlth
and XVIIIth dynasties, " Chapters of the Coming Forth by

(or, into) the Day," ^ I — S ^ ^ ^ ^. 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 founda-
tions of a shrine of the god Hennu during the reign of Semti,
or Hesepti, a king of the 1st 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, ^^ ^ ^ jj, 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 Xlth 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

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course of centuries, and at length, under the XVIIIth dynasty,
it contained about 190 distinct compositions, or " Chapters."
The orJLiiiiil forms of many of tliese are to be found in the


"Pyramid Texts" (^.^., 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 Sakkarah),
which were written under the Vth and Vlth dynasties. The
forms which many other chapters had under the Xlth and
Xllth 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
Xlth and Xllth 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 J inches in length and i foot ij 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 3J inches in length,
and I foot ij 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

Vignette and text of the 11 i-.k of ilu

Dead from the Papynis of Nii.

. /I ft


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Vignette and text of the Theb.i;. i;v,;.:. a Uic
Dead from the Papyrus of Ani.

[Brit. Mus., No. 10477.] XVIIIth dynasty [Brit. Mus., No. 10470.] XVI 1 1 th dynasty.

(Brit. Mus., No. 10470), which is 78 feet in length and i foot
3 inches in breadth. In all papyri of this class the text is



written in hieroglyphs, but under the- XlXth and following

dynasties many papyii are written throughout in the hieratic

character ; these usually lack
vignettes, but have coloured

Under the rule of the High
Priests of Amen many changes
were introduced into the contents
of the papyri, and the arrangement
of the texts and vignettes of the
Per-t em hru was altered. The
great confraternity 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. 16478). 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."

Vignette and Chapter of the Book
of the Dead written in hieratic
for Heru-em-heb.

[Brit. Mus., No. 10257.]

XXVIth dynasty, or later.



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It is the longest and widest funerary papyrus^ known, for
it measures 123 feet by i foot 6 J inches, and it contains
more Chapters, Hymns, Litanies, Adorations and Homages
to the gods than any other roll. The Sy Chapters from the
Per-t em hru which it contains prove the princess's devo-
tion 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 powder 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

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 con-
tract 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
drawTi 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

1 The longest papyrus in the world is Papyrus Harris No. i (Brit.
Mus. No. 9999) ; it measures 133 feet by i foot 4^ inches.




!aK]^-lhlJ<iv ¥(ils^c^<ilKO^)/lv^^

^^fo^llijffEf^SV dl-li^HlQncO^^I^M^^


";p-^.'^-^^r;.'^^ ',*!-"';?: :!«^4'fl-=!]t



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

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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, XlXth 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 pre-
ferred the hymns and litanies which dealt with his sufferings,
death and resurrection to the compositions in which the absolute

supremacy of Ra and ^m^m^m^a^^^immf^ism^
his solar cycle of gods
and goddesses was as-
sumed or proclaimed.
Thus, in the " Lamenta-
tions 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 pa-
pyrus, on which were
inscribed the above
compositions, or the
shorter texts of the
" Book of Breathings,"
or the "Book of Tra-
versing 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 1st dynasty, and the papyri and
coffins of the Roman Period afford evidence that the native

■ ^ \




A copy of a Book of the Dead entitled " May my

name flourish 1 "
[Brit. Mus., No. 10,304.] Roman Period.


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 Recen-
sions of this work, viz., (i) the HeUopolitan, (2) the Theban and
its various forms, and (3) the Saite ; 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 papjri 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, "^ f ^ ^ c^ ^r

Q V ^ ^ » 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 w^as 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 com-
manded every being and thing in heaven and in
earth to come into existence. His words were
almighty and once uttered never remained without
Tehuti (Thoth). effect. He framed the laws by which heaven, earth
and aU 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 Judg-
ment 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 reHed
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.

Set, the Arch-Liar and god
of Evil.


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, (I , 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, suc-
ceeded 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

Horus of Edfu spearing the
Crocodile (?) Set.



until Thoth made Set give him the right eye of Horns 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
unti( tl tlie 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

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Online LibraryBritish Museum. Dept. of Egyptian and Assyrian AntThe book of the dead → online text (page 1 of 4)