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ancient egyptians, funerary offerings, neteru, material body

Egyptian Afterlife

Author: Lynn Bellair

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Ancient Egyptian's have left us several texts concerning the immortal part of a human that continues to exist through all time, independent of the material body. Because of the overwhelming pervasiveness of Christianity in modern American society we tend to think of this divine portion of ourselves as a "soul". This western soul is a single, sort of bodiless twin, which animates us, lives in human form only once and continues after death only in some spiritual location known as heaven or hell. This theory must be passed over to understand the Egyptian conception, it is quite different.
First and most important is that the "soul" principal is divided into at least eight parts, counting the actual body (#3 below), nine. Each was endowed with its own separate autonomous existence, characteristics and abilities.



1) Ka - The double that lingered on in the tomb inhabiting and animating the body or statues of the deceased. This portion of the spirit could move, eat or drink independent of a corporeal existence.



2) Ib - The heart, the source of good and evil in a person. It controlled the moral awareness and was the seat of thought and learning. It is the portion of the individual eaten by Ammut, causing total destruction and final death if it fails to weigh equally against the feather of Ma'at.



3) Khat - The physical body which normally decays after death, that was preserved by the Ancient Egyptians through mummification.


4) Khaibit - The persons shadow, it could use and enjoy the funerary offerings and was able to separate itself from the body and travel at will. Usually the Khaibit would not travel far from the body.



5) Akh - This was the everlasting divine spark, the radiant and shining being that lived on, the intellect of the deceased that was released by death and then ascended to the heavens to live with the Neteru or the immortal stars.



6) Sahu - The undestroyable spiritual body of humans that can live in the heavens. It appeared from the physical body if the judgment of the dead was passed and encompassed all of the mental and spiritual talents and abilities of the person in material life.



7) Sekhem - The life force of the deceased, that lived in heaven with the Akhu after death.



8) Ba - Depicted as a human headed bird that flew around in the tomb during the day, bringing air and food to the deceased. At night it was believed that the Ba traveled with Ra on the Solar Boat.






9) Ren - The person's true name. Naming ceremonies in Egypt were secret, and a child lived his whole life with a nickname to avoid anyone learning his true name. This was because the name held special magical qualities for the individual. One who learned it could wield power over the person or even destroy them.


Suggested News Resources

Uncovering the afterlife of ancient Egypt
Objects always had to be tailored to cost, but the finish had to meet the high aspirations of the customer. The coffins show the skill and care with which the Egyptians prepared for the afterlife.
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'Gods of Egypt,' a mythology-inspired adventure
As their breathtaking battle against Set and his henchmen takes them into the afterlife and across the heavens, both god and mortal must pass tests of courage and sacrifice if they hope to prevail in the epic final confrontation.
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Bek's wants to be reunited with his lover (Courtney Eaton), who worked for Set's obelisk architect (Rufus Sewall) who dispatched her jackal-headed Anubis's Underworld, where, hopefully, she can be rescued before paying Set's new afterlife toll tax.
Guidebook to the Ancient Egyptian afterlife
Many of the best-known relics from Egypt – pyramids, tombs and mummies – reveal the time and resources that the people of the Nile were prepared to spend to ensure a successful afterlife.

Suggested Web Resources

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