Section of the Book of the Dead for the scribe...
Section of the Book of the Dead for the scribe Hunefer, depicting the Weighing of the Heart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead (BotD) is an ancient Egyptian funerary text, a collection of religious documents that were used to help the spirit of the concerned person to be preserved in the afterlife. The original Egyptian name for the text can translate it as Book of Coming Forth by Day, or even Book of emerging forth into the Light. Although not a book in the strictest sense, it is more like a collection of texts, with rituals/spells to aid the one it was placed with, in the underworld and afterlife. It was written in hieroglyphic on a papyrus scroll.

There was no single or canonical official Book of the Dead. Those copies that have survived the years vary considerably in their quality and illustration. Those who could afford their own copy to be placed in their tomb or burial chamber often did so. Within the text, 192 “spells” the departed were written. Each spell took up one chapter or section and dealt with a different aspect of the afterlife. For example, one deals with the god Atum, another two deal with the important ritual known as “Weighing of the Heart”, in which the heart of the individual was weighed against the feather representing the goddess of truth, Ma’at, in a judgment process overseen by Osiris, the lord of the underworld.

Some versions of the BotD, especially those from the 26th dynasty onwards, break the spells/rituals down into 4 chapters and groups. The majority of the others are not set in a particular order, although some experts think you can tell the age of the BotD by the order in which the spells are represented.

Hooks & Rumours

  • On an excavation, a perfectly preserved BotD has rumored to have been found. If true, this pre-dates the earliest known copy by almost 500 years.
  • A very old copy, on display in a museum, has gone missing. A letter was received, taking responsibility, written in ancient hieroglyphics, which roughly translated as “The Children of the Sands will rise once more.”
  • Whilst examining a copy of the BotD, it was discovered that the ink used was very close in design and makeup to modern ink, yet the pages are ancient. Some are saying the BotD has been repaired with modern ink, others are saying it was some older unknown method that merely resembles modern ink.
  • The remaining copys of the BotD have gone missing from various collections around the world. So signs of breaking or other damage is recorded. Any recordings of the areas they are in fail and guards found asleep or dead.
  • A new trend has started for modern day people to have their own version of the BotD. To make it as authentic as possible, people are willing to pay a major amount of money to borrow one. Anyone who can understand and write correct hieroglyphic texts is in high demand. The papyrus industry is rumoured to be behind this, but no-one minds as no one has been harmed by this practice as of yet.

Inspired by: Book of the Dead

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