When thinking about Ancient Egyptian and their religion many tend to forget how important and serious Egyptians take death. It is shown that Egyptians have a specific preparation for death especially on how death is handled and making sure to keep a certain ceremony for death and the many beliefs about those dead alive. Egyptians strongly believed in the afterlife and its complete existence. They believed that the afterlife was more important than life itself. Which is why they made sure to put their main focus on the preparation of death, mummification and the tomb itself.
The Egyptians chose to maintain their focus on what occurred once someone had died. Egyptians had a strict preparing on an Egyptians body after death for preservation in the afterlife they were destined to. They made sure that the steps were followed carefully and made sure that mummification process was done correctly. When Egyptians would mummify the body, they would begin by taking each organ from the body and placing them in certain places located inside the tomb or on the mummies body. They did this to ensure there was more preservation after death. They also strongly believed that communication with those that had passed was very significant in order to maintain the peace and spirits feel welcomed and yet somehow alive.
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During the New Kingdom Era, ancient Egyptians were very much well prepared for death. According to Silverman, While all societies must confront death, fewif anyhave confronted it so directly or so elaborately as did the ancient Egyptians (132). Although majority of people insinuated that Egyptians were obsessed with death, they were not necessarily wrong. Egyptians were indeed obsessed with death, but it was a part of their beliefs and culture. It’s what each Egyptian group up knowing and believing their entire lives. Like said previously the Egyptians main focus was the preparation after death. Once a new king has been chosen Egyptians begin the Pharaohs tomb even before death just to make sure it is well prepared and fitted for a Pharaoh and its journey towards the afterlife. Egyptians were prepared for death and they were even more prepared to make sure that they were taken into the afterlife properly. Their main focus was to make sure that life in the afterlife was as good as it would be in their human life or even better. That is why they chose to take their time and show its importance on death and its value once gone. Silverman also states, the Egyptian desired to continue his or her earthly life as far as possible after deathwith personality, social ranking, family and even possessions intactalbeit with newly acquired divine status (132). It was believed by most people that the Egyptians were obsessed with death itself, but their funerary rituals were primarily concerned not with the pangs of death itself, but with the blessed continuation of one’s earthly existence in a paradisal afterlife (Silverman 132). They chose to base their beliefs on their culture of death on the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris which Silverman summarizes the story of Isis and Osiris:
As members of the ‘Ennead’, or first nine gods, Isis and Osiris were two of the five siblings (along with Seth, Nephthys and Horus the Elder) born on successive days to Nut, the goddess of the sky, and Geb, the god of the earth. As Geb’s eldest son, Osiris attained kingship of the earth, and married his sister Isis, whom he had loved even in the womb. His brother Seth, in a loveless marriage to Nephthys, coveted the throne and schemed to obtain it by stealth. In the classical rendition, the unsuspecting Osiris was betrayed at a grand feast for the gods, where Seth offered a novel objecta coffinas a ‘party favor’ to whomever it should fit. Although various gods sought to claim the prize, the coffin had been carefully made to fit Osiris alone. Once the god was securely inside, Seth and his confederate promptly sealed the coffin and cast it into the Nile. Osiris drowned, and death was introduced to the world. With much labour, Isis then sought and retrieved the body of her slain husband, but Seth again seized the corpse and cut it into many pieces. These he scattered across Egypt, so that each province could late claim a relic and shrine of the deceased god. In company with her sister Nephthys, Isis sailed through the marshes or flew as a kite in search of the scattered parts, and at length they ruined the dismembered body of Osiris with the aid of Anubis, the god of mummification. While still a corpse, Osiris was reinvigorated through the magical abilities of Isis, so that she conceived a son and her heir to the throne, Horus the Child. (Silverman 134)
Therefore, in order to understand the Egyptian practice, one must understand their beliefs and theology. Reason being is because they hold that close to their heart the culture and process of death which they practiced very carefully making sure they took into consideration the story of Osiris and Isis. And because the after death was very important to Egyptians, Egyptians made sure to begin the preparation for death during their life by again making sure the tombs were being constructed and making sure the correct items/belongings were put into the tomb during burial (Silverman 140).
Mummification was also something that was known to be very significant and important to the Egyptians. In fact, In Egyptian belief, the preservation of the corpse was fundamental to the continuation of life after death (Silverman 138). They carried mummifications importance with them through every step and thought regarding death and its process. They wanted to make sure they preserved the body for the afterlife correctly. The way they chose to mummify the body proved how well prepared and well organized the ancient Egyptians were. They were what you would call perfectionist they made sure that everybody was mummified the correct way and they took their time with the mummification process it was never something that they believed should be rushed. There was even a ritual for the mummification process which is The first step was the evisceration of the corpse, with the surgical extraction of the lungs, liver, stomach and intestines. These viscera were desiccated and wrapped separately, then placed in a container (Silverman 138). Just from reading that it is shown how serious they took mummification and its significance to their religion. To them each part of the body was considered to be sacred and was viewed as a necessity in making that they were ready for the afterlife.
Mummifications entire process took approximately two months. Which meant that they worked on a dead body for two months making it into perfection for the afterlife. They needed to ensure that each step from removing the organ and placing them accordingly along with the mummification process was carried out carefully and successfully. The presentation of the body after death was very important to the Egyptians so much that Facial features were restored to the mummy by painting, by applying a coat of molded plaster, or, from the First Intermediate Period, by the addition of a separate funerary mask (Silverman 139). The Egyptians made sure that everything that belonged to the deceased person was placed carefully into the tomb successfully to ensure it will all make into the afterlife. According to Silverman, The heart, considered the seat of reason, emotion, memory, and personality, was the only major organ intentionally left in the body during mummification. A ‘heart scarab’ placed on the mummy was inscribed with a spell that sought to secure the heart’s silence regarding past transgressions during the ritual of the ‘weighing of the heart’ (138). That just showed the immense importance mummification had towards the Egyptians. They needed to make sure that they met the standards of their pharaoh in order to get them to their afterlife. A huge important step during the mummification process was the weighing of the heart Next, the heartcenter of thought, memory, and personalityis weighed in a balance by the god Anubis, while the divine scribe Thoth records the verdict. If the heart and feather are of equal weight, the deceased is declared ‘true/justified of voice’ and accorded a portion in the domain of Osiris. He or she might also join the sun god in his celestial circuit, or dwell among the circumpolar stars (Silverman 137).
The Egyptians wanted to ensure that they kept the bodies intact so that nothing out of the ordinary occurred during the ritual process. The transition from death into the afterlife was not stable; there were many things that could go wrong. According to Silverman, Even for the most virtuous and best-prepared, the transition of death was fraught with many dangers, and the spirit’s survival depended on the deceased’s knowledge of arcane theology and his or her command of potent magic spells. When the spirit left the body, it was thought to wander the pathways and corridors of the underworld in search of the Hall of Judgment of Osiris, lord of the West (132). The Egyptians were very well organized when it came to keeping track of the possible outcomes for death. Silverman states, Once it had arrived at the Hall of Judgment, the soul was obliged to name not only the doorkeepers but floor bolts and floorboards as well. The perceived complexity of the underworld and its dangers necessitated the production of funerary literature to accompany the deceased and ensure his or her success (133).
The Egyptians buried the dead with writings and such that had magical spells. Silverman states the purpose of the writings, These ‘Coffin Texts’ included new ‘guide books’ to the underworld that described and illustrated paths of the wandering spirit (136). They also believed the deceased person became a distinct aspect of the god of the underworld and was formally addressed as the ‘Osiris [name of the deceased]’. Through this merger, he or she attained divine status and powers, while retaining an individual human personality (Silverman 133). At this point they had everything planned out when it came to death. Egyptians made sure to put effort into making sure the afterlife was better, if not the same, than the life they actually lived. The Egyptians also strongly believed that Osiris was the communicator between the dead and the living. They believed that communication was able to occur with the dead because of the history of their rituals and gods. Some Egyptian families had busts in their houses as shrines to those who have died. The Egyptians also made sure that they wrote to those deceased asking for favors. In a way that was showing that they still had significance even after death. Egyptians mainly chose to ask about inheritance or even asking about having healthy children and then there were those that chose to ask about the riches and of course money.
The Egyptians’ culture of death was definitely planned and followed specific instructions/ protocol. They strongly believed in keeping the tradition alive. They made sure that each step taken once a death had occur were followed step by step starting with the rituals that were to be completed prior to a death, and then after the death and again after the mummy had been buried in its tomb that was designed specifically for them. The Egyptians were very fixed on the idea of making sure that this process remained sacred and important to its people and making sure that the afterlife of those deceased was better than or equal to the life they had once before They made sure their tombs contained important items that meant some kind of significance to the deceased and making sure that it was taken into their afterlife as well. They made sure to create the tombs prior to the person dying to make sure it was built with everything that was needed to be taken into the afterlife. They made sure that the writings that were going to be illustrated in the tomb was accurate and meant a significance to the deceased. They maintained a strict process when it came to the mummification and its ability to be preserved in time for the afterlife. The Egyptians also took death extremely seriously because it was as or even more important than actual life itself. Death and its process and its afterlife was what Egyptians lived for. They lived for the creation of tombs which held history underground for centuries. They also lived for the whole concept of afterlife. They strongly believed that afterlife indeed existed and if done right you have earned your spot in the afterlife.
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