Payback

The afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the hereafter) is the idea that the consciousness or mind of a being continues after physical death occurs. In many popular views, this continued existence often takes place in a spiritual or immaterial realm. Major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics. Deceased persons are usually believed to go to a specific realm or plane of existence after death, typically believed to be determined by a god, based on their actions during life.

The afterlife played an important role in Ancient Egyptian religion, and its belief system is one of the earliest known. When the body died, parts of its soul known as ka (body double) and ba (personality) would go to the Kingdom of the Dead. While the soul dwelt in the Fields of Aaru (a heavenly paradise), Osiris demanded work as payback for the protection he provided. Statues were placed in the tombs to serve as substitutes for the deceased.

Arriving at one’s reward in afterlife was a demanding ordeal, requiring a sin-free heart and the ability to recite the spells, passwords, and formulae of the Book of the Dead. In the Hall of Two Truths, the deceased’s heart was weighed against the Shu feather of truth and justice taken from the headdress of the goddess Ma’at. If the heart was lighter than the feather, they could pass on, but if it were heavier they would be devoured by the demon Ammit (a female demon with a body part lion, hippopotamus and crocodile).

Egyptians also believed that being mummified was the only way to have an afterlife. Only if the corpse had been properly embalmed and entombed in a mastaba or burial chamber could the dead live again in the Fields of Yalu and accompany the Sun on its daily ride. Due to the dangers the afterlife posed, the Book of the Dead was placed in the tomb with the body as well as food, jewelry, and ‘curses’.

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