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The bꜣ (Egyptological pronunciation: ba)
was everything that makes an individual unique, similar to the notion
of 'personality'. In this sense, inanimate objects could also have a bꜣ,
a unique character, and indeed Old Kingdom pyramids
often were called the bꜣ of their owner. The bꜣ is an aspect of a
person that the Egyptians believed would live after the body died, and
it is sometimes depicted as a human-headed bird flying out of the tomb
to join with the kꜣ in the afterlife.
In the Coffin Texts, one form of the bꜣ that comes into existence after death is corporeal—eating, drinking and copulating. Egyptologist Louis Vico Žabkar argues that the bꜣ is not merely a part of the person but is the person himself,
unlike the soul in Greek, or late Judaic, Christian or Muslim thought.
The idea of a purely immaterial existence was so foreign to Egyptian
thought that when Christianity spread in Egypt, they borrowed the Greek
word ψυχή psychē
to describe the concept of soul instead of the term bꜣ. Žabkar
concludes that so particular was the concept of the bꜣ to ancient
Egyptian thought that it ought not to be translated but instead the
concept be footnoted or parenthetically explained as one of the modes of
existence for a person.
In another mode of existence the bꜣ of the deceased is depicted in the Book of the Dead returning to the mummy and participating in life outside the tomb in non-corporeal form, echoing the solar theology of Ra uniting with Osiris each night.
A person's shadow
or silhouette, šwt, is always present. Because of this, Egyptians
surmised that a shadow contains something of the person it represents.
Through this association, statues of people and deities were sometimes
referred to as shadows.
The shadow was also representative to Egyptians of a figure of death, or servant of Anubis,
and was depicted graphically as a small human figure painted completely
black. Sometimes people (usually pharaohs) had a shadow box in which
part of their šwt was stored.
In literature and poetry, a shade (translating Greek σκιά, Latin umbra) is the spirit or ghost of a dead person, residing in the underworld.
An underworld where the dead live in shadow is common to beliefs in the ancient Near East, in Biblical Hebrew expressed by the term tsalmaveth (צַלמָוֶת: lit. "death-shadow", "shadow of death"; alternate term for Sheol). The Witch of Endor in the First Book of Samuel notably conjures the ghost (owb) of Samuel.
is known about the Egyptian interpretation of this portion of the soul.
Many scholars define sḫm as the living force or life-force of the soul
which exists in the afterlife after all judgement has been passed.
However, sḫm is also defined in a Book of the Dead as the "power" and as a place within which Horus and Osiris dwell in the underworld.
The ꜣḫ "(magically) effective one"
was a concept of the dead that varied over the long history of ancient
Egyptian belief. Relative to the afterlife, akh represented the
deceased, who was transfigured and often identified with light.
It was associated with thought, but not as an action of the mind;
rather, it was intellect as a living entity. The ꜣḫ also played a role
in the afterlife. Following the death of the ẖt (physical body), the bꜣ
and kꜣ were reunited to reanimate the ꜣḫ.[full citation needed]
The reanimation of the ꜣḫ was only possible if the proper funeral
rites were executed and followed by constant offerings. The ritual was
termed s-ꜣḫ "make (a dead person) into an (living) ꜣḫ". In this sense,
it even developed into a sort of ghost or roaming dead being (when the tomb was not in order any more) during the Twentieth Dynasty.
An ꜣḫ could do either harm or good to persons still living, depending
on the circumstances, causing e.g., nightmares, feelings of guilt,
sickness, etc. It could be invoked by prayers or written letters left in
the tomb's offering chapel also in order to help living family members,
e.g., by intervening in disputes, by making an appeal to other dead
persons or deities with any authority to influence things on earth for
the better, but also to inflict punishments.
The separation of ꜣḫ and the unification of kꜣ and bꜣ were
brought about after death by having the proper offerings made and
knowing the proper, efficacious spell, but there was an attendant risk
of dying again. Egyptian funerary literature (such as the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead) were intended to aid the deceased in "not dying a second time" and to aid in becoming an ꜣḫ.
Ancient Egyptians believed that death occurs when a person's kꜣ leaves the body. Ceremonies conducted by priests after death, including the "opening of the mouth (wp r)", aimed not only to restore a person's physical abilities in death, but also to release a Ba's attachment to the body. This allowed the bꜣ to be united with the kꜣ in the afterlife, creating an entity known as an ꜣḫ.
Egyptians conceived of an afterlife as quite similar to normal
physical existence – but with a difference. The model for this new
existence was the journey of the Sun. At night the Sun descended into
the Duat or "underworld". Eventually the Sun meets the body of the mummified Osiris.
Osiris and the Sun, re-energized by each other, rise to new life for
another day. For the deceased, their body and their tomb were their
personal Osiris and a personal Duat. For this reason they are often
addressed as "Osiris". For this process to work, some sort of bodily
preservation was required, to allow the bꜣ to return during the night,
and to rise to new life in the morning. However, the complete ꜣḫs were also thought to appear as stars. Until the Late Period, non-royal Egyptians did not expect to unite with the Sun deity, it being reserved for the royals.
The Book of the Dead, the collection of spells which aided a person in the afterlife, had the Egyptian name of the Book of going forth by day.
They helped people avoid the perils of the afterlife and also aided
their existence, containing spells to ensure "not dying a second time in
the underworld", and to "grant memory always" to a person. In the
Egyptian religion it was possible to die in the afterlife and this death
The tomb of Paheri, an Eighteenth dynasty nomarch of Nekhen, has an eloquent description of this existence, and is translated by James Peter Allen as:
was one of the more important glyphs in his name, and although it was
technically a variation on the glyph for two arms raised in prayer, it
also resembles a two-headed snake, and so Nehebkau became depicted in art
as a snake with two heads (occasionally with only one). As a two-headed
snake, he was viewed as fierce, being able to attack from two
directions, and not having to fear as much confrontations. Consequently,
sometimes it was said that Atum,
the chief god in these areas, had to keep his finger on him to prevent
Nehebkau from getting out of control. Alternatively, in areas where Ra
was the chief god, it was said that Nehebkau was one of the warriors
who protected Ra whilst he was in the underworld, during Ra's nightly
travel, as a sun god, under the earth.
When he was seen as a snake, he was also thought to have some
power over snake-bites, and by extension, other venomous bites, such as
those of scorpions, thus sometimes being identified as the son of Serket,
the scorpion-goddess of protection against these things. Alternatively,
as a snake, since he was connected to an aspect of the soul, he was
sometimes seen as the son of Renenutet, a snake-goddess, who distributed the Ren, another aspect of the soul, and of the earth (Geb), on which snakes crawl.
Ka is also the Egyptian word for sustenance, and is associated with spirit.
Nehmetawy (nḥm.t-ˁw3ỉ; "she who embraces those in need") is a goddess in the ancient Egyptian religion. She is not very widely known. Nehmetawy was the wife of snake god Nehebu-kau, or in other places of worship, like in Hermopolis, the wife of Thoth. Her depictions are anthropomorph, with a sistrum-shaped headdress, often with a child in her lap.
Duat (Ancient Egyptian: dwꜣt, Egyptological pronunciation "do-aht", Coptic: ⲧⲏ, also appearing as Tuat, Tuaut or Akert, Amenthes, Amenti, or Neter-khertet) is the realm of the dead in ancient Egyptian mythology. It has been represented in hieroglyphs as a star-in-circle: ?. The god Osiris was believed to be the lord of the underworld. He was the first mummy as depicted in the Osiris myth
and he personified rebirth and life after death. The underworld was
also the residence of various other gods along with Osiris. The Duat was the region through which the sun god Ra traveled from west to east each night, and it was where he battled Apophis,
who embodied the primordial chaos which the sun had to defeat in order
to rise each morning and bring order back to the earth. It was also the
place where people's souls went after death for judgement, though that
was not the full extent of the afterlife. Burial chambers formed touching-points between the mundane world and the Duat, and the ꜣḫ (Egyptological pronunciation: "akh") "the effectiveness of the dead", could use tombs to travel back and forth from the Duat.
Just like the dead king, the rest of the dead journeyed through the
various parts of the Duat, not to be unified with the sun god but to be
judged. If the deceased was successfully able to pass various demons and
challenges, then he or she would reach the weighing of the heart.
In this ritual, the heart of the deceased was weighed by Osiris against
the feather of Maat, which represents truth and justice. Any heart that
is heavier than the feather was rejected and eaten by Ammit,
the devourer of souls, as these people were denied existence after
death in the Duat. The souls that were lighter than the feather would
pass this most important test, and would be allowed to travel toward Aaru,
the "Field of Rushes", an ideal version of the world they knew of, in
which they would plough, sow, and harvest abundant crops.
What is known of the Duat derives principally from funerary texts such as the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, the Coffin Texts, the Amduat, and the Book of the Dead. Each of these documents fulfilled a different purpose and give a different conception of the Duat,
and different texts could be inconsistent with one another. Surviving
texts differ in age and origin, and there likely was never a single
uniform conception of the Duat, as is the case of many theological concepts in ancient Egypt.
The geography of Duat is similar in outline to the world
the Egyptians knew. There are realistic features like rivers, islands,
fields, lakes, mounds and caverns, but there were also fantastic lakes
of fire, walls of iron and trees of turquoise. In the Book of Two Ways, one of the Coffin Texts, there is even a map-like image of the Duat. The Book of the Dead and Coffin Texts were intended to guide people who had recently died through the Duat's dangerous landscape and to a life as an ꜣḫ. Emphasized in some of these texts are mounds and caverns, inhabited by gods, demons or supernatural animals,
which threatened the deceased along their journey. The purpose of the
books is not to lay out a geography, but to describe a succession of
rites of passage which the dead would have to pass to reach eternal
In spite of the many demon-like inhabitants of the Duat, it is not equivalent to the conceptions of Hell in the Abrahamic religions,
in which souls are condemned with fiery torment; the absolute
punishment for the wicked, in ancient Egyptian thought, was the denial
of an afterlife to the deceased, ceasing to exist in ꜣḫ form. The
grotesque spirits of the underworld were not evil, but under the
control of the gods, being present as various ordeals that the deceased
had to face. The Duat was also a residence for various gods, including Osiris, Anubis, Thoth, Horus, Hathor, and Maat, who all appear to the dead soul as it makes its way toward judgement.
Ra was the solar deity, bringer of light, and thus the upholder of Ma'at. Apep was viewed as the greatest enemy of Ra, and thus was given the title Enemy of Ra, and also "the Lord of Chaos".
Apep was seen as a giant snake or serpent leading to such titles as Serpent from the Nile and Evil Dragon. Some elaborations said that he stretched 16 yards in length and had a head made of flint. Already on a Naqada I
(c. 4000 BC) C-ware bowl (now in Cairo) a snake was painted on the
inside rim combined with other desert and aquatic animals as a possible
enemy of a deity, possibly a solar deity, who is invisibly hunting in a
big rowing vessel.
While in most texts Apep is described as a giant snake, he is sometimes depicted as a crocodile.
The few descriptions of Apep's origin in myth usually demonstrate that it was born after Ra, usually from his umbilical cord.
Combined with its absence from Egyptian creation myths, this has been
interpreted as suggesting that Apep was not a primordial force in
Egyptian theology, but a consequence of Ra's birth. This suggests that evil in Egyptian theology is the consequence of an individual's own struggles against non-existence.
The Egyptian priests had a detailed guide to fighting Apep, referred to as The Books of Overthrowing Apep (or the Book of Apophis, in Greek). The chapters described a gradual process of dismemberment and disposal, and include:
In the Heliopolitan creation myth, Atum was considered to be the first god, having created himself, sitting on a mound (benben) (or identified with the mound itself), from the primordial waters (Nu). Early myths state that Atum created the god Shu and goddess Tefnut by spitting them out of his mouth. Atum did so through masturbation, with the hand he used in this act representing the female principle inherent within him. Other interpretations state that he has made union with his shadow.
In the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians believed that Atum lifted the dead king's soul from his pyramid to the starry heavens. He was also a solar deity, associated with the primary sun god Ra. Atum was linked specifically with the evening sun, while Ra or the closely linked god Khepri were connected with the sun at morning and midday.
In the Book of the Dead, which was still current in the Graeco-Roman period, the sun god Atum is said to have ascended from chaos-waters with the appearance of a snake, the animal renewing itself every morning.
Atum is the god of pre-existence and post-existence. In the binary solar cycle, the serpentine Atum is contrasted with the scarab-headed god Khepri—the young sun god, whose name is derived from the Egyptian hpr "to come into existence". Khepri-Atum encompassed sunrise and sunset, thus reflecting the entire cycle of morning and evening.
Ra was thought to travel on the Atet, two solar barques called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years) or morning boat and the Mesektet or evening boat. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the Duat, the literal underworld of Egypt. While Ra was on the Mesektet, he was in his ram-headed form. When Ra traveled in his sun boat, he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command), as well as Heka (magic power). Sometimes, members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set, who overcame the serpent Apophis, and Mehen, who defended against the monsters of the underworld. When Ra was in the underworld, he would visit all of his various forms.
Apophis, the god of chaos, was an enormous serpent
who attempted to stop the sun boat's journey every night by consuming
it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare. During the
evening, the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum
or in the form of a ram. The night boat would carry him through the
underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth.
These myths of Ra represented the sun rising as the rebirth of the sun
by the sky goddess Nut; thus attributing the concept of rebirth and
renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god as well.
According to Robert Graves, however, both Poseidon's trident and Zeus' thunderbolt were originally a sacred labrys, but later distinguished from each other when Poseidon became god of the sea, while Zeus claimed the right to the thunderbolt.
The rune ᚦ is called Thurs (Old Norse Þurs "giant", from a reconstructed Common Germanic *Þurisaz) in the Icelandic and Norwegian rune poems. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem it is called thorn, whence the name of the letter þ derived.
It is transliterated as þ, and has the sound value of a voiceless dental fricative /θ/ (the English sound of th as in thing).
The rune is absent from the earliest Vimose inscriptions, but it is found in the Thorsberg chape inscription, dated to ca. AD 200.
Þurs is a name for the giants in Norse mythology. Tursas is also an ill-defined being in Finnish mythology - Finland was known as the land of the giants (Jotland) in Scandinavian/north Germanic mythology.
In Anglo-Saxon England, the same rune was called Thorn or "Þorn" and it survives as the Icelandic letter Þ (þ). An attempt has been made to account for the substitution of names by taking "thorn" to be a kenning (metaphor) for "giant".
It is disputed as to whether a distinct system of Gothic runes ever existed, but it is clear that most of the names (but not most of the shapes) of the letters of the Gothic alphabet correspond to those of the Elder Futhark. The name of , the Gothic letter corresponding to Þ is an exception; it is recorded as þiuþ "(the) good" in the Codex Vindobonensis 795, and as such unrelated to either þurs or þorn.
The lack of agreement between the various glyphs and their names in
Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, and Old Norse makes it difficult to reconstruct the
Elder Futhark rune's Proto-Germanic name.
Assuming that the Scandinavian name þurs is the most plausible reflex of the Elder Futhark name, a Common Germanic form *þurisaz can be reconstructed (cf. Old English þyrs "giant, ogre" and Old High German duris-es "(of the) giant").
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his
daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells
fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer
You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and
omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in
the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.
Latin, "earth," from PIE root *ters- "to dry."