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Egyptian Afterlife Essay

Egyptian View of the Afterlife Essay

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The Egyptians believed very much in life after death. As Taylor states in Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt, “It is often observed that they appear to have devoted greater efforts and resources to preparing for the afterlife than to creating a convenient environment for living” (Taylor, 2001:12). The Egyptians viewed life on earth as one stage and death as the beginning of another. They believed that, “human existence did not end with death and that survival of the body played a part in the new life” (Taylor, 2001:12). One of the key elements in the Egyptian culture and religion was the preservation of the body. The body was the most important aspect because it was like a portal through which an individual could continue to live…show more content…

Owners could be recognized by the artwork and inscriptions carved around their tomb entrance (Harpur, 1987:1). Lastly, the changes made to the tombs styles can be clearly shown over time throughout the years. In Egypt, life and religion were so intertwined that it would have been impossible not to believe in a life after death (Brewer, 1999: 98). Hence religion basically defined Egyptian way of life and their customs.
The tombs had two main functions. The first function was a place that provided an eternal resting place in which the body could lay protected from thieves and scavengers. The second function of the tomb was a place where cults and ritual acts could be performed to ensure eternal life (Taylor, 2001:136). The body of the person was buried along with their belongings in the tomb to ensure the individual had all the proper materials needed for the afterlife. The Egyptians usually did this because “Tombs were constructed to mirror aspects of the afterlife” (Olson, 2009). These tombs were not only a place where bodies of a deceased lay; it was also a place where rituals would take place. One ritual that was done on the bodies was the ‘Opening of the Mouth’. This was a burial ritual that “accompanied the placement of funerary goods in a tomb- and was a necessary step in the deceased’s rebirth” (Olson, 2009). One very important service that had to be done was the mummification process in which the removal of organs

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The Afterlife and Beyond

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The Afterlife and Beyond


Egyptians were loyal to their gods and to their pharaohs who were gods on earth, as established by their enthusiasm to build the pyramids for the safe means of access of their leaders into the next world. Understanding the development and belief system they had with the physical and afterlife, you would have to know a little bit about the location of the area, which the Egyptians began to rise.

The villages of ancient Egypt were found all along the Nile. The Egyptians were skillful farmers. They knew the Nile would flood each year and bring new life and rich grain. The Nile's flooding was expected and left rich new deposits of mud for new crops, making irrigation easy to plan. A basic irrigation system allowed the floodwaters to flow gently into each field, cleansing and renewing the earth each year. Egyptian people would then look to nature to explain the unexplainable. Egyptian gods were depicted as wise, caring, predictable, and forgiving, just as the Nile was predictable and life sustaining.
The Egyptian people thought the world was created by super beings using earth, wind and fire. This was called "The Theogony of Heliopolis". The Theogony of Heliopolis is the belief that a water god called Nu, who gave birth to the sun god Ra, who then created his wife Tefnut, who made the rain. Together, they created Seb, God of the Earth, and Nat, the Goddess of the Sky. Seb and Nat were the parents of Osiris who later became the ruler of the underworld, Isis, Set and Nepthys. Ra is given credit for creating the heavens and earth and all creatures. Ra is also said to have created man from his eye, and Ra became the first king on earth. The idea that the god Ra was the first king is the seed for the belief that a Pharaoh was both King and god. After Ra gave up his kingship to ride across the sky, Osiris became king with Isis as his queen. Osiris is recognized with teaching men to be civilized, and for teaching mankind to worship the gods and to build temples. Almost every god and goddess was associated with one or more animals and in some instances might appear in the form of their chosen animal-familiar. This was called anthropromorphic.

Another Egyptian link from the physical world to the supernatural is the pyramid.

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Afterlife         Beyond         Belief System         Egyptians         New Life         Irrigation         Pharaohs         Cleansing         Theogony         Caring        




The pyramids were built during the Old Kingdom Period. The Egyptians had been preserving the remains of their dead long before the building of the great pyramids. They believed that a person's soul "Ka" could live after the death of the body. But, the Ka needed a place to be, so the body was conserved and supplied with the belongings it would need on its journey to the "land of shadows." The mummified body was even provided with food and drink for its journey.

The great pyramids were raised to protect the souls of the Pharaohs from their enemies. Farmers would build the pyramids while the Nile was flooding. Work on the pyramids was owed to the god-pharaoh. Tools used to build the pyramid were simple: wooden mallets, stone drills, chisels, flint knives, wooden rulers, plumb lines, and ramps. It is amazing to consider that these huge monuments were built before widespread use of the wheel. The pyramids were huge housing that contained not only the history of the kings, but pits for the temples, and many fake chambers to confuse thieves. Pharaohs would be buried in the tombs, as would other members of the royal family. All the belongings the pharaoh might need would be buried with him: food, clothing, tools, furniture, jewelry, slaves and even sculptures.

One sculpture that you might find with the Pharaoh was possiblely a sculpture depicting a woman with enlarged breast, cut of arms, and a huge belly, similar to the Venus of Wilendorf. The women represented birth or rebirth, since the Egyptians believed that the Pharaoh would go onto a new life that this sculpture would give a re- birth of life to the Pharaoh. The enlarged belly represented birth. The breast would represent feeding, since we are breast fed at young, the Pharaoh would need to feed in the afterlife. The cut off arms just showed that the only thing that was important was the feeding and birth process of a woman.

The dead had to be given instructions concerning the prayers, attitudes, feelings and stuff like that, to be delivered at different stages of their journey. The priests were the only ones who knew how to teach the dead for their journey. Directions were written all over the coffin and in the tomb so the soul would not forget what it should do. Later the directions were written on scrolls of paper. Some of these directions have been collected in the Book of the Dead. One Part of the soul's journey was that it was led before the seat of Osiris, who sat as the Judge of the Dead. He weighed the heart of the dead person on his balance. Maat, the goddess of truth and justice, balanced the scale. If the heart of the dead weighed true, he went to his eternal reward wandering the shadow land. If his heart weighed too heavy, he would be thrown to the animal gods who tear him to shreds.

The hieroglyphs left by the priests of ancient Egypt were meant to provide the dead with a manual to the afterlife, to teach the Ka what it should do. Those same hieroglyphs have provided present day scholars with a remarkable testimony of a culture that existed thousands of years ago and some insight into the minds of the people who lived in that culture.