What did Egyptians rely on for information on the afterlife?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Egyptians, during the New Kingdom, started to write down spells, hymns, charms, passwords, and magical formulas that would ensure a safe passage to the afterlife. Before the New Kingdom, these things were often inscribed on coffins or the walls of tombs.  The Egyptians called the text The Book of Coming Forth by Day. A German archaeologist compiled a collection of messages from the texts into what he published as The Book of the Dead.  

The Book of the Coming Forth by Day was not canonical in nature.  Different Egyptians could commission specific prayers and spells for their own personal journey to the afterlife.  The texts varied from city to city and from family to family, but they all contained some variations of directions that were created by priests for thousands of years in Ancient Egypt.

The Egyptians believed that death was only a short interruption in the process of journeying to the afterlife.  The belief was that if certain rituals were performed before death, the body was preserved at death, and specific rites were performed after death, then the journey would continue.  The process for performing these tasks were found in the Book of the Dead.

starken2 | Student

Like many societies before and after them, the ancient Egyptians believed in many gods in order to explain the world they lived in. When natural events occur that they did not understand or could make sense of, some super natural power was held accountable for it. In that same thought, many made sacrifices and prayed to those gods for favorable conditions and outcomes. Although the Pharaoh was considered a living god, the priests were the ones that were thought to communicate with the world beyond. The Book of the Dead was a guide to the afterlife, it if full of spells and illustrations that one would need on their journey after they died.     

lisarenee89 | Student

The ancient Egyptians believed in many deities that were present in the world around them. These deities were in control of the natural world. (harvest, rain, night/day, etc) The pharaohs acted as a go between for the people and the gods and goddesses. But rituals and routines were completed by all in order to make sure the deities were happy. The pharaoh would definitely play a role in what the people knew about the afterlife-since they were the ones who could talk to the gods and goddesses. There was also a Book of the Dead. It was sold and given to people to help them insure that they were ready for the afterlife. It instructed people on the process of getting into the afterlife. Illustrations were present. For example: one step was to have your heart weighed against a feather. If your heart was lighter than the feather--you had many good deeds in your life and you could move on. Illustrations of this could process could be found in the book of the dead.

vnessawong21 | Student

They considered animals such as the bull, the cat, and the crocodile to be holy. Their two chief gods were Amon-Ra and Osiris. Amon-Ra was believed to be the sun god and the lord of the universe. Osiris was the god of the underworld and was the god that made a peaceful afterlife possible. The Egyptian "Book of the Dead" contains the major ideas and beliefs in the ancient Egyptian religion. Because their religion stressed an afterlife, Egyptians devoted much time and energy into preparing for their journey to the "next world." 

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