Afterlife Egyptian Culture Essay
Ancient Egypt Afterlife Beliefs.
For ancient Egyptians, religion was a very important part of life and society. Their religion consisted of their polytheistic (believing in more than one god) beliefs and rituals. Death and afterlife were also very important events in ancient Egyptian civilization. Great efforts were made to ensure that the dead received a comfortable afterlife. Over the years, different beliefs and rituals were followed, and therefore today there is vast and varied knowledge about them.
1. Egyptians Believed Death Was Only a Temporary Interruption to Life.
For the ancient Egyptians, life continued even after death – in the “afterlife”. To them, death was only a temporary interruption or pause to life. To ensure that the dead had a comfortable afterlife, various funerary practices, procedures and rituals were carried out, such as mummification and reverence to the gods. Only the wealthy could afford elaborate funerals and lavish tombs.
2. Egyptians Preserved the Body So the Dead Could Use It in the Afterlife.
Egyptians preserved the body of the dead so that it could be used it in the afterlife. They believed this was the only way to be able to have an afterlife. Therefore, mummification was a vital process in ancient Egyptian funerals. During the earliest times, bodies were simply buried in the desert and its arid conditions naturally mummified the bodies. When artificial mummification came into use, only the rich could afford the best process and the poor still had to bury their dead in desert graves. The best method of mummification took seventy days.
3. During Mummification, Protective Amulets Were Used.
The Egyptians buried various artifacts such as furniture, food, clothing and other everyday items along with the body of the deceased. These were intended for the dead to use in the afterlife. Along with such items, the ancient Egyptians also used protective amulets, funerary texts and magic spells on the tombs of the dead — these were believed to provide the spirit with protection and help in the afterlife. When the corpse was wrapped in linen during the process of mummification, protective amulets were placed in between the layers. Priests wrote special symbols on these amulets, depending on where they were to be placed on the body.
4. The Mask of the Dead Gave Strength to the Spirit of the Mummy.
The mask was a special element in ancient Egyptian funerals. It was put on the face of the deceased. The mask was thought to play several important roles. One was to provide strength to the spirit of the mummy and guard it from evil spirits during its journey to the afterlife. In addition, the mask provided the deceased with a face so that the spirit could recognize its body in the afterlife.
5. The Hearts of the Dead Were Weighed in The Hall of the Two Truths.
In the afterlife of the deceased, the spirit’s heart was thought to be weighed in The Hall of the Two Truths. A feather from the headdress of the goddess Ma’at (known as Shu, the Feather of Truth and Justice) was weighed against the heart of the spirit. If the heart was lighter than the feather, then the spirit could pass on safely. However, if the heart was heavier than the feather, it meant that the spirit’s heart was heavy with evil, and so the demon Ammu would devour the spirit. The deceased had to go through a long journey before passing on to the afterlife.
6. Humans Had a Ka (Life Force).
Ancient Egyptians believed that the ka (the life force) of a person would leave the body at death. They believed that, even after death, the ka needed nourishment from food and drink just as the person had during life. Therefore, relatives of the dead would place offerings of food for the deceased to consume. The tombs of the dead also contained artwork of food, which would magically transform into food for the deceased.
7. Humans Also Had a Ba (Spirit).
According ancient Egyptian beliefs, the ba was a person’s spirit, or the unique spiritual characteristic of an individual. Preserving the body was important because it was believed that the ba would return to it every night to receive new life.
8. Dead Pharaohs Were Believed to Dwell Among the Stars.
Beliefs and rituals come and go with time. Originally, the belief was that only the pharaoh had a ba and that the commoners passed on to the dark realm (which was the opposite of life) when they died. During the earliest times, Egyptian people believed that when the pharaohs died, they ascended to the sky and lived among the stars.
9. Tomb Images Had a Very Deep Meaning.
At first, bodies were simply buried in the desert sand, but later on, tombs were built for the protection of the dead. These tombs contained many valuables such as riches, texts and images. These have helped people today to discover a world long gone. Texts consisted of spells, and images consisted of deities and the daily life of Egyptians, and much more information that is invaluable. The tombs that have been found today have many images. These tomb images may look like simple paintings, but they have a much deeper meaning.
To learn more about the Ancient Egyptians, see:
Journey to the Egyptian Afterlife
Ancient Egyptian Culture Essay
Ancient Egypt was a fascinating and complex place. Luckily for historians, Egyptians had made great strides in record keeping which have made studying their culture and society easier than some previous historical eras. Ancient Egyptians were a people who were intensely religious, deeply divided by gender roles and a strong hierarchy, and quite advanced for their period in terms of their technological and economic innovations.
Egyptians were deeply religious, and religion played a role in nearly all aspects of their daily lives. When the ancient Egyptians experienced periods of peace and prosperity, they attributed credit for the success to their deities (Slaughter, 5). The Egyptians experienced centuries of remarkable stability and considered this state to be the ma’at, which was Egyptian for the “natural order” (Slaughter, 5). Even though they considered good order and balance in their society to be natural, it had to be protected by the pharaoh, who was considered to have been born mortal but imbued with godhood upon receipt of the throne, and was expected to be an earthly presence of the divine (Slaughter, 5). His religious standing gave the pharaoh a unique legal and authoritative position in ancient Egyptian culture. The pharaoh was expected to defend the nation, take responsibility for all administrative duties, declare all of the laws, and own all of the land (Slaughter, 5). For practical reasons, much of the pharaoh’s responsibilities were delegated to a bureaucracy (Slaughter, 5). Within this bureaucracy, staffed mostly by men, success was measured by the degree to which a person promoted order and prosperity within their stewardship (Slaughter, 5-6).
Ancient Egypt had a strong social hierarchy, where a small group of the population, mostly the male elders, formed an elite class that that tightly controlled the rest of society (Slaughter, 7). This hierarchy was rooted in a wide variety of economic, political, religious and social causes that imbued those in power with authority in almost all areas of society (Slaughter, 7). The nature of most economic and commercial activity at the time created great “wealth, power, and opportunities” for elite men, while putting other men and all women in a position of submission to or dependence on the elite (Slaughter, 7). The division of labor that arose based at first on survival needs created societal attitudes about the roles, attributes, and abilities of men and women (Slaughter, 7). Men were the rulers and hard laborers, while women were the family caretakers (Slaughter, 7).
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