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The Book of the Dead - Restore Maat

The Book of the Dead

Egyptian god Osiris

The Book Per-t em Hru, or [The Chapters of] Coming forth by (or, into) the Day, commonly called the “Book of the Dead.”

The spells and other texts which were written by Thoth for the benefit of the dead, and are directly connected with him, were called, according to documents written under the XIth and XVIIIth dynasties, “Chapters of the Coming Forth by (or, into) the Day,”

The work PER-T EM HRU received many additions in the course of centuries, and at length, under the XVIIIth dynasty, it contained about 190 distinct compositions, or “Chapters.” The original forms of many of these are to be found in the page 6″Pyramid Texts” (i.e., the funerary compositions cut on the walls of the chambers and corridors of the pyramids of Kings Unas, Teta, Pepi I Meri-Rā, Merenra and Pepi II at Sakkârah), which were written under the Vth and VIth dynasties.

The scribes began to write collections of Chapters from the PER-T EM HRU on rolls of papyri instead of on coffins.

At first the texts were written in hieroglyphs, the greater number of them being in black ink, and an attempt was made to illustrate each text by a vignette drawn in black outline. The finest known example of such a codex is the Papyrus of Nebseni (Brit. Mus. No. 9900), which is 77 feet 7½ inches in length and I foot I½ inches in breadth.

Early in the XVIIIth dynasty scribes began to write the titles of the Chapters, the rubrics, and the catchwords in red ink and the text in black, and it became customary to decorate the vignettes with colors, and to increase their size and number.

The oldest codex of this class is the Papyrus of Nu (Brit. Mus. No. 10477) which is 65 feet 3½ inches in length, and 1 foot 1½ inches in breadth. This and many other rolls were written by their owners for their own tombs, and in each roll both text and vignettes were usually, the work of the same hand. Later, however, the scribe wrote the text only, and a skilled artist was employed to add the coloured vignettes, for page 7which spaces were marked out and left blank by the scribe.

The finest example of this class of roll is the Papyrus of Ani (Brit. Mus., No. 10470). which is 78 feet in length and 1 foot 3 inches in breadth. In all papyri of this class the text is page 8written in hieroglyphs, but under the XIXth and following dynasties many papyri are written throughout in the hieratic character; these usually lack vignettes, but have coloured frontispieces.

Little is known of the history of the PER-T EM HRU after the downfall of the priests of Amen, and during the period of the rule of the Nubians, but under the kings of the XXVIth dynasty page 11 page 12the Book enjoyed a great vogue.

Many funerary rolls were written both in hieroglyphs and hieratic, and were decorated with vignettes drawn in black outline; and about this time the scribes began to write funerary texts in the demotic character.

But men no longer copied long selections from the PER-T EM HRU as they had done under the XVIIIth, XIXth and XXth page 13 dynasties, partly because the religious views of the Egyptians had undergone a great change, and partly because a number of Books of the Dead of a more popular character had appeared.

The cult of Osiris was triumphant everywhere, and men preferred the hymns and litanies which dealt with his sufferings, death, and resurrection to the compositions in which the absolute supremacy of Rā and his solar cycle of gods and goddesses was assumed or proclaimed.

Thus, in the “Lamentations of Isis” and the “Festival Songs of Isis and Nephthys,” and the “Litanies of Seker,” and the “Book of Honouring Osiris,” etc., the central figure is Osiris, and he alone is regarded as the giver of everlasting life.

The dead were no longer buried with large rolls of papyrus filled with Chapters of the PER-T EM HRU laid in their coffins, but with small sheets or strips of papyrus, on which were inscribed the above compositions, or the shorter texts of the “Book of Breathings,” or the “Book of Traversing Eternity,” or the “Book of May my name flourish,” or a part of the “Chapter of the Last Judgment.”

One rubric in the Papyrus of Nu (Brit. Mus. No. 10477) states that the text of the work called “PER-T EM HRU,” i.e., “Coming Forth (or, into) the Day,” was discovered by a high official in the foundations of a shrine of the god Hennu during the reign of Semti, or Hesepti, a king of the Ist dynasty.

The plinth was found by Prince Herutataf, a son of King Khufu (Cheops), who carried it off to his king and exhibited it as a “most wonderful” thing.

This composition was greatly reverenced, for it “would make a man victorious upon earth and in the Other World; it would ensure him a safe and free passage through the Tuat (Under World); it would allow him to go in and to go out, and to take at any time any form he pleased; it would make his soul to flourish, and would prevent him from dying the [second] death.”