When I write my books, I need to do a lot of research. After all they all have the ancient Egyptian theme in common; some more, some less.
To me the ancient Egyptian facts are more or less familiar, at least on a basic level, after years of studying Egyptology at the University of Manchester. But, as another author commented to me, I have to remember my readers may hear of them for the first time.
So I figured I could write about these little details here in my blog. What they are about, where you can find more information about them. The headlines will begin with AE Facts from now on, so if you are scrolling through the posts you find them easier.
These posts become visible for my patrons before anyone else, but I put this first post available immediately for everyone.
The first Egyptian thing on Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter is the beginning of Chapter 6: Going Forth by Day
It is a spell meant for the last judgement:
Oh my heart which I had from my mother!
Oh my heart which I had from my mother!
Oh my heart of my different ages!
Do not stand up as a witness against me, do not be opposed to me in the tribunal,
do not be hostile to me in the presence of the Keeper of the Balance,
For you are my ka which was in my body, the protector who made my members hale.
Go forth to the happy place whereto we speed;
do not make my name stink to the Entourage who make men.
do not tell lies about me in the presence of the god;
It is indeed well that you should hear!
-Book of the Dead
Sounds pretty cryptic, doesn’t it?
Let’s go through this.
First of all – Going Forth by Day. It is actually “The Book of Going Forth by day”. Ring any bells? No? What if I say “The Book of the Dead” – would that be more familiar to you?
Thought so. That, however, is a modern term for the book coined by Karl Lepsius in 1942 when he published a translation of a Ptolemaic funerary manuscript.
The Book of Going Forth by Day was a scroll with spells for the deceased to help them find their way in the Duat, the afterworld, on their way to the Field of Reeds / Fields of Iaru. Which was the hereafter, or the ancient Egyptian equivalent of their “paradise”. There were no fixed “books”, as the spells varied, but the main point was to help the deceased safely through the dangers of the land of death. And once they had safely reached their hereafter, they could come out from there, “go forth by day” to the land of the living.
If you’d like to know what the name of the book was in ancient Egyptian, it is transliterated as rw nw prt m hrw. Before you begin to spit consonants, put an “e” between consonants – but not before the letter w. That you could pronounce more or less like a “u”. As the ancient Egyptians did not write vowels, we don’t know how they pronounced the words. But Coptic language, which has its roots in ancient Egyptian, was used as a model and it was decided that the vowel e was used between consonants when the words were spoken.
So here goes: ru nu heru peret m heru.
This spell is from The Book of Going Forth by Day, the spell 30 to be exact. And why does the spell speak to the deceased person’s heart?
The ancient Egyptians did not know what the brains were for – they believed that a person’s intellect and spirit were located in a person’s heart. The dead person’s heart was weighed against the feather of the goddess of truth, Ma’at. If the person’s heart was heavy with bad deeds and weighed more than the weather in the scale, a monster called Ammit devoured the heart and the person died a second death with no hope of existence in the afterlife. If the heart passed the test, the deceased could enjoy all the joys of the afterlife for all eternity (well, at least as long as their name was spoken out loud in the world of the living…)
The deceased also had to make a “negative confession” in front of a tribunal of divine judges and assure them they had not done the 42 sins. You know – “I have not stolen”, “I have not killed” etc.
In mummification an amulet in the form of a scarab was placed over the heart with the above mentioned spell written on its underside. And why a scarab / dung beetle was chosen as the form of the scarab? Well, the ancient Egyptians saw the beetles rolling balls of dung and burying them in the earth. Their pupae that lived inside the dung ball resembled a mummy. And when they transformed into beetles, people saw full-sized, perfect dung beetles dig their way up from the earth. Surely a miracle. So – the dung beetle was a symbol of rebirth, and in mythology was called “Khepri”, a god of the rising who rolled the sun up to the sky. (Of course after reading this you can’t help thinking, at least for a few moments, of a giant ball of dung in the sky…)
So the spell 30 was a warning for the heart not to reveal all the bad deeds the deceased had done, and to remain silent while the dead person convinced the tribunal of the afterlife that indeed they had led a good life and were worthy of an eternal afterlife.