Amduat

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The Amduat[pronunciation?] (literally "That Which Is In the Afterworld", also translated as "Text of the Hidden Chamber Which is in the Underworld" and "Book of What is in the Underworld")[1] is an important Ancient Egyptian funerary text of the New Kingdom. Like many funerary texts, it was found written on the inside of the pharaoh's tomb for reference. Unlike other funerary texts, however, it was reserved only for pharaohs (until the 21st Dynasty almost exclusively) or very favored nobility.[2]

It tells the story of Ra, the Egyptian sun god who travels through the underworld, from the time when the sun sets in the west and rises again in the east. It is said that the dead Pharaoh is taking this same journey, ultimately to become one with Ra and live forever.

The underworld is divided into twelve hours of the night, each representing different allies and enemies for the Pharaoh/sun god to encounter. The Amduat names all of these gods and monsters. The main purpose of the Amduat is to give the names of these gods and monsters to the spirit of the dead Pharaoh, so he can call upon them for help or use their name to defeat them.

As well as enumerating and naming the inhabitants of the Duat (or Dwat) both good and bad, the illustrations of the 'book' show clearly the topography of the underworld. The earliest complete version of the Amduat is found in KV34, the tomb of Thutmose III in the Valley of the Kings.

The hours[edit]

In hour 1 the sun god enters the western horizon (akhet) which is a transition between day and night. In hours 2 and 3 he passes through an abundant watery world called 'Wernes' and the 'Waters of Osiris'. In hour 4 he reaches the difficult sandy realm of Sokar, the underworld hawk deity, where he encounters dark zig zag pathways which he has to negotiate, being dragged on a snake-boat. In hour 5 he discovers the tomb of Osiris which is an enclosure beneath which is hidden a lake of fire, the tomb is covered by a pyramid like mound (identified with the goddess Isis) and on top of which Isis and Nephthys have alighted in the form of two kites (birds of prey).

In the sixth hour the most significant event in the underworld occurs. The ba (or soul) of Ra unites with his own body, or alternatively with the ba of Osiris within the circle formed by the mehen serpent. This event is the point at which the sun begins its regeneration; it is a moment of great significance, but also danger, as beyond it in hour 7 the adversary Apep (Apophis) lies in wait and has to be subdued by the magic of Isis, and the strength of Set assisted by Serqet. Once this has been done the sun god opens the doors of the tomb in hour 8 and then leaves the sandy island of Sokar by rowing vigorously back into the waters in hour 9. In hour 10 the regeneration process continues through immersion in the waters until in hour 11 the god's eyes (a symbol for his health and well being) are fully regenerated. In hour 12 he enters the eastern horizon ready to rise again as the new day's sun.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Forman and Quirke (1996), p. 117.
  2. ^ Hornung (1999), p.27

References[edit]

  • Forman, Werner and Stephen Quirke. (1996). Hieroglyphs and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2751-1.
  • Erik Hornung trans. David Lorton (1999). The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife. Cornell University Press. 
  • Knowledge for the Afterlife - the Egyptian Amduat - a quest for immortality (1963), Theodore Abt and Erik Hornung, Living Human Heritage.

External links[edit]