Egyptian soul

Egyptian soul

The Ancient Egyptians believed that a human soul was made up of five parts: the "Ren", the "Ba", the "Ka", the "Sheut", and the "Ib". In addition to these components of the soul there was the human body (called the "ha", occasionally a plural "haw", meaning approximately sum of bodily parts).

Ib (heart)

The most important part of the Egyptian soul was thought to be the Ib ("jb"), or heart. To Ancient Egyptians, it was the heart and not the brain that was the seat of emotion and thought, including the will and intentions. In Egyptian religion, the heart was the key to the afterlife. It was conceived as proceeding at death to the future world, where it gave evidence for, or against, its possessor. It was thought that the heart was examined by Anubis and the deities during the "Weighing of the Heart" ceremony. If the heart weighed more than the "feather of Maat", it was immediately consumed by the demon Ammit. This is evidenced by the many expressions in the Egyptian language which incorporate the word "ib", "Awt-ib": happiness (literally, wideness of heart), "Xak-ib": estranged (literally, truncated of heart). This word was transcribed by Wallis Budge as 'Ab'.

Sheut (shadow)

A person's shadow, Sheut ("šwt" in Egyptian), was always present. It was believed that a person could not exist without a shadow, nor a shadow without a person, therefore, Egyptians surmised that a shadow contained something of the person it represents. For this reason statues of people and deities were sometimes referred to as their shadows.

The shadow was represented graphically as a small human figure painted completely black as well, as a figure of death, or servant of Anubis.

Ren (name)

As a part of the soul, a person's ren ("rn" 'name') was given to them at birth and the Egyptians believed that it would live for as long as that name was spoken, which explains why efforts were made to protect it and the practice of placing it in numerous writings. For example, part of the "Book of Breathings", a derivative of the "Book of the Dead", was a means to ensure the survival of the name. A cartouche (magical rope) often was used to surround the name and protect it. Conversely, the names of deceased enemies of the state, such as Akhenaten, were hacked out of monuments in a form of damnatio memoriae. Sometimes, however, they were removed in order to make room for the economical insertion of the name of a successor, without having to build another monument. The greater the number of places a name was used, the greater the possibility it would survive to be read and spoken.

Ba (individual personality)

The 'Ba' ("b3") is in some regards the closest to the contemporary Western religious notion of a "soul", but it also was everything that makes an individual unique, similar to the notion of 'personality'. (In this sense, inanimate objects could also have a 'Ba', a unique character, and indeed Old Kingdom pyramids often were called the 'Ba' of their owner). Like a soul, the 'Ba' is a part of a person that the Egyptians believed would live after the body died, and it is sometimes depicted as a human-headed bird flying out of the tomb to join with the 'Ka' in the afterlife.

The word 'bau' (plural of the word ba) is based on this concept. It meant something similar to 'impressiveness', 'power', and 'reputation', particularly of a deity. When a deity intervened in human affairs, it was said that the 'Bau' of the deity were at work [Borghouts 1982] . In this regard, the ruler was regarded as a 'Ba' of a deity, or one deity was believed to be the 'Ba' of another.

Ka (life force)

The Ka ("k3") was the Egyptian concept of "life force", that which distinguishes the difference between a living and a dead person, with death occurring when the "ka" left the body. The Egyptians believed that Khnum created the bodies of children on a potter's wheel and inserted them into women's bodies. Depending on the region, Egyptians believed that Heket or Meskhenet was the creator of each person's Ka, breathing it into them at the instant of their birth as the part of their soul that made them be "alive". This resembles the concept of spirit in other religions.

The Egyptians also believed that the "ka" was sustained through food and drink. For this reason food and drink offerings were presented to the dead, although it was the "kau" ("k3w") within the offerings (also known as "kau") that was consumed, not the physical aspect. The "ka" was often represented in Egyptian iconography as a second image of the individual, leading earlier works to attempt to translate "ka" as "double".


The Akh ("3Unicode|ḫ" meaning 'effective one'), [cite book |author=Allen, James W. |title=Middle Egyptian : An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=Cambridge, UK |year= |pages= |isbn=0-521-77483-7 |oclc= |doi=] was a concept that varied over the long history of ancient Egyptian belief. It is besides Ka and Ba one of the central elements, aspects of immortal personality, even after the death of the physical body. In this sense, it was a sort of ghost.

In later belief, the Ka was considered to change into the Akh and Ba after death, rather than uniting with the Ba to become the Akh. At this stage, it was believed that the Akh spent some time dwelling in the underworld before returning and being reincarnated as a Ka, gaining a new Ba.

The separation of Akh and the unification of Ka and Ba were brought about after death by having the proper offerings made and knowing the proper, efficacious spell, but there was an attendant risk of dying again. Egyptian funerary literature (such as the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead) were intended to aid the deceased in "not dying a second time" and becoming an "akh".


Ancient Egyptians believed that death occurs when a person's "ka" leaves the body. Ceremonies conducted by priests after death, including the "opening of the mouth (wp r)", aimed not only to restore a person's physical abilities in death, but also to release a Ba's attachment to the body. This allowed the Ba to be united with the Ka in the afterlife, creating an entity known as an "Akh" ("3ḫ", meaning "effective one").

According to Friedrich Junge, Giacomo Borioni proposes in his work "Der Ka aus religionswissenschaftlicher Sicht" that the "Ka" was the "self" of a human being.

Egyptians conceived of an afterlife as quite similar to normal physical existence — but with a difference. The model for this new existence was the journey of the sun. At night the sun descended into the Duat (the underworld). Eventually the sun meets the body of the mummified Osiris. Osiris and the sun, re-energized by each other, rise to new life for another day. For the deceased, their body and their tomb were their personal Osiris and a personal Duat. For this reason they are often addressed as "Osiris". For this process to work, some sort of bodily preservation was required, to allow the Ba to return during the night, and to rise to new life in the morning. However, the complete Akhu were also thought to appear as stars. ["Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation" by Henri Frankfort, p. 100. 2000 edition, first copyright 1948. [ Google Books preview] retrieved January 19, 2008.] Until the Late Period, non-royal Egyptians did not expect to unite with the sun deity, it being reserved for the royals. [ [ 26th Dynasty stela description] from Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna]

"The Book of the Dead", the collection of spells which aided a person in the afterlife existence, had the Egyptian name of the "Book of going forth by day". They helped people avoid the perils of the afterlife and also aided their existence, containing spells to assure "not dying a second time in the underworld", and to "grant memory always" to a person.

The tomb of Paheri, an Eighteenth dynasty nomarch of Nekhen, has an eloquent description of this existence, and is translated by James P. Allen as:

Your life happening again, without your ba being kept away from your divine corpse, with your ba being together with the akh ... You shall emerge each day and return each evening. A lamp will be lit for you in the night until the sunlight shines forth on your breast. You shall be told: "Welcome, welcome, into this your house of the living!"



* Allen, James Paul. 2001. "Ba". In "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt", edited by Donald Bruce Redford. Vol. 1 of 3 vols. Oxford, New York, and Cairo: Oxford University Press and The American University in Cairo Press. 161–162.
* Allen, James P. 2000. "Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs", Cambridge University Press.
* Borghouts, Joris Frans. 1982. "Divine Intervention in Ancient Egypt and Its Manifestation "(b3w)". In "Gleanings from Deir el-Medîna", edited by Robert Johannes Demarée and Jacobus Johannes Janssen. Egyptologische Uitgaven 1. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten. 1–70.
* Borioni, Giacomo C. 2005. "Der Ka aus religionswissenschaftlicher Sicht", Veröffentlichungen der Institute für Afrikanistik und Ägyptologie der Universität Wien.
* Burroughs, William S. 1987. "The Western Lands", Viking Press. (fiction).
* Friedman, Florence Margaret Dunn. 1981. "On the Meaning of Akh" (3ḫ) "in Egyptian Mortuary Texts". Doctoral dissertation; Waltham: Brandeis University, Department of Classical and Oriental Studies.
* ———. 2001. "Akh". In "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt", edited by Donald Bruce Redford. Vol. 1 of 3 vols. Oxford, New York, and Cairo: Oxford University Press and The American University in Cairo Press. 47–48.
* Jaynes, Julian. 1976. "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", Princeton University.
* Žabkar, Louis Vico. 1968. "A Study of the Ba Concept in Ancient Egyptian Texts". Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 34. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Soul — For other uses, see Soul (disambiguation). A soul – in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions – is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object.[1] Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach… …   Wikipedia

  • Egyptian hip hop — is a new, raw, audacious and exciting form of music coming from the North African country incorporating issues of the region and abroad.HistoryEgypt was one of the very first civilizations in the world, and the conqueror and conquered throughout… …   Wikipedia

  • Egyptian pyramids — The Egyptian pyramids are pyramid shaped structures located in Egypt, and were built as a tomb for dead pharaohs. There are over 100 Egyptian pyramids, most of which were built during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.Michael Ritter (2003) [http …   Wikipedia

  • Egyptian pantheon — …   Wikipedia

  • soul — soullike, adj. /sohl/, n. 1. the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as… …   Universalium

  • Egyptian hieroglyphs — A section of the Papyrus of Ani showing cursive hieroglyphs …   Wikipedia

  • Egyptian God cards — The Egyptian God cards or the Three Phantom Gods (三幻神, Sangenshin?) in Japan, are a series of powerful monster cards in Yu Gi Oh! that serve as a focal point in the series manga, the second series anime, and video games based on the anime and… …   Wikipedia

  • Egyptian Journeys with Dan Cruickshank — Infobox Television show name = nowrap beginEgyptian Journeyswrap with Dan Cruickshanknowrap end caption = aka = genre = Documentary creator = writer = director = creat director = developer = presenter = Dan Cruickshank starring = voices =… …   Wikipedia

  • Egyptian Religion —    It is not possible to give more than the briefest outline of Egyptian religion in the space available. The original basis appears to have been the totems of the pre dynastic tribes, many of which were female, and later became metamorphosed… …   Who’s Who in non-classical mythology

  • Ancient Egyptian offering formula — The Ancient Egyptian offering formula, generally referred to as the ḥtp dỉ nsw formula by Egyptologists, was written in ancient Egypt as an offering for the deceased. The offering formula was believed to allow the deceased to partake in offerings …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”