|Sacred Pyramid Texts|
The earliest funerary texts inscribed on a pharaoh's pyramid are found at Saqqara. These sacred texts, known as the Pyramid Texts, were written on the inner passages and the walls of the burial chamber. They were intended to help the pharaohs travel through the afterworld, to secure the regeneration and eternal life of the king. The Pyramid Texts are considered the oldest body of religious writings in the world.
Towards the end of the third millennium B.C., new funerary texts appeared, with greater emphasis on the afterlife and helping the deceased find their way in the afterworld. Known as the Coffin Texts because they were inscribed inside the coffins of Middle Kingdom high officials, they consist of over 1,000 spells (prayers for protection and empowerment) highlighting life beneath the earth in the kingdom of Osiris, in which the deceased worked in the Fields of Offerings and of Rushes. A new feature included the judgement of the dead as a way of attaining new life. The deceased were taken before Osiris and their hearts were weighed on a scale, against a feather representing Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. Those who were good passed through to the new life as transfigured spirits. Those who were judged as wicked, were tossed to the goddess Amemet, "the swallower", who was portrayed as having the rear of a hippopotamus, the fore of a lion and the head of a crocodile.
During the New
Kingdom, the entire corpus of funerary texts became known as
the "spell coming forth by day" (known today as the Book of the Dead).
It contains approximately 190 chapters of magical and ritual spells,
illustrated with drawings to assist the deceased on their voyage to
eternity. Texts were written on papyrus and placed near the dead. One spell was inscribed on a heart scarab,
an amulet that was placed over the heart, either within the mummy's
bandages or inside the body. In the Late
Period, they were written on strips of linen that were wrapped
Here is an example of a spell from the Book of the Dead. Spell 50 is a prayer for not perishing and for being alive in the realm of the dead.
"O you young men of Shu of the morning, who have power over those who flash among the sun-folk, whose arms move about and whose heads sway to and fro, may I move about every day."