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Showing posts from September 8, 2011

The Litany of Re


The Litany of Re was a major religious composition known from the New Kingdom. Though most of the renderings are found in tombs, it is not really a book of the netherworld, or a guide to the paths crossing that dark world, though in its theme is seems to be related. Instead, it is a guide to the forms and names of the sun god that also seeks to establish an equality between the dead king and the sun god, and the sun god's ba, or soul. It also contends with the sun god's daily course.

Sources from Antiquity

The Litany of Re was a special composition that, at least a portion of which, was inscribed in the tomb of Tuthmosis III and the tomb of his vizier, Useramun. These excerpts evidently related to each other. Thoug…

The Major Egyptian Books of the Underworld

The magical text that decorated the tombs of the ancient pharaohs of Egypt basically provided a detailed roadmap of the what the Egyptians believed to be the Netherworld. Actually, most of these were derived in some manner from the much earlier Pyramid Texts developed by the Kings of the 5th and 6th Dynasty.

While a number of tombs are said to contain the whole text of one are more of these books, none actually have the entire text of any single book, though some have most of the text. Other tombs simply have passages from the books.

The oldest of the royal funerary books is the Amduat. From the Ramessid period onward, the underworld and the heavens received new attention. The commonly used names of all …

The Book of Gates

The Book of Gates is the principal guidebook to the netherworld found in 19th and part of the 20th Dynasty tombs of the New Kingdom, though it makes its first appearance to us with the last king of the 18th Dynasty. It was meant to allow the dead pharaoh to navigate his way along the netherworld route together with the sun god, so that his resurrection could be affected. It emphasizes gates with guardian deities who's names must be known in order to pass them. This is actually a very old tradition dating to at least the Book of the Two Ways in the Coffin Texts, where there are seven gates with three keepers at each.

The middle register in the third hour of the Book of the Dead from the burial chamber of Ramesses I

Sources of the Book of Gates

We are not sure exactly when the Egyptian afterlife text known as the Book of Gates was composed. While some authorities, such as Hartw…