Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, translated by Raymond O. Faulkner – The Book of the Dead, more accurately translated “Book of Going Forth by Day,” is a collection of spells used in ancient Egyptian funerary rites. It isn’t really one book, but several, with this volume collecting all known spells from different versions of the book. The afterlife was apparently a dangerous place for Egyptians, but also quite interesting. This wasn’t some ill-defined concept of Heaven, but a world all its own, full of monsters and adventures. Some of the spells were used to ward off snakes, beetles, and crocodiles. One of my favorites is a spell for repelling songstress-snakes. I really couldn’t tell you what they are, but they sound pretty cool. Another spell is used “for repelling him who swallowed an ass,” probably a reference to Set, but that doesn’t make the title any less amusing.
My copy of this book, which I bought from the discount rack at Barnes & Noble, comes with a scarab figure. Kind of tacky, perhaps, but an interesting accessory. The text itself is really rather difficult to follow, but interesting from a historical perspective.
While there were many beliefs about the Egyptian afterlife, the idea of the lumbering mummy that appears in B-movies does not appear to have been one of them. If not an invention of Hollywood, the zombie wrapped in bandages is certainly a more recent invention, seemingly based on a misinterpretation of burial rites.
The body was preserved in order to allow the dead person to live on in a new spiritual body, not so that the old body could actually come back to life. Even today we usually preserve the bodies of the dead long beyond any possible use we might have for them; it’s basically a cultural thing. The book of Daniel does say that there will be a general resurrection of the dead in the end times, but I think God is going to have to do a lot of repairs, unless it means we’ll have a bunch of skeletons walking the Earth. Actually, that would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it?