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Challenges to Death: Lecture 4

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Professor walter sisto

on 12 June 2017

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Transcript of Challenges to Death: Lecture 4

Lecture 4:
Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

Ancient Egypt
Egyptian Book of the Dead
-One of the oldest religious documents
-Scroll of Ani
-Revision of the older "Pyramaid Texts"
-Better Translation: "Chapters by going forth by day"
What happened after death?
-Why so much effort into preparing for the next life?

-Book of Dead
-Consisted of at least 186 spells
-Accompany the dying during their
trials in the afterlife
-During the New Kingdom Period (1600-1200) it was widely available
-Elite tombs
-originally-only the Pharaoh

How to acquire it?
-Go to the Temple priest
-Select prayers
-Commission scribes to create your personal scroll
-"Osiris N"
-average cost= 1/2 year's wage

Language had power to create!!
-Words of the spells would protect against the immediate trials in the afterlife
Final Test= Moral character
If your heart is too heavy, then Amitt, the Devourer, eats your soul!!!

I have not committed sin.
I have not committed robbery with violence.
I have not stolen.
I have not slain men and women.
I have not stolen grain.
I have not purloined offerings.
I have not stolen the property of the god.
I have not uttered lies.
I have not carried away food.
I have not uttered curses.
I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men.
I have made none to weep.
I have not eaten the heart [i.e I have not grieved uselessly, or felt remorse].
I have not attacked any man.
I am not a man of deceit.
I have not stolen cultivated land.
I have not been an eavesdropper.
I have slandered [no man].
I have not been angry without just cause.
I have not debauched the wife of any man.
I have not debauched the wife of [any] man. (repeats the previous affirmation but addressed to a different god).
I have not polluted myself.
I have terrorised none.
I have not transgressed [the Law].
I have not been wroth.
I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
I have not blasphemed.
I am not a man of violence.
I am not a stirrer up of strife (or a disturber of the peace).
I have not acted (or judged) with undue haste.
I have not pried into matters.
I have not multiplied my words in speaking.
I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
I have not worked witchcraft against the King (or blasphemed against the King).
I have never stopped [the flow of] water.
I have never raised my voice (spoken arrogantly, or in anger).
I have not cursed (or blasphemed) God.
I have not acted with evil rage.
I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the Spirits of the dead.
I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.[26]
Survive the Negative Confession!
Ani's Wife
-"wise mouth"
-records the results of the weighing of the heart
-Most important God of the dead
-Protect Tombs
1)"Opening of the mouth ritual"
2) "Weighing of the Heart"
Field of REEDS

Opening of the Mouth
-Symbolic gestures
-Spiritual awakening
-Allow BA to join KA
-KA can use senses (to eat, drink, smell, and
speak) to receive offering

(Ma'at = Truth/Justice)
(Essence or Center of Self/ Intelligence )
Polytheistic Religion
-Pantheon of Gods, Goddesses and demons
Underworld-Osiris is the Lord
-Anubis-very important
-several myths
1) Anubis allows Osiris to rule underworld
2) Anubis is a son of Osiris
Threat of Violence
Test questions
-42 Commandments
-administered by Gods like "The Breaker of BONES"
General optimism
Afterlife-radical continuity with life
Family members transcend the bonds of death
Ordered Cosmos: reflect annual rotation of crops and cycle of nature
-Contains jar of food, drink, and personal property
-Items to use in the next life
-depict world in miniature
-memory bank
-act as magical substitutes for mortuary cult
-Use and enjoy body in the afterlife

-Chapels-for family to ask for intercession and continue memory of the dead
-Preserve as best as possible
-Expertise in preserving the body
-dry out body
-remove organs
Leave in the Heart!
Heart Scarab
Protect heart from revealing the truth!
If your are in paradise, why do you need a tomb?
We are a personality composed of different elements
-Remains with the body
-life force
-death=ka leaves
-Spiritual double
-Join at death
-remains in the tomb
-sustained by offerings
-made in front of statue
"human-headed bird"
-Ability of the deceased to Move about
-act in "realm of men" or of the Gods
-Returns to the mummy ever night
-nourished by ka
Purpose of the Book of the Dead is to make the scales balanced!!
-Was the Tomb symbolic in character?
-Put us in touch with the dead but not necessary for the fate of the dead
Stark contrast to Egyptian civilization
-general pessimism
-reflects uncertainty about nature
"[land] between rivers"
-Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
-Sumerians were the first to settle there (5,500 BCE)
-Modern day: Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait
-3000 B.C.E to 539 B.C.E
-Contemporary of Egypt
-No paradise, but Gloom
-Even the kings eat dust and clay and feed gods!
-No emotions can be expressed
-Pale reflection of social status on earth
Epic of Gilgamesh
-Punishment and Retribution!!??
-unquenchable thirst for those who disrespect parents
-virgins and barren wife's weep
-still born and untimely deaths-close to the gods, and some pleasure
-reward for having many children
-Some ambiguity
-those who die in fire no longer exist!!
Mesopotamian Soul
-vehicle for the Spirit's travel

-Objects of the memorial rite

"The Land of no Return"
Humankind and the Earth
-Occupy the surface of the earth
-Enjoy pleasures Fully
-Afterwards you will spend eternity in the netherworld
-Immortality only in continuing glory of one's name
Gates of the Netherworld
-basis of proper interment and care of the corpse by the living
-in some myths
-If allowed to enter, then assigned an appropriate place
-gods appear capricious, petty, self-concerned
-Creation myth (epic of Atrahasis, 1700 BCE)
-humankind was created to the work of lesser gods
2nd Creation Myth
-Ellil, father god, created humankind
-humankind was too noisy
-sends famine, disease and
the great flood
to destroy humankind
-no salvation
-we die so that we do not provoke the gods
-Purpose is to serve the unreliable, all-powerful gods
Poem of the Righteous Suffer (1500 BCE)

Who knows the will of the gods in heaven?

Who understands the plans of the underworld gods?

Where have mortals learnt the way of a god?

He who was alive yesterday is dead today.

For a minute he was dejected, suddenly he is exuberant.

One moment people are singing in exaltation,

Another they groan like professional mourners.

Their condition changes like opening and shutting the legs.

When starving they become like corpses,

When replete they vie with the gods.

In prosperity they speak of scaling heaven,

Under adversity they complain of going down to hell.

I am appalled at these things; I do not understand their significance....
Epic of Gilgamesh (2150 BCE)
-One of oldest poems in existence
-Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and Enkidu
-Adventure to kill Huwawa
-Angers Ishtar, the goddess, strikes Endkidu with illness that leads to his death
-Seeks the answer to Death and the quest for the immortality of the gods

Utnapishtim (Noah?)
-Thorny plant at the bottom of the ocean
-returns empty handed
-moral life is the arena of enjoyment!
-slaughters lesser god and mixes with clay
-judged by Ereskigal and Nergal
Cult of the Dead
-driven by fear and appeasement/bereavement
-haunt if not memorialized properly
-cause illness, but also protector
-Location was very important
-under the house
-tomb= entrance to the the land of the dead
-shroud the body
-hopelessness of death
-Families provide food and drink offering
-most powerful God
-most powerful city, Babylon
-he grows in importance as Babylon grows in importance
Creation Myth
-Marduk kills the Goddess, Tiamat
-creates the world from her body
-victory = head of the pantheon of gods and goddesses
-victory of male over female principle??
Did humans always bury their dead or have belief in the afterlife?
-scholars are divided
what we can agree on...
-between 50,000-30,000
-Neanderthal graves (circa 30,000 BCE)
-axes, food, tools
Neolithic Age (7,000-3,000 BCE)
-hunting and gathering to agriculture
-flourishing of religion and belief in the afterlife
-social ordering, great civilizations along the great rivers (Yellow, Nile, Indus, Euphrates)
-life revolved around the NILE
-Renewal of life given by the Nile echoed death rituals
- 3000- 664 BCE (sacked by Assyrians)
-Life triumphs over death!!!
-Culture of Death?
Life is transient; look forward to the afterlife
1-Living Body (khet)
3-Transfigured /mummified body(sah)
-home of BA
-personal power to be spoken
Non-cohesive system
-complex vision of personhood
-what is important to us here remains in the afterlife
-exists after death
-goal of the death rites
-union of BA and KA
-transfiguration of a person into a being of light
-harm or hurt the living
-living send letters to it
-travel to and from the body
-many traditions
-at least three for a ruler
1) live with heaven-dwelling gods
2) live with Sun God, join in cyclical journey
3) live in the underworld kingdom with Osiris
-the first Pharaoh of Egypt
-myth of funeral cult and mummification
Ma'at-Goddess of Truth
Famous poem
Egyptian Soul
-Notion that afterlife is an immaterial existence is foreign to Egyptians
-Do not have one clear tradition on the soul
Major tradition:
Ba is "You"
Ka is life force
-glorified existence
-make it past the trials!
-improper offerings
Death occurs when KA leaves
Shadow remains
Name remains
Unresolved ambiguities
-Did the tomb really matter? after trial?
-Does the Body resurrect? What does this mean?
NO standard of bereavement
-7 days for close relatives
-scratching and tearing at the body
-wear dirty and ragged clothes
-matted hair
-Professional Lamentations (kings/rich)
-offer food and personal items for use and to give to sacrifice to the gods of the underworld
Funerary Rites
1-Embalm body
2-Funeral procession
-embalmed body and coffin was collected for the day of burial, probably from the embalmers tent.
-elaborate event to display their status to onlookers
-hired mourners, dancers, musicians and priests
-family on either side of the coffin
-edge of the Nile
-participants were required to board boats and cross the river to the western side
3-Funeral Rite
-mummy was raised upright for the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ ceremony.
-ceremony included purification, anointing and the reciting of prayers and spells, as well as touching the mummy with ritual objects to restore the senses
-food and clothing were offered to the dead person and mourners participated in the funerary banquet -
-mummy was then placed in the burial chamber of the tomb
Hall of Ma'at
-Evil Demon Snake
-First Satan?
Lord of Chaos
-enemy of Ra (Sun God)
1 tradition
-Pharaoh dies
-unites with sun God to battle with Apep
-If Pharaoh fails, world is plunged into chaos!
-Apep is unleashed on the world
Opening remarks
1-Ancient Religions/World Religions
-Historical/ archeological record is not clear
example: Alexander the Great (350 BCE)
-no primary sources
-earliest mention by first century BCE authors
-only copies exist-circa 300CE
2-Pay attention to nuances
-avoid uncritical statements "all religions are the same"
-stress either
(right belief) or
(right practice)
-every tradition is unique even though they share ideas and concepts
-belief in afterlife build the civilization?
-Regarded pleasure of life highly and did not look forward to the "day of landing"

Optimism curtailed by fear of punishment/annihilation
Resurrected Body?!
-servants in afterlife
Light as a feather = worthy of paradise
-soul/center of intellect
Depended on Bones/memorial
Care for body:
-proper funeral to guarantee safe passage to netherworld/ cross Khubur River
"unmarried demons!"
Sleepless/Restless Ghost
Full transcript