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Author Topic: Death, the Soul, and the Afterlife  (Read 5339 times)
Lykaios
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« Topic Start: June 16, 2007, 04:16:40 am »

I really debated whether or not to ask this but...

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. In the past year I have had to face both my own mortality and that of the person I love most, my mother. It is a difficult and very personal topic, I know. But that doesn’t make it go away. That doesn’t make people any less curious about it or any less worried. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things my co-workers (who all know I am Kemetic) asked me was what my religion said on the topic of death.

I got them past the initial “Will you have to be mummified and buried in a pyramid?” kind of questions but then realized I didn’t really know what to say beyond that. I know what my own experience is, but I haven’t seen this topic much addressed in the communities I frequent. And it isn’t the first time the topic has come up; it was one of my friend’s first questions for me when she learned I had converted.

I think this topic has been skirted a few times here indirectly, but what would a Reformed Kemetic viewpoint be on death and the afterlife? For that matter, how would one communicate the Kemetic concept of the soul to someone trying to understand the Kemetic worldview? How should I respond to the “Do you have a heaven and hell?” that inevitably comes up whenever I try to share my beliefs with people who practice mainstream faiths? Another question I get a lot of is “Do you have to memorize the Book of the Dead?” (That’s not as silly as it sounds; I started to say no and then thought to myself “do we?” I’ve never actually asked that question.)

I think it's a more important issue than we tend to give it credit for, especially for people who aren't very accustomed to the pagan world and its diverse views on afterlife, and it's going to come up eventually if Reformed Kemetic Religions ever hit the mainstream or even semi-mainstream religious channels. Thoughts?
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SatAset
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« Reply #1: June 16, 2007, 06:00:43 am »



*hug*  I don't have the words about your mother besides offering you a hug. 

I wouldn't think we'd need to memorize it.  Most people couldn't read and writing it down in Medu Netjer "Words of God" on papyrus made it come alive and be written heka. 

Also, I like the idea that during the judgement, it is your actions, personal ma'at, that is judged upon.  I like the idea of personal responsibility and we are held accountable for our own actions and it is our own heart which is weighed.  We judge ourselves in a sense.  Those that fail the judgement are eaten by Ammit and depending upon the interpretation ceases to exist or gets to be reborn; which personally, I think wouldn't happen too often as souls that cease to exist don't learn anything or have a chance to come back or not much is accomplished by that except them not existing and if apart of the purpose is to be maintaining creation with the Gods, then it would seem that for us to get the punishment of nonexistance, it would be one hell of an evil person and probably not happen too often. 

During different periods, there were different afterlives for different people.  I'm remembering Priests of Ra saying they'd get to go to the Boat of Millions and ascend to Nut's sky (Heaven). 

Field of Reeds in Wesir's realm is another afterlife.  There seems to be some dead that are burned by demons in the afterlife, but if I'm remembering correctly, those dead were described as evil or wicked and they are with the "backwards facing" (beings whose head is between their legs, arms are where their feet should be etc) people in the afterlife. 

Some people believe that since the ka is free once you die and the ba is what goes through the judgement, then the ka can be reincarnated with another ba or maybe the same one? 
I guess that's an arguement for reincarnation which apparently can be inferred from some texts.

Muuet (mut is singular) are hungry ghosts, that for whatever reason, stay behind and make havoc for the living. 

I personally believe in reincarnation, but that is based on my own UPG and nothing else.   

Aset and Nebet Het are recorded as two of those that greet the newly dead.  I believe Hethert and Nut are others. 

« Last Edit: June 16, 2007, 06:04:20 am by SatAset, Reason: fix sentence » Logged

I am the Goddess of Who I can Become. I mix the magic of the sorceress with the blade of a warrior. I walk the liminal pathways to see the face of the Goddess, both terrible and kind. As She stares back at me, I tremble in awe and ecstasy.  --Me
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« Reply #2: June 18, 2007, 05:42:28 pm »

I really debated whether or not to ask this but...
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. In the past year I have had to face both my own mortality and that of the person I love most, my mother. It is a difficult and very personal topic, I know. But that doesn’t make it go away. That doesn’t make people any less curious about it or any less worried. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things my co-workers (who all know I am Kemetic) asked me was what my religion said on the topic of death.
I think this topic has been skirted a few times here indirectly, but what would a Reformed Kemetic viewpoint be on death and the afterlife? For that matter, how would one communicate the Kemetic concept of the soul to someone trying to understand the Kemetic worldview? How should I respond to the “Do you have a heaven and hell?” that inevitably comes up whenever I try to share my beliefs with people who practice mainstream faiths? Another question I get a lot of is “Do you have to memorize the Book of the Dead?” (That’s not as silly as it sounds; I started to say no and then thought to myself “do we?” I’ve never actually asked that question.)
Thoughts?

So sorry about your mother's diagnosis. Blessings and strength to both of you.

I wholly agree it is very difficult to explain to others the Kemetic concept of the soul and the afterlife. It might be best not even to try (except to those closest to you or someone who is truly interested in Kemetic beliefs). Usually, people just want simple answers, a simple "your soul goes to the afterlife" might be enough of an explanation. If they press for more, keeping it short and sweet might still be the best way to go, something like "In the afterlife your life is judged and you may face consequences for what you have done."

Personally, I feel a connection to Khnum and those not familiar with Kemetic traditions might ask the question, "Why do you worship a goat-man"? Of course that's not the way it is at all. To them I would answer, "To me Khnum is the symbolic representation of the creation of the soul and its connection to the universe."  I wouldn't try to go beyond that, and I doubt anyone would really want me to anyway.

No, I don't think memorization of the Book of the Dead would be necessary. Most people in the ancient world were illiterate anyway, with very little eduacation, and I don't think only educated people are privy to an afterlife.  Smiley

Hope some of this helps.

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« Reply #3: June 18, 2007, 11:50:42 pm »

I think this topic has been skirted a few times here indirectly, but what would a Reformed Kemetic viewpoint be on death and the afterlife? For that matter, how would one communicate the Kemetic concept of the soul to someone trying to understand the Kemetic worldview? How should I respond to the “Do you have a heaven and hell?” that inevitably comes up whenever I try to share my beliefs with people who practice mainstream faiths? Another question I get a lot of is “Do you have to memorize the Book of the Dead?” (That’s not as silly as it sounds; I started to say no and then thought to myself “do we?” I’ve never actually asked that question.)

I think it's a more important issue than we tend to give it credit for, especially for people who aren't very accustomed to the pagan world and its diverse views on afterlife, and it's going to come up eventually if Reformed Kemetic Religions ever hit the mainstream or even semi-mainstream religious channels. Thoughts?

I haven't really quite got my thoughts in order on this yet, but I'll babble a little and maybe that will lead to them becoming in order.

Okay: so, the ancients had a variety of afterlife beliefs, depending on time period and how optimistic people were feeling.  To a certain extent, I think that there is a great deal of fluidity on the concept; as is noted in a number of ancient texts, ain't nobody come back to tell us what it's like in the West.

In general, I think people had a hoped-for outcome -- either a life much like the living world, only with fewer troubles such as disease or hard labour or the opportunity to travel on the sun barque with the gods (typically limited to kings/royalty, but an aspiration nonetheless) -- or a fear -- basically, a cessation of being.  (There are also sort of half-life only broken briefly by the light of the sun in the Duat notes, but I haven't gotten the impression that this was common, and it may be a border-state on the edge of annihilation.)  Some texts include something like a hell-punishment, but I would tend to figure that this is for mythological transgressors, with the demons primarily to defend against the forces of isfet that attempt to infiltrate the Duat.

Personally, I would tend to focus on the Field of Reeds -- a life much like life among the living, including obligations, but with the power to be spared of burdens with matters such as the ushabti who take on labor and the like.

Which leads to the question of the Book of Going Forth By Day and the whole miscellaneous complex of related matters.  It is important to remember that the BoGFBD is not a sacred text in the sense that most people think of it -- it is somewhere between a guidebook, a grimoire, and a hymnal.  (I have been semi-seriously considering doing the research to assemble a Lonely Planet-style Guide to the Duat for a while.)  The ancients did not believe that only Egyptians had access to the afterlife -- but clearly, having a map and all of the correct passwords for all the doors along the way would be a big help for picking a correct route!  Foreigners were left to fend for themselves.

Process of attaining the afterlife:  Well, obviously, having the BoGFBT stashed in one's coffin is a help; however, something similar to that level of help can also be attained by having living people who read the BoGFBT for one.  It is a reasonably common belief in African Traditional Religions, as I understand them, that the mourning that is paid by the living to the dead helps provide them with the energy that is required to get safely through to the afterlife, rather than becoming stuck or lost in the interim regions or becoming a malevolent ghost.  (I am pretty sure I read something along the lines of, "Tears are the tide that lift the boat of the soul to the far shore", somewhere.)  The ancients had professional mourners, remember.  Basically: making it to the afterlife safely is tricky; the BoGFBT and the prayers and mourning of the living can make the difference to whether or not the deceased reaches judgement.

Judgement:  The feather of Ma'at is what the heart is weighed against.  Thus, one is judged to see whether or not one's heart has been in ma'at.  This is the source of the ancient amulets basically intended to keep the heart from testifying against one -- if one hasn't been perfectly in ma'at, well, maybe one can trick the judges by encouraging one's heart to keep mum.  Failure to pass judgement does not mean condemnation to a hell; it means that one's heart is consumed by Ammit, and one ceases to be.  (Personally, I figure the energies of the souls are probably released and recycled, without individuality or continuity.)

Another note:  the justified dead are our ancestors, our akhu; their lifeforce is our lifeforce, and this is the nature of the ka.  Our children are incarnations of our family energy.  When people die, they go to the ka, as the ancients put it.
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« Reply #4: June 23, 2007, 12:19:45 am »

I really debated whether or not to ask this but...

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. In the past year I have had to face both my own mortality and that of the person I love most, my mother. It is a difficult and very personal topic, I know. But that doesn’t make it go away. That doesn’t make people any less curious about it or any less worried. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things my co-workers (who all know I am Kemetic) asked me was what my religion said on the topic of death.

I got them past the initial “Will you have to be mummified and buried in a pyramid?” kind of questions but then realized I didn’t really know what to say beyond that. I know what my own experience is, but I haven’t seen this topic much addressed in the communities I frequent. And it isn’t the first time the topic has come up; it was one of my friend’s first questions for me when she learned I had converted.

I think this topic has been skirted a few times here indirectly, but what would a Reformed Kemetic viewpoint be on death and the afterlife? For that matter, how would one communicate the Kemetic concept of the soul to someone trying to understand the Kemetic worldview? How should I respond to the “Do you have a heaven and hell?” that inevitably comes up whenever I try to share my beliefs with people who practice mainstream faiths? Another question I get a lot of is “Do you have to memorize the Book of the Dead?” (That’s not as silly as it sounds; I started to say no and then thought to myself “do we?” I’ve never actually asked that question.)

I think it's a more important issue than we tend to give it credit for, especially for people who aren't very accustomed to the pagan world and its diverse views on afterlife, and it's going to come up eventually if Reformed Kemetic Religions ever hit the mainstream or even semi-mainstream religious channels. Thoughts?


YMMMV, but: I talk to Djehuty, and here is the low=down --

Things have changed since mummy-times.

According to Djehuty, who is far older than Egypt and extremely wise, all human beings go to a higher, better realm.
We can stay there, reincarnate,  go visit back on earth, go visit on the Netjer realm. etc. (that's where some of the Ba, Ka, Akh, stuff comes from.) It sounds more complicated than it is.

Don't read The Book of the Dead or the Pyramid Texts to pass tests. Just read them and enjoy them, for they contain vast and subtle wisdom. And they are beautiful.

Don't worry about the mummification or the burial. It matters only to you and your family. Do it your way.

Djehuty tells me wonderful things. They are so odd and so unforseen, I like to share them. He told me that He started and encouraged the whole cult of mummifcation and elaborate tombs and the like so people would write and carve indelibly on walls. All that work, all that time, all that writing and drawing so we -- we, today -- would know the ancient culture. He wants us to know them, because we will have need to know them. (That's when He gets sad and I get somber-- He sees some future He won't talk about.)

I don't mean to be flippant in your time of mourning, but a well-lived life gets you to The Great Place fast. A less-well life gets you in as well, just more slowly.

Trust in Djehuty.

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« Reply #5: June 25, 2007, 12:04:18 am »

First of all, strength and peace to you and your mother. We're here for you. Smiley

To answer some of your questions, I personally plan on skimming the Book of the Dead, maybe even requesting to have a copy tucked in with my body, but I'm not too worried (although I may pay slightly more attention to the spells that wake the ushabits, Wink)

But, thank you for bringing this up. I hope these answers help.
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« Reply #6: June 25, 2007, 12:05:50 am »

I have been semi-seriously considering doing the research to assemble a Lonely Planet-style Guide to the Duat for a while.)

Awesome! Do it, do it!  Cheesy
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« Reply #7: June 25, 2007, 12:47:35 am »


(I have been semi-seriously considering doing the research to assemble a Lonely Planet-style Guide to the Duat for a while.) 



I'd read that  Smiley
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« Reply #8: June 25, 2007, 07:56:21 am »


Our children are incarnations of our family energy. 


This is my understanding as well. Does anyone know from which text this comes from?  I have forgotten.
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Darkhawk
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« Reply #9: June 25, 2007, 02:09:22 pm »

This is my understanding as well. Does anyone know from which text this comes from?  I have forgotten.

As far as I know it's not from a text, it's a reasonable interpolation of how the concepts are treated.  It's in things like the euphemisms and treatments of the concepts, or artwork (a man with arms positioned in the character for 'ka', with children seated on his shoulders).
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« Reply #10: June 26, 2007, 07:58:51 am »

As far as I know it's not from a text, it's a reasonable interpolation of how the concepts are treated.  It's in things like the euphemisms and treatments of the concepts, or artwork (a man with arms positioned in the character for 'ka', with children seated on his shoulders).

Thanks, sometimes I hold a belief for so long I forget how it originated. I'm heading back to my books to expand on the concept.
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« Reply #11: June 27, 2007, 03:37:20 am »

As far as I know it's not from a text, it's a reasonable interpolation of how the concepts are treated.  It's in things like the euphemisms and treatments of the concepts, or artwork (a man with arms positioned in the character for 'ka', with children seated on his shoulders).

One of the things I always felt argued in favor of some sort of concept of reincarnation is the idea that the Netjeru travelled into the Duat each night to rejuvenate. If the Duat would rejuvanate the ka of Netjer, I suspect it would have a similar effect on ours.

--Chabas
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« Reply #12: July 05, 2007, 12:28:19 am »

One of the things I always felt argued in favor of some sort of concept of reincarnation is the idea that the Netjeru travelled into the Duat each night to rejuvenate. If the Duat would rejuvanate the ka of Netjer, I suspect it would have a similar effect on ours.

--Chabas

True. And 'rejuvenate' implies the need for strength later on. I also thought the idea that offerings from descendents would eventually peter out, so we would need to come back again.
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