The Book of the Dead, by E. A. Wallis Budge

Osiris as Judge of the Dead and King of the Under World.

When Set was destroyed Osiris departed from this world to the kingdom which the gods had given him and began to reign over the dead. He was absolute king of this realm, just as Rā the Sun-god was absolute king of the sky. This region of the dead, or Dead-land, is called "Tat," , or "Tuat," , but where the Egyptians thought it was situated is not quite clear. The original home of the cult of Osiris was in the Delta, in a city which in historic times was called Tetu by the Egyptians and Busiris by the Greeks, and it is reasonable to assume that the Tuat, over which Osiris ruled, was situated near this place. Wherever it was it was not underground, and it was not originally in the sky or even on its confines; but it was located on the borders of the visible world, in the Outer Darkness. The Tuat was not a place of happiness, judging from the description of it in the PER-T EM HRU, or Book of the Dead. When Ani the scribe arrived there he said, “What is this to which I have come? There is neither water nor air here, its depth is unfathomable, it is as dark as the darkest night, and men wander about here helplessly. A man cannot live here and be satisfied, and he cannot gratify the cravings of affection” (Chapter CLXXV). In the Tuat there was neither tree nor plant, for it was the “land where nothing grew”; and in primitive times it was a region of destruction and death, a place where the dead rotted and decayed, a place of abomination, and horror and terror, and annihilation. But in very early times, certainly in the Neolithic Period, the Egyptians believed in some kind of a future life, and they dimly conceived that the attainment of that life might possibly depend upon the manner of life which those who hoped to enjoy it led here. The Egyptians “hated death and loved life,” and when the belief gained ground among them that Osiris, the God of the Dead, had himself risen from the dead, and had been acquitted by the gods of heaven after a searching trial, and had the power to “make men and women to be born again,” and “to renew life” because of his truth and righteousness, they came to regard him as the Judge as well as the God of the Dead. As time went on, and moral and religious ideas developed among the Egyptians, it became certain to them that only those who had satisfied Osiris as to their truth-speaking and honest dealing upon earth could hope for admission into his kingdom.

When the power of Osiris became predominant in the Under World, and his fame as a just and righteous judge became well established among the natives of Lower and Upper Egypt, it was universally believed that after death all men would appear before him in his dread Hall of Judgment to receive their reward or their sentence of doom. The writers of the Pyramid Texts, more than fifty-five centuries ago, dreamed of a time when heaven and earth and men did not exist, when the gods had not yet been born, when death had not been created, , and when anger, speech (?), cursing and rebellion were unknown.1 But that time was very remote, and long before the great fight took place between Horus and Set, when the former lost his eye and the latter was wounded in a vital part of his body. Meanwhile death had come into the world, and since the religion of Osiris gave man a hope of escape from death, and the promise of everlasting life of the peculiar kind that appealed to the great mass of the Egyptian people, the spread of the cult of Osiris and its ultimate triumph over all forms of religion in Egypt were assured. Under the early dynasties the priesthood of Anu (the On of the Bible) strove to make their Sun-god Rā pre-eminent in Egypt, but the cult of this god never appealed to the people as a whole. It was embraced by the Pharaohs, and their high officials, and some of the nobles, and the official priesthood, but the reward which its doctrine offered was not popular with the materialistic Egyptians. A life passed in the Boat of Rā with the gods, being arrayed in light and fed upon light, made no appeal to the ordinary folk since Osiris offered them as a reward a life in the Field of Reeds, and the Field of Offerings of Food, and the Field of the Grasshoppers, and everlasting existence in a transmuted and beautified body among the resurrected bodies of father and mother, wife and children, kinsfolk and friends.

Rā the Sun-god.

Rā the Sun-god.

But, as according to the cult of Rā, the wicked, the rebels, and the blasphemers of the Sun-god suffered swift and final punishment, so also all those who had sinned against the stern moral Law of Osiris, and who had failed to satisfy its demands, paid the penalty without delay. The Judgment of Rā was held at sunrise, and the wicked were thrown into deep pits filled with fire, and their bodies, souls, shadows and hearts were consumed forthwith. The Judgment of Osiris took place near Abydos, probably at midnight, and a decree of swift annihilation was passed by him on the damned. Their heads were cut off by the headsman of Osiris, who was called Shesmu, , and their bodies dismembered and destroyed in pits of fire. There was no eternal punishment for men, for the wicked were annihilated quickly and completely; but inasmuch as Osiris sat in judgment and doomed the wicked to destruction daily, the infliction of punishment never ceased.

1 Pyramid of Pepi I, ll. 664 and 662.

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31