According to the ancient Egyptians, death occurred when the ka (life energy) was recalled by Osiris into the afterlife and separated from the body. The ba (soul) then had to travel into Duat to reunite with its ka. When this happened, the individual became known as an akh, or transfigured spirit. The newly transfigured spirit was thought to live for eternity, not in a distant paradise, but in the most blessed and perfect world: Egypt.
The transfigured spirit would journey between Amenti, Osiris’s Kingdom, and the living world. This schedule followed the daily cycle of the sun, the soul reentering the burial chamber and afterlife at night then awakening at dawn to “emerge in daytime.” Transfigured spirits could enjoy the best of both worlds, like food and drink, without any of the discomforts such as heat, cold, or diseases. They also had direct access to the parts of the world inaccessible to the living and had direct access to the gods.
However, the afterlife wasn’t all fun and games. Transfigured spirits were often called on by Osiris to assist in tending the fields or with the harvest in Amenti. If an akh was not interested in participating in these tasks, it could send a shabti doll—a funerary figure made of wood, stone, or faience placed in the decease’s grave—in its place.
- Faulkner, R.O. (2010) Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. New York, New York: Fall River Press.
- Fletcher, J. (2002) The Egyptian Book of the Living and Dying. New York, New York: Chartwell Books, Inc.
- Mark, J (2016). Egyptian Afterlife – The Field of Reeds. https://www.ancient.eu/article/877/egyptian-afterlife—the-field-of-reeds/
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