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The Human Personality According to Egyptian Mythology

Updated on May 4, 2008

Egyptian Beliefs

The Egyptians believed that there were five principal elements that composed the human personality- the Ka, Ba, Akh, the name, and the shadow.

Based on Egyptian mythology and beliefs, these five elements are strongly based on the gods and the religion of the time.

The "Ka"

The 'ka' was often presented by a pair of arms pointing upwards. It was considered to be the essential ingredient that differentiated a living person from a dead one.

Each person's 'Ka' would come into existence at the moment of birth, which would serve as their 'double.'

In hieroglyphs, the 'Ka' was often seen with Atum, the creator god, as he modelled it on a potter's wheel at the same time that he was forming the bodies of humanity.

After death, the 'Ka' would be finally at rest while the body was prepared for mummification. The 'Ka' needed to reactivate so that spiritual transformation of rebirth.

After mummification, the 'Ka' and the deceased person could join in the land of living through their tomb. But, it takes the help of the 'Ba' to do this.

The "Ba"

The 'Ba' is considered to be a person's distinctive manifestation, similar to concept of personality.

The 'Ba' is often represented by a bird with head of god.

It was necessary for the deceased person to journey from their tomb in order to join the 'Ka' in order to be transformed into an 'Akh.' This journey is up to the person's 'Ba.'

In order for the physical body to be able to survive the afterlife, it needs to be reunited with their 'ba' each night.

The journey of the 'Ba' is just a part of the final transformation. In order for the deceased to be able to reach a higher status, they had to be resurrected as an 'Akh.'

The "Akh"

The 'Akh' is the fully resurrected form of the deceased in the afterlife. 'Akh' is often translated as 'spirit' or 'spirit form.'

The 'Akh' is often represented by the symbol of the crested ibis.

A fully fledged 'Akh' comes to a similar idea of the ghost. It is thought that the 'akh' could reach beyond the limits of the tomb and have both positive and negative effects on the natural world of the living.

Once the deceased as reached his 'Akh,' he is now free to roam on wherever he chooses. It is thought that once the 'Ka' and 'Ba' are successfully united, the 'Akh' was left to endure eternity.

The Name

The name was regarded as a part of the living person, and it was assigned at birth to the individual in order for him to properly come into existence.

The removal of an individual's name to a statue or monument was considered as the destruction of the person's existence and memory.

Name often followed those of the rulers of the time, which often incorporated the name of a god.

The Shadow

The Shadow is described as an entity that is imbued with power and capable of moving at a great speed.

The shadow is considered essential to life of a human, and it was important to protect the shadow, which is why many pharaohs are often portrayed under the shade of a feather or palm fan.


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    • rusticyeti profile image

      rusticyeti 7 years ago

      Cool, informative post!

      I did some thinking about how these ideas reflect current ones. Here is my list:

      The 'ka' resembles the 'higher self' idea found in modern day spiritualism.

      The 'ba' is the unconscious self activated during dream states.

      The 'akh' is the eternal soul.

      'The Name' is the ego.

      'The Shadow' is qi energy, which is independent of the ego and fuels the application of a person's powers.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Very well done, Whitney! I find Egyptian art and mythology so interesting!