- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology»
- History of the Middle East
The Journey through the Underworld- Story from Ancient Egypt.
The sun rises in the East and sets in the West
We all see that the sun sets in the West every night and rises in the East at the dawn of a new day. The Ancient Egyptians believed that this was the death and the rebirth of the sun. To ensure that the sun rose the next morning they believed that the God Re travelled underground during the night, on a dangerous pilgrimage in order to enable the sun to rise. The Sun God’s journey is well documented in three books- The Book of Am –Duat, the Book of Gates and the Book of Caverns.
The Book of Am-Duat
The Book of Am-Duat is written about the journey of the Sun God and one of the most complete copies is found on the walls of the burial chamber of Tuthmosis III and in his son Amenophis II tomb in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, these men died 1450 years before the birth of Christ. These stories were reserved for the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs’ as it was believed that the dead Pharaoh would at times accompany Re on his nightly voyage. As the hours of the night pass various gods and animals appear- each one associated with a specific hour.
First Hour- Baboons sing and dance with serpent goddesses providing light as the Sun God slips in the Twilight hour into the Underworld.
Second Hour- Grain Gods revere Re as he spends this and the next hour passing through the Wernes and Waters of Osiris .
Third Hour- The Grain Gods continue to celebrate Re and are joined by Osiris who is the God of the dead.
Fourth Hour- In this hour Re arrives in difficult sandy terrain at Sokar where snakes are found in abundance. The snakes were given a God like reverence as they could shed their skins and were live examples of the resurrection- or so the Ancient Egyptians believed
Fifth Hour In this hour Re crosses through the cave of Sokar where lives a multi headed serpent who is the representation of chaos. The cave of Sokar is near the tomb of Osiris below which is a Lake of Fire
Sixth Hour- In this hour Re takes the form of a beetle, the sacred beetle, Khepri who was thought to roll the suns disc across the shy in daytime. By becoming a beetle he manages to avoid the dangers of the two lions of the Horizon – Aker. This is significant in that Re starts to be reborn and the new sun starts its path to the heavens.
Seventh hour- In this hour the Sun God is met by the Serpent Apopsis who wants to stop his progress. Isis and Seth work together to kill and dismember the serpent.
Eighth hour- The Sun God and his boat escape the sandy depths of Sokar .
Ninth Hour- In this hour the boat is rowed vigorously in order to escape the clutches of the Underworld and start the new day
Tenth Hour- the regeneration process- the turning from a dying sun to a new sun continues, aided by immersion into the warm waters.
Eleventh Hour- The Gods eyes are now fully formed and he can see clearly that it is not long before the start of the new day.
Twelfth Hour- In this last hour Re enters the tail of a serpent and comes out of his mouth as the sacred beetle. After a few moments rest he is reborn from the womb of the goddess of the night and sky, Nut, and thus this new disc- the Sun God Re shines all over the country.
The second book- The Book of Gates is carved on the walls of the tomb of Rameses VI who died about 1133 BC. This book is also seen carved on the sarcophagus of SETI D 1278 b c which is now on display in Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. Like the AmDuet the book has 12 gates or hours in which adversaries hide , but Re triumphs and passes through them because he knows the name of his adversaries. The snake Apopsis is seen and is slain whilst the Sun God Re triumphs to the sound of chattering baboons who had their paws raised to celebrate the rise of the sun in the morning.
The Book of Caverns
The most complete version of this book is found in the tomb of Rameses VI along with the Book of the Gates. Unlike the other two books this book is divided into six parts, rather than the twelve hours or gates. Again this book looks at the victory of good over evil and Re triumphs purely because he knows the names of his adversaries.