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Archive for July, 2010

Papyrus of Hunefer: The deceased's heart is weighed against the feather of truth.

Papyrus of Hunefer: The deceased's heart is weighed against the feather of truth.

The Egyptian Book of The Dead: Writers Unknown, Dates Various.

The Ancient Egyptians are darned fascinating, so it’s no surprise that all kinds of unsavory or addlepated or merely unscholarly types have latched on to them over the years, spreading a lot of misinformation that results either from poor understanding of what’s actually been discovered, or from wholesale invention. Much is unknown about Ancient Egyptian culture in spite of the relative wealth of artifacts we have from them (how exactly did they build the Pyramids, for example?), so one should tread warily when starting to read more widely on the subject.

It pays to read up a little on Egyptology and Egyptologists first. You shouldn’t, for example, bop uptown to the central library and grab the first edition of The Egyptian Book of The Dead to hand, only to discover that it was written by a pseudonymous martial arts teacher who may or may not actually have a Ph.D., but who definitely believes that the Ancient Egyptians are connected to the mythical Lost Continent of Atlantis. And who also offers this tidbit:

The circulation of earth energy is one of five types of circulation, which affect our lives physically and spiritually. The subtle energy of earth enters the human body through the feet, hips, and kidneys, and has five currents. These currents mix with the energy of the soul (Ba), which resides in the marrow of the bones, feeding the 12 inner organs in a cycle during the hours of day and night. Each organ is fed for two hours….”

Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

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The deceased's heart weighed against the feather of truth. From the Papyrus of Hunefer, ca. 1350 BCE.

The deceased's heart weighed against the feather of truth. From the Papyrus of Hunefer, ca. 1350 BCE.

This month, I will be reading and discussing:

  • Various Anonymous Authors, Egypt, 1000 BCE, Egyptian Book of the Dead
  • Homer, Greece, 800 BCE, The Iliad
  • Homer, Greece, 800 BCE, The Odyssey

As a matter of fact, I have finished the Egyptian Book of the Dead and am organizing my notes. I knew absolutely nothing about it going in and was surprised to find that it was neither a story nor a sacred scripture, but an instruction manual. Specifically, it’s like the one given to Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis in Beetlejuice.

It’s an instruction manual for the afterlife. It reveals an awful lot about what Ancient Egyptians believed and valued.

More later in the week.

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