Ancient Egypt - Death and Afterlife
information from Mr. Donn's website on Egypt -
A cartouche is a name plate. It's usually oval with your name written in the middle of it. A cartouche is attached to your coffin.
The ancient Egyptians wanted to make sure that their two souls - the Ba and the Ka - could find their way back to their tomb at night, after they died. No one wanted their Ba or Ka to get lost.
A cartouche made it very easy for a Ba and Ka to find their way home.
The Book of the Dead
We always laugh at movies about ancient Egypt when someone drags out the Book of the Dead, as if it was a real book. But the Book of the Dead is not a book. It's a nickname for the many magical spells that the ancient Egyptians believed actually worked.
Egyptologists have deciphered about 200 different spells, most written to help the ancient Egyptians reach their afterlife safely. Some were written on papyrus. Some were written on tomb walls. These were not secret spells. People had their favorites.
Wealthy Egyptians hired scribes to create fancy designs on sheets of papyrus, each with a spell, that they could include with their grave goods. But you could buy a ready-made spell in the marketplace. A ready-made was a spell on a piece of papyrus, with blanks where you could write in your name. They were very popular. The spells you chose were placed in your tomb.
Written spells were also important because they offered one more place to write down your name. In ancient Egypt, you needed your name written down so your Ba and Ka(your two souls) could find their way home at night to your tomb. To the ancient Egyptians, if the Ba and Ka could not find their way home, you could not live in the afterlife, and you would disappear forever!
I Read it in the Book of the Dead interactive
Ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife, a real and beautiful place, where they played and lived after they died. To enjoy your afterlife, you couldn't just die. You had to prepare. To achieve immortality, you had to satisfy some requirements.
(1) Your name had to be written down. You had to have your name written down somewhere, the more places the better. If it was not written down, you disappeared.
(2) You had to pass the Weighing of the Heart. You had to pass the weighing of the heart test in the Hall of Maat. Your heart was weighed against the weight of a magic feather. If your heart was light, because you had lived a good, hard working, caring life, the scale would balance, and you would go to heaven. If it did not, well, that was another story.
(3) You had to have a preserved body. Another thing you needed to move on to the afterlife was a preserved body. One way to preserve the body of a person who had died was to dry them out and wrap them up with linen bandages. That process was called mummification.
You needed a preserved body so that your Ba and Ka, the two pieces of your soul, could find their way home at night back to your tomb. Without a body, the Ba and Ka would get lost. And they would no longer be able to reach the heavenly Land of Two Fields.
The poor placed the bodies of their dead relatives out in the desert sand. The bodies dried naturally in the sun. That was a perfectly good system. It assured the dead a place in the afterlife (provided their heart was light from doing lots of good deeds while they were alive, and their name was written down somewhere.)
The rich could afford to be more fussy. They hired professional mummy makers, to help them look their very best.
Ba and Ka
The ancient Egyptians believed that your soul split into two parts after you died. One part, the Ba, flew off every morning to keep watch over your living family. The other part, the Ka, flew happily off to enjoy life in the Land of Two Fields. At night, both the Ba and the Ka returned home to your tomb to rest up for the next heavenly day.
If something happened to your preserved body, or if your name was not written down somewhere, the Ba and the Ka would get lost. They would not be able to find their way home to your tomb. You would disappear. Forever. You would not be able to watch over your family or to enjoy your afterlife.
That's why the use of a cartouche was so popular. A cartouche is nothing more than a name plate attached to your coffin. A cartouche made it easy for your Ba and Ka to find their way home.
That's also why grave robbing and the destruction of mummies to get at the treasures hidden inside the folds of wrapping was such a vile crime in ancient Egypt. Grave goods could be replaced. But there was nothing your family could do if robbers disturbed your preserved body. The ancient Egyptians believed you would be lost forever. There was no worse crime.
The ancient Egyptians believed that after they died they would move on to a real place, the Land of Two Fields, where they would spend the rest of eternity. You had to earn your way in by doing good deeds in your lifetime. You needed some luggage. You did not want to arrive in the Land of Two Fields without things to make your afterlife comfortable.
The ancient Egyptians spent a great deal of time preparing grave goods, the goods they needed in their afterlife. They had no doubt they would be assigned jobs in their afterlife. They also believed they could make little clay figures who would magically do their work for them. So they made lots of little clay figures. They also made little toys and tiny articles of beautiful clothing and miniature pots and bowls and anything else they might want in their afterlife.
The ancient Egyptians had a great deal of fun making their grave goods, and showing what they had made to their friends and family before they packed them away. There was much oohing and aahing over grave goods in ancient Egypt.
Grave goods were packed away in big urns, rather like packing luggage for a trip. After they died, these urns, full of the grave goods they had made throughout their life, were buried with them in their tomb.
Three Pyramids Game
The Land of Two Fields
To the ancient Egyptians, the Land of Two Fields was a real place. It was a heavenly place. It was the place you went after you died. One of the reasons the god Osiris was so honored in ancient Egypt is because it was Osiris who opened the door to the afterlife for everyone.
It took more than dying to enter the Land of Two Fields. You had to earn your way into your afterlife by doing good deeds while you were alive. The more good deeds you did, the lighter your heart became. If your heart was not light, you could not board Ra's board and sail away into your Afterlife. To avoid any chance of trickery, the goddess Maat weighed your heart after you died. If your heart was not light enough, you were stuck in your tomb forever. But once you were in, you were in. You only had to sail away in Ra's boat once. After that, you had a free pass, and your soul could come and go. There was not a lot of crime in ancient Egypt. Everyone wanted their heart to be light.
There were two other requirements you had to satisfy before you could enter the Land of Two Fields. Not only did your heart have to be light, you also had to have your name written down somewhere, and you had to have a preserved body. That's because the ancient Egyptians believed in a soul. They believed your soul split into two parts after you died. One part, the Ba, flew off every morning to keep watch over your living family. The other part, the Ka, flew off every morning to the Land of Two Fields, to enjoy your Afterlife. Both the Ba and the Ka returned each night to your tomb, so you could get some sleep. In the morning, the cycle started again.