The Netherworld

The Netherworld



Afterlife played an important role in the ancient Egyptian beliefs. The River Nile as well as the agricultural cycle had contributed to their beliefs about rebirth and resurrection. When the deceased cross over to the netherworld known as “Duat” in the ancient Egyptian language, they were reborn again and placed on Ra’s solar boat in order to emerge with him in the day. The dead person was a resurrected Osiris. Preparation for the afterlife began with the mummification process in order to ensure for the deceased his return back to life again while the Judgment began after the funeral and the arrival of the body to the tomb. The heart was weighed against the feather of Maat i.e. the symbol of truth. Those who were righteous will proceed to the fields of “Iaru”, but those of evil hearts will be devoured by the mythical creature “Ammut” who has a body of a hippo and a face of a crocodile and remain in the underworld, tied to a pole and will never emerge into daylight. Osiris was the god of the afterlife and the “Lord of the West”. That was why the dead had to traverse the rivers, lakes, and gates which led to his world. Ra’s solar boat was the means of arriving there. The good were always aided by deities to overcome any difficulties they should encounter on the way. Ancient Egyptians described their afterlife in many texts, some of them were written on the pyramid walls and inside Middle Kingdom coffins and the books of the “Imy Duat” and “Book of the Coming Forth by Day”.


In popular legend, the first Egyptian to be embalmed and consequently glorified was “Osiris” himself, but the English term ‘mummy’ comes from the Arabic “mumiyah”, meaning “bitumen”. Until the spread of the Osiris cult, complete mummification process was only practised on kings and those closest to him, but from the Middle Kingdom onwards, it was made available to all who could afford it. The dry sandy desert of Egypt had a natural tendency to preserve dead bodies, allowing the body fluids to drain away and preventing the flesh from rotting. The inhabitants of Egypt must have become well aware of this in the Pre-dynastic Period, and they must have regarded the preservation of a corpse as something natural and by extension, desirable and supported by the gods. When burial practices became more elaborate than using the simple ground pit, it must have soon become apparent that in a stone-lined cell (burial chamber) beneath a mastaba, the process of desiccation did not happen and putrefaction was much more likely. Embalming and mummification emerged as the answer to this problem. Linen wrappings were used to cover up the mummy; selected funerary spells and amulets were placed at particular parts of the body or inserted between the layers of the bandaging. The number of layers varied, for instance, the mummy of Tutankhamun had 16 layers. Finally, a mask was prepared to cover the face, and the mummy was ready for interment.