Saturday, October 10, 2015

Gates Three, Four and Five in the Book of the Dead

     The name of the gatekeeper at gate number three of Ani's Book of the Dead is the quaintly named "One who Eats the Putrefaction of his Posterior". That makes the names of the guardian and the announcer for this gate ("Alert of Face" and "Gateway" respectively) seem quite normal. These three have the heads of a jackal, a dog (?) and a snake). When confronting these three Ani tells them that he is "...the secret one of the cloudburst..." who is there to drive evil away from Osiris and that the three "demons" should open the gate for him so that he (Ani) might shine in Rosetjau.

     At gate four we find guardians with the heads of a human, a raptor and a feline of some sort (?). The human-headed figure holds grain in his hand and wears the beard of the gods, while the other two hold knives. The gatekeeper is called "The one Whose Face Repels, One of Multitudinous Voices" while his companions are named "The Alert One" and the "One who Repels the Crocodile". Ani tells these three that he is the son of Osiris and that they should make a path for him so that "...I might pass by in God's Domain".

     At gate five Ani confronts a raptor-headed figure, a human-headed "demon" and a figure with the head of a snake. The gatekeeper is named "He who Lives on Worms", while the other two are named "Shabu" and "Hippopotamus-faced, One who Charges Opposite". Ani announces that he has "...protected him (Osiris) in triumph...".

     At this point I think it should be clear why scholars have had such a difficult time interpreting the Book of the Dead.  To the Egyptians a demon named "Alert of Face" is perfectly sensible, but we have a very difficult time understanding the significance of this sort of name. Also, note  that while these gates are described one after the other in Chapter 147 of the Book of the Dead, there is no reason to believe they were located in any particular place in the underworld. In fact, there is no evidence that the Egyptians ever even thought about the actual geography of the underworld, other than vague thoughts about gates, portals, caverns and fields that would be harvested for the blessed dead. Are these places located near the beginning of the underworld? In the Middle? Near the end where the sun exited at the dawn of each new day? Were they together or scattered throughout the deceased's journey? No one knows.

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