Monday, October 26, 2015

The Egyptian Book of the Amduat

     At the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, in the tomb of Tuthmose I, a new religious text makes its first appearance. This "Book of the Hidden Chamber" becomes what is known today as the "Book of What is in the Underworld" (Am-Duat). This text is, if anything, even more cryptic than the Book of the Dead. It describe the sun-god's journey through the underworld and tells how the dangers faced by the god during the night-time passage through the underworld are overcome.

     In two tombs, those of Tuthmose III and Amenhotep II, the Amduat is written and illustrated on the wall's of the King's burial chamber with a yellowish-brown background, as if the walls of the tomb are a papyrus scroll that has been unrolled. The book describes the twelve hours of the sun's underground journey (from sunset to its re-birth at sunrise the next day). Each "hour" has a gate which is opened by its guardian only for the boat that the sun travels in.

     In "Hour 2" we see the sun god's bark, along with several other boats, floating past fertile fields, where various gods present crops to Re and his followers. In Hour 4 the solar bark travels along a zig zag sand road (rather than on water). This sand road is blocked by gates and the boat of the sun god changes itself into a snake to make faster progress. In Hour 5 the god Sokar holds the wings of an enemy, a multi-headed snake. The cave that this scene takes place in is guarded by the god Aker (the god of the earth). In Hour 6 three divine graves guarded by fire-breathing snakes are shown along with the sun in "human form" as the "flesh of Khepri". This form of the sun is watched over by a protective five-headed snake.

     Snakes appear throughout the Amduat. Some are the enemies of Re, while others (such as in Hour 8) protect the sun and its boat. The sun itself is sometimes shown as a ram-headed human and sometimes as a snake, in addition to his depictions in forms more often used to show the sun.

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